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November 8, 2021
I am so excited that I finally made it to Belize! The Central American country has been on my list for a few years now. I envisioned laying on a beach, but Belize has so much more to offer. This trip was actually a gift from one of my best friends in the world, Erica. She surprised me, Ryan, and her husband with a surprise trip. None of us knew the destination until about a week before we went. It was one of the craziest and most amazing things that has ever happened to me and I couldn’t be more grateful for such a special friend. Our trip to Belize was packed with adventure, history, and culture. We had an absolute blast and I honestly can’t wait to visit Belize again.
BELIZE TRAVEL GUIDE
What to Know
Getting There: Entry Requirements
Getting to Belize is quick and easy. We flew direct from ATL to BZE in Belize City, which is where you’ll want to fly into as it is the main airport in the country. Our flight was only 3 hours! Making Belize totally doable for a quick weekend getaway!
In order to enter Belize, there are a couple easy steps you have to take. I’ve traveled with COVID regulations in place, and I have to say, Belize was one of the smoothest. Unlike many other countries (like Turks & Caicos), the entry requirements aren’t too extensive. In order to visit, you must:
- have no signs or symptoms of COVID-19
- provide proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 96 hours prior to arrival or a negative Antigen Rapid Test taken 48 hours prior to arrival
- *If no test is presented, a COVID-19 test will be administered at the airport for a fee of USD $50 per passenger. Children under the age of 5 are not required to present a negative test
One thing to note is that no one ever asked us for our vaccination status, even though we thought that was required. We did have to show our negative COVID tests a few times, so they are definitely diligent about checking that.
Communicating and Spending
Communicating and spending is very easy as an American in Belize. Their official language is English and everyone definitely speaks it. The vast majority of people we encountered also spoke Spanish, and there are many other languages spoken in Belize, including ancient Mayan languages like Yucatec, Mopán, and Kekchí. It’s very cool to experience!
The currency in Belize is the Belizean Dollar, but they actually also accept United States Dollars, which certainly makes things easier for us Americans! The exchange rate is currently $2BZD = $1USD, so you just have to divide everything in half to get the American price. Things in Belize are VERY low in cost, with the exception of gas and high-end resort restaurants and amenities. You can get a beer for about $2. We ate at a local restaurant and my meal was–no joke–75 cents! I do eat small portions but man! That was great. On the other hand, gas is about $6USD/gallon, so rides can be expensive. Most of the locals drive mopeds for this reason.
Our resort costs weren’t high or low. I would say pretty on par with local prices here in Atlanta. We got gourmet pizzas for about $20 each and an in-room 60-minute massage was $75.
They do not have Uber in Belize, instead, they have MiDriVa! There’s no app; you just use their website. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to work on our trip. I don’t think there’s much availability, especially in the remote area we stayed in. We did not see any taxis. For getting around, I would recommend relying on your hotel transport options. We got a ride from our hotel, which was about $200 for a 1.5 hour drive from the airport to the hotel. Honestly, it wasn’t bad since it was private. We were able to stop a few times to shop and our driver acted as a tour guide during the ride.
We felt safe during our visit, however, we stayed on the property most of the time. Crime is high in Belize, but it’s mostly gang and drug-related and in the local areas, so if you stay with a tour guide and only go to the tourist spots, you’re totally fine. I never once felt worried or anything like that. However, I wouldn’t recommend renting a car and driving around Belize. You never know where you could accidentally end up!
What to Pack
Belize has a wide range of things to do – from exploring Mayan Ruins to the jungle and beach resorts. We opted for the jungle and ruins side of the country, which called for a lot of athletic wear and some resort wear for dinner and pool days. I recently got some new sets from Buff Bunny and I am obsessed. These were absolutely perfect for our trip. I felt stylish, but it was also great for the adventure of climbing temples and pyramids in the scorching heat. And yes, I mean SCORCHING. The “feels like” temp was close to 110 degrees most days. Combine that with 80% humidity and you’re basically constantly sweating. So pack accordingly! I will say, we were there in the rainy season, so that definitely contributed to the humidity.
Where to Stay
As I mentioned, there are a few options for where to stay in Belize. It all depends on what kind of trip you’re looking for and the activities you want to do. We went for the adventurous side and stayed near Belmopan. We were about 1.5 hours from the BZE airport, and about 1.5 hours from the Mayan Ruins, but right in the middle of the rainforest. It was incredible. Aside from the day trips we did, we stayed at the resort the entire time, which was magical. We stayed at the Rainforest Lodge at Sleeping Giant and it actually reminded Ryan and me of the lodge we stayed at in Sabi Sands South Africa. It was kind of a more tropical version of that stay. But I would say the closest comparison I have is Costa Rica when I stayed in the rainforest.
There was a ton to do on-site at Sleeping Giant. After all, the property itself is 600 acres, surrounded by 10,000 acres of Sibun Nature Reserve! We opted for a horseback ride, some independent hikes, and a relaxing pool day. It was amazing!
Where to Eat & Drink
First things first: the local beer is called Belikin and it’s yummy. It’s light and easy. We really enjoyed them during our visit! But whatever you do, don’t get a Rude Boy, which is a mix of alcohol, energy, and who knows what else. You will definitely turn into a rude boy, ha! Now for the food.
Don Tonito’s Pizza
The Pizza at Sleeping Giant was definitely our favorite. I think we got it every day. They have a large stone oven they use and the toppings are so fresh and delicious. We all absolutely loved the arugula pizza. Plus the atmosphere is so great. Like everything else at resort, it’s all outdoors. They even have a cute fire pit to sit around and chat after dinner.
The Grove House
The Grove House is Sleeping Giant Resort’s field-to-table restaurant. All ingredients are either grown on-site, from neighboring villages, or from local markets. The food is an upscale take on traditional Belizean and Mayan food. It tastes very fresh and clean, with a Central American flair. In addition to growing their on food, they also offer house-infused rums including mint, pineapple, and jalapeno. We got a spicy rum margarita with the jalapeno-infused rum and it was SO good.
This is the place for a truly local experience. We stopped here after Xunantunich, one of the Mayan Ruins, and it was awesome. Everyone else there was a local and the food was very authentic. Our tour guide recommended the cow foot soup, but Ryan went with the pork pibil, which is a Mayan recipe of pork marinated and cooked in an underground hearth. Very unique and delicious! This is where I got 3 small bean tacos for 75 cents.
What to Do
As extremely clear by now, there are a few different ways you can do Belize. Since we went the adventurous and historical route, I’ll share what we did, plus another major attraction I plan to see on my next visit to Belize, which will be a beach visit!
Exploring the Mayan Ruins was the primary reason for our visit to Belize, so of course, this is the first thing we did. It’s also my top recommendation. The ruins were absolutely breathtaking, and seeing something so old is indescribable. The fact that an ancient civilization built pyramids over 1200 years ago that are still standing today is incredible. But thinking about those same people walking exactly where we walked is surreal. There’s a feeling of connection you feel when you walk the grounds. I felt something in my soul that’s indescribable. It was like I was staring at evidence that there’s so much more to the universe, our existence, and mankind than we could ever comprehend. That feeling is exactly why I travel. Xunantunich did not disappoint!
Explore the Rainforest
Discovering different climates and terrains is one of the best things about traveling the world. While I’m a city girl at home, I love nature when I’m traveling, so staying in the rainforest was a no-brainer. We got to see so many different exotic plants, heard monkeys howling in the distance, and took in the most breathtaking views. We even went horseback riding through the rainforest and stopped at a little creek for a refreshing break. It was heavenly! There are actually jaguars in the jungle here. We didn’t catch a glimpse of one, but there are night safaris you can go on to take your chances!
Blue Hole Cenote
Not to be confused with the famous Great Blue Hole in Belize, this cenote is located in the Blue Hole National Park in Blemopan and is connected to a couple cave systems. Cave tubing is a popular way to explore the park, but the gorgeous jungle pool was the perfect stop after Xunantunich. It reminded me a lot of Poco Azul in the Azores. The lush green surroundings are fairytale-like and the water was so incredibly blue and very cold. It felt like the fountain of youth!
Great Blue Hole
Although we didn’t have a chance to visit this Blue Hole while in Belize, I had to mention it. This underwater cenote is surrounded by a giant ring of coral, forming a perfect circle. At 1,043 ft across and 407 ft deep, the massive marine sinkhole clocks in it a surface area of 760,500 sq ft, making it an extremely popular scuba destination. In fact, Jacques Cousteau famously named it one of the top five scuba diving sites in the world. While I won’t be diving into the Great Blue Hole anytime soon, I wouldn’t mind coasting through on a boat. Next time!
Have you ever been to Belize? What did you do there?
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Photos by Ryan Carpenter.