Even with Belize’s increased name recognition around the world, it still doesn’t take much to drop off the beaten path, and for those whose preferred “scene” is no scene at all, here are some ideas. The two-week adventure suggested below is an entirely mainland one.
To add more Caribbean time to your trip, consider inserting several days on Caye Caulker, followed by Raggamuffin Tours’ (tel. 501/226-0348, www.raggamuffintours.com) three-day sailing trip to Placencia, a unique fishing, snorkeling, and camping trip.
From Placencia, you can visit Laughing Bird Caye, spend a night in Monkey River, or hop a boat bound for Puerto Cortés, Honduras. Others figure out a way to get to Glover’s Reef Atoll, an unparalleled Caribbean experience. Another alternative is to make it to Punta Gorda, as mentioned in day 10, then instead of the village homestay, head for the Sapodilla Cayes or to Livingston, Guatemala, for a few nights.
Of course, the most important items you’ll want to pack for any of these trips are an open mind, extra patience, and the ability to scrap the entire plan when you feel the adventure pulling you in its own direction.
Transfer to a riverside Belize City guesthouse and enjoy your first heaping plate of rice, beans, and stew chicken while reggae blasts all around you.
Catch a bus to the Community Baboon Sanctuary at Bermuda Landing, where you are guaranteed howler monkey sightings and can stay in a tent, a cabin, or with a local family.
After a morning hike, take a bus down the Western Highway and catch another ride to San Ignacio in Cayo District. Continue through town and the Trek Stop in San José de Succotz, where you should have time for a round of disc golf and a tour of the butterfly farm at Tropical Wings Nature Center before bedtime.
Spend the morning at the Xunantunich Archaeological Site, climbing pyramids and convening with the spirits. In the afternoon, arrange a pickup in Benque Viejo to take you to one of the funky places down the Hydro Road: Martz Farm or Chechem Ha.
Spend the day hiking, horseback riding, caving, and spouting poetry inspired by the awesome views of the upper Macal River Gorge. Spend a second night in your tent, cabin, or waterfall-enhanced treehouse.
Get a ride back to Benque, then travel to Bullet Tree Falls via canoe or kayak—plan on five hours of easy paddling and mellow riffles down the Mopan River; when you arrive, have a cabin and meal waiting for you at the Cohune Palms Cabañas or Parrot Nest Lodge.
Spend at least a night at Barton Creek Outpost, a campsite near the entrance to Barton Creek Cave with one of the country’s best swimming holes; then catch a southbound bus in Belmopan and get off in the village of Armenia for a cozy night with a mestizo family.
Make your way to Hopkins for a few beers and a Garifuna drumming workshop. You’ll likely have to spend a few hours in Dangriga on the way, so feel free to get sidetracked out to Tobacco Caye for a night or two.
Spend the day hiking the trails and splashing in the waterfalls of Mayflower Bocawina National Park, one of Belize’s newest national parks.
Continue south to Punta Gorda and check into one of several lovely new accommodations, such as Hickatee Cottages or Coral House Inn. From Punta Gorda, go on trips into the countryside and cayes, or arrange a homestay in the hills before dining on a vegetarian feast at Gomier’s Restaurant.
Go deep into the Toledo bush, living among the Maya or Garifuna. Hire guides, listen to stories, music, and the river. On the last day, transfer back to Punta Gorda. You can do this through the homestay program, or based at one of the back-a-bush accommodations in the area.
Fly back north to Philip Goldson International Airport and begin writing your memoirs as your return flight takes off.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition