For my very first blog post, I have decided to write about my most recent vacation to Belize. In 2012 I visited my friend in Washington D.C. where they were happening to be having an Around the World Embassy Tour in which several embassies opened their door to the general public. We didn’t have time to see many, but one embassy we visited was Belize. Upon seeing the images of the blue water, trying some of their foods and drinks, and talking to the Belizean people there, I was convinced that Belize was the ultimate dream destination.
Fast forward four years, and I found myself with the opportunity to fly to Belize for free using my Southwest miles. Every flight I had searched for in the past was about $500-$600 round trip from San Diego. With Southwest, it was about 10,000 points one way with $60 in taxes (Belize taxes which all visitors must pay upon leaving the country). I happened to be embarking on this trip with my boyfriend, so I added in a quick stop to Cancun for an all-inclusive resort, which I used with my Amex miles.
I made the mistake of booking our flight from Cancun to Belize one day too late – which ended up being quite costly. Tropic Air is one of the only airlines that flies within and around Belize, but their booking system didn’t have much information on changes or cancellation policies. I had purchased a one-way flight from Cancun to Belize City for $150. Well, if you ever find yourself in a situation like me – Tropic Air’s flights are non-refundable/non-changeable & non-transferable. I ended up having to buy a new flight – so to avoid a costly mistake like this – double check your dates before buying!
I was surprised to find out that Tropic Air’s planes are more jets, and they are tiny! I’ve been on small aircrafts before, but this was another level. There are obviously no bathrooms – so use the bathroom before you leave! The flight from Cancun to Belize City was about 1.5 hours. The flight was seamless and the views were unbelievable. Blue waters and tiny islands!
BURRELL BOOM & BLACK ORCHID RESORT
We landed seamlessly into Belize City at Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport. The airport was like the Tropic Air flight – tiny. We waited maybe five minutes to get through immigration and customs (no Global Entry here!) and walked right out into Belize, where our shuttle driver from our hotel was waiting for us patiently. We decided not to stay in Belize City, as I had read that it wasn’t the safest, and there wasn’t much to do. Instead, we stayed at the Black Orchid Resort. This saved us the cost of having to pay for a taxi, as the shuttle ride was free. The Resort is only a few miles away from the airport, but because there are really only two main roads in Belize – the North Road and the South Road, everything takes a little bit longer to get around.
When we arrived at the Black Orchid Resort, we checked into our room, which had a pool and river view. It was pretty humid that day, so we wanted to dip in their pool, but they were having a holiday party right at the pool area, so we opted to walk into town instead. The closest town to the resort was Burrell Boom. There aren’t really any signs or any indication as to where you are going but thankfully Google maps lead us to town.
I’m Asian and my boyfriend is Caucasian. Needless to say, we stood out as we walked into the small village as school was letting out. We walked past kids playing outside and dogs off the leash. In search for a place to eat, we found a local convenience store, but we were surprised to find out the employee at the store did not understand what we were saying. While English is listed as the main language in Belize, the majority of people there actually speak Creole – which is a mix of the English and African language. We left the store and continued walking around the village – which was primarily houses and schools. We eventually came across a Coca- Cola sign and went in. Finally we had come across food! While Belize is known for it’s rice and beans, Chinese food is actually quite popular there too!
Belize has a large population of Chinese people due to forced labor in the late 1800’s. Most convenience stores are owned by Chinese people, and Chinese food is the only “fast food” that Belize really has. After we filled up on fried rice and fried chicken, we went back to the resort, where the holiday party was going down. We felt confined to our room due to the party, but we were able to wind down from our Cancun trip at that time. We chose to eat dinner at the resort (because there were no other options), and unfortunately, the food was average and the prices were high. I’d recommend picking up some food in town to stock up for later.
The Black Orchid Resort provided us with free breakfast, and the next day we were on our way to San Ignacio.
Transfers in Belize are very expensive. As I said earlier, it takes forever to get anywhere, so to get from Belize City to San Ignacio, it would take about 2-2.5 hours and would cost you about $100 a person. Based on this knowledge, I decided to throw in a cave-tubing and zip-lining tour with our transfer. This ended up being $142 for the cave tour, zip-line tour, and the transfer. I used Go Maya Belize – which was amazing!
The day we went cave tubing there was almost no one there. I was told that this was because it was a non-cruise ship day. If you go to Belize, look up cruise ship times so you do not get bombarded with cruisers on your tour. Our guide Onil gave us so much information about the caves, Belize, and Mayans. We were also the only ones ziplining, which made the whole process extremely fast and fun!
After ziplining, it began to rain. We walked through the jungle to the entrance of the cave. The walk was about 30 minutes carrying the tube that we floated in. We were eaten alive by mosquitoes. Word to the wise: BRING BUG SPRAY!! I cannot stress this enough. Even bug spray didn’t work all the time, but it helped.
Upon entering the cave in our tubes, we floated along as we listened to Onil explain how the Mayans believed that the caves were considered the Underworld, how sacrifices were made, and Mayan traditions. We even got out of our caves and crawled through low crevices to find broken pieces of pots where sacrifices were made in the past. It was amazing to me how such ancient artifacts were able for us to touch and that they were still so in tact – and not stolen!
The caves were pitch black. You can’t see a thing, but you can hear the bats. I would not suggest it for those afraid of the dark, tight areas, or of bats and small creatures such as spiders. After exploring the caves for about four hours, we finally reached the end and jumped back in the car where we set off to San Ignacio!