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Have you ever gone to a fabulous vacation spot and couldn’t help wishing you had visited before it became “so touristy”? If that’s what you are after, go to Belize.

Have you ever gone to a fabulous vacation spot and couldn’t help wishing you had visited before it became “so touristy”? If that’s what you are after, go to Belize. As a travel destination, Belize is in a sweet spot; the tourism industry is fully developed to provide travellers with a phenomenal experience, but it still feels like you are among the first tourists to discover it. Everywhere we travelled in the country, we had that feeling of finding the secret spot that only the locals knew about. A big part of that is the locals themselves, who are welcoming, engaging, and full of humour. Another factor is the pristine, serene, natural beauty of the jungles and rivers and Caribbean coastline. In all our adventures in Belize, we never felt like we were battling crowds. Even exploring important Mayan ruins, we had the place to ourselves.

How many people do you know who have been to Belize? Not many, right? It is still IYKYK as a travel destination, so here we’ll give you an overview of this beautiful country and share our favourite experiences from our trip.

Belize is a tiny Central American Country, claiming a notch of Caribbean coastline from the eastern side of Mexico and Guatemala. The landmass is small but abundant in culture. The earliest known Mayan settlements are in Belize, and thousands of years later, the Mayan people are still a vibrant and essential thread in the fabric of the country. Add to that the Garifuna, Mestizo, Indian, Creole, Mennonite, Lebanese and Chinese, all weaving into Belize’s cultural tapestry.

As you may guess, the blend of cultures results in fabulous food. Belizean food is often described as “Central American with a Caribbean flair,” but this description doesn’t fully do it justice. From the simple, always satisfying breakfast of fry jacks drizzled in honey, to the refreshing, tangy spice of conch ceviche, to the classic comfort of rice and beans simmered in coconut. These must-try dishes are only the first few steps of a journey into the wonderful labyrinth of Belizean cuisine. An abundance of seafood, fruits, and vegetables you’ve never heard of, a mix of modern and ancient culinary techniques, and diverse culinary traditions all come together to create an unpretentious, delicious, and satisfying food experience that is uniquely Belize.

If you love the ocean, Belize is an aquatic paradise. The Belize Barrier Reef is second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and could be considered more desirable due to the fact it is healthy and flourishing. The abundance of sea life provides one of the world’s most outstanding destinations for diving, snorkelling and fishing.

Finding your way around Belize is as easy as the vibe. English is the primary language, US cash is widely accepted, and people are always happy to point you in the right direction. The entire county is easily accessed by Tropic Air. The flights themselves are an attraction; hopping in a small prop-driven airplane and getting a bird’s eye view of the immaculate landscape of lush green and sparkling azure is a thrill. There are many good tour operators. We can recommend EcoTourism Belize and Nine Belize. Both companies set us up with adventures and experiences that made us feel less like tourists and more like guests visiting friends in their hometowns.

Here, we will get into the three areas we visited on this trip, Hopkins, San Ignacio, and San Pedro.


Hopkins is the friendly seaside village you have been looking for. A perfect base for eco-tourism, surrounded by lush jungle and the southern barrier reef on the seaside. Hopkins is also a hub of the Garifuna people, who welcome you to experience their traditions, food, and culture.


Palmento Grove Garifuna Eco-Cultural & Fishing Institute

A Garifuna culinary adventure at Palmento Grove

Definitely a favourite experience on our trip to Belize. Palmento Grove gives you a chance to immerse in the ways of the Garifuna people, whose language and culture UNESCO proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. A boat ride through the lagoons brought us to the Institute, where we dressed in traditional garb, explored herbs and plants, participated in drumming, and worked together to create a feast in the traditional kitchen. A highlight was cracking open coconuts and grinding out the flesh inside to make coconut milk which we used to cook the fish that had just been pulled out of the water.

Maya Cultural Visit

A sublime opportunity to learn about Maya culture from a women’s group, who share traditions, crafts, foods, music, and dance that have evolved in this area over millennia. Again, the food is a joyful adventure. Everything is cooked over an open flame on a slab of iron. Using a metate, a grinding stone made of volcanic rock, we ground the corn to make tortillas which are cooked next to meats and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves. We cracked open cacao pods to get the cocoa beans, roasted them over the flames and used the metate to grind them into a fine powder to make Maya hot chocolate. Besides the cocoa, this was the first time we tasted the fruit of the cacao, a sweet, tangy delight. The meal and experience we had here can’t be replicated anywhere else. The women who guided us through the visit are jovial, wise, and beautiful ambassadors of a rich culture. Such an amazing experience.

Hummingbird Highway

Passing through the Maya Mountains, thick with lush jungle stretching to the sky on either side of the road, The Hummingbird Highway is one of the most scenic drives in the world. But it’s more than pretty sights. The highway transports you to adventure; rainforest, caves, waterfalls, and even a zipline. There are abundant places to explore, including multiple National Parks. It takes only a few hours to drive the entire Hummingbird Highway, so you can explore it as a day trip, take your time passing through, or let it be a destination and spend a few days getting to know it in depth. Whatever your choice, go with an empty belly. Within the villages and food stands that populate the Hummingbird Highway, there are culinary delights aplenty. There are two places you MUST stop:

Bertha’s Tamales. This unassuming roadside shack doesn’t look impressive, but these are legit, the best Tamales we’ve ever had. Creamy, bursting with comforting flavour, and so inexpensive. Even if you think you don’t like tamales, go here. Your mind will be changed.

The Country Barn. Ice cream right from a Mennonite dairy farm. So fresh, so delicious. There are the traditional flavours you would expect, but the dairy wizards at The Country Barn also take advantage of the seasonal, tropical ingredients that are available in the area. Be adventurous.

Che’il Mayan Chocolate

Pure passion for chocolate inspired Julio Saqui to turn his own house into a chocolate factory. It doesn’t get more bean-to-bar than this. Organic cacao pulled right off the tree, is crafted into outstanding Mayan chocolate delights. Hearing Julio talk about his process and chocolate creations is a treat enough, but the chocolate itself has to be experienced. Our favourites were the simple and divine 80% dark chocolate bar and Julio’s chocolate liqueur, a creamy concoction of chocolate and locally made rum.


Rhum Shack

Beachside, poolside, good vibes; Rhum Shack is the quintessential spot for classic Belizian dishes and fun, tropical cocktails. We had breakfast here, at tables in the sand, and enjoyed pouring our own coffee and the feast of stuffed fry jacks as the ocean breeze danced with the palm trees above. The staff is delightful, and the food is fresh.

Chef Rob’s Gourmet Café

A food experience that was as fun as it was delicious. As you may guess from the name, the Chef is Rob, and the food is gourmet. We sat at the counter surrounding the kitchen as Chef Rob crafted and served each of the seven courses in the night’s tasting menu. Originally from Holland, Rob Pronk developed his talents working in some of the finest restaurants in Europe. But when he came to visit Belize, he was so enamoured with the free and easy lifestyle and abundance of fresh ingredients that he never left. Everything on the menu is sourced from within a thirty-mile radius and takes advantage of what Chef Rob declares is “the best seafood in the world.” The tasting menu we enjoyed was creative and thoughtfully curated to give a dynamic journey of taste and texture, punctuated by delights like red-beet-papaya-lime-prosecco palate cleansers.

Ella’s Cool Spot

Ella, in her Cool Spot!

From scratch, Ella Carr built Ella’s Cool Spot into one of Hopkins’s most energetic and adored places to get fresh seafood, local favourites, fun drinks, and a generally fantastic time. In the summer of 2022, Ella’s Cool Spot was a victim of arson and burnt to nothing. As a testament to how loved Ella’s is, the community came together with a vigorous effort to fundraise and rebuild. Before the year was over, Ella’s was back in business, more fun and delicious than ever. This is the perfect place to enjoy a Belikin at picnic tables in the sand, enjoy the extensive menu, dance to the music, and feel like a local.


The Lodge at Jaguar Reef

On a perfectly groomed beach, amongst the breezy palm trees, The Lodge at Jaguar Reef deftly blends sophisticated elegance with an unpretentious, chill vibe. The rooms are bright with a modern layout and traditional design touches to give a homelike feel. Private plunge pools, personal hammocks, and showers that open outdoors give you the sense you have your own resort within the resort. Jaguar Reef provides top-quality amenities and curated experiences to maximize fun, whether on the property or in the surrounding reefs and rainforests. The food is fantastic onsite. The Paddle House is a perfect way to start the day, sipping coffee and fresh juices next to the sea. The menu highlights seasonal ingredients and fresh local fare, from sophisticated omelettes to fry jacks stuffed with coconut-husk-smoked pork belly and other delights (hint: go for the fry jacks!). Dinner at The Paddle House is also not-to-be-missed; upscale dining and premium cocktails and wine. Our favourite, though, has to be the Big Dock Bar. Here you are perched over the water, enjoying inventive and intricately presented tropical cocktails, lounging on stools, or reclining on the netting suspended in the air. If you get too hot, jump into the water! Oh, the ceviche. We have had ceviche all over the world, and The Big Dock bar has the best, made even better, scooped up with perfectly crispy, freshly made cassava chips.

Scenes from Jaguar Reef in Hopkins


From the end of the Hummingbird Highway, we head west into the Cayo District, where rainforests filled with caves, waterfalls, Maya temples and abundant adventure await. San Ignacio is a small town with a big presence and exactly where you want to stay as a hub for exploring what Cayo has to offer. San Ignacio itself, along with twin town Santa Elena across the Macal River, provides plenty of intrigue. A vibrant and diverse food scene, entertaining nightlife, bustling markets, and easy strolls to important archeological sites give you lots to do between eco-adventures.


Cahal Pech

Well over two thousand years old, this Maya palace sprawls through the thick jungle on a hilltop above San Ignacio. Walk through the ancient temples, plazas, and structures and find yourself transported back in time. Although Cahal Pech is one of Belize’s most important archaeological sites, it often feels as though you have the whole place to yourself, a sharp contrast to other popular Maya sites that have become overrun with tourists.

Pontoon Boat Jungle Tour

There are many great options to explore the Cayo rainforests, but we couldn’t imagine going to Belize and not doing the Pontoon Waterfall adventure with Jungle Splash Eco Tours. It’s the perfect mix of thrill and chill. Float on a charming pontoon boat up the river through the Maya Mountains, where the jungle dominates, to visit a series of waterfalls. Climb up the waterfalls and jump off cliffs. Our guide, Robert, feels like the real-life Crocodile Dundee, taking us on an expedition through his backyard. He knows every waterfall, rock, tree, and every crocodile is his friend. Lunch is barbecued over charcoal onboard; chicken, sausage, and veggies, washed down with a Belikin as you bask in the glory of the jungle.


Ko-Ox Han Nah (Let’s Go Eat)

A favourite among locals and visitors, Ko-Ox Han-Nah has an extensive menu to satisfy your belly. Belizian stews with the essential coconut rice and beans, platters of smoked pork tacos, massive quesadillas bursting with gooey goodness, Indian curries, and much more. The lamb curry is one of the best things we’ve ever eaten. The ambiance is super casual, inviting, and has people coming back multiple times during their visit to the area.

Guava Limb Café

Guava Limb Café is the place that everybody will tell you to go to, and you should listen to them. It has a slightly more sophisticated ambiance but maintains that relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere. The food is fantastic, and the cocktails are delightful. From fresh ceviche, salad, and summer rolls to comforting, creamy bowls of pasta to perfectly grilled fish and meat, there is something for everyone. If you are looking for legit pizza in Belize, Guava Limb is where you need to be.


Falling Leaves Lodge

Intimate, jungle-chic accommodations tucked on the hillside above San Ignacio, directly next to The Cahal Pech Mayan site. The bustle of town is very close, but there is a serenity within Falling Leaves Lodge that makes it feel like a world apart. With only fifteen rooms, you feel you are getting a private and personal place to relax after a day of exploring. Their restaurant, Obsidian, offers the perfect vista of San Ignacio stretching out below. Spotting two toucans playing in the trees was a definite highlight. 


Now it’s time for some beach! San Pedro is a beach town on the Southern end of Ambergris Caye, giving it VIP access to the Belize Barrier Reef. San Pedro is probably the biggest tourism hotspot in Belize, but Belizean culture is as present, alive, and vibrant as ever here, so the town doesn’t feel touristy at all. Quaint, energetic streets lined with local shops and restaurants, filled with people having a good time. Within moments you can be in some of the most epic diving and snorkelling in the world. Fishing as well. Or relax on a sunset sailing charter. Rent a golf cart and cruise around to get the full experience. Relax in the shade on the beach with a fun cocktail, embrace the nightlife, and indulge in the amazing food scene of San Pedro.


Walking Food Tour

This is a must-do. We had Belize Food Tours take us on a culinary expedition through the energetic streets of San Pedro. Our local guide was joyful and spoke with pride and passion, giving us a personal connection to what we were tasting. The tour is an amazing way to experience the diversity of Belize’s culture through food. Ceviches, stews, pupusas, paletas, key lime pies, and pork tacos that we will dream about until the end of time. So mouth-wateringly delicious. A bonus is getting to know the business owners who take great pleasure in delighting your palate. 

Explore the Ocean

From San Pedro, there are many options for aquatic adventures with the Belize Barrier Reef at the doorstep. We joined Xsite Belize Sailing and Adventures, which was a perfect way to get a sample of what the seascape has to offer. We set out on the Toucan Play, a comfortable catamaran designed equally for relaxation and adventure. A leisurely cruise brought us to our first snorkel spot. As soon as we put our faces under the water, we were awed by the abundant, colourful, glorious sea life! Multitudes of tropical fish, eagle rays, sting rays, eels, and massive sea turtles gliding serenely through the water. At the next snorkel spot, we jumped in the water with sharks! Nurse sharks are completely harmless, but the thrill of having dozens of sharks swimming around you is indescribable. Even the people in our group who are terrified of the ocean took it as an opportunity to embrace and overcome their fear. Back on board, we fueled up with rum punch and ceviche as the Toucan Play set sail to Secret Beach, which is not-so-secret but a very fun spot to lounge, swim, and indulge in tasty food and fun cocktails. With a small fleet of Catamarans, Xsite offers many options, from day trips to overnights, to fishing, diving, snorkelling, camping, or even private charters tailored to exactly what you want. Whatever you choose, you will get out on the ocean and have an adventure.


Estel’s Dine By The Sea

Estel’s was our last meal before hopping on Tropic Air to start the journey home, and it was a fitting meal to send us off (although we would totally go multiple times if we were there for longer). Some of the best fry jacks we had on this trip, excellent egg dishes, beautiful fresh fruit and juices, and generous portions, all enjoyed with excellent service and a perfect beachfront view.


Ramon’s Village Resort

Clean, quiet, but with the energy of downtown San Pedro close by. With the sea breeze blowing through royal palms and rustling bougainvillea lifting the scent of the plentiful, colourful flowers, Ramon’s feels more like a sanctuary than a resort. Thatched roofs, Mayan sculptures, smiling faces, and of course, the beach are around every corner. There are many adventures you can book through the staff at the hotel. The hotel’s restaurant, Pineapples on the Beach, is a destination in itself; one of the Caye’s best restaurants, with a perfect location and delectable food and drinks. Poolside, you will find Tropic Al’s, with a wide array of fresh fruit smoothies and specialty coffee roasted on the Caye.

We hope this inspires you to visit the amazing country of Belize. If you love adventure, fantastic food, beautiful landscapes, and amazing people, Belize is waiting for you. Go visit! And tell us all about your adventures.

Notable Life

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