Yes, You Should Visit The Islands Of Belize. Here’s Why.
My husband and I recently visited a country full of diverse culture, unbelievable snorkeling and beautiful coastlines. Being home to the second largest barrier reef, Belize is known for its one of a kind day trips to the Blue Hole, ziplining adventures in the largest cave system in Central America, and laid back beach vibes of the islands. Located just south of Mexico and right next to Guatemala, Belize is on the eastern coast of Central America and is made up of both Caribbean Sea shorelines and dense jungle. There are pros and cons to visiting Belize, so I’m here to give you my honest opinion, plus provide all the info you need to seamlessly plan a trip here.
Which Part To Visit
You have several different options when deciding which areas to visit in Belize. The mainland/Belize City is probably the least likely place you would want to stay because their islands tend to be the sought after destination for tourists. We decided to stay in San Pedro which is a pretty busy town on the island of Ambergris Caye. (Pro tip: It’s pronounced “key” not “kay”) This is probably the most common place for tourists to go because it is the biggest island and stretches along the barrier reef.
Everyone on Ambergris Caye drives a golf cart, both locals and tourists. It is their main mode of transportation. We rented one at a hardware store near our hotel for about $40/day and it was totally worth it. This island gets pretty busy and we found ourselves in a little bit of golf cart traffic going to breakfast in the morning! Another island that is popular to visit is Caye Caulker. We visited here two different times during our trip and honestly wished we would have stayed on this island instead. It was a little more remote, less busy and had more of a “laid back island vacation” vibe. Of course it has a lot less bars and restaurants, but it was beautiful and seemed more relaxed.
Other smaller remote islands I’ve heard are great to visit are: South Water Caye and Hatchet Caye.
From Nashville, Belize was pretty easy to get to and we flew Southwest which is always nice because we love those free bags! We stopped in Fort Lauderdale for about an hour and then it was only a little over two hours to Belize City from there. I think our flights were around $350 each round trip. Once you get into Belize City, you have two options for getting to the island. You can either take a 90 minute trip on the water taxi (about $18 per person per way) or you can take a 15 minute flight on a tiny plane (about $75 per person per way). We splurged and took the plane because it saved a lot of time and we were so glad we chose this option! We booked on Maya Island Air and the flight over to Ambergris Caye provided absolutely stunning views! The plane fit 12 people and was super quick and easy. (Pro tip: One person has to sit up front with the captain. Ask if you can snag that seat when your flight starts boarding!)
The San Pedro airport sits right in the middle of the city, so our drive to the hotel was really quick and only a $5 cab ride. Once we got to our hotel, we made sure to walk around and find the best deal on a golf cart. There are places everywhere that rent them, so don’t settle for the first place you find. You can probably find a better deal somewhere else, but 100% you’ll definitely want to rent one if you stay on Ambergris Caye!
What You Must Do
Obviously Belize is known for the unbelievable snorkeling and diving spots. If you aren’t a diver, no worries. I’m not either! But you absolutely have to go snorkeling while you’re here. There are a ton of companies you can book a snorkeling trip with but don’t bother researching them because I can already tell you without a doubt you’ll want to book a day trip on the YOLO catamaran through Island Dream Tours. The day we spent out on this boat was one of our favorite days ever! We basically got to experience Belize in the best way possible. From 9am-4pm you get fresh cooked breakfast and lunch, an open bar, snorkeling, swimming with sharks and stingrays, a stop on Caye Caulker and a bunch of new friends! And I think it was only like $120 per person. Sooo worth it.
If you’ve done any research at all you probably know that Belize has areas that have been hit with the dreaded seaweed problem, kind of like Tulum. The hotel we stayed at was right on the beach in San Pedro, but it was a seaweed covered beach. We didn’t spend any time in the room so it didn’t bother us. Also, San Pedro is more known for all the docks you can swim off of so not as many people hang out on the beach. By the time you walk down the dock to get to a fun bar, you don’t see any seaweed in the water.
And the good news about Ambergris Caye is that you can take a 30 minute golf cart ride to the most unbelievable place called Secret Beach. We spent two full days here because the water is crystal clear and the beach is lined with incredible bars and restaurants. Most of the places you hang out have tables, chairs and hammocks out in the water and the servers come bring drinks to you out there. It is sooo magical and completely worth the bumpy golf cart ride down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. (You just have to follow the signs!)
Like I mentioned before, we totally fell in love with Caye Caulker. It was a 30 minute water taxi ride from San Pedro so after we got to experience this island on our catamaran trip, we decided to hop on the water taxi and head back over there a couple days later. This island was affected by a hurricane in 1961 which caused a split between the north and south side of the island. Up until very recently, the north side was mostly uninhabited. The water that separates the two sides is known as “The Split” and you can find a super fun bar/restaurant right there called Lazy Lizard. (But we’ll get to food & drinks in a minute!)
I highly recommend experiencing Caye Caulker at some point during your visit to Belize! The north side has a recently opened hotel called WeYu Boutique Hotel with a bar/restaurant on site called KoKo King. There is absolutely zero seaweed here and if we went back to Belize I would strongly consider staying here. It’s pure beauty and relaxation! It is a two minute boat ride from the south side of Caye Caulker, but it is the perfect place for a honeymoon, or just a relaxing trip where you can truly unplug.
Eating & Drinking
Basically the most important part of every trip: the food and drinks! HA. Ceviche is our favorite thing to order in tropical destinations and Belize did NOT disappoint in this department! I’m pretty sure we ate it every single day we were here. Now, I have to admit, we didn’t make it to a nice dinner every night on this trip because we love day drinking and going to bed early!! But we had some incredible food and drinks in the different locations we visited, so here’s what I would suggest!
-Palapa Bar & Grill (San Pedro): This was our favorite spot for drinks and we ate the chicken quesadilla on three different occasions over the course of our trip! Absolutely delicious. They have a dock off the back with tubes in the water you can float in while enjoying your drinks. Oh and if you order a bucket of beer, they send it down to you in the water via zipline. You can see this happening over on my Belize story highlights on Instagram. We loooved this bar!
-El Fogon (San Pedro): This was basically our one “nice” dinner out and it was absolutely incredible! I cannot remember what we ordered (sorry!!) but by the looks of my Instagram story it seems as though Jordan got shrimp and I got some kind of fish. I remember we told the server to choose for us and it ended up being incredible. Also, the margaritas were amazing as well! This place is authentic and not super touristy. That’s how you know it’s good.
-Estel’s Dine By The Sea (San Pedro): Hands down this is the best breakfast in all of San Pedro! It’s right on the water and we went here twice because it was just that good. You can’t go to Belize without eating a fry jack because it’s a staple! It’s basically fried dough that you eat with honey. You can get this as a side with your meal at Estel’s and it’s soooo good. (Don’t expect to be healthy here. Obvi.) Also, I got a watermelon mimosa with breakfast and it was uniquely delicious. For the most part all the juices are fresh squeezed in Belize. Makes for an amazing mimosa!
-Wayo’s (San Pedro): We didn’t eat any food here, but we came here for drinks after we had dinner at El Fogon. This is the place to be. It’s locally owned with a live band and strong drinks. We actually ended up meeting the owner and his wife the night we went and they couldn’t have been nicer. The place was packed, the music was great and it was the perfect ending to our night!
-Wahoo’s Lounge (San Pedro): The last night of our trip we came here for the Chicken Drop. Don’t know what that is? I didn’t either until I experienced it. Basically you buy raffle tickets that have numbers on them, then go down to the beach in front of the chicken coop. This is a fenced in area with a bunch of numbered squares on the ground. They drop the chicken in here and let it roam around. If it poops on the number that is on your ticket, you win money! It was sooooo funny and random and it happens every Thursday. Go experience it if you get the chance! I’ve never felt more immersed in a new culture!
-Secret Paradise Beach Bar (Secret Beach): This was the first place we visited on Secret Beach and it is probably the most well known spot in the area, which made us a little hesitant to hang out here. (We like to find the hidden gems!) But we got here in the morning and scored one of the umbrella tables in the water so we hung out for awhile. This ended up being our favorite ceviche of the entire trip so even if that’s the only reason you go, make it happen!
-Maruba Beach Klub (Secret Beach): I wasn’t super excited to hang out here because it’s the one bar/restaurant in Secret Beach without tables and chairs in the water but we tried it anyways. I’m so glad we did because they make fresh ginger mojitos that are TO DIE FOR. Not to mention we ordered food and our server set up a table for us right on the beach so we could eat in front of the water. The service was incredible, food and drinks delicious and you still get that amazing Secret Beach water to swim in. We loved this place!
-Bamboo Fence Restaurant & Swing Bar (Secret Beach): This is the newest bar/restaurant on Secret Beach and because of that, it isn’t as crowded as the rest. It’s right next to the well known Blue Bayou and I 100% recommend visiting this little spot! We met the owner, hung out in the hammocks that sit in the water, and ate a fresh batch of shrimp ceviche. The bar on the sand has swings you can sit at (hence the name) and the vibe is just perfect. Once we discovered this spot, we didn’t leave.
-Lazy Lizard (Caye Caulker): This is the most touristy spot on the whole island and there’s a reason people flock here. They have a diving platform you can jump off of into the water, along with chairs lining the non-seaweed crystal clear blue sea. Their signature frozen drink is a green drink called the Lazy Lizard and you must have at least one if you go here. This place is always crowded so it’s a good time no matter what. Much like Secret Beach, they have picnic tables in the water so you can stay cool while enjoying your beverages! It’s located right at “The Split” which is the well known spot on the island that separates the north and south sides.
-The Truck Stop (between San Pedro & Secret Beach): We stopped here on our way back from Secret Beach one day and I’m sooo glad we did. It’s hard to explain this place, but picture several shipping containers that have become food trucks, along with a public pool and a view of the lagoon. The food options are endless and everything you choose will be delicious. This is an incredible place to get dinner and watch the sunset and that’s exactly what we did when we came here. We got tacos and pizza for dinner and it was all amazing!
A Few Quick Tips
The good news is that English is the main language of Belize. It makes life so much easier! And when it comes to currency, you can use American dollars everywhere. $1 USD is equal to $2 BZD. So if you read a menu at a restaurant and it says $30 BZD then it’s actually only $15 USD. You can pay for things in American and they will just give you Belize dollars back as change. It doesn’t take long to get used to doing the math to figure out what things cost. We found that food and drinks are honestly pretty comparable to what we pay in Nashville.
The hotels in San Pedro aren’t super fancy. It’s more of a rustic style place to go. We stayed in a little budget friendly beach hotel called Caribbean Villas Hotel. Since we didn’t spend very much time in the room, it worked out just fine. One of the reasons we are able to travel so much is because we don’t find it necessary to stay in the fanciest, trendiest hotel everywhere we go. We paid less than $100 per night for our hotel in Belize, which means we had more money for food, drinks, excursions and whatever else we wanted to experience.
If you’re looking for a luxurious tropical vacation, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Belize. We had an incredible time, but our trip consisted of exploring islands, cruising around in a golf cart, and becoming immersed in the culture. If you are wanting crystal clear blue water and a fancy resort, I recommend you visit Turks & Caicos. But if you want a little adventure and a whole lot of fun, Belize is an incredible option!
If you have any questions about anything Belize related, please don’t hesitate to reach out! We fell in love with this place and I’m sure you will too!