Belize Honeymoon

Why Honeymoon in Belize?

Belize Toucan
••• (c) Roberto Fabbri.

What can you expect on a honeymoon in Belize? Stunning beach resorts on warm and calm turquoise waters, secluded inns in the bird-filled jungle, and majestic ruins of a once-mighty empire you can practically explore alone on a steamy honeymoon afternoon.

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Aside from its natural attractions, Belize has other things going for it for it as a honeymoon destination. As the former British Honduras, English is the official language of Belize and it is spoken everywhere.

Dollars are accepted and the exchange rate is simple: two Belizean dollars for one United States dollar.

In this Central American country we encountered no hassles with peddlers or hawkers on our trip, not at the beach or anywhere else in Belize. Service is unfailingly polite and everyone we met at hotels and restaurants introduced themselves, extended a hand in friendship, and asked and remembered our names. Water is either treated or comes from wells, so it is generally unnecessary to use bottled water in Belize.

The beer lover amongst us declared the local brew - a Pilsner - as very good, particularly on tap. The fish lover feasted on shrimp, lobster, grouper, and snapper.

From beginning to end, Belize provided a sense of comfort and ease. Although the temperature reached 100 degrees on two days, the breezes, swims in rivers, pools and oceans, fans and the occasional air-conditioner tamed even the most torrid honeymoon heat.

The Jungle in Belize

We began our stay in Belize at Five Sisters Lodge, a 2 1/2-hour ride from Belize City's international airport. This resort sits along a river's edge in Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, the nation's largest protected area. On one side of Privassion Creek is a forest of Caribbean evergreens.

On the other, a subtropical rain forest.

The southern pine bark beetle had devastated much of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, so we were afraid our lodge would be on barren land. However, great diligence on the part of the land owner has kept the beetle from the hotel grounds and the area surrounding it. On the property, it is lush and green.

We lodged in the new riverside villa - two buildings, connected by a deck. One is sleeping quarters, the other the kitchen and living room, perfect for a honeymoon couple. Both buildings have hammocks, spacious wraparound screened porches, roofs thatched in the traditional Mayan manner with a bay leaf roof, and walls made of pimento sticks. Hardwood floors shine and furniture is carved from locally harvested mahogany.

The villa is completely private, around the bend of the river from where guests swim in the natural pools formed by the five waterfalls, hence the name Five Sisters. At the foot of the falls is a small island with a gazebo, a popular spot for wedding ceremonies and pre-honeymoon receptions. We bathed in our own section of the river and slept with windows open and the ceiling fan slowly twirling.

We enjoyed reading remarks of previous honeymoon couples in the comment book in our living room.

A Kansas City, Missouri, groom wrote:

"I could spend weeks here. Parrots and toucans and my beautiful wife!" Another honeymoon couple from Alexandria, Virginia, had two entries, one week apart. On November 22, they wrote: "Yes, we are the same couple of the previous page. This is such a beautiful place that after a few days at the beach, we decided to come back and enjoy the rest of our honeymoon at Five Sisters."

An eco-lodge, Five Sisters uses hydropower for electricity and to run a funicular from the hilltop to valley bottom. There is no generator hum. The loudest sound we heard was that of small cascading waterfalls a few feet from our doorstep. In the morning it was the call of tropical birds that announced dawn break.

We, too, wanted to spot Belize's national bird, the toucan, but not yet.

That would have to wait until our last day in Belize, when we returned to the jungle. Now we were content to listen to their calls from the green trees and delight in flitting hummingbirds. This we did at breakfast, on the deck of the hilltop restaurant, at the outdoor table where we had savored a candle-lit dinner the night before. Honeymoon couples and other guests may have meals brought to their villa, which Five Sisters is happy to do. We were just as happy to soak in the beauty with guests from the other 14 units in the lodge.

We had dinner two miles down the road from Five Sisters, at Blancaneaux Lodge, one of three Francis Ford Coppola resorts in Central America. Coppola built up Mr. Blancaneaux 's original jungle hunting lodge, bringing in splashes of Polynesian and local decor spiced with Italian cuisine.

Freshness and quality food is assured, since Blancaneaux runs its own organic farm. We ate on the terrace, overlooking the creek below and just above a natural hot pool. For those who aren't sufficiently relaxed, a garden spa offers a Thai massage.

NEXT: Belize Attractions >

Caracol, the Mayan Ruins in Belize

Five Sisters Lodge packed our lunch and we were off with our personal Yute Expeditions guide to tour one of the most awe-inspiring attractions in Belize. Caracol, a Mayan city lost in the tangle of jungle for nearly 500 years, was uncovered in 1937 by Rosa Mai, a woman logging for mahogany.

Caracol is not as well-known as the Tikal world heritage site across the border in Guatemala.

Because of its relative obscurity and recent uncovering, Caracol remains far less visited than its more famous neighbor and thus a more satisfying experience.

  • It isn’t that Caracol is less impressive than Tikal. Far from it. A spontaneous “Wow!” issued from our mouths as we came into the clearing and there before us stood a gleaming, massive pyramid.

Amazingly, Caracol had a population nearly equal to Belize’s today (roughly 200,000) and still contains the tallest human-made structure in the country, the massive sky palace, Caana.

While a great deal is known about the ancient cities since the Mayans possessed one of only five complete writing systems in the world (calendars, history, names of rulers and religious information are etched on stelae, altars and facades), there is still much of the attractions history that remains unknown, waiting for the patient hand of archaeologists.

We walked and climbed among the stone buildings, trying to imagine what life was like in this city of 36,000 structures (fewer than one percent are excavated).

What was it like to play a ball game in which the winner’s life is sacrificed, or to worship a jaguar god? With only about another dozen visitors at Caracol, it wasn’t hard to picture the original inhabitants going about their lives more than a millennium ago.

We lunched in the shade at picnic tables in Caracol.

There are no concessions at the attraction, nothing to buy. We were left with the palms, the hardwood trees, the ropy vines of the jungle, a small hill covering yet another structure (a house, an altar, a store?) and strong impressions of this vanished city-state.

On our way back to Five Sisters, we stopped at Rio On Pools, just off the main road and a short hike through the jungle. We changed into our bathing suits and let a waterfall cool our hot and somewhat weary bodies.

The Beach and Water Attractions of Belize

Most visitors come to Belize for the sea. So after a few days we headed south, down to the beach in the Stann Creek District,. But we weren’t quite finished with the jungle, for at Kanantik Reef and Jungle Resort (pronounced cannon teak), the Caribbean and the rain forest meet.

Before turning off the road to the resort, we passed Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, home to more than 200 jaguars. Kanantik has a bird-watching tower next to a pond. There we watched iguanas settle in trees for their night’s rest as a full moon appeared before sunset.

As the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere and the world’s second longest, the Belize coast is one of the world's most popular diving attractions.

It stretches from one end of the country to the other. It is a haven for scuba divers and we took pleasure in watching our fellow lodgers put on their gear and fall backward into the water off the edge of the Kanantik boat that took us 12 miles offshore to South Water Marine Reserve, a protected area of a five-mile radius.

  • We headed off a few miles away and snorkeled. Close to our fingertips shone the colors of coral and sea fans and fishes, a phantasmagoria as magical as advertised.

Kanantik Resort reflects the care of its designer, Roberto Fabbri, who owns and manages the lodge (which took six years to build) and captains the boat that shuttles guests to the reef.

Each of the 25 cabanas is spacious and inspired by the Mayan style, all wood and thatch. There is no glass or shutters in the cabana, only screens and roll-up bamboo curtains.

The furniture is handmade, from local Santa Maria wood, and the highly polished, beautiful floor in our spacious room was cut from Sapodilla hardwood. There is little decoration; any would have been too much, for it is the refined simplicity that gives Kanantik its aura.

The shower is partially outdoors. In all modesty we looked out on hibiscus flowers and sea while shampooing.

A small boardwalk winds from the large cabana, which is the restaurant and reception area, to each suite. This passes the pool, where some guests read while others doze. On our lounge chairs on the deck in front of our cabana, we were lulled by the Caribbean lapping the shore no more than 20 yards away as we took an afternoon snooze.

Kanantik is a dream resort — secluded, quiet (no phones, no TV), good food, soft sand, calm waters and safe swimming, a place that is clean, beautiful, attentively staffed and impeccably maintained. What more could a couple want in the way of attractions?

 

 

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Why Honeymoon in Belize? >
Ambergris Caye in Belize >
Dining >
Adventures >

 

At the north end of Belize we found out. Taking a plane from Kanantik’s private airstrip, we flew to Belize City, changed planes and, a few minutes later, landed on the island of Ambergris Caye (pronounced key).

With more resorts, inns, hotels, restaurants and shops than any other area of Belize, the spirit is different in Ambergris Caye. There were more people than we had seen in days and souvenir shops and other stores you’d expect to find in a seaside resort.

Yet Ambergris Caye is still small and off the beaten track. Once you leave San Pedro, the island's only town, which has no paved road and where most people walk or ride golf carts, there is nothing more than a path that leads from one end of the atoll to the other.

Generally people travel from one part of Ambergris Caye to another by water. We boarded Mata Chica’s launch at Fido’s dock and zipped along the eastern side of the island, passing many condos and resorts (nothing was more than two stories high). Twenty minutes later we arrived at Mata Chica.

Mata Chica Beach Resort in Belize

This secluded San Pedro resort is aptly named, as the property is filled with “little palms” that separate each of its 14 casitas. Each villa at Mata Chica is built above the sand and is named after the color it is painted — banana, kiwi, mango, etc.

And each has its own personality and is decorated in an idiosyncratic style with a unique mural behind the bed, one-of-a-kind knick knacks on sideboards and coffee tables and a throw rug.

Every porch has a hammock and all the double front doors open towards the water.

Some come to Ambergris Caye for relaxation and romance, such as Brian and Susan Flaherty from San Francisco. The two had wed six days earlier at Mopan River Resort in the jungle to the north in a ceremony attended by ten family members and friends.

The couple went on to Mata Chica for the second week. “I like the feel here,” said Brian, “the relaxed and easygoing staff and the fact that there are no bugs or sand fleas.”

Monika McLaughlin from Toronto, there with her new husband, David, said, “I love waking up and watching the sun come up over the water. I enjoy watching the resort come to life as the boat docks and the staff arrives to set up for breakfast.”

Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize

To experience the adventure and romance of exploring the barrier reef, you can easily kayak out or dive off the end of the pier and find yourself amidst of a school of fish. Or take a ten-minute boat ride from town (we went with Ambergris Dives) and go to Hol Chan Marine Reserve. (Bring $10 U.S. for the park entrance fee. A ranger pulls visitors aside when they anchor and will not permit them into the water without paying first.)

Our first stop was Hol Chan Channel, where the coral formations are large and the numbers of fish impressive. Once again we snorkeled and, for the first time, saw a sea turtle.

The swim at Shark Ray Alley, also in the reserve, was thrilling. A spotted eagle ray glided just beneath us. And we can say that we swam with sharks!

Yes, really. They are only nurse sharks and are vegetarians. They appeared to be about three feet long and those were definitely sharks’ fins we saw.

Swimming with the big guys were honeymooners Dara and Peter Fishman from New York. These two experienced divers ventured to the Blue Hole, a remnant of the Ice Age that was once the opening to a dry cave system. When the ice melted and the sea level rose, the caves were flooded, creating this almost perfectly circular area more than 1,000 feet across and 400 feet deep.

Dara and Peter dove down to 130 feet. “It was eerie,” said Dara, who said she saw silhouettes of huge grey reef sharks and particles in the water that seemed to glow. “You don’t see a lot of color in a place like that; the dive is for seeing the structure of the cave. But I’m glad I did it.”

More of this Article

Why Honeymoon in Belize? >
Belize Attractions >
Dining in Belize >
Adventures in Belize >

 

Our idea of a great vacation always includes food. And the best dining experience we had in Belize was on Cayo Espanto, an exclusive island off the western side of Ambergris Caye. There are five two-story beach houses, wonderfully comfortable places, where all the doors and windows face the blue sea. Every house has it own plunge pool.

When you reserve your villa, you are asked to fill out a questionnaire indicating food preferences.

Chef Patrick Houghton sits down with you once you arrive and from then on you order what you want, when you want and it is brought to your house, wonderfully delicious and beautifully presented.

Our lunch started as we stepped onto the launch. We were asked what we would like to drink, expecting the boatman to withdraw something from an onboard cooler. Instead, he took out a cell phone and made a call. When we arrived five minutes later, three people waited for us at the dock with beer and a fruit drink ready.

We began our meal proper with a vine-ripened-tomato gazpacho served in a double glass bowl with ice coddling the inner bowl. More gazpacho awaited in two thin ceramic pitchers. We drained them both.

One entree consisted of mixed greens with brandied raisins and toasted pine nuts in a honey balsamic vinaigrette topped with grilled scallops. The other entrée was char-grilled prawns on cucumber and tomato salad with fresh mango salsa.

  • Great food, great service, great view, and the two of us dining together to savor the joy: This joined our list of memorable meals.

You need never see anyone but your loved one while you are here. A meal can be left on a porch table for you. Later it will be removed and the house cleaned and tidied when you are otherwise occupied, perhaps on the trampoline that is some fifty yards out in the water.

The next evening in Belize we enjoyed another wonderful dinner, this time under the stars at Victoria House in San Pedro, where chef Amy Knox, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, regaled us with more extraordinary dishes.

Adventures in Dining in Belize

We don’t scuba; we don’t parasail. But we enjoy food adventures. And we found an unusual one not in a restaurant but in the jungle of Belize, where black growths clustered around trees are termite nests.

We took a twig, allowing the miniscule bug to crawl onto it and then grabbed it between our fingertips. No, it doesn’t taste like chicken: It crunches and has a lingering taste of wild carrots.

More of this Article

Why Honeymoon in Belize? >
Belize Attractions >
Ambergris Caye in Belize >
Adventures in Belize >

 

After swimming with sharks, what adventures remain in Belize? That question confronted us on the backs of the red T-shirts at Jaguar Paw Jungle Resort: "When was the last time you did something for the first time?" (No, we never did get to see the shy spotted cat.)

At this jungle resort, built to resemble a Mayan temple in the tangle of bush, we did see a howler monkey and two coatimundi. Coco, the monkey, was abandoned at the lodge as an infant.

Coco spends most of the time around the resort, but mainly on her own adventures in the jungle itself. On a six a.m. bird walk with the resident naturalist, we finally got to see our toucans - and parrots, orapendulas, and other tropical birds.

Our two new adventures were zip lining and cave tubing. We did the zip line in the morning, climbing up a trail to stand atop a wooden platform where we could then glide through and over the jungle canopy on cables attached to seven other platforms.

Our guides George Ramirez and Kristy Frampton re-assured us. They possessed the right balance of care and kidding that put us at ease as they harnessed us to the line. Remember, hold on in front with one hand and keep your gloved hand as far behind you as you can. This keeps you sailing straight, like a keel on a boat and that hand also serves as your brake. Pull down too soon and you may get stuck in the middle.

Pull down too late - well, one of them will be on the other platform to keep you from hurting yourself.

A jump off the platform, zip, a little wiggle to the side and a safe landing. Hitched again and like this seven times, each run was more fun than the last. We loved it.

But would we love the next Belize adventure - floating on an inner tube through unlit caves?

After flying across treetops, there was no question that we would try cave tubing.

We picked up our truck-sized inflated tube with Manuel Lucas, our guide provided by the lodge, and once again trekked over a jungle path until we reached an opening into the cave.

We waited until a small group ahead of us was out of earshot before wading into the water to start our adventures. (A tip: Go tubing Thursday through Monday; on other days, cruise ships ferry hundreds of passengers to the caves, making for a raucous time in the cavern.)

We drifted lazily and entered the mouth of the cave. There are stalactites and stalagmites still forming, since the Mayan Mountains are limestone karsts. Water seeps from the ground above and the slow steady drip creates the formations over eons.

As we lost the last of the outside light, we turned on miners' headlamps we had been issued. We looked at bat holes above, driftwood caught against the roof in a previous flood. At one point we turned off our lights, just to experience total darkness and silence.

The Mayans once used these caves for ritual purposes. With our lights on again, we stopped at a small beach and climbed up the rocks to the top of the cave. There we saw remains of ancient pottery.

Just as we had at the beginning of our trip, we tried to imagine what life was like for the original inhabitants, where spirits populated the underworld and there was no electricity. We continued our quiet journey, lost in another world.

Additional Belize Resources

Belize Tourism Board

Island Expeditions - adventure travel in Belize

Tropic Air

Maya Island Air

More of this Article

Why Honeymoon in Belize? >
Belize Attractions >
Ambergris Caye in Belize >
Dining in Belize >