When planning a trip to Belize, some travelers mistakenly assume visiting multiple parts of the country on the same vacation is not possible. Geographically speaking, Belize is tiny enough that you can stay on one of the islands and do day trips back to the mainland’s top attractions. However, if you want to make the most of your Belize vacation, consider what many call a “rainforest/reef” combination. Some resorts even offer packages in partnership with other properties, which can often result in savings for you.
Here’s a look at how you can spend a week in both the jungle and beautiful islands of Belize.
Your first day you’ll most likely arrive in Belize via the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE). Once you’re in Belize, you have several options on getting to your first destination. You can either arrange vehicle transportation through your resort, or depending on the day and time you arrive, there may be a flight option on a local carrier to Cayo. San Ignacio is one of the main towns in the region, and is where you’ll find a variety of resorts and restaurants, nightlife, etc.
Cayo is the cultural heart and adventure capital for Belize. From here, you’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of adrenaline pumping excursions or learn more about the country’s Mayan past.
Start off your introduction to Cayo with a tour of Xunantunich, one of Belize’s numerous Maya sites. This Maya site is less than 10 miles away from San Ignacio, and is accessed by a hand-crank ferry. Don’t miss Xunantunich’s El Castillo, the temple that rises 40 meters above plaza level. Take the time to climb it, as the views are breathtaking -- it’s one of the tallest buildings in Belize! It’s believed Xunantunich was abandoned sometime between 890 to 900 A.D.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) is an ancient Maya ceremonial cave that is one of the most popular tours in Belize. It’s approximately a 1.5-hour drive from San Ignacio, then a 45-minute walk along a jungle trail. You’ll arrive at the camp to eat lunch, and then the real adventure begins. This sacred cave is where ancient Maya conducted important ceremonies, and you’ll get to explore some of these sacrificial altars. There are even skulls and skeletal remains present on this tour.
There are several ways you can transit between Cayo and Ambergris Caye. If your resort arranged ground transportation, take a shuttle to Belize City and either take the water taxi or a 15-minute flight over to the island from the Municipal airport. Driving between Cayo and Belize City is only a few hours, so it’s easy to transit in less than a day.
During your downtime in between tours, you can enjoy one of the countless beach bars to cool off. There are lots of dining options in San Pedro, and evenings bring live music, karaoke, and on the weekends, you can even check out Jaguars night club.
If you’re a scuba diver, a trip to the Blue Hole is probably at the top of your list of things to do in Belize. Even those who just want to snorkel can join in this one-of-a-kind adventure. Tours typically depart around 6 a.m., as it’s a few hours on the dive boat to get there. You’ll also do two more dives (or snorkels) and visit places like Half Moon Caye.
Spend your last full day on Ambergris Caye at a more leisurely pace. Do a morning tour to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. Hol Chan is a stunning snorkeling tour along the Belize Barrier Reef, while Shark Ray Alley is where dozens of nurse sharks and stingrays hang out. Tours typically depart around 9 a.m. and get back around noon, so you’ll have the remainder of the day free to relax, work on your tan, do some souvenir shopping, or explore Ambergris Caye.
When it comes time to depart, you can fly directly from San Pedro to the international airport. It’s a short 15-minute flight back to BZE direct on one of Belize’s two local airlines. If your flight is later in the day, enjoy breakfast on the beach, pick up some souvenirs, and then have your resort shuttle you to the airport to head back home.
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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