Belize is a cultural melting pot, where descendants of ancient civilizations and unique ethnic groups peacefully coexist. Immerse yourself through a cultural tour of Belize by experiencing its diverse population—which includes Kriol, Garifuna, Maya, mestizo, Mennonite, East Indian, Chinese, and even Lebanese—to get the most of local culture. Listen to Kriol, dance to African drums, sample Mayan corn tortillas, tour a Garifuna temple, or attend one of many carnival festivals.
Arrive in Belize City and sample your first plate of stew chicken with rice and beans at Deep Sea Marlin’s Restaurant & Bar. Gaze over Haulover Creek as you listen to daily Creole chatter drowning out the reggae music. Take a leisurely afternoon stroll to the Government House and House of Culture to soak in the colonial history, then cross the street to admire St. John’s Anglican Cathedral. Catch a taxi to enjoy a quiet early evening alfresco at Bird’s Isle Restaurant for fresh seafood and Creole specialties.
Rise early and head to Dit’s to sample a Creole breakfast of fry jacks and eggs, then order some freshbaked strawberry jam tarts for your trip to Burrell Boom. Catch a bus to the Community Baboon Sanctuary in nearby Bermudian Landing, where you’ll hike, learn about Kriol culture, and explore local villages. Grab some fresh cashew wine from a roadside vendor (but save the drinking for later). To overnight in Burrell Boom, pitch a tent at the Community Baboon Sanctuary, arrange a homestay with a local family, or check into Black Orchid Resort, a riverside lodge where you can listen to the monkeys howling above the Belize River.
Travel south to Dangriga on the Southern Coast. Dangriga is the “culture capital of Belize,” where a mere walk in town is a cultural experience. Stop at Austin Rodriguez’s Drum Workshop at Y-Not Island, where you can watch him or his daughter carve a Garifuna drum from scratch. Stroll the Y-Not Island beach, then head to Wadani Recreation Centre (known as “Wadani Shed”) at sunset to throw back a Guinness and watch the locals play dominoes. Better yet, stay late to catch some live drumming if you’re there in November. Before the day ends, plan a trip to Sabal Farm, the only cassava-making farm in the country.
Start your morning at the Gulisi Garifuna Museum and take in some history on this Afro-Caribbean culture. Afterward, tour the Marie Sharp’s Store and Factory and learn why her hot sauce bottles are on every tabletop and in every restaurant in Belize. Don’t forget to sample her jams, too. Save the afternoon for your prearranged trip to nearby Sabal Farm.
Catch a bus south and hop off at the village of Maya Centre. Julio Saqui can give you a guided tour of the Maya Centre Maya Museum, where you’ll learn about Mayan culture through displays and live presentations. Walk or get a ride to Nu’uk Che’il Cottages and Hmen Herbal Center, run by Aurora Garcia Saqui, niece of the late illustrious Maya healer Elijio Panti. Tour the four-acre botanical garden and medicine trail, then overnight on-site or ask about a village homestay.
The next day, book a healing session or massage, attend a seminar on Mayan herbal medicine, or explore the nearby Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Hop on a bus north to sleepy Hopkins and take a well-deserved beach break. Hopkins’s beaches are some of the best in the country—pick a spot along the thick, golden stretch and gaze out at the calm sea. When hungry, find Laruni Hati Beyabu Diner and sample Marva’s plate of hudut, a signature Garifuna dish. Claim your hammock or simply sit on your porch at Coconut Row Guest House for a relaxing overnight stay.
Add a Few Days
Stay in Hopkins or immerse in the deep south? Grab breakfast at Tina’s Kitchen (her fry jacks are also some of the best I’ve had in Belize); ask about her weekly Garifuna specialties. Spend the day beachcombing or kayaking before your cooking class at Palmento Grove Lodge. At night, drink shots of bitters with the locals at Tina’s, or take in some live Garifuna drumming on Tuesday at Driftwood Beach Bar and Pizza Shack.
Hop over to neighboring South Water Caye on a snorkeling trip and marvel at the southern barrier reef’s splendor. End the night in Hopkins by wining and dining at the talented Chef Tony’s Barracuda Bar and Grill. You could also head directly to Punta Gorda and experience a Mayan village homestay, or get a full Mayan culture experience day in Indian Creek Village—complete with cooking and cacao making–through EcoTourism Belize.
Excerpted from the Twelfth Edition of Moon Belize.