Belize holds a special place in my heart. It is the first country I visited for an international trip and the place that made me fall in love with Central America. My Belize Itinerary was absolutely perfect, I felt. Lots of adventure, culture, with some time to relax as well. While it is the smallest country in Central America, you won’t have a hard time finding things to do.
I visited Belize with my dear friend Anna in Winter of 2017. We spent the week spanning the end of November and early December there and I would absolutely recommend you visit during this time as well. If you follow this Belize itinerary, you should find a relatively low amount of tourists and beautiful weather.
Here is our 1 week Belizean itinerary for late November, early December…
Day 1: Fly in to Belize City and take a shuttle to San Ignacio
Rather than using the public transport, we opted for Belize Shuttles & Transfers I would highly recommend it for your trip. I heard mixed reviews about the buses in Belize. Sometimes they’re good and reliable, other times they break down or you’re waiting hours for a bus that isn’t full.
If you have a very tight budget, just make sure your long bus rides are on weekdays and no holidays and you should be fine.
For accommodations inland, I’m convinced there’s nothing better than Lower Dover just outside of San Ignacio. To this day that it’s one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in and my friends agreed.
Read my full review of Lower Dover here.
We arrived in the early afternoon, got settled and met our roommate. Amazingly the 3 of us had the hostel to ourselves since there were no other guests! We became great friends and spent the afternoon exploring the jungle trail, swimming hole and lounging in the many hammocks on the property getting our rest before the next day’s adventure.
Day 2: Explore the caverns of the ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) Cave
Even if you’re not in to caving, history or ancient civilizations, the ATM cave is something that should be on everyone’s Belize itinerary, no matter how short or long your stay. ‘Incredible’ is the only word I could use to describe this experience and I feels that falls drastically short.
We arranged all our tours inland via email with the hostel owner; Maddie. I would suggest the same for you. Most tours have a set price and transparency of the internet but having her to arrange everything for you free of charge is very convenient. Just tell her what you want to do and she’ll get it booked for you!
For the ATM Cave, you’ll be picked up from where you’re staying at about 6:00 AM. If traveling in shoulder season like we did, you can expect a pretty small group. Ours consisted of only 6 people including myself!
We all had a grand time chatting on the ride and it was so nice having a small tour for the group since we saw lots of other groups come in after us with 15+ people. Yikes.
Our tour also included lunch so after short hike back the parking lot, we showered off (there are shower stalls and bathrooms) and had a traditional Belize lunch with Starfruit juice.
Have your tour guides drop you off in San Ignacio and explore the town a little bit. Grab a bite to eat and enjoy some drinks. (The bar we went to had $1.25 cocktails! No, I didn’t misplace that decimal.) While in San Ignacio, you’ll probably run in to people you’ve met other places like we did. We found this to be true everywhere we went which made making friends a breeze!
Once you’ve finished making new friends with fellow tourists and locals alike, filled your belly with delicious food and rum punch, take a taxi back home. Always make sure to verify the price beforehand. The taxi to Lower Dover from San Ignacio was $20 BZD or $10 USD.
Get lots of rest because tomorrow is another action-packed day!
Day 3: Journey to a mystical land that makes you feel “In a galaxy far far away…”
For your second day, wake up bright and early for your guide to pick you up for the tour of Tikal, Guatemala. (As many know, Tikal was used as a filming location for the planet of Yavin 4 in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope).
The ride to the park is about 2.5 hours and our guide made every minute enjoyable. He explained what everything was as we drove by, told us of the history and culture of both Guatemala and Belize and laughed as we saw the mansions near the Guatemala border. Apparently one of the mansions belongs to some toilet paper company CEO!
Once again, Maddie pulled through booking this tour for us. And lucky us, we were the ONLY people on it!
Getting across the border to Guatemala is pretty easy and shouldn’t take too long, especially when visiting in shoulder season. Our guide showed us where to go, we answered the usual questions and once across the border, got in a Guatemala registered van, and off we went!
The tour took most of the day so we arrived back in San Ignacio around 3:30/4:00 pm. I was dropped off in the city to meet up with someone I’d met on the ATM Tour for some drinks, and spent the night chatting with locals at a karaoke bar.
Day 4: Free Day
Definitely make sure to cushion in an open day for your Belize Itinerary. Even for travelers that love adventure, you’ll want to immerse yourself in Belizean culture and slowwwww down. The locals are very easy-going so take the day to act like a local and just take in any experiences that come your way!
Take the day to sleep in, explore the dig sites around Lower Dover, swim with the dogs and venture in to San Ignacio. The town is small enough that you don’t need more than a day but there’s enough to keep you occupied.
Our first stop in town was a chocolate tour at AJAW Chocolate & Crafts. The tour was about $15, which is pricey in my opinion but since we saved much more than we thought on food and drinks, we were willing to pay it.
You’ll learn about the process of making chocolate from growing it, to harvest, and then the big mystery; how does it go from tasting like sour crap (raw cocao bean) to the delicious milky goodness we know and love. You’ll get to make some hot chocolate yourself in the same way the Mayans did.
Even in the hot sun, it’s fun to pretend to be a Mayan queen while sipping your freshly made hot chocolate… Though the real Mayan queens certainly weren’t making their chocolate themselves!
After the chocolate tour, head over to the Iguana sanctuary at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel.
A long and painfully steep uphill walk will lead you to an unassuming hotel front. Once you step inside the doors, it transforms into a stunning oasis with a sight line straight back to the jungle canopy and pool.
The concierge was so kind and let us in to the sanctuary even though we were sweaty, gross and unknowingly, showed up 5 minutes before closing.
Spend your evening feeding and hanging out with the adorable Iguanas. They LOVE carrots and the person working there will provide them.
Day 5: Travel Day — Get your butt to the Caribbean paradise that is Caye Caulker
If I could plan it again, I would have built in a free day to enjoy the peacefulness of Caye Caulker. Don’t make the same mistake I did and make sure to include at least 1 day in your Belize itinerary–You won’t regret it.
Say goodbye to Maddie and the dogs and hop in your shuttle to Belize City. From Belize City, you’ll take a ferry to Caye Caulker. The ferry is $28 for the round trip and you can purchase ahead of time online or just buy at the booth there. I would recommend taking a picture of this timetable as well to keep handy.
If you need anything like groceries, medicine, booze, ANYTHING, get it in the city before you board the ferry because everything on the island is going to cost 4-10x as much as on the mainland.
We had been warned and I will warn you. The islands are expensive. Very much so. Belize itself is rather cheap (Did I mention those $1.25 cocktail??) but the islands are not.
The same cocktail you paid $1.25 for in San Ignacio will cost you $8-9 on the islands so make sure you have groceries and drinks of your choice before you get there so you aren’t having to get the defibrillator out as you experience the sticker shock.
You’ll want to make sure to save your money for the incredible experience that’s in store the next day.
Caye Caulker is a beautiful and VERY SMALL island that has a mostly young crowd and great full moon parties. So get settled, grab a drink, some nosh and take a leisurely stroll around the island to get familiarized. Since the island is so small, you can explore it all in about an hour.
Once you’re finished strolling, take a dip in the warm, sparkling waters of the Caribbean Sea and enjoy a drink on the waterfront while watching the sunset.
The hostel we stayed at was called Yuma’s House and it was great for us because Caye Caulker is a party island with a young crowd. While I certainly love to party, I require a zen, quiet place to return to once I’m partied out. Yuma’s has a strict noise policy and the owner takes no shit from anyone. If you want a quiet place on a budget, I’d recommend it. You can read my review here.
Day 6: Snorkeling in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve
It’s no secret that Belize is one of the best diving spots in the world. But having only recently conquered my fear of the ocean, that’s definitely not something I’m ready for so we took a snorkeling tour and IT’S ONE OF THE COOLEST THINGS I’VE EVER DONE!
The barrier reef off the coast of Belize is the second largest in the world and the largest living (since unfortunately, The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is dying).
The water is crystal clear and the animals and plants are thriving. It’s an incredible sight to behold. And yes, I know that is cheesy to say but if you see it some day—and I truly hope you will—you will 100% understand.
We chose Raggamuffin Tours for our snorkeling adventure for two reasons: Excellent reviews, and they are all about sustainability. On their tours you cannot touch or feed the animals which is something I am quite passionate about.
“We are passionate about our marine environment and protecting our reef so we stand very strong in ensuring that not only our staff but our customers are not interacting with the marine life in any way whatsoever. No touching of coral, sharks, rays and fishes is permitted on the tour. However, with the permission and advice of various marine bodies (Belize Shark Project, Maralliance, Hol Chan Marine Reserve etc etc) we do permit that the sharks and rays are fed sardine during our time at this stop. Although this does go against our belief that marine life should not be disturbed, we also are part of the fight to quell the great fear of sharks around the world. ”From the Raggamuffin Hol Chan Snorkel page
Snorkeling in Belize was one of the most beautiful, most memorable experiences of my life and I couldn’t recommend Ragamuffin Tours enough. The downside? It may spoil you in regards to future snorkeling adventures. Hol Chan is now the standard in my mind that I compare all snorkeling too now and nowhere has yet to live up to it.
If you choose to go on a snorkeling or diving tour in Belize, make sure to book with Ragamuffin Tours. They have a variety of tours (including a 3 day trip that looks absolutely amazing), friendly, extremely knowledgeable staff and meal of ceviche and all the rum punch you can drink is included.
Once the tour finishes, you’ll be dropped off on the other side of the ‘split.’ The split is where the island is literally split in 2 after being hit by a hurricane some years ago. The other side of the split is solely for the Ragamuffin company and has a bar on it with a beautiful dock with swings and massive water bouncy castles on the water!
A perfect way to end the perfect day.
After we had our fun on the bouncy castles, we headed back to the main island to grab a snack and relax by the far on the beach.
Day 7: Say goodbye to paradise
Now comes the hardest part of the Belize itinerary… Saying goodbye.
If possible, get a flight in the afternoon/evening so you can wake up and enjoy the sunrise and a delicious cup of iced coffee from Ice & Beans
With an afternoon flight, I would suggest taking the 8:00 AM ferry like we did.
Stop by the grocery store in Belize City and get snacks if you need before you go to the airport because there is almost no food there as it is a rather small airport.
Board your flight and say farewell for now… Try not to cry, like I did. (True story).
While having more time in Belize is absolutely recommended, you can still see and do a lot in this small country when short on time. With this Belize itinerary, you can see the highlights and experience both jungle and beach, adventure and relaxation. You’ll notice our itinerary started inland and worked our way out to the islands and I still think that was the better option, rather than working your way inland. Always end your vacation on a beach if possible.
I hope you enjoyed this itinerary and that you’ll be able to make it to Belize sooner rather than later. Whether for a quick romantic getaway, an adventurous solo trip or with a group of your friends, you can’t go wrong here.