Toledo District’s county seat and biggest town, PG is simultaneously the lazy end of the road and an exciting jumping-off point to upland villages, offshore cayes, Guatemala, or Honduras. Punta Gorda’s 5,000 or so inhabitants live their daily lives, getting by from hurricane to hurricane.
Punta Gorda is a simple port, not super-clean, with no real beach, and its crooked streets are framed by many old, dilapidated wooden buildings. The majority of inhabitants in town are of Garifuna and East Indian descent.
Fishing was the main support of the local people for centuries; today many fishers work for a nearby high-tech shrimp farm. Local farmers grow rice, mangoes, bananas, sugarcane, and beans—mainly for themselves and the local market. Fair trade-certified and organic cacao beans are an important export as well, used to make chocolate by the Green & Black’s company in England.
Getting to Punta Gorda
By Air: Daily southbound flights from Belize City to Dangriga continue to Placencia and then to Punta Gorda. This is the quickest and most comfortable way to get to PG. For the return trip, Tropic Air (tel. 501/226-2012, U.S. tel. 800/422-3435, www.tropicair.com) and Maya Island Air (tel. 501/223-1140, U.S. tel. 800/225-6732, www.mayaislandair.com) each offer five daily flights to Placencia, Dangriga, and Belize City, between 6:45 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tropic is usually more reliable and frequent in southern Belize.
By Land: Punta Gorda is just under 200 miles from Belize City, a long haul by bus, even with the newly surfaced Southern Highway speeding things up. Count on 3–4 hours by car, 5–6 hours by express bus, or 7 hours in a nonexpress.
James Bus Lines (tel. 501/702-2049) has a centrally located terminal in Punta Gorda, at King and Main Streets, and runs up to 10 daily buses between Punta Gorda and Belize City, departing 3:50 a.m.–3:50 p.m., with one express at 6 a.m. The first departure from Belize City is a 5:30 a.m. express, then service continues until 3:30 p.m. (the only other express is this last bus of the day); the fare is US$11 one-way. The James Bus makes a loop through PG before heading out of town. A few other bus lines make the trip, but much less regularly.
To the Maya Villages: Every day has a different schedule, but buses go to the Maya villages on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, generally around noon, and depart from Jose Maria Nunez Street (between Prince and Queen Street). From here it’s possible to get to Golden Stream, Silver Creek, San Pedro, San Miguel, Aguacate, Blue Creek, San Antonio, and others. Some buses drop you off at the entrance road, leaving a walk of a mile or two. Check the Toledo Tourism Information Center for updated village bus schedules.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition