From the Belize International Airport, take a 20-minute taxi ride to the ferry port on the Caribbean side of the island, which should cost about $25. Then at the ferry port, you can purchase your ferry tickets – round trip is recommended to save time on the return – and enjoy a 45-minute water taxi ride on the crystal blue water to Caye Caulker. This small Belizean island is only five miles long by one mile wide, providing a very local, intimate vibe. Once you arrive on the island, expect to feel the island’s motto to ‘Go Slow’ and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere its denizens take very seriously.
Caribbean sunsets are absolutely breathtaking and not to be missed. Enjoy your first evening on the island at the Lazy Lizard Bar with a Caribbean sunset and fruity cocktail. This bar is located at ‘The Split’ of the island, where years ago a hurricane cut through the shallow sand on the island. Locals and backpackers frequent this bar every evening to watch the beautiful sunset, kick back with a drink, and share a few laughs.
TRAVEL TIP: The official language of Belize is English, so no need to bring out the pocket translator. The locals are very kind and welcoming, so it is not only simple to get around but fun to talk easily with everyone.
The beauty of staying at a small, laid-back Caribbean island is that most activities don’t fill up in advance, and you can sign up for almost any adventure that same morning. After having breakfast at the few open coffee shops, take a stroll down the main street of the island and choose from the many activities to take part in. Travelers can rent kayaks, go sport fishing, try stand-up paddle boarding, scuba dive, snorkel or just bask lazily in the sun. Many of these activities are day trips, so make sure you are informed on what time you return if you want to do another activity. The snorkeling trips are a great way to not only see marine wildlife in the famous Belize Barrier Reef but also to touch nurse sharks and stingrays in a safe environment.
As the island starts to cool down, walk along the island to experience different views of the setting sun. Check out the craft souvenirs and artisan jewelry stands along the main road to purchase souvenirs that support the locals. Once it becomes dark, the island will start to come alive as restaurants offer fresh seafood, Caribbean barbecue, and fruity cocktails. Travelers can take advantage of reasonable drink specials from the island bars along the beach and dance to music from all over the world.
Wake up early to take advantage of this transit day and try to board one of the earlier water taxis back to Belize. Opt to arrive in Belize City in the late morning to catch an express bus to San Ignacio with the locals. The ferry port is about a 15-minute walk from the bus station, but taking a taxi is recommend if you are traveling alone or with a lot of luggage. The express option is definitely worth the extra four dollars – at a total of $10 per person – as it cuts down the commute by one hour and has fewer stops. There are other options such as taking a taxi or a shuttle from Belize City to San Ignacio, but the bus option is cheapest.
Once you arrive in downtown San Ignacio, you may want to take a taxi to your accommodation because it will likely be uphill, directly out of the main square. After dropping luggage off at your accommodation, head back into town and check out the fun, cultural activities offered. Your can take a chocolate-making class at AJAW Chocolate & Crafts where you can learn more about the ancient Mayan culture and how they ground cacao beans by hand to produce chocolate. Another option is to learn about and hold iguanas at the Green Iguana Conservation Project. Both activities take about an hour and are an affordable way to learn about Belizean culture.
For dinner in San Ignacio, check out Pupusas El Salvador. This small restaurant is owned by two Salvadoran women and serves the most delicious pupusas at an incredibly budget-friendly price. Pupusas are a traditional Salvadoran dish consisting of thick, handmade tortillas that are filled with a blend of cooked cheese and seasoned meat, beans, and/or vegetables. Wash down your pupusas with freshly prepared melon juice and try one, or all, of their many dessert options, if you have a sweet tooth. Then spend your evening taking it easy as you prepare for a full day of adventure the following day.
TRAVEL TIP: Make sure to pack adequate bug spray and long sleeves to repel mosquitoes that thrive in the humid jungle environment in Western Belize.
San Ignacio offers a variety of outdoor attractions to fill a full week, but with a limited amount of time, you can still try one of the following day trip activities to make your visit to Belize unforgettable. The Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave is one of the most popular Mayan burial sites in Western Belize. Entrance to the cave requires swimming, climbing and hiking through dark chambers, but the physical challenge is worth the archeological adventure. If you prefer to explore Mayan caves in a more relaxed setting, you can also float through the cave system on an inner tube. Or with just a two-hour drive from the Guatemalan border, you can visit one of the most famous archeological sites of the Mayan empire, Tikal, Guatemala. Here you can climb the massive pyramids and learn how the priests used symmetrical structures to calibrate all the major dates of their ritual year.