Belize is a country on the eastern coast of Central America, bordered by Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea. The former British colony is known for its diversity, where many people are multilingual, with common languages being English, Spanish, and Belizean Creole. Belize's diversity also extends to its natural geography, with a wide range of climates and habitats that support rich plant and animal life. Artist and designer, Ben Johnston, recently traveled to Belize and documented his experience for us! Maybe his trip will inspire your next one?
Bather: Why Belize?
Ben: It had been on my bucket list for a while as a couple friends had recommended checking it out. An opportunity came up and I found a last minute flight deal, so I jumped on it!
Bather: How did you get there? How long did it take?
Ben: It's quite a journey to get there as there aren't any direct flights from Canada to Belize City yet, so after delays and de-icing in Toronto I flew into Miami. From there I had a 5-hour layover and unfortunately got delayed further before flying into Belize airport just outside of the city.
As we were landing I noticed my connecting flight which was a small charter aircraft leaving, so that led to a few more complications as they can't fly after sunset. 15 hours in at this point and finding out there were no more flights going down south to Placencia for the day, I finally managed to organize a car to drive me 3 hours along the coastal road to get to Turtle Inn. It was a crazy experience as there aren't any street lights or barricades and you're driving along mountain cliffs on one side and a long drop down into the sea on the other.
Luckily I got there later that night after an 18-hour journey. It was long but so worth it to wake in a beach cabin steps away from the ocean.
Bather: Where did you stay?
Ben: We decided to break the trip up into 3 different locations so we'd get to see a little more of the Southern part of Belize. First up we stayed at the Turtle Inn in Placencia which was pretty incredible. They offered us a private island day trip to go snorkeling and barbeque fresh lobster caught a couple hundred feet from the island. The water out there is crystal clear, so you can basically see everything. The other couple days we were there basically consisted of paddle boarding and beach missions.
The next place we booked was in the jungle above Pine Ridge Canyon, about 13000 feet above sea level. You can only get there by car, so we set off on the 4-hour drive only to realize that there were Mayan temples on the way there. So, we stopped off and the driver gave us a full tour and the historic breakdown of the last couple thousand years. It was such a mind-blowing place and once we'd climbed to the top you could get some amazing views and also see the border of Guatemala.
Once we got to Blancaneuax, we were taken down to our cabin which overlooked a small waterfall which ran through the camp, which we were later told by the staff was actually used to power the whole place. The river seems to flow hard enough to generate enough power to look after their 100-acre property, from lights to irrigation to farming all of their own produce. This particular 'resort' was completely isolated, so apart from some snacks and rum we took with us, you need to have your meals in their restaurant, which we didn't mind as they had an amazing selection of local dishes. Still, hands-down some of the best wood-fired pizza I've ever had.
This place also offers a few activities so we went along for a kayak into one of the human sacrifice caves, which was insane! Once you go around the first corner of the cave and keep going, it's pitch black and once you shine your flashlight up, you notice the skulls buried in the rocks and mud above you. Crazy experience and definitely worth checking out. The next couple days were pretty much made up of hiking and finding hidden waterfalls and rock pools to swim in. Being so high up, it got pretty cold at night, so your best bet is to get up around sunrise and start off your day while it's warm out.
After a few days there it was time to head back down to the coast and check into an Airbnb by the beach for the last 4 days. This last area was really low-key and we just got a bunch of groceries and fresh seafood from the local market to do some home-style cooking which was nice. There were some bikes and kayaks at the place, so we spent our last few days exploring the area on those — from small little villages to kayaking out to abandoned islands where you could chill for the day and have a couple drinks. The Southern part of Belize is a lot more chilled and 'untouched' than the North, so I'd definitely recommend going that way if you want to relax and if you're looking for a party vacation, then the North is more for you.
Bather: Any attractions, restaurants, or areas that really stood out for you?
Ben: There's such a variety of local shops, restaurants, and take away street food that your best bet is to just explore and find something on the road. Everything is fresh daily as the fishing boats come in the morning, so you're pretty much guaranteed to get amazing food for next to nothing. A good way to save on drinking is to grab rum or other local liquors from the store and just make your own cocktails for the beach. Things are relaxed in the south, so you're not going to have anyone questioning what you're up to.
Bather: If you had to choose, what were the top three attractions/activities?
Ben: Definitely worth checking out the Mayan temples and caves. I'd also say try get some kayaks and make a day mission with food and find a remote, untouched island to spend a day in your birthday suit. Lastly, I'd say to check out the local towns and villages and experience all the local food and drinks. They have a different way of life there, and it's a great way to learn a little more about the culture.
Bather: Tell us about your favourite thing that you did.
Ben: Hiking and swimming in the waterfalls in the jungle have to be right up there. It's so remote and peaceful with mindblowing landscapes and sunsets.
Bather: Any tips for anyone who is thinking of choosing Belize as their next travel destination?
Ben: Head to Placencia for the amazing beaches and relaxing vibe and definitely try and make it to the jungle for a few nights if you can. It's a totally different experience, but something you won't regret. Bring a dry bag, GoPro, and snorkel gear.
Bather: How would you describe your trip in 5 words?
Ben: Relaxing, Adventurous, Untouched, Mystical, Awe-inspiring
Want to see more from Ben?
Follow him on Instagram at @benjohnstondesign
Check out his website www.benjohnston.ca