Belize is a country located in central America, east of Guatemala & just south of the Mexico border. It’s not a very large country & just claimed its independence in the late 1900’s. All of the locals I met while on this trip were extremely kind & hardworking people. They definitely have a “have fun, be happy & work hard” vibe, which I dig.
For this 10 day trip through Belize my girlfriend, Melissa, we went through a travel agency called EF Tours. It’s pretty popular in the states. You have to be between the ages of 19-29 to travel with them, which is nice because then you’re with peers of your own age group & they take care of everything from flights, hotels, excursions, travel plans, travel guide & quite a few meals.
First off, I have never traveled with a group before & after doing this trip I realized there are some pretty big pro’s & con’s to it: (Note- These are just my personal opinions, take it how you please)
Traveling is MUCH cheaper this way since you’re going to likely be splitting rooming between 4 people per. room. If you’re someone wanting to travel, but on a budget then a group is a great way to go. I paid a total of $2,900 for the trip. That included flights, hotel, a decent number of meals, all breakfasts, all planned excursions, travel while in Belize & the tour guide.
You get to hang out with people around your own age group.
The entire trip is planned, which means you don’t have to do it if you’re not a planner
You have a guide the entire time to take you to all the best spots.
You’re in a large group which means it takes forever to do everything.
You have to wait for everyone to get on/off the bus, finish eating, finish the excursion, etc. Which means there is a LOT of time wasted waiting around for people lagging behind.
There was way to much time spent going to grocery stores & ATM's. Plan ahead people & bring snacks/the appropriate amount of cash so we don't have to waste time.
If there is free time, it is extremely difficult getting 25 opinionated young people to agree on something. Sometimes people act immature & get snippy, which can ruin the vibe.
You’re in a group, which means majority rules so you might not have your voice heard if you’re the minority.
With that being said, overall the trip was really awesome. I genuinely appreciated that I didn’t have to plan anything + had quite a bit of time to simply write, enjoy the scenery & relax because that weight was lifted. Now, lets get into the traveling! Side note- In Belize, 99.9% of places take US dollars, just make sure that you get the correct change because some places will try to stiff you. Currently the exchange is 2 Belize dollars to 1 US dollar!
(Friday, February 7th)
We flew direct from Miami to the Belize airport & got in around noon. When you get to the airport, its INCREDIBLY small & takes forever to get through immigration & customs. It’s not a difficult process, but does take some time. Once we through, the guide & bus was there to pick us up. We waited for the rest of the group before we headed to our first hotel in Belize city. That evening we had a mixer & everyone got up to introduce themselves. TBH, it was a little cheesy & made me feel like I was back in Girl Scout camp (lol) but it was also a great way to start getting familiar with faces.
(Saturday, February 8th)
We were up early & got on the bus to head out. During the ride to the Altun Ha Ruins our tour guide (Kenny) told us SO much about the country. I loved that because I love knowing facts about the area: National animals, songs, flag, etc. We spent the morning walking through the old mayan ruins of Altun Ha with a guided tour. It was AWESOME. After our tour we had a complimentary meal on the bus of coconut rice, chicken, coleslaw, plantains & carrot cake. Looking back it was some of the best food I’ve had in a while & probably the best meal I had on the trip! We then headed back to Belize city to catch the ferry (1.5 hours) to our next location- San Pedro island at the Caribbean Villas hotel!
(Sunday, February 9th)
This morning we met up at 9am right on the docks of our hotel to go snorkeling at the reefs of Hol Chan, Shark Ray Alley & Shateau (Unsure if I’m spelling the last one correctly?) It was extremely windy & the water was pretty choppy.. which made for a bumpy ride out to the reefs. Our first location was Hot Chan and it was wonderful! We saw so many corals, brightly colored fish, sting rays & a turtle! During that snorkel I swallowed way to much salt water & ended up getting extremely sea sick. (Like borderline vomiting in my mouth but I held it down) Our second location was Shark Ray Alley, but we couldn’t get off the boat to snorkel here (EF Doesn’t allow it). We did get to see countless nurse sharks swimming around the boat though! Our third spot was Shateau Key, which we saw a huge loggerhead turtle swimming around. I stayed on the boat & laid in the sun for this spot because I was feeling so nauseous. We got back to the hotel around noon & then spent our afternoon walking into town and shopping at the local stores!
(Monday, February 10th)
Monday we left the island at 8:30 to catch the 9:30 ferry back to Belize City. We then had a 1 hour bus ride to the Chukka Jaguar Paw Outpost where we went zip-lining through the jungle & cave tubing! Personally, I’m not super crazy about zip-lining because its a little touristy IMO but I LOVED the cave tubing part! Once we finished up we finished our travels to San Ignacio.
(Tuesday, February 11th)
Today was my ultimate favorite day of the trip. We left the hotel by 7 to travel about 20 minutes to the Guatemala border where we got our passports stamped & crossed over! We then traveled a little over 1.5 hours west to the famous mayan ruins of Tikal! Tikal= 12/10, if you love ancient history YOU NEED TO GO. It is entirely worth the trekk to have the chance to walk through the ruins, take pictures & see how these ancient civilizations lived. We had lunch onsite which was so tasty- a variation of miso soup, chicken, coconut rice & a lemony plantain for dessert! Once we traveled back to our hotel (It was a full day trip, we got back around 5pm-ish), a group of us walked into town to get some snacks. We walked through a local park & half way got lost, but thankfully the locals here were SO kind and gave us directions multiple times. (Almost everyone speaks English as well in Belize so thats a huge bonus)
(Wednesday, February 12th)
Today was another big travel day so I ended up getting up around 6:45 and going for a run before we left. There was a huge hill in front of our hotel so I jogged up & walked/jogged down. Simple & effective workout! Plus it was nice to get a sweat on. Around 8:30 we all met up, got on the bus and started our travels down to the southern coast of the county. We stopped along the way at a few spots: Orange Gallery (Adorable coffee/jewelry spot), St. Hermans Blue Hole (Natural sinkhole you can swim in & is great for pictures!), a local food stand to try out some hat tamales & a Mayan reservation to pick up some local chocolate. We got to our hotel around 4pm- Jaguar Reef in Hopkins!
(Thursday, February 13th)
Today was a planned free day in Hopkins, unless you signed up for the optional excursion of snorkeling! My body woke up at 6:30 am, so I grabbed some coffee & watched the sunrise on the beach, which was beautiful. Our hotel was literally right on the beach. We could walk outside our room and our veranda overlooked the ocean. Stunning. We met up at 8:15 for those that signed up for the snorkeling & headed off to Carrie Bow Caye where we swam with beautiful fish, corals & a nurse shark! Before we went to our second snorkel spot we hung out on a private island beach right next to the reefs. It was beautiful. Crystal clear waters, warm, sunny & not a cloud in the sky. Once we got back from snorkeling, we hung out at the beach for the rest of the afternoon & walked into town to shop around later that evening.
(Friday, February 14th)
(Happy, late, valentines day!) Today was a planned completely free day on the agenda. Melissa & I woke up around 7 and got some coffee/breakfast. Around 8:45 we went to a gym that was right down the street from our hotel to get a workout in. This was the first time we had access to a gym since the first night so I wanted to get some lifting! Plus they made some bomb protein shakes. Our tour group meet up at 10 on the docks of the hotel to discuss plans for the rest of the day & we decided to sign up for a bioluminescence tour at 6:30pm! The rest of our afternoon consisted of sitting on the beach, getting our tan on & then walking into town to try some local wine. It was WAY to strong for me (14%) so I didn’t get any, but it was interesting to hear about how he made his wine. Okay & back to the bioluminescence tour… it. was. wicked. cool. We went along the river in a small boat and started off by looking for wildlife on the waters edge. We say countless iguanas sitting in trees, birds & a small crocodile! Then we headed to Anderson lagoon that contained the bioluminescent algae. As the boat was going along it looked like the water was glowing. You could even see fish darting away from the boat as wen went through! If you stuck your hand in the water and waved it around it almost seemed like the water had glitter in it. Honestly, a great experience and I am so glad we did it! Sadly, I don’t have any pictures because my phone camera wasn’t able to get it, but its something you should definitely add to you’re list if you’re traveling to the area. Took a nighttime river tour. Looked along the river for wildlife (birds, iguanas, bats & small crocodiles) then we headed to the Anderson lagoon! River tour with the curve bar sittee river. The biolumicient algae looks like glitter when you play in the water. You can see glow in the dark fish swimming away from the boat
(Saturday, February 15th)
Our last full day in Belize & another travel day! I woke up around 7:45 to get some coffee (once again lol) & then took a 1.5 mile walk down the beach before we had to meet up at 11 to check out. We then headed north with a few stops along the way: A grocery store for snacks, a gift shop in Hopkins & The Country Barn for some home made ice cream. Honestly, this was a complete waste of a day. (Being brutally honest here.) We were on the bus making random stops from 11-4:30 pm. Thats 5.5 hours on the bus when honestly I’d rather have spent the last day sitting on the beach in Hopkins, then woke up early on Sunday to head to Belize City for our flights (2.5ish hour drive from Hopkins to Belize City). Just my opinion, but a waste of a day. However, it did allow me to write up this blog post so I guess theres that plus. We then had our farewell dinner at 6:30pm & jammed out to some karaoke!
(Sunday, February 16th)
Day 10 was filled with goodbyes & hanging out at the airport until our flight took off around 2pm!
Overall, Belize is a beautiful country. The people are kind & fun loving. Most of the land is still extremely rural so you get to see the natural beauty of the landscape: beautiful beaches, one of the largest coral reefs in the world, mayan ruins & mountains in the jungle. If you have the chance, I’d recommend taking a trip over while it is still so pristine and tourism is low/slowly building! As for the travel arrangements- If you want to travel cheaper & don't mind being in a group, then EF tours was overall a good experience. Booking was easy, we were kept in the loop the entire trip on what was going on next & theres payment plans so thats a a bonus. Personally, I don't think I'll travel with them again simply because I feel like a lot of time was wasted waiting around when we could have been doing other things & I'm more of a Lone Ranger. Just my thoughts! I know countless people that love traveling through EF & rave about their experience.