1. What do you consider the five best places to stay on a budget?
It depends on what you consider “budget,” of course; Belize’s Toucan Trail is a network of accommodations for $65 a night or less, so you can begin your search there. My favorite backpacker spot is the Trek Stop in Cayo. For a few more bucks ($65 at last check) you can get an incredible value room at Cohune Palms in Bullet Tree Falls, also in Cayo. Down south in Toledo, Hickatee Cottages is a fantastic deal for about the same price. If you prefer to be near the beach, great budget deals are found in Hopkins and Caye Caulker.
2. Where would you stay if money was not an option?
I’d take up residence in my own 3,000-square-foot villa at Azul Resort on Ambergris Caye. There are only two units, and they normally go for more than $1,000 a night. When I got tired of the ocean, I’d go upcountry and take over Francis Ford Coppola’s personal villa at Blancaneaux Lodge.
3. What are your favorite five places for cheap eats?
Number one is the taco stands in the central park or market of any town in Belize, where I chow down on a big plate of tacos and garnaches for less than $2. After that, I would choose nearly any restaurant on Burns Ave., San Ignacio’s main drag, which are a bargain compared to the rest of the country and have lots of internationally fused options. My favorite Belizean “diner” is Pop’s, also in San Ignacio. Another cheap treasure is Gomier’s in Punta Gorda, where the vegetarian ital cuisine is homemade, healthy, and delicious.
4. What is your favorite “Belizean” food?
Definitely the Belizean breakfast: eggs, beans, sweet platano, and a stack of oily fry-jacks, topped off with a generous dose of Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce.
5. What are the three best activities to do as a family in Belize?
I only get three? Climbing Maya ruins, hiking through the jungle looking for wildlife, snorkeling on the reef. There’s also the Belize Zoo and cave tubing.
6. When packing your bags, never leave home without…
A little extra patience, a flexible itinerary, and refillable water bottle (so you don’t contribute to Belize’s garbage problem by using so much disposable plastic).
7. Where are your top three places to dive or snorkel?
Anywhere along the Belize Barrier Reef. Stick close to home—no reason to endure 3-4 hours round trip on a bumpy boat from San Pedro to get to distant dive sites when the reef is so close. To avoid the crowds, go to the Sapodilla Cayes or Glover’s Reef Atoll.
8. What is your favorite beach?
Expansive, beautiful white-sand beaches are virtually non-existent in Belize, where you’ll often find narrow strips of sand and water choked with sea grass and debris. Still, there are some very nice spots when conditions are right. I like Hopkins for its lack of hype, and Placencia for the best “in-town” beach.
9. Where are the three best sites to go to view Maya ruins?
Each archeological site has its own charm but I’ve always loved Xunantunich, mainly because I used to live in a village right across the river in San Jose de Succotz. Lamanai is excellent for its structures, flora/fauna, and the boat trip up the New River. Caracol is the biggest and most remote site, surrounded by an endless ocean of forest stretching all the way into Guatemala.
10. Anything else you would like to add?
There is nowhere in the world like Belize. I’ve visited dozens of countries around the planet, and I’ve never seen so much diversity packed into such a small population—all of this in an area smaller than Massachusetts.