I thought I’d do a little wrap up from the recent trip to Belize and Guatemala. This was only a 3 week trip, dividing my time almost equally between both countries, in only a few towns total. This is an extremely short trip as far as most down this side of the American continent are concerned. There is so much to explore, which generally longer than usual to get to each place due to the adventurous state of the roads and conditions. Nevertheless, it can’t hurt to throw my 2 cents in about what I learned, and where I went. This isn’t advice, just commentary, get out and see it for yourself 🙂
I spent a total of one night near the harbour in Belize City. In my opinion, this was far too long. There is not that much in the way of things to do here, and heading out after dark is not particularly inviting. The city is a hub for cruise ship shore visits and sitting at the bar, watching the aforementioned come ashore with their name badges and hands being held.
There seemed to be a lot of tours on offer, at a premium of course, for those visiting the city. This is a fast way to blow some money, although a more stimulating option than cruising the streets. Most people that arrive here head straight to the water taxi and out to the Cayes. In fact, everyone I met in Caye Caulker was shocked I even spent one night in the city.
Accommodation in Belize City is expensive as well. I stayed one night for $70 BZD ($35 USD), and it was the cheapest room I could find. This afforded me a double bed, fan, Wifi, a shared bathroom and walls that were within arms reach at all times. There’s no hostels within a days march of the city, and the prices increase steeply from the amount that I paid for my one night.
Pros: There’s a water taxi that takes you straight to the islands
Cons: Expensive accommodation, not much to do, feeling unsafe after dark
Caye Caulker is your standard small tropical sandy island. Friendly and vocal locals, diving and snorkelling charters as far as the eye can see, and happy hour most hours of the day. When the weather was as miserable as it was for the majority of the time I was there, the options for adventure are rather limited. That didn’t stop me being caught in a rain storm as I kayaked around the island though.
The snorkelling and diving also comes at premium. A full day snorkelling tour comes at the pricey $65 USD, but is worth the expenditure if you either have never been snorkelling before, or are looking to do a little exploring and are tired of just laying in the sun all day.
Diving will set you back a bit more, which I didn’t include on my stay as the weather was fickle, and visibility not optimal. Other options also are fishing charters that are available all up the eastern coast of Caye Caulker. This is generally weather dependant as well, but a good day out if that’s your thing.
The night life on Caye Caulker can be as wild as it is tame. I can’t go past mentioning the availability of weed and cocaine on this tiny island. Everyone can get you everything, but take care if this is your scene, as there is a random police presence during nights out, and cash changing hands is what will be the price if caught, if not worse. Illegal drugs aside, the local beer is Belikin, which can set you back anywhere from $3.50 – $7 BZD, depending if you’re at the local store or chilling at the Lazy Lizard Bar at the Split. Happy Hour is great for getting double parked with cocktails at Koko King on the north island, which will catch up with you quicker than you would like.
Accommodation ranges from $20 BZD ($10 USD) a night in a hostel (in my case Travellers Palm and Bellas Backpackers) all the way up to premium hotel prices which I don’t care to mention. If you’re travelling with a friend, there are cheap deals available for shared rooms, especially during off season. I managed walk in bookings the entire time I was on the island. I can only imagine that prices are inflated considerably during high season, when the weather really turns on and the crowds flock to the islands reducing vacancies island-wide.
Pros: Sunshine, slow down to island time, diving, snorkelling, parties, swimming, kayaking, fishing, hostels
Cons: Partying, fickle weather in off season, high crowds in high season, expensive activities
This tiny island town is great for a short stay in a beautiful location. You can circumnavigate the town without even realising, your eyes wandering to the lake and interesting cobbled streets, then you’re back to where you started. I stayed in Yax-cha Hostel and Los Amigos on my two stops in the town, which set you back around 70 & 80 Q respectively. Los Amigos wins on atmosphere and decor with it’s secret jungle common area, but both serve their purpose of cheap and comfortable accommodation. Private rooms can go from 220 Q and up, nice if you’ve got money to burn and enjoy a view of Lake Petén Itzá.
The food and beverage on offer can be as cheap or expensive as you like. There’s street food on the lake frontage in Flores, with a cantina on top of the hill beside the church that offers the cheapest beer and burritos on the island.
The nightlife is mostly a restaurant bar scene and the travelling population is extremely transient. You won’t see people hang around town for more than 2 or 3 nights, as the primary reason people come to Flores is to explore the nearby Mayan ruins in Tikal. There are numerous travel offices that do yours out to Tikal on a daily basis, costing anywhere from 80 – 220 Q for the privilege. I advise shopping around as you can get a return trip and guide for the 4 or 5 hours you spend exploring for as low as 120 Q, possibly less. The entrance fee to Tikal is 150 Q, which is not included in the original tour price.
Pros: great for a short, scenic stay, jumping off point for Tikal, cheap food and accommodation, Jorge rope swing
Cons: not much else to do
San Agustín Lanquín (commonly called just Lanquín)
Just like Flores, Lanquín is a jumping off point for exploring and adventure in another town. In this case, I’m referring to the tiny locale of Semuc Champey, which I will return to in a moment. First, what’s happening in Lanquín you might be asking? Well. It’s a tiny town about 9 hours can ride from Flores in the north, and 11-12 hours if you’re coming from Antigua in the south. It’s situated in the jungle, no more than a couple of streets on the side of the hill, and the locals love to have a drink or two before 9 am.
Accommodation is cheap here. Myself and most of the people I met up in Flores (and even Caye Caulker) stayed at El Muro Hostel from 50 Q and up, depending on the level of privacy you require. This hostel was the most welcoming hostel I think I’ve ever been in. Great hosts, perfect common area, and hammocks overlooking the jungle.
Oh, and the resident street dog, Chapo.
And I’ll return to the reason why most people stop by here, Semuc Champey. This is a tiny town about 11km out of Lanquín, along washed out dirt roads. It takes a couple of hours by foot, or an hour by pickup truck to get out there.
You can get full day tours that cost you anywhere from 140 Q and up. We paid through El Muro for 170 Q, and were not disappointed. The day included rope swings, caving with candles (along with cave jumping), tubing, bridge jumping, hiking, and swimming.
I didn’t get many photos as it’s a very wet day out and my waterproof camera was toast from snorkelling in Belize. There’s also an all you can eat lunch for 50 Q to keep you fueled up during your adventure. Highly recommended.
I spent 4 relaxing/action packed nights here, which was probably the max I would want to stay. I needed some downtime in one place, and this was a great place to hang out.
Pros: small relaxed town, nearby Semuc Champey, friendly locals, cheap food, drink and accommodation
Cons: not much else to do, not close to anything else
So there you have it, a quick breakdown of my little trip through Guatemala and Belize. I know I didn’t do much, but hopefully this might inspire some travel ideas. I essentially made this trip up as I went along, and was fortunate enough to meet some great people along the way for great company and travel advice on where to go and what to see. I’m usually pretty good at planning, but I’m glad I took this trip day by day, tomorrow being the adventurous unknown
Thanks for reading everyone! If you liked this post, please let me know in the comments below. I want to hear your thoughts on Guatemala, Belize and beyond! 😘