Decide what you want to do and then search tour companies or ask your hotel for recommendations. Because it was off-season, booking tours on our own was difficult because companies couldn’t get enough guests for a trip. Our hotel called around and arranged the tours more easily and for the same price! Our original plan featured laying on the beach like bums but we did want a little bit of an adventure. Having cave tubed a decade ago while on a cruise ship stop, I wanted to go again. The opportunity to zip line in the jungle piqued Allan’s adventurous spirit.
Many tours are on the mainland, involving either a boat or plane ride from San Pedro. Tour company boats pick up from your hotel’s dock (or a nearby dock if your hotel doesn’t have one – we went shortly after a hurricane that destroyed docks and other beachfront facilities so some places were still re-building). A boat ride to the mainland lasts about an hour and you’ll transfer to the bus going to your eventual destination. In other words, going between points for mainland tours is time-consuming and you should consider whether to spend a day or two in Belize City in order to avoid the travel time for these activities.
Cave Tubing and Zip-Lining
Our first tour combined cave tubing and zip-lining. Bring lots and lots of bug spray! I cannot imagine how insanely crowded these attractions become during high season. Our tour guide recommended waiting to go last on the zip line so we wouldn’t be rushed through the course by those behind us. This great advice will be used in the future for other things as well. I’ll admit that zip lining through the jungle was fun, even if heights scare me!
We spent the second half of our day cave tubing – a unique experience. Your guide takes you through underground caves while floating on inflated tubes tied together – lazy river style. With a cool headlamp on your head, you’ll see all kinds of stalagmites and stalactites and bats, lots and lots of bats! Younger children may be spooked by the darkness, so consider that in deciding to cave tube.
During the 45 minutes to an hour van ride to and from the dock, James, our guide from Searious Adventures, regaled us with information about Belizean culture and language. Time flew by! Out of the six guests in our van, five of us hailed from North Carolina!
We enjoyed James so much that the following day we took a sailing trip on a catamaran with the same tour company. Another pair of Canadian guests from our hotel joined us, so only four passengers enjoyed this magnificent boat that usually carries 20 or so! We picked a trip featuring Hol Chan Reserve (a natural park off the barrier reef), Shark Alley, and Caye Caulker.
Hol Chan Reserve
Having snorkeled in some amazing locations in Venezuela and the Caribbean, I could not imagine how this could be any better. Boy, was I wrong! I attribute the amazing experience to James. One of the ladies on our boat did not want to snorkel because she couldn’t swim well. James created an amazing experience for her. Tying a rope from her life vest to his waist, he reassured her that she could enjoy this safely. As he swam around, he would point out things and have us come up so that he could explain what we just saw. James saved the day! I had told him during our ride that I was terrified of sharks. While we were snorkeling, James held a nurse shark and encouraged me to touch it. Wild!
We stopped at Shark Alley. Boats anchor and the tour operators chum the waters. Fishermen used to clean their fish here and sharks grew accustomed to coming to this spot. The chumming of the waters off the boat means jumping into the water with a bunch of sharks. Terrifying even if these are nurse sharks! I can honestly say that this turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.
The laid back Caye Caulker is a reputed hippie haven. After a quick lobster lunch, we visited the Split and enjoyed a drink at the Lazy Lizard. The Split appeared during a hurricane many years ago when a channel formed that split the island. Kayakers and swimmers enjoy the channel. The entire island hangs out here! We met two young couples traveling the world. Oh to be young and free! We didn’t spend anywhere near enough time on Caye Caulker (an excuse for a future trip?). Fueled by Belikin beer and rum punch (the open bar offered lots of other options), the catamaran ride back passed too quickly.
Check out Searious Adventures!
On Ambergris Caye
With a name like that, how could you go wrong? Well . . . Without much space to lay out, you’re encouraged to go in the water but the rocky bottom makes it treacherous. A construction crew worked on building a bar or restaurant to hang out. After a very long ride (I want to say close to an hour each way from our hotel), on a pothole filled road, this beach did not meet my expectations and I would not recommend it. This may change in the future as development increases on this side of the island.
Hermit Crab Racing:
We spent way too much time at the Crazy Canucks Bar! But what are you going to do when you’re originally a Canuck? Place a bet on one of the numbered hermit crabs (which you get to name for the race). When they’re let go, hope that your crab escapes the maze first! We didn’t win any of our races – our crab must have been a dud!
I’m actually embarrassed to admit what this is – imagine a big bingo board on which you place bets on which square the chicken will poop! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve hit pretty low on the scale of acceptable entertainment! While waiting between rounds, we saw Coconut Joe, a local celebrity who climbs up coconut trees while the crowds cheer. Funny story about the lady holding the chicken in this photo – her boyfriend (in the orange t-shirt), got down on this knees and proposed to her on the Chicken Drop board!
Remember that the opportunities for diving or more adventuresome travel are plentiful, we just focused on lounging on the beach.
Read more about Belize here:
- Best restaurants in San Pedro
- One week itinerary in Belize: adventure and relaxation
- The truth about the ATM cave
- The 10 best things to do in Belize
- Caye Caulker activity guide
Annick, The Common Traveler