Good gracious, beauties, I'm so happy to get this trip down on (virtual) paper. I'm coming to you from Dallas, Texas, where I have the pleasure of taking in a work meeting this weekend. And under these extremely special circumstances, I'm finally finding the time to give our Belize trip its proper due. You guys. Belize is a really wonderful place to visit. We followed our Costa Rica model of spending the first half of the trip in the jungle and the second half on the beach, and that worked out really well again. If you have the chance to get yourself down to Belize, or if you just want to daydream about it (like I do, all the time) these were the highlights for us.
Part One: The Cayo District
One of the things that just has to be said about Belize is that driving through it will break your heart. It is stunningly beautiful and starkly poor. The houses are made from plywood and cinder blocks, stray dogs are running everywhere, underfed and unhealthy, and there is garbage along the side of every road. We started our trip driving from the Belize City airport to Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge in the Cayo District, and that landscape was a little shocking. And then we arrived at the hotel, which was basically paradise.
The Cayo District has a lot of citrus trees surrounded by tree-covered hills, and the landscape is really beautiful. Hiking up through the hills, surrounded by enormous trees, will reward you with incredible views.
A short drive from the Cayo District are the Xunantunich Mayan ruins, and they are absolutely worth the drive. First of all, the ruins are much larger than I thought they would be (I've seen pictures of Mayan ruins but didn't understand how TALL they are!) and you can actually climb up on the ruins to see the rest of the excavated site and even look over to the Guatemalan border.
I'm not a huge history buff, but looking at something that was built THOUSANDS of years ago and marveling at the beauty, the details, and the fact that these things are still standing basically unscathed is pretty amazing.
We also did a day trip to the ATM cave, which is a cave that the Mayans used for ritual sacrifices and other ceremonies. You can't bring any cameras into the cave because tourists have damaged the relics and remains in the past because they weren't paying enough attention to their feet when they were trying to take photos. But, because I can't do this experience justice with words alone, I pulled some photos off Google to help me paint the picture--we were in all of these spaces.
Through a lot of the cave you have to swim or wade through water, and many times you're squeezing through tiny openings and climbing over huge rocks. This is what the opening of the cave looks like--the last time you see any sunlight.
You climb and swim for quite a while until you get to a point where you have to do some rock climbing (!!!) to get up to the ledge where you can see remains of ceramic pots used in the Mayan rituals, and even bones from the sacrifices.
Part Two: Ambergris Caye
After a few days in the Cayo District, we drove back to the airport in Belize City and returned our rental car to board a teeny tiny plane to fly to Ambergris Caye, an island just a very short flight away (about fifteen minutes). I was a little worried about the flight on a plane this small, but it goes very quickly and is actually really cool (you can see the island as you fly over it, and the flight is over before you know it).
The island is next to a huge coral reef, so it attracts a lot of scuba divers and snorkelers. We aren't divers, but we did snorkel one day and went out to an area where nurse sharks and stingrays gather to be fed by the boats. They're basically tame after the boats coming to feed them multiple times a day for years, so you can touch the sharks and rays--I don't have a photo of this, but I did dive down and touch a nurse shark that was about eight feet long. So, that's something. Dan wanted nothing to do with touching sharks even though our guide tried his hardest to encourage him. ("No, you can pet them! Just not on the mouth!")
But you know what we didn't have any reservations about? Pina coladas. At every meal. Ok, not breakfast. Most days.
Most of the island is small enough to walk around, but when people are driving it's usually on golf carts. We rented a cart one day to head out to "secret beach" (a beach that apparently used to be a real secret and is still pretty difficult to find, but once you get there you are rewarded with a sandy swimming beach, rum punch, and tacos). Most of Ambergris Caye doesn't have great swimming areas because of the nearby reef, so this beach is a good find.
There are also lots of dogs running around the island, but they seemed to be owned by someone (we didn't see any dogs on leashes but lots had collars, and even the pups without collars seemed to be well-fed). We went for a run one day and this dog decided to come with us--he hung tough for more than a mile, just padding along next to us until some kids who apparently knew him saw him and called him away. We loved him, and he made us miss Chewy.
This trip was dreamy all around, and was a great combination of adventure and relaxing. It was probably the most action-packed with bucket list activities of any trip we've ever taken (even things we didn't know were on the bucket list until we did them!)
We'll be daydreaming about Belize for quite a while. Especially when it's below zero in Minnesnowta.