Things in life often come different than you originally thought or planned. During my travels in Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica I learned to embrace situations like that and just to go with the flow. Not making too tight plans and just letting myself float in the world of travel adventures. This is how I ended up screwing all of my plans that I had for Belize and actually having an awesome time and not regretting these spontaneous changes even for a second. I landed in paradise with some of the coolest people I have ever met, all of us feeling like a big group of friends that have known each other for ages. Because sometimes you connect to each other so well that you only need a couple of days to feel like good friends already.
My plan initially was to take the bus from Chetumal in Mexico to Belize city, then getting to the capital Belmopan and ending my trip on the beach in Placencia. I haven’t been to any of these places except for Belize city which I was just passing to get to the airport or to another bus station. I cancelled my plans in the first place because of a talk with an elderly couple in Chetumal. They were the owners of a bistro where I took a nice breakfast and told me about San Pedro. They told me it wasn’t far away and that it’s said to be paradisiacal. That Belize city is absolutely not worth it and that I should give San Pedro a try. So I did. Got on the ferry (which was not the easiest part of the story but that’s worth another blog entry), checked into my hostel and had an amazing time. I met the incredibly cool people I was already telling you about directly at the beginning and so we decided to discover some parts of Belize together.
Madonna already called it “La Isla Bonita”, even though I’m not sure if she was aware of the fact that Belize is an English-speaking country. Nevertheless it is an unbelievably beautiful island. Yes, it is pretty touristy but to be honest, I didn’t mind it here. I had the feeling it was a really nice atmosphere of all the people living together. Tourists, Spanish-speaking people, Belize locals or people that had their vacation domicile here. Everyone was getting along and having fun.
One thing you should definitely do is going to a Crab Race in Crazy Canucks Bar. You can bet on the fastest crab and all the money that’s introduced to the bet goes to a worthy cause and charities. Plus, they take care of the crabs and treat them really well.
If you are into water and (scuba) diving, then San Pedro is the place for you. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The most fascinating attraction is probably the Great Blue Hole, an underwater cave system of about 125 meters depth. However, this is also an expensive activity. For a trip with 2-3 dives there you’ll have to count with 300US$ per person. A cheaper option is a snorkeling trip in the cristal clear water of Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley and you get the best price at Searious Adventures. For about 32US$ (most of the other ones take between 40-50US$) you take a two hour ride with snorkeling gear included to two incredible beautiful underwater spots where you can see colourful fish, corals, nurse sharks, rays and many underwater creatures more. It’s definitely worth it!
After my great time in San Pedro I decided spontaneously to join the other travellers to go to Caye Caulker which they said was a beautiful island as well but a lot quieter. I guess I was right following that advice as it was just like I was told. We took a 30-minute ferry ride that suddenly turned into a private photo shooting session on the deck where normally nobody was allowed. But Belizeans generally appear to me to be quite laid back people and tend to not take anything too seriously. That impression was confirmed by the apparence and the people staying and working at the hostel Dirty McNasty which fortunately wasn’t our place to stay but still a cool place to hang out with people. To keep it short: it’s dirty and nasty. Exactly what’s to be expected. However it’s overall a little difficult to find a really great hostel in Caye Caulker but as we spent most of our time on the beach anyway, it didn’t really matter.
Our favourite place to hang out: Koko King, a private island that you can reach by a one-minute-boat-ride – for free! They only want you to eat and drink in the local restaurant/beach bar, which is a fair deal, I think. You shouldn’t miss out on that little island because it is seriously the most beautiful beach place I have ever been to. I mean, there are even hanging beds that you can use. Again – for free! Just check out the Raggamuffin stall on the beach promenade and ask for the boats to Koko King and they’ll help you.
If you’re still up for something during the night, then the island’s Sports Bar is your choice. I am not even lying when I say that the whole freakin’ island is spending their nights there. I guess for a reason. They don’t only play great music ranging from a phase of 90s and all-time-classics to Reggaeton and Salsa beats including the world’s most favourite song ever – Despacito (I know all of you secretly love that song!). No, they have way more to offer as their activities change almost daily: a Trivial Night, a movie night or (as the name of the bar suggests) sports nights. This is definitely the best way to use up all the energy at night that you saved during the day lazing on the beach.
I must admit that going to Hopkins wasn’t my first choice. But the holy time of Semana Santa (Easter) seems to get people crazy in Christian and most of all Catholic countries. So here’s a huge travel advice I learned: Doesn’t matter if you like to plan in advance or not – when there’s a local holiday you better swallow your traveller’s pride and plan early enough! Well, I didn’t. Which is why I didn’t get the chance to visit the (in my imagination) extremely beautiful beach of Placencia. We just didn’t find any affordable place to sleep anymore, everything was fully booked. However, the place we found in Hopkins, which is a little more north Placencia, was great. The Funky Dodo Hostel was pretty and directly on the beach. It’s a super quiet place with about 1.000 people living there (at least that’s what Wikipedia tells me). However once you’re there, you should definitely check out some Garifuna drumming. Garifuna are people with African, Caribbean and European roots and joing a night-time drumming session on the beach, listening to their chants in Garifuna language is captivating.
If you are into nature, then Hopkins is also a great place to be. You don’t only have the beach directly in front of the door (although the sea is more stormy here than on Caye Caulker or San Pedro), there’s also lots of jungle to discover. We went to Bocawina National Park which is quite a difficult task to do without having a car. There’s no other option than hitchhiking a couple of times but people are used to that. Once you got to the entry, you pay a small entry fee about 5-10BZ$ (ca. 2,50-5€) and then the old owner explains you the treks. He’s always encouraging you not to hurry up but to do it slowly but steadily. And as the hill was pretty steep that was a helpful piece of advice. Plus, if you take your time you can discover fantastic things on the way: we saw a snake in a tree, a huge spider on a rock and in the natural water pool at the top there are little fish that nibble the dead skin from your feet. A free spa treatment after the exhaustion. This was a nature experience that left no whishes open.
Unfortunately I didn’t make it to San Ignacio anymore. This would’ve been a destination a little deeper inside the country with Maya ruins, caves and a lot of jungle. But my dear friend Tamara, that travelled through Belize with me, had already been there. She told me that it is a nice place, but incredibly hot and super expensive (which is, actually, no surprise in Belize). However, if you do have some spare time to fill, then this could be an option for you to discover a different part of Belize.