- Countryside A natural beauty
- Country life Piña coladas, getting caught in the rain
One of the world’s youngest countries, Belize has a landscape that shifts from Caribbean island paradise to jungle-clad mountain, and a culture that blends Mayan with Mennonite, European with Garifuna…
Inhabited by ancient Mayans migrating from Mexico, plundered by Spanish conquistadors, then colonised by European pirates, Belize has a chequered history. Since its independence in 1981, however, Central America’s most sparsely populated country has become known for the astonishing beauty of its landscape, the friendliness of its diverse people, and the incredible diving at the Barrier Reef, second only in size to its Australian counterpart. Lush rainforest, acres of pine reserves, white-water rivers, sacred stalactite caves and plunging waterfalls mark the inland Cayo region. Further south, manatee-filled mangrove swamps of the Placencia peninsula lie past vast inland prawn farms and a rapidly developing coastline, where the predominately Creole/Caribbean population enjoy a slow-paced life of palm-fringed bars, lively street jump-ups and lobster festivals. In the oceans to the east, banana-shaped Ambergris Caye (Madonna’s ‘La Isla Bonita’), and its easygoing, easy-living town of San Pedro, attract travellers in search of fabulous fishing, diving, or whale-shark watching.
Do go/Don’t go
Belize normally sustains a subtropical, moderate climate all year round, but can be quite wet with brief but frequent showers and clouds outside of the dry months. January/February to the end of May is the best time to visit for uninterrupted sunshine. Spring and the winter months bring the most clement weather, as well as the most visitors. August to October is hurricane season in the Caribbean, so most travellers stay away – you can benefit from reasonable rates if you don’t mind enduring some gusty squalls.
- Planes Belize City is the main airport serviced by American Airlines Continental and TACA among others. From the UK you can fly via Miami, Houston or Atlanta. There’s is a departure tax of about $35. Internal flights can be the easiest means of travelling within Belize. You can catch frequent internal flights with Maya Air (www.mayaislandair.com) or Tropic Air (www.tropicair.com). Alternatively you can charter three- five- and 12-seat Cessna planes when travelling to private airstrips. Planes can be chartered through Javier’s Flying Service (www.javiersflyingservice.com).
- Boats Water taxis leave Belize City for San Pedro seven times a day and take about 45 minutes, but the passage can be rough in bad weather.
- Automobiles If you plan to explore Belize in depth a rental car can come in handy but thanks to some shoddy roads a relatively short journey can become a lengthy test of patience.
- Taxis Cabs are a cost-effective means of getting around – short trips within towns rarely cost more than a couple of dollars. Boat taxis travel regularly along the length of San Pedro in Ammbergris Caye and there’s a regular water bus that leaves from Fidos Bar at least once or twice an hour from the jetty. With a valid driver’s licence, you can also hire golf buggies for pootling around the town.