Welcome to the start of a new travel blog. For the next two or three months, I’ll be plotting a course through four Caribbean countries and a dozen island territories. My adventure starts in Belize. Why? Although I’ve logged six months wandering around Central America, I’ve never stepped into its two smallest countries: Belize and El Salvador. Let’s start with ten days in Belize.
From Belize City, I drove a rental car to the Black Rock Lodge near the Guatemalan border. This ecolodge came highly recommended. It’s located in a spectacular valley hidden in the hills of western Belize. The photos on their website will show you how stunningly beautiful this lodge is. Bird watchers, hikers and swimmers love this place. So did I.
My main reason for visiting western Belize was to see Tikal, which is in Guatemala, just across the border from the Black Rock Lodge and the town of San Ignacio. For years, I’ve wanted to see these Mayan ruins, to compare them with Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Copan. Tikal is one of the oldest Mayan archaeological sites. It was one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Mayan civilization. You can tell from the smile on my face how pleased I am to finally get here.
There’s another reason why I wanted to see this remarkable site. If you saw the first Star Wars movie (1977) you may recall the scene where the Millennium Falcon swoops down to the secret rebel base on the fourth moon of Yavin. From here, Luke Skywalker took off to destroy the Death Star. It gave me goosebumps to gawk at this celebrated film location.
Belize is mostly known for its offshore islands, its beaches and its barrier reef. Belize’s reef is the second-largest coral reef in the world and one of the most sought-after locations for diving, snorkeling, sailing, and fishing. I opted to visit the top tourist destination in Belize: San Pedro town on Ambergris Caye. Tropic Air flew me there on a Cessna Grand Caravan. I’ve been told that this airline has an excellent safety record. It was a welcome change of pace to fly in an airplane with just twelve seats and one propeller: A perfect aircraft for short flights within Belize.
San Pedro is a gritty beach town with three narrow streets lined with bars, restaurants, resorts and shops — from the cheap to the luxurious. I splurged and stayed at Ramon’s Village Resort. It was beautifully landscaped. The service was excellent. The linens were clean. The wifi worked most of the time. The dive shop had thatched roofs.
Most noticeable in the town of San Pedro are the golf carts. They’re everywhere. The streets are crowded with them day and night. Although San Pedro would be ideal for pedestrians or bicycles, everyone drives noisy, gas-powered golf carts. If I’d had lunch with the mayor, I’d have suggested that he find an environmentally sound way to solve San Pedro’s transport issues.
As a tourist destination, San Pedro isn’t bad. Eight miles away is a wonderful escape called Secret Beach — which won’t be secret for long. There’re also some colorful open-air bars that serve the best tropical rum drinks.
All in all, Belize is pleasant. It’s convenient from the states. It’s less developed and less expensive than Cancun. The people are all friendly and the towns feel safe. Now, it’s time for me to continue my journey.
With each stop along this journey, I expect to encounter a different set of Covid rules. For Belize, I found contradicting information about health requirements. After consulting websites for United Airlines, the US state department and the Belize government, I concluded that at a minimum I would need …
- A face mask
- Proof of Covid vaccination
- A certified (negative) antigen test
- Travel insurance to cover COVID-19 medical costs, full hospitalization, doctors’ visits, prescriptions and air ambulance/medevac
Before going to SFO, I uploaded my vaccination card for online check-in. At SFO, I donned my mask. My passport was checked. On arrival in Belize, I was asked for my Covid vaccination card. That’s all! I got the impression that Belize is so eager for tourist dollars that they aren’t worrying about the official Covid requirements. Will this be the pattern throughout my upcoming travels? Stay tuned!