Submitted by Kadene Buchanan on August 19, 2016
“Gud maanin!” is how you’d expect to be greeted in Belize on a bright Sunday morning, being embraced by the sound of the suave waves of the Caribbean Sea. With a population of approximately 350,000 people, Belize is a small, upper-middle income country that has undergone a significant economic transformation over the last two decades. This was mainly due to a rise in the tourist industry and the discovery of oil in 2005.
With tourism being one of the main sources of income and employment, you best believe that much has been done by the government to ensure that there are enough viable hotspots to keep ADHD people like me occupied and entertained. Just kidding, I don’t have ADHD but I do get bored easily, and if you are like me and is considering Belize as your vacation spot, then don’t worry as there is plenty to do.
When to Travel
Many say that Belize has no “when to travel” rules as it’s always a great time no matter when you decide. However, you may want to choose a time that aligns with your travelling objectives. For example, you could scuba dive all year but if you prefer calmer waters, then summertime may be a more appealing option; while diving with whale sharks for the adrenaline junkies is only available from March until June. You could also consider travelling to Belize in time for the festivals and activities to mix and flow with the crowd, or you can be like me and be a sinister travel enthusiast that takes advantage of lower hotel rates during off-peak seasons. Go ahead and burn the cash if you have it and love the excitement, as pinchpenny scrooges like me tend to miss out on some of the more exciting aspects of Belize (Go ahead and scream miser if you want).
Belize’s high tourism season runs from December to April. This is well correlated to the dry season, which is Belize’s winter season. So if you’re a person from a country like Canada that drinks 6 cases of beer per hour to keep warm, then this might be the perfect time for you. Keep in mind the higher hotel rates (miser), but the generally good weather during this period permits the allotment of numerous fun activities ranging from Jungle expeditions, cave crawling and water sports. You also have numerous archeological sites to visit, thanks to the Ancient Mayans.
Belize’s low season like the high season is aligned with the rainy season, which completes the duet of season types in the country. This runs from June through to October, and results in unexpected showers on any random day. So if you’re the type who only visits the beach to put on sunscreen and read books, you might want to bring an umbrella. These showers normally do not last very long, unless there is a tropical storm on the horizon, which could certainly be the case as it is also the country’s hurricane season. Therefore your vacation could potentially run out of gas a lot sooner than originally anticipated, however you might save some money on hotel reservations; ranging from 30 to 50 percent in room discounts.
Food and Drink
Do you like pork? No, what about chicken, or beef, lobster, shrimp or game meat? (That tasty gibnut) All these are served with the traditional rice and beans and potato salad, a common staple in the Belizean diet. This is a style similar to Jamaican cuisine, which you guessed it, is also filled with rice, kidney beans and any meat kind you can think of.
Gibnut on the other hand, is the most prized game animal in Belize. It is a nocturnal rodent that is hunted during the daytime by dogs that sniff out their location, and is one of the most important items on the local diet and could even be considered as the unofficial national dish. It’s normally cooked with recaro and garlic and is fried, stewed or grilled. A very tasty option when combined with the rice and beans, ladled with generous amounts of gravy!
The Belize fruitcake is another traditional item. So it’s a cake with preserved fruits. What’s so special? It’s then stored for a couple of days after being mildly or aggressively doused with dark or Caribbean rum. Ideally, the cake experts of Belize store this cake for a week while showing their artistry with a perfectly baked cake with no cracks and a thick brown crust. It makes an excellent end to an extravagant traditional meal, enhanced by tipsiness to make for an even more jolly time. (wink)
Are you a seafood lover? Good. Then Ceviche is for you! This is made from conch, shrimp or both. The seafood is nicely diced and soaked in lime juice, then tossed with colored greens including onions, tomatoes and Habanero pepper. Delicious, right?
Are you a beer person? Then you absolutely must try the Belikin beer. Belikin, being an ancient Mayan name for Belize will easily stand its ground against other imported rivals. It is the only beer made in Belize and the government ensures it’s survivability by heavily taxing all other beers, and even prohibiting the importation of same from Guatemala and Mexico.
Popular Vacation Spots
Ever wondered what Belize looked like before you asked Google? Let me tell you, it’s as beautiful as it gets. When it comes to picturesque sceneries, Belize has to be taken seriously. You will get a mixture of tropical beaches, cave formations, prestigious indigenous wildlife and people, all complemented by world famous Caribbean atmosphere that’s portrayed so much in movies. Along the coastline is the world’s second largest Barrier reef that creates a spectacular view from the skies with a blend of different shades of blue water merging together. Inland you will find Ancient Mayan ruins to explore that are scattered around the jungle. With all that said, where the hell do I start!?
How about the Belize zoo? Picture a natural forest on the outskirts of the city, where arguably the best zoo in the Americas exist. This zoo contains wild animals in adequately spaced enclosures that truly resemble their natural habitats. This enables visitors to get a really good view of these animals in a realistic environment that produces good photo opportunities.
Another popular spot in Belize is the Placencia Peninsula. This is due to a vast array of mainland beaches the people seem to love more than the others. That might be due to some quite amazing coral cayes located offshore, as well as the white sand beach which stretches into oblivion on the east side. Couple these assets with adequate, affordable accommodation and you get one of the best relaxation spots in Belize.
So we’ve done wildlife and beaches, what about the ancient sites I’ve said so much about before? Give me more details please! Okay Idiana Jones Jr. your first stop should be Caracol. Located on the Vaca Plateau, 500 meters above the sea, this is the largest Maya site in the country. This site was once thought to be Tertiary center and is now known as one of the most important regional political centers of the Mayan Civilization in the classic era. That is some rich history as the Mayans are one the most studied civilizations on earth. So if you’re the scholarly adventurer that’s fascinated about learning about history while getting a firsthand experience, then this is definitely for you. Oh wait, did I mention it had pyramids? Yes it does and the Canaa (Sky Palace) is the tallest man made structure in the country after all this time!
Sounds good so far right? Maybe so, but what about the caves? How can we talk about exploration without caves? Give me back my money! Argh! Okay slow down Mr Pirate Sir, coming right up. The Actun Tunichil Muknal is well worth mentioning since its discovery in 1992. It’s located in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve and was feautured in a National Geographic Explorer film, “Journey Through the Underworld”. This cave is a Mayan sacred site and contains a lot of Mayan Household architectural examples including pottery, ceramics and stoneware. There are also a few sets of human sacricial remains, which of which is internationally known as the “Crystal Maiden” which is covered in limestone crystals by natural activity.
So you’ve made up your mind and Belize is your next vacation spot, but how do I move around in the city? What languages should I expect? What else do I need to know? These are some questions you may have.
You can get a car to rent at the Airport as there are several car rental companies available in the parking lot. It is advised that you get a 4x4 as there will be some challenging roads and some wrong turns involved. Don’t worry, consider it a part of the adventure.
In terms of currency, $2 Belize= $1 USD so it’s easily calculated. US currency is also readily accepted in most places, so you don’t need to worry about changing your cash.
In Belize you’ll hear a lot of familiar English words as it is the only known English speaking Central American country. English is the official language but Kriol is the mostly what the locals use.