Belize travel offers great adventure in, on, and under the water

As a seasoned travel writer, I have the privilege of visiting a lot of terrific places. Each place shines in its own way, but I’m invariably attracted to islands and tropical destinations where sparkling waters play a significant role to any visit. Whether I’m in it, on it, or under it, a destination with water friendly activities is usually tops in my books.

visit-belize

Reflecting back on my notes of our visit to Belize makes me want to go back, as I very clearly wrote, “This truly was one of the best days of my life.”Β 

What made my Belize travel experience so memorable and special? There are some beautiful beaches and incredible vacation rentals in Belize that can make for a great trip. But for me, it was the snorkelling. I’ve snorkelled in numerous places throughout Mexico, Hawaii, and Caribbean, but to date, have never surpassed the thrill of the Manatee Watch and Shark Ray Alley tour we took in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

snorkel-belize

We watched the manatee swim happily near the mangroves. And we snorkelled with the sting rays and nurse sharks along the coral reef. I was even allowed to pet a large nurse shark, with my Belizean guide close at hand. It was incredible! The shark’s skin was tough like sandpaper. We were feeding him sardines in the warm, crystal clear water. What a magical moment, as I truly felt a very peaceful connection with this 14-foot long creature. (I’m guessing at the length, but that is a common length for these usually docile bottom-dwellers.) I say ‘usually docile,’ as it has been noted that divers who bother the nurse sharks in unwanted or unexpected ways may be bitten with their razor-sharp teeth.

dive-belize

Oxygen tanks all ready for a dive in Belize.

Shark Ray Alley is rated as being one of the Top 7 Caribbean Dive Spots. From my experience, I totally agree. There are more than 200 species of marine life in those waters. And more than 300 species of native birds. But where exactly is Belize?

The Belize Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site and stretches from Mexico to Guatemala

Belize is a Central American country bordered by Mexico to the north (both Cancun and Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula are just over 600 kilometres away from Belize City.) Belize is flanked by Guatemala to the west and south, and the captivating Caribbean Sea to the east.

Although I only had one day there while on a fabulous Panama Canal cruise in 2001, Belize still holds a key place in my memory, and I’m hoping that by writing this sponsored post and bringing Belize to the forefront of my consciousness, I will find my way back to the beautiful island paradise of San Pedro and discover more of what the country of Belize has to offer.

san-pedro-belize

A visit to San Pedro is a must for any traveler to Belize.

I found San Pedro to be a most pleasant surprise. Bright colours, beautiful beaches, and a good selection of enticing places to stay. A Creole (Kriol) influence in the Belizean culture was felt and tasted in the flavourful eats we enjoyed in North Ambergris Caye. Belizean rice and beans is a popular dish. We enjoyed the Belizean chicken flavoured with paprika, and served with rice, peas, fried bananas, and a really great coleslaw salad. And Belize is also known for its tasty fresh-caught shrimp. You’ll find everything you need to plan a trip to Belize here.

But those of you who are regular readers to this blog know there must be a chocolate connection. And indeed there is! A growing number of fine chocolate makers around the world are creating their own unique bars using Belizean cocoa. And there is the Belize Chocolate Fest in Toledo in May that I hope to get to.

I have not yet been to the Toledo District–situated in the southern part of Belize, but it is best known for the Punta Gorda tourist area, and about 30 Mayan villages that preserve the Mayan culture. At one time, there were as many as one million Mayans who inhabited Belize, so there are numerous site with Mayan ruins to explore.

There is now a noteworthy cacao company in the Punta Gorda region that is growing world class cocoa. And a movement to save and protect the heirloom cacao and help establish cacao-based agroforestry to help conserve and restore Belizean tropical forests. It is no surprise that Belize has found its way onto my chocolate-seeking radar.

With the growing reputation of bean-to-bar chocolate being made from Belizean cocoa by chocolate making champions that include US-basedΒ Dandelion Chocolate, you can be sure I’ll soon be back in Belize. So please subscribe to this site (via the pop-up subscribe box or the Subscribe box in the options you’ll find in the sidebar if you haven’t already joined us) as I discover more about this dreamy Central American destination.

belize-sunset

A beautiful sunrise in Belize, to get me dreaming about my return visit.

My thanks to friend and colleague Bob Cooney for supplying the great photos of Belize for this post. My Belizean photos were taken before the days of digital and are buried somewhere in my closet. πŸ™‚ But I hope to bring you more original content on Belize before too long. So do stay tuned, and please share any of your own Belizean memories in the comment thread below.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

93 Responses

  1. My son and his girlfriend visited Belize last year and absolutely loved it! It’s on my bucket list for 2018 and, of course, the whole chocolate factor just raised it higher on the list!

  2. I’m scared of water but I would love to snorkel and see manattes. More than that, I would love to taste the Belizean chocolate from Dandelion chocolate – preferably sitting on a beach and looking at that sunset

  3. Love the look of those pastel coloured houses
    Such a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the sunshine

  4. Wow great ..amazing tourism spot. love all places..planning to visit.thanks for share

  5. Belize looks absolutely amazing! I would love to travel there one day. πŸ™‚

  6. Donna Janke
    Twitter:
    says:

    Belize certainly looks and sounds beautiful. I would love to visit.

  7. Catarina says:

    Have never personaly been to Bleize just worked with their government once. Friends of mine who have been to Blize liked it very much

  8. Janet May-Hewson says:

    Hi Doreen. I don’t really know anything about this beautiful country. One of our kids, Michael has made it there and raved about it. I wonder if there are “bucket list” rules. Lol. Do you keep adding travel spots as you are pushing through your list. A never-ending affair!

  9. Janet May-Hewson says:

    Perhaps we can.

  10. Carol Colborn says:

    We are going to Belize this year! I was waiting for the intro to Belize’s chocolate and there it was before the article ended. And I may try snorkeling! I will try to sample the chocolate, too.

  11. Linda
    Twitter:
    says:

    I used to think snorkeling would be totally lame. Little did I know! I fell in love with it during my one tri to Hawaii. I can easily imagine your excitement and delight at touching a shark and swimming with all those fish. That would be so cool. Hope you do make it back soon.

  12. As a scuba diver, I’ve long wanted to visit Belize. Hoping to do so in 2018! Your encounters with the sea life sound amazing!

  13. Nathan says:

    Lovely introduction to this Central American nation! I would love to visit Belize someday and snorkel in those clear seas which are absolutely captivating.

  14. Fun! I have a number of snorkeling friends who speak highly of Belize. Must be something wrong with them, though, because nary a word about the chocolate! πŸ™‚

  15. Fabulous! I really want to get to Central America before too long, and even more so now that I know there’s a possibility of seeing a manatee…

  16. Milosz Zak
    Twitter:
    says:

    From everything I’ve heard from my fellow traveler friends, Belize also has some fantastic Mayan ruins. Definitely worth a trip, and a great extension, or follow-up to any trip to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

  17. I was in Belize last February, we split our time between the jungle area to visit Caracol and the white sand and snorkeling of Caye Caulker. I hope to return and check out Caye Ambergris and the chocolate!

  18. Lara Dunning
    Twitter:
    says:

    I have heard so many great things about Belize and your post makes me want to go even more. Hopefully one day soon I’ll find myself there!

  19. Max Gandy
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m so glad to see more people writing about the chocolate culture in Belize! I went to the Toledo Chocolate Festival in PG a couple of years ago and it was a blast. Shortly thereafter I ended up writing about it since I had so much fun, but I also wish I had taken better pictures during my trip… I was so tired after the first two days that I ended up missing the bus to the third day, but the 10 days I spent in Belize were truly magical. I highly agree with your assessment about Ambergris Caye, as well. Thanks for the quick overview, Doreen.

  20. Having lived most of my life on Maui, visiting sun and sea destinations has never been high on my list of travel wish list. But now one year into mountain living, I’m ready to expand my horizons. Belize looks charming and reminds me of some of the beach towns we used to frequent so many years ago. Thanks for the tour and lovely photos!

  21. I’ll never forget I actually saw a jaguar in the forest in Belize!

  22. I’ll never forget how I saw a jaguar in the forest in Belize!

  23. Robert
    Twitter:
    says:

    We made a stop in Belize on one of our past Cruise Vacations. Loved the snorkeling and boat trip out to Caye Caulker and swimming with the Rays! The Dandelion Chocolate sounds very interesting! πŸ™‚

  24. So lovely. There is just something so memorable about snorkeling in clear, clean water.

  25. Francesca
    Twitter:
    says:

    I didn’t realize there’s such a thing as Belizean cocoa. Not surprised, though. I haven’t been to Belize yet but would love to go. I did a Panama Canal cruise, too, about 15 years ago but Belize wasn’t one of our stops πŸ™

  26. Suzanne Fluhr
    Twitter:
    says:

    My one visit to Belize was also a one day port of call on a cruise. I’m still trying to overcome claustrophobia sufficiently to enjoy snorkeling. If I ever do, thanks to you, I know to add Belize as a possible place to see how I do. I’d probably forego the petting the shark thing—even if I knew they had plenty of sardines to eat.

  27. I’ve only been to Belize as a cruise passenger, but after reading your article I think I’ll go back!! I also had no idea about Belize chocolate!! Great piece!

  28. Thanks for this introduction to Belize! It’s now on my list!

  29. Wendy Peck says:

    I have always been curious about Belize, but you have given me at least half a dozen reasons to get there. You always find the best stuff in the best places.

  30. Michele
    Twitter:
    says:

    What a rare and special treat to see manatees up close in the wild. I hope to stop in Belize in the fall and can’t wait!

  31. neha
    Twitter:
    says:

    The beaches of Belize seem to have a lot to offer to those visiting here. Including underwater experience. That sunrise is very well captured. I love the shades of color there. And the town looks colorful too. Overall, I am inspired and will look forward to more stories from Belize.

  32. It’s great to read that there is so much to do in Belize. We were considering adding it to our travel list, and now we can confidently.

  33. Yasha
    Twitter:
    says:

    We visited Belize in 2007 on our Alaska to Tierra de Fuego trip. One of the things we loved was that could speak English after 5 months of struggling with Spanish in Mexico. But we were also thrilled by our visit to Caye Caulker and a boat trip we took from there. It is a special country that really deserves a lot more attention.

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Yasha. Yes, it’s great that Belize is an English-speaking country. Hopefully this post will help get more travelers thinking about visiting Belize.

  34. Great info, Doreen. We’ve only visited the interior, and though we loved the interior (ATM caves) we missed out on your manatee sightings and San Pedro and chocolate experiences.

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Hi Kristin. You’ll have to go back! It’s true how a visit to one part of a country can be dpcompletely different than a visit to another part of the country. Thx for stopping by.

  35. You’ve just added Belize to my “must-visit” list! I love to snorkel and dive and your experience sounds divine. I have fond memories of visiting a friend’s Belizean grandmother with her. Her cooking was amazing and her accent always made me smile.

  36. jane
    Twitter:
    says:

    My husband Henk constantly rates EVERY snorkelling adventure against his experience on the ‘atoll in Belize’ which he ranks as unbelievable. I don’t think I’ll rest until I see it for myself, too!

  37. As much as we love tropical destinations, we’ve never been to Belize. You’ve sold me on putting it on the wish list. The hubby would love the snorkelling and I’d be spending some quality time in San Pedro. Bob Cooney’s photos are fantastic!

  38. Belize has been in my wanderlist for quite a while and now that I’m getting better at snorkeling, I am motivated to get there! San Pedro looks like a lovely spot to wander and explore as well.

  39. Mike
    Twitter:
    says:

    Awesome article on Belize. I’ve always wanted to go. Do you have any photos from your dive? I love seeing underwater photos. I saw the link of luxury rentals in Belize. They made my eyes pop. They are soo beautiful. Need to check them out.

  40. Sandy N Vyjay
    Twitter:
    says:

    The underwater world at Belize seems magical. What an experience swimming with the manatees. Getting so close to a Nurse Shark and even being able to touch the giant sounds like an incredible experience. You seem to have had a great experience and no wonder you wrote in your travel diary that this was one of the best days of your life.

  41. Rose Palmer says:

    Belize is definitely on the to of my tropical getaway list. Hope to get there son.

  42. YUKTI says:

    I never knew Belize is so beautiful and lovely. San Pedro is really a surprise with stunnning beach, and would really try out delicious Belizan dishes.

  43. Abhinav Singh
    Twitter:
    says:

    I am also a fan of tropical destinations. As much as I love mountains, I love beaches as well. I think I will enjoy Belize. It is my kind of destination. San Pedro looks like a lot of fun too!

  44. Belize seems like an ultimate travel destination, Doreen! Your pictures have left me speechless. How many days would be enough to see all of the highlights there?

  45. Doreen, I fell in love with Belize when my naturalist friend Pat spent 16 years there writing letters to friends about the birds, animals and plants of this wonderful country. Then I fell in love with a picture of Half Moon Caye on Lighthouse Reef near the fabled Blue Hole, a World Heritage site. A long peninsula of sand with emerald water on each side where you can pitch your tent and watch a colony of magnificent black frigate birds living beside rare white red-footed booby birds. I booked a camping kayaking trip to this island with Island Expeditions, met one of the wardens and was invited to study jaguars in the jungle near the Cockscomb wildlife sanctuary. As the writer of Love Affair with a Cougar, I couldn’t resist .

    I now return to Belize every year in the Canadian winter, I have built a house there for a family in a secluded yet-to-be-discovered treasure and enjoy the unparallelled experiences of living with Mayan and Mestizo families. Go to http://WWW.LYNHANCOCK.COM for blogs and photos on Sarteneja, my home village, and the wonderful experience of being invited to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of my Belizean sister.
    A final tip: my favourite experiences in Belize have been that wedding, kayaking Half Moon Caye with Island Expeditions,and Actun Tunichal Mukpah, the ATM cave where women and children used to be sacrificed to the Rain God. And if you want to experience local culture with a local family phone me at 1.250.390.9075 or email me at lynhancock@shaw.ca and I will be pleased to invite you and help you achieve that.

  46. Belize, is probably one of those modern day colonies for vacation rentals and beach bumming in style. I wish to see how the locals stay in these areas and how their daily lives revolve around the beauty of the sea. More often than not most of the lovely beach resort towns are all similar looking western clones of each other. I’d love to visit Belize but reach out to where the locals live and understand their lives. I learnt a little about Belize, but I am hoping to go back and do more research on this place.

  47. Loved your story. I cannot tell you how much I love Belize. My β€œbucket list” continues to grow despite all my efforts to complete it there. The Chocolate Fest is definitely worth experiencing!

  48. Jina
    Twitter:
    says:

    impressive article you wrote and shared your travel experience with us. I want to go there for same enjoyment and trip.

  49. Vikas Sharma
    Twitter:
    says:

    impressive article you wrote and shared your travel experience with us. I want to go there for same enjoyment and trip.

  50. Cindy
    Twitter:
    says:

    Belize has been on my list for a long time now – actually just talked about it last month with my favorite tropical travel partners, so maybe two years from now. . . It sounds wonderful.

  51. harsh shukla says:

    nice post thanks for sharing n keep it up

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