Many people go to Belize and head straight for the islands and who could blame them? But just north of the international airport is the Classic Maya site named Altun Ha. Altun Ha is a small site, but has been wonderfully restored. The site provides sunseekers and divers an easy opportunity to mix in some culture, before heading off to the sea.
After a long and arduous day of driving hours over bumpy roads and climbing up and down the pyramids at Caracol, my wife and I were dying for some relief. We were about half way back to San Ignacio, Belize when we saw the famous Blancaneaux Lodge. I looked over to my wife and suggested we pull over and get a cocktail and relax for an hour, before subjecting ourselves to the relentless washboard road again.
Anyhow, one drink led to another and before we knew it, neither of us could drive or even wanted to get up. So, we ended up paying for a very expensive night at this posh, Coppola owned resort. Coupled with the night we already paid for at our original lodge and these cocktails really added up. We put the cost of our "travel emergency" out of our minds for the rest of the evening and enjoyed the luxurious confines to the fullest.
Black Rock Lodge is the ultimate Belizean jungle lodge, located a few miles outside San Ignacio and down a dirt road that leads you into a high-walled, karstic river valley. All the cabinas are perched on the hillside with spectacular river views and wildlife viewing opportunities from the front porch. The main dining area offers more opportunities to spot birds and monkeys on the opposing hillside or watch intrepid guests go over the waterfall on an inner tube directly below. The lodge is a great place to base yourself for a range of activities and sights, such as Maya ruins, cave exploration, canoeing and rafting, hiking and bird watching.
I found this striking wall mural while walking around in San Ignacio, Belize. There are a lot of hand painted advertisements on empty walls acting as billboards. Safe sex is a big issue in Belize, as it is thoughout Central America, and this no nonsense mural really drives home the consequences of unprotected sex.
Do you ever wonder what the locals think about you as you walk around on vacation, trying your best to look inconspicuous and not wanting to stand out. Thinking perhaps that you blend in? I think this graffiti from San Ignacio, Belize about sums up the general opinion of us tourists by locals. I generally think that I am somehow special and not like the "others" toting their Lonely Planets around in plain sight, but, in reality, I'm just as big a sore thumb as anyone else.
One of the highlights of staying in Placencia, Belize is the easy access to several beautiful cayes on day trips. Laughing Bird Caye is less than an hour away and offers great snorkeling and relaxing on the soft white sand oasis.
After lunch on Laughing Bird Caye, we were treated to a visit by a curious Lemon Shark. The boat driver told us the shark was not dangerous and we all proceeded to continue snorkeling, despite the shark's presence. Later on, I watched a show back at home about the top ten most dangerous sharks in the world and the Lemon Shark was number ten.
The massive ruins of Caracol were once a major Maya metropolis in prehispanic Belize, during the Classic Period. The majority of the site is still yet to be reclaimed from the forest, but the structures that have been uncovered are truely impressive. The main structure is still the tallest building in all of Belize and places you "on top of the world". The jungle surrounding the site is teaming with wildlife and a pair of binoculars come in handy. The ruins are located south of San Ignacio along the rough Mountain Pine Ridge Road. There are several worthwhile stops on the way, such as Rio Frio Cave and Rio On Falls, but the best stop is a cool libation at the Blancaneaux Lodge Bar.
If you rent a car in Belize, make sure to cruise the Hummingbird Highway from Dangriga to Belmopan. Take your time and check out all the amazing locations, such as Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce Factory, St Herman's Cave, Five Blues N.P. and the Blue Hole. The Blue Hole is an oasis of cool blue water, which is refreshing after stopping and exploring all the sights in the blazing Belizean heat. The Blue hole is created by a horizontal opening in the limestone, similar to a verticle cenote. The Blue Hole is well posted on the highway and worth a stop, so bring your swimwear with you.