This may sound awful, but at the time, we were a little jaded of touristy and pricy beach spots, having just come from the Yucatan. Instead, we were interested in getting to know the heart, culture, and history of Belize. And so, during our brief stay, we remained inland.
My top 5 favorite things about Belize
5) A melting pot of cultures
- To me, Belize felt more Caribbean than Latin American in many regards. That's because it's a blend of peoples from around the world, including a very prominent Garífuna community (people who emigrated from West Africa), Mennonites from Germany (similar to the Amish), there are people of Mayan descent, Spanish descent, and a mixture of the two, British colonists, and even Asians and Arabs have now joined in the mix.
- Unlike the rest of Central America, English is the official language of Belize and is taught in all public schools. This is because it's a Commonwealth country to the UK, and the Queen of England is proudly displayed on their money. But that doesn't mean I could understand everyone since they often spoke a form of creole to each other, or other languages. Tim and I would joke that since we were leaving Mexico and entering Belize, we were leaving a country where only I could understand the people (I speak Spanish) to go to a country where neither of us could understand the people. Truthfully, I'm sure if we spent more time there, we would get used to it very quickly, and I happened to have really enjoy their beautiful accent.
3) Delicious Food
- After a few months in Mexico eating like the locals, it was nice to change up the refried beans and tortillas for some traditional Belizean foods I'd never had before: like Johnny Cakes or Fry Jacks, mmmm. Also, we discovered that Chinese restaurants were extremely popular, so popular in fact, sometimes it was hard to find anything else. Plus, if you're in the mood for tacos and other Latin American favorites, they were readily available too. If I had to sum up Belizean cuisine in one word, it would be variety.
2) Welcome to the Jungle
- Belize was our first real experience with the Central American rainforest and all the diverse plants and animals that come with it. As amazing as it was, Tim did not have good luck when it came to the animals. He got swarmed by stinging red ants when he stepped on a nest, he got pooped on by a bird at the border, and again defecated on by a gecko while in a restaurant. Though we heard the eerie cries of the howler monkeys for the first time in Belize, luckily none decided to use us as bathrooms.
1) Incredible Mayan Ruins
- Some of the most impressive Mayan ruins out there are in Belize, so if you like climbing temples or simply standing in awe at the sheer scope and brilliance of these local artisans and engineers, then Belize is perfect. It's not as swarmed with tourists as the Yucatan, and some sites are actually quite remote, which really makes you feel like Indiana Jones when you arrive and you're one of the few people there. We were even able to have lunch on top of a huge temple all by ourselves. Some you can't climb up, but many you can, and the views are breathtaking. Plus, the sites are extremely well-maintained and preserved. They often have museums, gardened walking paths through the jungle, and even labels on what types of trees and plants you're seeing. If you come to Belize, don't just hang out on the beaches, but take a journey into the jungle and see some of the greatest historic sites Central America has to offer.
- It did not feel safe to walk around at night, and we were told to be careful once the sun set. Of course, some places seemed safer than others, and I'm sure some parts of Belize are perfectly fine, but in our experience, we did not want to stay out too late at night.
- It was hot, hotter than I had experienced for the majority of my time in Mexico. Hot and humid, and I think part of this is because unlike Mexico, much of Belize is flat, near the coast, and low in altitude.
- The roads of Belize were not very developed. We rode on one of Belize's main highways and it was nothing more than a one lane paved road, oftentimes with no paint, signs, or markers. And yes, just like Mexico, there were lots of speed bumps that just came out of nowhere. Luckily though, there didn't seem to be too much traffic in inland Belize, and sometimes I felt like we were the only people on these major highways.
- Lastly, Belize is expensive. We didn't even go to the coast which is supposedly much worse, and even so, the country can definitely put a dent into your wallet.
Though we could have easily gone straight from Mexico into Guatemala without ever stepping foot in Belize, I am thoroughly grateful that we took the time to explore this dynamic country, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something special, relaxed, refreshing, and beautiful.