As you depart Belize City  along the Western Highway, savanna and scraggly pines border the road. The milepost markers between Belize City  and San Ignacio  will help you find your way around the countryside. If you’re driving, you can match the markers as you go by setting your odometer to zero as you turn onto Cemetery Road at the western edge of Belize City.
Three miles south of Hattieville, this small village (community tel. 501/209-6006) has a population of less than 100. Runaway slaves founded the village back in the day, and its population used to peak around 2,000 during big logging runs. Today, you may find campsites, canoe rentals, and hiking trails. Taxis to the village are plentiful from the roundabout in Hattieville.
Driving west, note the junction with Manatee Road on your left at about Mile 29. (Look for the Midway Resting Place, a service station and motel of sorts on the southeast corner of the junction; its tall Texaco sign makes an especially good landmark at night, when the sign glows with bright colors.) This improved dirt road is the shortcut to Gales Point , Dangriga , and the Southern Highway. It’s always a good idea to top off your tank, stock up on cold drinks, and ask for current road conditions here. Heavy rains can cause washouts on a lot of these “highways.” This is a drive best done in daylight because of the picturesque views of jungle, Maya villages, and the Maya Mountains in the distance.
There are a few notable restaurants clustered around Mile 31, right around where you first see the sleeping Maya giant in the hills to the south (the hill formations in this area look like a person laying on their back).
You’ll first come to Cheers (tel. 501/614-9311, 6 a.m.–8:30 p.m. daily), with its interesting collection of orchids, license plates, and T-shirts.
A bit farther, just past the turnoff for Monkey Bay , is Amigos (tel. 501/802-8000, 8 a.m.–9 p.m. daily), another friendly, screened-in bar and restaurant with excellent Belizean and continental food, US$5–9 per plate.