There is no doubt Belize is an adventurer’s paradise. With jungle treks to Mayan ruins, swimming with the sharks or diving deep into the Blue Hole, the opportunities to explore seem endless. Unless you’re targeting Belize with one mission, let’s say diving the Blue Hole, it can be daunting to wade through the different tours offered and the various tour companies vying for your money.
Most hotels have made it easy; they’ll book your adventures for you with either their own crews or with reputable tour operators outside the resort. It’s a great option for many, but for those looking save a few dollars it can really put a dent in your budget. Doing a little leg work on your own can save you a huge chunk of change.
With that being said, let’s dive in to the hard part – deciding what to do. Whether you’re on Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker or in Belize City the choices are all similar, the only different is the distance you’ll travel for each experience. If diving is what you’re looking for, there is no place better than the blue hole as well as parts of the 183 mile long reef that runs parallel to the Ambergris Caye. Many places will certify you to dive dependent on a few hours training and passage of a written test. Some dives, however, are reserved for the most experience divers with years of practice.
If venturing into the depths of the deep blue isn’t for you, don’t worry, you can still enjoy the beauty of what lies below the surface by snorkeling the reef as well. Most tour operators offer single and multi-stop adventures to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark-Ray Alley or Tres Cocos as well as a few other places. The reef is teeming with life. Expect colorful fish, eels, spotted eagle rays, sea turtles and more.
Shark-Ray alley, I bet you can guess, is known for it’s swarming sharks and beautiful sting rays. It can be intimidating to dive in, but don’t let your fear overcome you. Once you’re in the water and your nerves calm, it’s an unforgettable experience as dozens of nurse sharks swim nearby looking for chum tour boat operators toss into the water.
A full-day snorkeling trip, including mask, snorkel and fins, on a catamaran from Ambergris Caye to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark-Ray Alley with a trip to Caye Caulker for lunch cost us around $75.00 US per person on the El Gato catamaran and tour company. It was a private tour with two wonderful guides, Geraldo and Primo, who not only sailed, but also led us into the water and provided us with all the rum punch and Belikin beer we could drink. The exact same trip aboard a much newer and nicer Lady Leslie catamaran runs $85.00 or $90.00 US a person. If both are options are out of budget, don’t worry! Most tour companies run smaller, motor boats to Hol Chan and Shark-Ray twice a day for $35.00 to 45.00 US a piece. or a single snorkel trip out to Tres Cocos area runs as little as $15.00 US per person.
If you’re an angler who’d rather stay above the water and try your luck with your rod and reel, you’re in luck. Belize is an angler’s paradise. In fact, some lodges like the …. cater more to fishermen than others. But, most tour companies are very accommodating if you’re just looking for a simple day or half-day trip. What it costs varies depending how long and what type of fishing you’re looking to do: deep sea, reef or fly fishing. An evening or morning fishing trip can cost as little as $35.00 US and run as high as a couple of hundred bucks for a full day on the water. The best part about a fishing trip – you’re dinner is free! Well, at least is if you take it back and throw it on the grill! If you’re not sure how prepare your catch, the guides will often do it for you – or several restaurants around town like the Palapa Bar allow you to bring them your catch and they’ll cook it for you. and serve it with sides.
While some of the water activities are the most common, you’ll be surprised to learn Belize offers an array of thrilling land adventures as well. Hiking, exploring Mayan ruins, cave tubing, zip lining as well as exploring several smaller villages and markets are all options as well. Most tour companies that offer diving, snorkeling and fishing excursions also offer a combination of guided inland tours. If you’re staying on Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye, you’ll have to hop a plane to the mainland, but usually your airfare is included in the cost of the excursion. Most tourists at least try to fit in two stops as part of their adventure – the most popular being a choice of ruins (Xunantinch, Lamaki or …) and cave tubing or Ziplining. To do all three takes a little extra money and a great guide who can keep an eye on the time. I’d highly recommend trying to sneak in all three at once to avoid from making multiple trips to the mainland. The cost for all three should run you right around $250.00 US.
There are also great options for hiking, but most require a guide and fewer tour companies offer them. The most highly recommended hike is called ATM. It’s a beautiful cave still filled with Mayan relics and artifacts. However, it’s not for beginning hikers. To reach the cave, you must swim, wade through water often chest or neck deep and climb. Cameras are not allowed inside after a tourist made the terrible mistake of dropping his on an ancient skull essentially breaking a piece of history.
If you’re staying in Central Belize – you have time and location on your side. You may be able to fit in multiple excursion over several days. Rental cars are available – and may be a good option if you’re looking to work your way to several sites on your own schedule. Drivers in Belize are on the left side of the vehicle – as in America – but, a lack of speed limits, narrow roads and people, including children and dogs, walking alongside the roadway make for a dangerous trip.
Bottom line: the options are endless, listen to the locals – they really are there to help, and price out several companies before making a choice…it can save you money and leave room in your budget for something else!