Belize’s Toucan Trail – socially conscious and affordable travel


CayeCaulkerBirdsFor those looking for a week-long getaway from their stressful lives at home, Belize has got you covered with loads of posh yet surprisingly affordable places to stay on or near its Caribbean Sea shores. But if you are more of a backpacker than a sunbather, the Belize Tourism Board has a very interesting program you should know about.

They call it the Toucan Trail, and it’s a collection of resources aimed at socially responsible, low-budget travel throughout the country. They have over 160 hotels in the program, spread all over this small English-speaking nation. Some are simple home-stays while others are proper hotels that offer some luxury. And none of them cost more than US$60 per room per night, or at least all of them offer rooms in that price range.

I only recently learned about this program, and I think it’s an excellent idea. They are promoting eco-tourism as a partnership between both the hotel operators and the visitors. They have strict criteria for the certified hotels in the program, but they also have some really worthwhile recommendations for the visitors who are taking advantage of this program. Below the hotel info they have a long list of recommendations for travelers to help keep Belize as pristine as possible. Many of the things on the list are just good common sense, and the list is worth a look.

The hotels all must:

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  • Sign a pledge of Good Business Practice
  • Reuse your bath towels and only change sheets every other day, to save water
  • Reduce electricity usage by turning off lights, fans, and air-conditioners when guests aren’t in the rooms.

These are all good ideas for everyone, and it’s great that the country certifies these hotels that comply with all of them. The low price tag on the lodging only adds to the appeal. Of course you are likely to get simple rooms in most of these places, but you are also much more likely to interact with the locals at them as well. You’ll have easy access to locally grown food, which is another key part of the program.

Toucan Trail rooms on the cayes

Caye Caulker is known as the budget-conscious backpackers island, so it’s no surprise that they have the lower-priced certified places in the Toucan Trail program as well. A quick search of places offering rooms for US$21 or less showed 9 hotels that are in that price range and part of this program.

Ambergris Caye and its village of San Pedro are known as a step up, price-wise, and there are currently no US$21 and under properties there, but changing the search criteria to US$21 to US$40 listed 136 hotels. So you can book at any of these places knowing you’ll be creating the lightest footprint possible, and getting a cheap room from a local in the process.

Elsewhere in the country

Placencia lists 5 hotels in the ‘under US$21’ category, and far more in the next tier. There are dozens of certified hotels in rural Belize as well, and adding a few of those destinations to your Belize trip can be a fascinating and different way of seeing a country many people think of primarily for its beach and island resorts.