We bought our flights to Belize City less than 12 hours before take-off. Reckless? We prefer to call it spontaneous. Long story short, we were planning on going to Spain and Morocco but due to a series of unforeseen events, we had to pivot last minute. So Central America: here we come!
Neither of us knew anything about Belize before taking off….but a quick Pinterest search yielded some verrryyyy intriguing snorkeling pics. When all was said and done, I wasn’t super impressed with the country as a whole, but there were some seriously cool spots I recommend everyone visit.
This is expensive (as are most things in Belize) but WORTH. EVERY. MOMENT. The Actun Tunichil Muknal (or ATM) Cave tours are about US$80 for a ride to/from the cave, an experienced tour guide, lunch, and cave gear. Cameras are strictly prohibited, so don’t be an asshole and try sneaking in a GoPro like we tried to do.
A few things to know before going on the tour:
- You will get wet. You will literally be swimming through parts of the cave in your hiking clothes. I HIGHLY recommend wearingleggings to protect you frommosquito bites during the hike and to not add weightwhile swimming. I wore these Lululemon leggings and they were amazing- they dried quickly (which is super important, trust me) and were comfortable throughout the tour.
- The cave is huge. Make sure to hydrate before/during/after the tour because you’ll be walking about 5 miles in total. That may not seem like a lot but remember, you’re swimming and climbing along the way.
- Wear socks. To protect the artifacts, there’s a part of the tour where you must take off your shoes. You can walk around with bare feet if you want, but if your soles are sensitive, make sure to wear good socks.
- Again, cameras are prohibited. Sucks, I know. But the last time a tourist brought a camera into the cave, he dropped it on a skull and shattered it. Don’t be rude. Obey this rule.
Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley
Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world. It’s stunning. Here’s your chance to get up close and personal with reef sharks and sting rays in their natural environment. If you stay on Caye Caulker (which you should- Belize City is boring), it’s a pretty short boat ride to both of these snorkeling spots. Do a full day tour with an environmentally conscious business to get the most out of your experience.
We did a tour with Captain Amado for US$75 each. There’s a big problem with toursfeeding the sharks which completely messes up their sleeping and hunting patterns. Captain Amado doesn’t feed the sharks and knows the waters like the back of his hands. Check out his advertisement outside the shop- he’s serious about preserving the reef…as should we all.
This one is only for certified divers, so I didn’t do it. But if you have a diving certification, go for it! Everyone on Caye Caulker said it was amazing. If you’re not certified but want to see it, get your credit card ready. You can take flights in little prop planes over the Blue Hole to see it.
Don’t go here:
Yes, it’s the capital, but there’s literally nothing here but a bus station with angry locals who will get in your face and yell at you if you don’t take their cabs. Skip it.
This is the hub for most ATM cave tours and is located only 20 minutes from the Guatemala boarder by taxi. We stayed here for two days but I would suggest joining an ATM Cave tour from Flores, Guatemala instead. Flores is bustling and vibrant, whereas San Ignacio is more of a passing-through kind of town.
Look out for:
We’re from New York, so we (unfortunately) deal with aggressive catcalling often. Caye Caulker and Belmopan offered equal if not worse catcalling experiences morning, day, and night. It sucks.
There’s an Israeli food spot on Caye Caulker that offers vegan options and there was a local food spot where we found coconut curry veggies and jerk veggies with white rice. San Ignacio had a restaurant with amazing veggie burritos (see photos below). Fellow vegans, be prepared to eat a lot of rice and beans. All produce has to be shipped in from the Belize City so even the fruit smoothies were hit or miss.
And it’s pretty good. The Little Blue Gift Shop has a rooftop yoga platform that gets an amazing afternoon/sunset breeze. You get a beautiful view of the ocean and the palm trees swaying in the wind. Very zen.