From the moment we stepped into the Belizean chicken bus till the last boat ride from Punta Gorda to Guatemalan Puerto Barrios, we were carried by rastafarian flow of music. Belize biggest ethnic group is Garifuna people which are the islanders/african decendents of slave workers of british colonialists. Everyone seems veeery relaxed, the aroma of ganja accompanies you everywhere 24/7.
This carribean feel is mixed with chinese economical immigrants from the 70’s that are in charge of most of the corner shops in each town, mayan indigenous tribes who are occupying mostly farmlands and showing up in towns just for local markest and big communities of mennonites who relocated here from Canada and US in XIX century. This is a truly unusual combination but quite interesting as well. This country is definitely one of a kind and, because of that, it’s standing out on the map of Central America. Not only because it’s the only english speaking country in the region. Most of the touristy trails are leading through houndreds of islands spread out along the second biggest reef in the world. There you can find galore of snorkeling and diving spots and options although it’s not the cheapest.
Inland you can find plenty more attractions though, ranging from fauna and flora spotting, jungle treks and visiting Mayan sites or villages. Beaches are not the strongest side of Belize. You can find some on the Islands and in Placencia (south of Belize City), but if that’s your priority, then you’ll be better off going to Mexico. Here is more about the people, reef and of course the biggest attraction – Blue Hole diving. We can’t say much about the last one, because we have decided that the very high prices for essentialy diving in “just a hole” are uninviting and we’ll rather spend those funds on having the chance to see the actual marine life instead.
There are quite a few dont’s when it comes to Belize if you, same as us, are looking for a bit more off the beaten path places and to interact with locals instead of other tourists. We decided to stay away from the 2 biggest and most touristy islands – Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. There is nothing better about them than on the other islands in terms of nature, marine life or beaches, but tons of complications and extra costs just to get there. It seems, though, that we were the only one daring not to go there.
Instead, our pick was a tiny fishermans island, Tobacco Caye. You can barely find any intormation online about it but the locals are not in a hurry to change it. They believe, that if someone gets there, he’s the right person. They don’t want to see their micro paradise to be flooded by tourists, so this is as much as we will tell you about it, to keep it as it is, for as long as possible. Other places visited by us are towns Dangriga and Punta Gorda. Both very laid back fishing villages with big populations of Garifuna (carribean like) people, who are responsible for the most rasta vibe of the country.
Dangriga is very peaceful and friendly place, but mostly just a transfer spot to the reef islands. Be aware, that the sea can be very choppy sometimes, therefore make sure that you will find a proper captain with a passenger boat to take you to the islands.
Punta Gorda coast
road to Lubaantun
the Crystal Skull
great meal – bread with canned chicken
Punta Gorda has lots more to offer. It’s the biggest Garifuna and Maya people district in Belize and seriously under developed and lacking infrastructure (paved road was finished only few years ago). On the other hand, has the most genuine vibe of all. Additionally, it’s the southern border crossing of Belize, where you can take a boat to Guatemala (Livingston, Puerto Barrios) and Honduras. Enjoyable and quiet – a place where the expression “right now” becomes a truly Carribbean “not immediately, but in the nearest future”. One of the options for day trips is the Lubaantun Maya archeological site – the famous Cristal Skull origin. Joined with an overnight stay in a Maya village guesthouse makes it worthwile.