HomeTravelBelize offers adventures a chance to combine surf with turf
Belize offers adventures a chance to combine surf with turf
December 6, 2021
Hawaiian-shirted travelers seeking rum cocktails and glassy warm waters go to Bimini. Nature nuts hoping to capture capuchins with their Canons go to Costa Rica.
But those longing for the best of both, a true surf ‘n’ turf adventure, should check their suitcases all the way in sunny Belize.
Oft overlooked for its more famous Caribbean neighbors, the pandemic has given quarantine-weary travelers new reason to Be-lize in the tiny costal country (punning the nation’s name is practically patriotic duty down there; the locals love it. Belize the day and try it — it’s the Belize knees).
For a respectable while, Belize was the only country in the Americas that was COVID-free.
Now, like everywhere else, Belize has the baleful bug. But unlike many tourist-centric hubs, where imprudent pandemic parties rage, Belize is staunchly seriously about safety. Masks are a must, as are COVID tests prior to entry.
Why is your luggage damp? Because someone just used an industrial-sized insecticide sprayer to douse your bags with sanitizer. Now, put out your hands because they’re getting the same treatment.
Belize also boasts a natural barrier to the virus: the great outdoors. On its wonderfully undeveloped coast, on its ritzy islands or deep in its broadleaf forests, it’s serenely sparse. The population of the entire Massachusetts-sized country is just about 400,000 and they’re mostly in Belize City (a place you really won’t be).
Other perks include: English as the national language, acceptance of the US dollar, super easy connections out of Texas, Colorado and Florida, plus the chance to Indiana Jones-ify your wardrobe.
Start by flying (or driving, the roads are mostly paved) from Belize City to remote mountains in the heart of the country, where the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve juts over 2,000 feet above sea level in places (that’s high in these parts). Up there, the lush jungle landscape gives way to scrubbier evergreen woodlands, stunning waterfalls and cooler climes.
This rare Central American environment makes Belize’s pine forests a hiking and birder capitol, and there are a number of resorts that cater to those boasting binoculars and boats. Two top spots include Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge) and Hidden Valley Inn and Reserve.
Hidden Valley, which is neither affiliated with Hollywood directors nor ranch dressing brands, boasts 90 miles of hiking trails and cozy woodburning fireplaces). Rooms start at $335 during the winter high season.
Up here it’s all about activities, so book a guide via your resort and hit the road.
Swim in the picture-perfect pool beneath Butterfly Falls. Watch raptors glide over a vast ravine where the aptly named 1000 Foot Falls empties.
Steel yourself for a night hike through the woods in hopes of spotting an elusive jaguar, ocelot or margay. Zip line through the jungle or, best of all, go caving.
Set outside the town of San Ignacio in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, the ATM cave (short for its Mayan moniker of Actun Tunichil Muknal) is a national treasure and truly un-Belizable adventure that will take you deep into the bush, through a snaking river and into a waterlogged jungle cave loaded with 1,000-year-old Mayan relics — and yes, skeletons.
While the swim into the cave and the half-mile trek to the so-called “crystal maiden” (a perfectly preserved ritual sacrifice victim calcified in glittering limestone) isn’t for scaredy cats or truly slothful coach potatoes, it’s a relatively easy lark for the curious.
Guide fees (a must) and transportation into the bush will set you back roughly $125 to $200 per person.
After all that exercise, it’s time to take it easy. But instead of going to the same ol’ all-inclusive bacchanals on the admittedly enchanting islands to the north (here’s to you, Ambergris Caye), fly (or drive if you must) down to the southern coast of Belize where the culture is rich and the resorts are the most relaxed.
In the town of Hopkins, Jaguar Reef, for instance, offers swish rooms with private plunge pools, an airy open restaurant, a stunning overwater bar (the national drink is an evocative little cocktail called the “Panty Dropper”) and activities (if you must) galore. Suites with private plunge pools start at $399.
Belize is, after all, best known for snorkeling and diving along is massive reef — the world’s runner up, second to Australia’s battered Great Barrier Reef.
Aquariums’ worth of tropical fish, rays, dolphins and the odd manatee closer to shore abound on sandy islets just 10 minutes from your suite.