Central America

Birthday Celebration in Belize

We decided to go on our first international trip during the week of my birthday! We had a hard time deciding where to go but ultimately decided to go to Belize. We were in Belize for 4 1/2 days because I decided to surprise Neesha with a mini-trip to Flores Island, Guatemala. She was super interested in going to Guatemala so I wanted to sneak in a surprise visit. 

Caye Caulker

Race, Gender and Sexuality

Since this was our first international trip, we were hyper sensitive about being recognized as a couple. We didn’t show any affection for a couple of days but by day three, we became affectionate (minus hand holding). No one paid us any mind. We even saw a bunch of queer women at The Split but were too shy to introduce ourselves. Overall, we felt comfortable and safe on both islands.

Note:  We felt comfortable and safe but we also visited tourist-heavy islands. The comfort/safety level might differ on the mainland.

Our Budget

First thing first, you DO NOT have to exchange USD to Belize dollars. Belize accepts USD though be sure to hold small bills. You will most likely receive your change back in Belize Dollars (which you’ll easily spend).

Part of the reason why I chose to visit Belize was because I thought it would be a cheap country. It WASN’T. The locals depend on tourism for their income so naturally, prices were similar to western prices (a drink at The Lazy Lizard cost around 10 USD). For context, we visited the most popular islands: San Pedro and Caye Caulker so I’m sure our prices were inflated in comparison to the less popular islands/mainland.

1 Belize Dollar = 0.50 USD

Our tickets cost $470 each and we flew with United. I’m sure you can snag tickets for cheaper, but we bought these tickets three weeks prior to our departure date, so we were cutting it close. Overall, we spent around $2000 USD for the both of us with flight, travel insurance, accommodations (including Guatemala), food, bus fare (to Guatemala), ferry rides, and drinks. Could we have gone cheaper? YES. We decided to splurge a little bit because it was our first international trip and we wanted to be romantic. We also ran into some issues which caused us to buy plane tickets last minute (read on to find out what happened).

Travel Insurance 

Regardless of how long your trip is, I recommend buying travel insurance. We bought our travel insurance through World Nomads. It’s super easy to get a quote and it’s also affordable. I know it might seem extreme to buy travel insurance for only a week vacation, but it’s important to have all your bases covered just in case. You never know.

We spent $174 dollars on World Nomads Travel Insurance for Guatemala and Belize for two people. I cannot stress this enough; buy travel insurance!

This was my first time snorkeling (5 USD for 1 hour)  and it freaked me out! I didn’t like seeing/realizing how much life there was under me!

What to Pack

  • Sandals (you’ll be at the water a lot)
  • Sneakers (roads are unfinished)
  • Deet Mosquito Repellant (there was a serious influx of mosquitoes when we went because of all the sitting water from tropical storms that made our first two days miserable. We went through 4 Deet bottles. I recommend buying a bunch from home since they’re super expensive in Belize)
  • Sun Screen (I cannot express enough how important it is to wear sunscreen. Unfortunately, I was being careless and didn’t put some on my shoulders for one day and I was in severe pain for the rest of my trip due to my sunburn. My skin on my left shoulder still hasn’t healed)
  • Shorts/t-shirts/bathing suits – ESPECIALLY if you’re just going to hang out on the islands

Caye Caulker 

When we arrived in Belize City, wetook a cab directly to the Marine Terminal (about a 30-minute ride). The Marine Terminal is where you’ll catch all of the ferries to multiple islands and catch tour buses traveling into the mainland. Our cab to the Marine Terminal costs 25 USD from the airport and was a 30-minute ride. When you’ll arrive in the Marine Terminal, it’ll be overwhelming. There are a LOT of people trying to get you to visit their restaurant or to book a tour with them. Bypass all of them and go towards the end of the walkway and you’ll find the ticket booths for the ferry.

Ferry Schedule (July 2018)
Marine Terminal

The ferry to Caye Caulker costs 25 USD round trip/ 50 USD for two people. It comes usually every hour and a half and is a 45-minute ride. It was a very interesting experience – it was a long ride, very hot, and packed to the brim with mostly tourists and some locals. By the time I got off the ferry, I was a little seasick but nothing I couldn’t manage. If you are interested in a more comfortable commute though, you can always fly to the islands. The prices start at around 85 USD and takes about 20-30 minutes.

Speedboat to Caye Caulker
View from the plane

Accommodation: Weezie’s Hotel; $406 for 4 days

Caye Caulker is filled with backpackers. There are a bunch of hostels on the island and a handful of hotels. Most travelers stay in hostels but we wanted to be comfortable and have some alone time. Weezie’s Hotel was a great choice for us! It’s at the far end of the island so hop on a golf cart taxi when you get off the ferry (there will be a bunch of drivers waiting right off the dock).

Heading to our hotel via golf cart and drenched from the rain (Caye Caulker, Belize)

The downside of the location is that it is far from the action of Caye Caulker but there are golf carts to rent, golf cart taxis, and is only a 15-minute walk (with sandals). The upside is that it can feel like you’re on a separate island so if you’re looking for some privacy, this is the place to be. The owners were fabulous and the hotel looked exactly like what it looked like online. There are also hammocks, two pools, a private dock with sunbathing seats, and kayaks to rent. We decided on Weezie’s because there weren’t many hotels on Caye Caulker and we really wanted to stay at a hotel (since we typically use Airbnb).

 The Lazy Lizard/The Split

During one of Belize’s hardest hurricane seasons in 1961, pieces of the island were broken off, thus creating a “split’ on one side of the island. It’s the only area on the island where you’re able to get into the water (from what we saw). You can rent out snorkel gear for 5 USD an hour and explore the surrounding island, climb up some stairs and dive into the water, or tan. The Lazy Lizard has a monopoly on The Split (you have to buy a drink there to hang out on the Split) but if you walk down a couple of feet, you’ll find a ladder and you can enjoy the water for no cost. The Lazy Lizard was not cheap (10 USD for a drink) but they had really great shrimp tacos.

Unfortunately, Caye Caulker didn’t live up to our expectations. This was the first experience we had that taught us that we like a little bit of luxury and Caye Caulker was too backpacker-like for us. San Pedro however, was a completely different story.

San Pedro 

Accommodations: Airbnb for $243 for 2 nights

The ferry to Ambergris Caye (San Pedro is the major town on the island) costs 70 USD round trip for the two of us. The trip took an hour and a half.

Estel’s Diner by the Sea                                         

We LOVED San Pedro!  There was a lot more life on the island compared to Caye Caulker. We were only there for two days, but it was our favorite island.

We didn’t do too much but spend time in the water and explore San Pedro. We ventured to Palapa Bar, located at the edge of a dock with a designated swimming area and inner tubes. It was a really fun bar with cheap drinks and typical bar food. We left the bar as the sun was setting and on our way home, we met some locals. They invited us for drinks on their dock with them and we agreed. Typically, we wouldn’t do this but we’ve learned that Belizeans treat each other as family and they were very friendly.  We ended up having a great time drinking and talking to each other.

 What stood out from our conversation was how they felt about tourists and ex-patriots who moved to the island. They spoke on the lack of respect tourists gave to locals and  how tourists avoid interacting with the locals. Take some time to meet a local and strike up a conversation with them. You’ll learn so much more from those conversations and appreciate the culture you are visiting.

We HIGHLY recommend getting a smoothie at Izzy’s Smoothies – I’m telling you, the BEST smoothie I ever had! For dinner, you NEED to go to Elvi’s Kitchen. It was the best food we’ve had (Belize isn’t known for its food) and we tried to go both days but they are closed on Mondays.

Missed Ferry – Neesha almost killed me

On the plane; She was thinking about strangling me in this photo

Before getting on the ferry, we ate breakfast and hung out for a bit. I was in charge of finding out ferry departure times and thought I had the right times. Turns out, I checked out the wrong schedule and we missed the ferry to the mainland. That ferry was the last one for the next two hours which meant we would miss our flight. We freaked out for a second; we already  rescheduled our first flight due to Hurricane Harvey! We tried to get the guys we met to take us to the mainland via  boat but we found out the cost of that was way more than it’s worth.

Fun Fact: We saw our ferry depart from the dock and Neesha asked me if that was ours but I said no. Turns out it was! Hopefully, she finds it funny now.

We had to fly to the mainland to catch our flight back to the United States! Locals guided us to the San Pedro Airport and luckily, there were flights flying out early enough for us to make our flight.

Neesha does NOT like flying, especially on smaller planes. Our plane from San Pedro to Belize City fit about 10-15 people. She wasn’t happy but we didn’t have a choice. At first, I was terrified to take the flight but it was one of the best parts of the trip. I’ve never ridden in an airplane that small before and the view was amazing! Neesha didn’t agree.                            

Overall, we had a great time but we aren’t heading back to Belize anytime soon. The food wasn’t the best (be ready for some burgers, fries, and pizza) and while the water was beautiful, there wasn’t a beach to lay out on. There are a plethora of activities to take advantage of that we didn’t do but if you’re looking to splurge a bit and interested in water-based activities, Belize is the place to be!

Tell us about your experiences in Belize? Which island did you go to? What did you like most about Belize? Let us know!

– Nancy

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