Week 55 Day 371 Renton, WA 47.4867° N, 122.1953° W
39.8200° N, 105.1111° W
It’s been a long time since I’ve written…oops!
Since we’ve been back in the states, it’s been a whirlwind catching up with family and friends, marrying off my little sister, working full-time at Bikram Yoga Redmond, and launching new products with Tommorkes.com and Insurgent Publishing.
We’ve been the most nomadic we’ve been all year! Checking out our location tracker (Yes I keep a location tracker!) We went 26 days never sleeping in the same location for more than a night in a row!…ok that’s slightly an exaggeration there were 2 times we slept in the same location for 2 nights. :/
Point being, now that we are home (In the States) we’re still roaming!
The goal will be to catch up with some of those adventures within the next month, but first I need to pick back up where we left off and that was in Belize.
I will throw out a disclaimer and say we kind of threw the budget out the window for a bit with all the tours we did in Belize, but they were worth it!
While we were in Belize we stayed on the Mainland just outside of Belmopan (The Capital) in Teakettle for 4 nights to take advantage of the caving and Mayan ruins before we headed out to Caye Caulker for 1o days of island bliss! It was nice to have time on the mainland, because that is definitely were the true Belize culture is.
From our experience, Here are the top things we did in Belize!
Top 8 Things to do in Belize
By the time we reached Belize, we had snorkeled on Maui, at the Great Reef, on Gili Air, in Labuan Bajo after seeing Komodo Dragons, and in Puerto Lopez on our Poor Man’s Galapagos tour. Each experience had it’s own highlights, but Tom and I both agree that snorkeling off of Caye Caulker with Carlos’ Tour’s ultimate one day package to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray Alley, and Coral Gardens was the best snorkel experience we had during our year abroad.
The variety of underwater creatures was saw was spectacular, the water was clear, and we even got a couple rounds of Panty Rippers (the popular local cocktail) on our ride back to shore.
2. ATM Cave
If you’re planning a trip to Belize, you’re probably headed out to the islands. While the Cayes of Belize are beautiful, the mainland shouldn’t be skipped! There are dozens of Mayan Ruins and Caves to explore and there are many more options if you spend a couple days on the mainland.
The best tour we did was the ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) Cave!
Unfortunately, we don’t have any pictures of the cave. A couple of years ago a tourist dropped a camera on one of the skeletal remains, cracking a skull bone so cameras were banned.
Since I can’t give you a visual, here’s how the experience went:
When you arrive to the parking lot, you hit the approx. 1+ mile trail switch backing along a river until you hit the cave entrance.
Near the entrance there is a picnic area where we leave our belongings and strap on a helmet and headlamp for the cave.
To get into the cave you dive into a freezing pool and swim on in. (Belize is so hot and humid the water feels super refreshing!)
The water is never as deep as the entrance, but you continue to wade through the cave taking in the beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. There is something magical about the way the water reflects the glow of your headlamp around the cave.
You continue to wade and trek deeper into the cave where the Mayans once conducted their religious ceremonies and sacrifices. The Mayans thought caves to be a gateway to the underworld so they were very sacred places.
There are still many pots and humans remains left from their sacrifices. The “highlight,” also know as the Crystal Maiden is the one fully enact skeleton at the deepest section of the tour. Because the remains were high in the cave they have had very little water damage.
Ironically the Crystal Maiden is actually thought to be a male.
3. Crystal Cave
It was a close call as to which tour was better, but ultimately ATM Cave narrowly beats Crystal Cave as it is much more accessible to a larger population than Crystal Cave.
If you are physical fit and not afraid of dark places Crystal Cave is a great option and perhaps even the better option! Not only can you bring in a camera so you can capture pictures of the Mayan remains, but there are far fewer tourists that tour Crystal Cave.
Explorer beware, Crystal Cave is an adventure!
First off the hike to the cave entrance is a little more demanding than ATM as it’s muddy and has some incline.
It only took up 30 min, but we were hauling.
From there, you enter the cave by repelling down a steep rock. From there you crawl on your knees and even rock climb at times through this deep cave which currently has the most majestically white stalagmites and stalactites.
While there is no Crystal Maiden in Crystal Cave, there are skeletal remains including one skull that has been preserved amazingly well!
It is an eerie feeling to see the remains of human sacrifice, but according to archaeologists and those who have studied the Mayan culture, it was apparently an honor to be sacrificed.
Following your adventure through the cave, the tour ends with a lunch and swim in the Inland Blue Hole to wash up and trust me you’ll need it!
There are many options in Belize to see ancient Mayan ruins, but we chose to do Caracol and were not disappointed by our choice.
Many people opt to head across the border into Guatemala to see Tikal as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but we chose to stay local and see the largest site in Belize which is Caracol.
Many Tourists opt out of Caracol because getting there requires a drive down a rocky dirt road but I would highly recommend checking out this remote spot.
Tom and I ended up with a private tour as no one else had signed up the day we headed out.
The day started out with a trip to the Rio Frio Cave to break up the drive.
Rio Frio may have been my favorite cave. It is definitely a huge bonus to this tour!
When we arrived at Caracol, we were the first tour group there and therefore had about 30 minutes by ourselves on this massive property.
Machu Picchu was spectacular, but size of Caracol almost dwarfs the Incan remains.
What’s even more spectacular is only 4% of the original city has actually been excavated.
Because Belize is so rainy and plant life is so abundant, all the ruins have been completely buried and built over. In fact, each year it is an ongoing job to keep the ruins uncovered as there is continuous growth coming out of the stone.
5. St. Herman’s Cave and the Inland Blue Hole
We caught the bus from Belmopan which was actually pretty easy.
We just showed up at the terminal, the buses run on the hour, and the locals were very helpful letting us know when we should get off.
The St. Herman’s National Park is pretty straight forward.
We checked in and paid our $4 USD and were off down the trail to the cave.
The area you can explore without a guide is pretty short and you definitely need a headlamp, but it was still fun to be spelunking on our own.
Following the tour of the cave, we set down another path towards the Inland Blue Hole. Make sure you don’t go a day after it rains, because then the blue hole won’t be quite so blue or clear, the first day we went it was gorgeous but the second time we came (to wash off after Crystal Cave) the water was grey and murky!
The water was so clear you could see fish swimming around and we had the whole pool to ourselves! I hear we got pretty lucky and normally there are quite a few people sun bathing and swimming, but we would have never known.
The trails around the Blue Hole are also great for Bird and Lizard watching. Just make sure you bring Bug Spray because there are quite a few mosquitoes!
6. Ride Bikes around Caye Caulker
Island living is definitely where it’s at on Belize.
Sure the ruins and caves are amazing, but I’m guessing if you are looking into heading to Belize, you want some beach time and Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are pretty amazing islands.
We personally preferred Caye Caulker for its more quiet laid back vibe, but both islands are amazing!
There are not many cars on Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker.
On Ambergris, the preferred form of transport is probably golf cart, but Caye Caulker is still small and quiet enough that a bike is the most efficient way to travel.
Tom and I preferred to walk during our time in the Cayes, but making sure your housing rental comes with access to a bike is a definite must!
7. Go to a Foam party on Ambergris Caye in San Pedro
We met the owner early in the afternoon during their amazing HH deal which was 7 Belikan Beers for $20 + Chips and Salsa.
Told that there would be foam party later that evening, we returned and definitely were not disappointed!
8. Get a juice from the Derik the Flag man.
Plan to arrive early if your goal is to have one of the few tables in the water to enjoy a day of snorkeling, drinking, and people watching.
If you want the best drinks on the island, however, hit up Derik the Kite Man on the way to the Split.
This local Reggie Man knows how to mix his fruit and if you ask him politely he’ll add his own rum (or the rum you buy across the street if he’s out) for a Panty Ripper with real pineapple!
Belize was definitely one of our favorite spots that we hit up! Especially for our friends in the States Belize is an awesome destination and it doesn’t take that long to get there either!
What would you look to do if you came to Belize? Let us know below!