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As hotel and resort prices in places like Hawaii and Cancun are moving from high toward insane, vacations in Belize are becoming more popular with people who want something a little exotic, and that won’t break the bank at the same time. This tiny nation just south of Mexico’s eastern Caribbean border is gaining in stature among in-the-know travelers, partially because vacation dollars tend to go a lot further here than in most other Caribbean and South Pacific resorts.
What to expect
Belize is generally an easy place to visit, as it’s the only English-speaking country in the region. Formerly known as British Honduras, Belize actually feels much more like a Caribbean island than it does a part of the Central American region it’s in. The English is spoken with a thick, Jamaican-style accent, and various forms of reggae fill the air most of the days and nights.
Even as the country gains a reputation as a prime vacation spot, it’s still a small country. With only about 300,000 residents, Belize has no huge cities and no long strips of chain hotels like in nearby Cancun. Everything is on a small scale here, and that tends to translate to friendly service and reasonable prices. Most guesthouses and hotels in Belize are family owned and operated, and can have literally as few as 2 rooms for rent. Typical hotels have perhaps 10 to 20 rooms, and there are no giant all-inclusive resorts.
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Not much package tourism so far
As a result, Belize isn’t a major destination for the package tour crowd, and the people who do come are thankful for that. Most of the towns that draw the visitors have only a few thousand residents each, and some of them only have a few hundred. Simply relaxing is the most popular thing to do in Belize. The island-style feel and the warm Caribbean breezes on the coast make some people helpless to do little else.
What to do in Belize
But for those seeking an active vacation in Belize, there is plenty to keep them busy. The country sits just off the second largest barrier reef in the world, so both the snorkeling and diving are world-class. The easiest to reach destinations for underwater sightseeing are the two popular islands near Belize City. Caye Caulker is smaller and closer, and a great choice for budget travelers and hippie-types. Ambergris Caye is several times longer, but also just a thin strip of a coastal island. It’s where much of the country’s luxury and family-oriented accommodations are found, but there are budget options on Ambergris Caye as well.
It’s a bit harder to get there, but the Placencia Peninsula jutting off the southern coast has all the same water recreation possibilities, and it’s also home to the countries best beaches. On the cayes, the beaches are small or non-existent, but the Placencia area has miles of sand with still no large-scale hotel complexes.
If your vacation is a week or more, you owe it to yourself to check out some of the country’s interior attractions as well. The San Ignacio area is popular for kayaking in its rivers, but the jungle surrounding it also contains excellent nature hiking possibilities in addition to striking Mayan ruins. Two days exploring this area adds a great contrast to the lazy beach life on the coast.
An all-inclusive adventure on a private island
These aren’t your typical package trips. A Belize adventure vacation company called Slickrock offers a variety of all-in adventure and water sports trips where guests stay in beachfront cabanas when they aren’t snorkeling, scuba-diving, sea-kayaking, surfing, or fishing with all instruction and equipment provided.