I had never thought of going to Belize for a vacation. I actually never even considered it until it was on the itinerary for a cruise I went on with my family and now Fiancé a few years back. It wasn’t until the port was cancelled last minute on our cruise that I was determined to go. My fiancé and I thought it would be the perfect getaway.
Belize is severely underrated. It is a small, young country in Central America surrounded by Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and Guatemala. It is beautiful, lush, and a little rustic (which is what I liked most). What I (and most people) did not know was that Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America. So the dwindling remnants of my high-school taught Spanish was certainly not an issue, despite its location. I found it to have Mayan, Hispanic, Caribbean, and African influence to its vibrant culture.
While in Belize, we flew into Belize City, but stayed in Hopkins, which is a small fishing village to the south on the coast. It was important to me that when I travel, specifically when I travel to smaller less developed countries, that the money I spend goes back into the community and not some rich person living lavishly abroad. With that said, we stayed at the Belizean Dreams Resort in Hopkins, the only resort in the area that was Belizean-owned at the time. At Belizean Dreams, we had the perfect combination of adventure and relaxation. We stayed at the resort for 5 days. Here’s how it all went down:
Day 1: Arrival at the Belizean Dreams Resort. Getting to the resort was an adventure all on its own. We flew into the Belize City International Airport, and from there, we took a small puddle-jumper aircraft to Dangriga, a town near Hopkins. This part made me super nervous because small aircrafts are not my thing, especially those that only seat a max of 12 people. However; this was only a 15 minute flight and it made for the best views of the Caribbean Sea and its beautiful reefs.
After our flight, we were picked up by the resort staff for a 45 minute car ride along Hummingbird Highway, the largest highway in Belize. Once arriving at the resort, we were checked in and greeted with their signature frozen drink: The Grasshopper. The rest of the afternoon was filled with relaxation, fun, and food at the resort.
Day 2: Snorkeling and Island Hopping. The Belizean Dreams Resort also has its own private island called Coco Plum Island with a resort where one can stay if they so choose. We decided to just visit for the day, after a morning of snorkeling along one of the largest barrier reefs in the world (not kidding, the Belize Barrier Reef can be seen from space). This was the first time I have ever snorkeled, and coupled with not being able to swim very well, I was quite nervous. In the end, this happened to be in the top 5 best experiences I’ve had in my life.
I have a new found fascination with places that have not been touched (and by touched I mean ruined) by humans, and places that are not often seen by humans. We saw so many different species of fish/sea creatures and I was a champ with wadding in the wavy (and very deep) waters (okay I had a life jacket to help me). After snorkeling, we visited Coco Plum Island and had lunch and time to relax and walk around. The water was beautiful and the sand was white–it was a dream come true.
Day 3: Cave Tubing and Ziplining at the Crystal Caves in Belmopan. This was the same excursion that we did not get to do on our cruise. The best part about this excursion was that since we went on a Monday, it was not crawling with people from cruise ships. In fact, there was barely anyone there outside of our group from the resort, which made for a magical experience of nature and adventure.
Regretfully (actually, not really), I did not take any photos on the cave tubing portion because I did not have my phone out of fear it would fall into the water or get lost in the jungle. Anyway, we hiked about 3 miles through the jungle in our water shoes with our tubes in the sun (much harder than you’d think), crossing 2 rivers and dining on termites. I did not eat the termites, but I heard they tasted like chocolate.
Once we got to the opening of the caves, we took a swim in the clearest and coldest water I’ve ever been in, and hooked all of our tubes together. Once in the caves, we were guided by our 2 tour guides in pure darkness. The only source of light we had were the headlights on our helmets and the flashlights from the guides. We learned about the history of the caves (where the Mayans would do human sacrifices), the cave characteristics, and saw different kinds of bats (don’t ask me what they were called).
Once out of the caves, we floated quietly along the river through the jungle, sighting birds and other wildlife. I can say with confidence I felt the most at peace and mindful in those moments. After we reached the end, we were conveniently back where we started our hike so we did not need to hike the 3 miles back (thank goodness). We got dressed and headed to the canopy for ziplining, which was an amazing and freeing experience.
Just being in the jungle where it’s quiet except the sounds of nature was so peaceful. If you’ve never ziplined before, be warned that it involves lots of hiking and climbing stairs to get to the top. It was scary at first, but then you get used to the guides just pushing you off the ledge after a while. They need you to move fast before the next group arrives at that level, so there’s no time for fear or hesitation. We zip-lined for 9 lines and finished up with photos.
Day 4: Visiting the ancient Mayan Ruins at Xunantunich. This day was special because we got to experience Belizean culture at its best. Myself, my Fiancé, and another couple went on this tour with a tour guide from the resort. We drove almost 3 hours through the jungle to get to Xunantunich (shoo-nan-too-nitch). The ride was very bumpy, however; the views were absolutely stunning. When we got to the area, we had to cross a bridge that was hand-cranked.
Once we arrived at the site, we sprayed ourselves with bug spray (is it too late to mention that you WILL get eaten alive if you do not put on bug spray like it’s your job?), and began to walk around. Our guide introduced us to the park and before heading to the main sight, we got to see the ancient ball courts and even tried some cloves straight off the trees.
We arrived at the main sight where the people of power in those ancient times would hold ceremonies and speeches. It was amazing because at the very top of the ruins (really high up), you could hear people’s conversations down below—talk about good acoustics, of course they needed that because there were no microphones. We climbed to the very top of the structures and were able to see for miles, including the nearby country of Guatemala.
After touring the rest of the ruins, our tour guide brought us to a local restaurant nearby and had the best meal ever of pulled pork that was smoked underground for many hours and tortillas with fixings. On the way back to the resort, we stopped at an ice cream shop and indulged in banana and coconut ice cream.
Day 5: Making our way into town. Our last full day in Belize made for a relaxing one. We laid by the pool, on the beach, and had a bunch of drinks at the bar. We were tired from all of the walking, climbing, swimming and hiking in the previous days, but never too tired to venture out and hang with the locals. We took the bikes that were available to use at the resort and headed out into town.
Our main goal this day was to get to a restaurant that everyone was recommending called Innie’s. We found out that Innie’s was closed, so we went to another recommended restaurant called Ella’s. We had a delicious meal of fresh caught curry fish with coconut rice and veggies. After some great conversation with the restaurant owner, we walked around some more and then it was getting dark, so we headed back to the resort. The one thing I’ll say about Hopkins, is that it seems to be a very tight-knit community, so walking around I the dark was no big deal—we felt completely safe among the locals.
Hopkins, Belize is the kind of place that I would keep coming back to year after year. I also recommend the Belizean Dreams Resort, 10/10. It feels very true to the culture and the land and isn’t a place that is overly crowded with tourists. If you are looking for a warm place to vacation outside of the Caribbean, Belize is your country!