Un-Belize-able

“Slow doooowwwnn giirrll” a local Belizian calls out while I speed-walk my way along the beach road to the fresh smoothie shop on the island.  We were already running late for our scuba certification course with Frenchie’s Diving; little did we know Caye Caulker seems to have invented Island Time, and that two minutes late is actually 20 minutes early.

The coral reef off the coast of Belize is the second largest on the planet and home to a wide array of different marine life like nurse sharks, turtles and stingrays, making it an ideal choice for divers and snorkelers alike.

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When we first arrived in the bustling Belize City from Mexico on bus, we couldn’t peel our eyes from the windows as we bumped along throughout the city.  We met Rick, an American expat living in the country with his Mexican wife.  He had purchased land and was developing an island for a supersize eco-friendly resort.  But my fondest memory was the Belizian rum.  Smooth and welcoming, this local staple echoes the laid-back vibes of the locale.

Once known as the British Honduras, Belize, located on the eastern coast of Central America, is home to some incredible real estate.  With Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the southwest and the The Blue Hole, known across the globe by divers as a once-in-a-lifetime dive, off the coast to the east, Belize is in an ideal location for a travelers’ getaway.  Not only is Belize stunningly gorgeous, but it is an incredible country with white sand beaches, laid-back and welcoming locals with a thriving marine life.

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For the most part (well, compared to the likes of Cancun, Bahamas or other more developed destinations in the Caribbean), Belize is far less developed.  The culture has been preserved, and the country as well as private developers have taken steps to protect their biggest asset: the environment.

Over 200 cayes, or islands, join the mainland to make up the whole of Belize.

Ambergris Caye: The largest island in Belize is home to about 50% of the travellers to the country.  Popular among tourists for mayan ruins, eco-adventures into a pristine jungle, waterfalls, scuba diving and parasailing.

Caye Caulker: Still catering to tourists, but a bit off the main tourist trail.  We got our PADI divemasters on this island, and I would highly recommend it.  The island is true Creole life-style, with laid-back reggae bars and seafood restaurants spotted throughout the island.  Only bikes and golf carts are allowed.  It’s super small. It’s super laid back.  And I mean, laaaiiiddd back: in fact, the island slogan is Go Slow. If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, look no further (read: going for a run, people tell you to slow down), but if you’re looking for a place with a little more life, head over to Ambergris Caye.

Make sure to eat a fresh lobster dinner on the beach at Jolly Rogers!

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Belize City: Belize City can be a bit sketchy, and navigating the ports can be tricky.  We came in through Mexico and took a boat and bus into Belize City.  Navigating the bus/transfer/boat to the Cayes was a little tough and we luckily made friends with Rick who helped to show us around.  If you haven’t the time for that, or are flying into Belize City, take a cab to the port and purchase a boat ticket at the dock, or purchase a transfer/boat ticket at the airport.  You’ll probably pay a bit more, but it does allow for peace of mind.

Get There: From Canada, Air Canada and WestJet both have flights into Belize City from their major gateways.  Here’s some tips from enRoute Magazine.

Know: Belize is English-speaking, making it super easy to get around.

Why: You go for the culture, to get off that beaten track but in a safe and reliable way, and for Diving, Snorkeling and Eco-Adventures

Want to see?  Check out this YouTube video for a more indepth look at the country.

 

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