20 Reasons I Love Belize

Enjoying sunset on EZ Boyz Tours' catamaran in Caye CaulkerSpending an afternoon in Punta Gorda with musician, cultural and national hero, Paul NaborDecked out in Belizean colors for CarnivalEnjoying a mud mask at Maruba Spa - probably the silliest I have ever looked!Fishing with Anglers Abroad and voted Best Fishing Guide in Belize, Ken Coc - in Caye CaulkerFooling around on an ancient Mennonite road grader in Barton CreekCanoeing through Barton Creek Cave with Pacz ToursReflecting from the top of Xunantunich in Cayo

In the spirit of Belize’s Independence and just three weeks left to go in my Road Warrior program, I thought I’d add my two cents on why I love Belize – as a traveler, visitor, writer and photographer.

1.  You can go from rainforest to beach in no time

I can hike the rainforests for half a day, then water taxi over to one of the Cayes or offshore islands by sunset. Gotta love it.

2.  The cultural wealth is astounding

I can’t remember the last time I visited a place as diverse as Belize. In Punta Gorda, I was stunned every day at the number of folks I ran into in a five-minute span. Mennonite, Garifuna, Mestizo, Kriol and Maya. As a writer it means lots of rich stories and experiences.

3.  There are no massive all-inclusives

Unlike some parts of the Caribbean, the views are not majorly obstructed by monstrous amounts of concrete (no offense to the AI’s of the world).

4.  It attracts the “active” type of traveler

Most of the visitors I’ve met here have a spirit and love of adventure. They want to know other cultures and come here out of a sheer desire to get off the beaten path, and have fun of course! >>>

5.  The fresh fruit juices are to die for

I’m now officially addicted to watermelon juice. It’s the best I’ve tasted – I don’t how the Mennonites do it, but if I ever get fresh fruit juice in Belize, it’s watermelon. The lime juice is pretty good, too.

6.  There’s a wide variety of foods

After living in Jamaica for months at a time, I can definitely appreciate being in a place that offers different kinds of foods. You can have anything from Belizean to Mexican, East Indian, Garifuna, Lebanese or delicious Ital (vegetarian) cooking. Even pizza here is delicious.

7.  People are friendly and photo-friendly

Belizeans are friendly. The most reserved I’ve found are the Garifuna. But anytime I approach and take time to converse, it’s welcomed and my requests for photos are honored. Belizeans are generally happy to help or share about their country and life.

8. You learn a lot about the environment

You can’t help but learn how to become more environmentally-conscious in Belize. So much history and so much natural wealth here, from the cultural temples to the rainforests, all of it well preserved. And everyone does their part, from tour guide to hotels and visitors. In two months I’ve learned a ton about the importance of mangroves, rainforests, coral reefs, medicinal plants and a whole lot more.

9. There are endless activities

If you’ve followed me along since July, you already know what I mean. Caving, canoeing, rappelling, drumming, hiking, snorkeling, diving, horseback riding, ziplining, fishing, kayaking, cooking lessons, luxury-camping at a Maya site – you name it…I’ve done it. And even in the next three weeks, I have lots more adventure to experience!

10.  The scenery is incredible, from greens to blues

There’s no better way to see this than from a Tropic Air flight across Belize, or from a simple car ride along the coastline or passing through the Hummingbird Highway. The colors are overpowering, from the dense rainforests to the offshore Cayes’ turquoise hues. A photographer’s dream.

11.  Getting around by bus or taxi is cheap and safe

A bus fare can cost up to BZE $10 (or US $5) to go from one district to another. Not only is it cheap, but it’s usually on time and safe, even if it’s a little hard on the behind! No one’s ever bothered me on the bus and everyone is courteous.

12.  The coffee is delicious

I’m not sure I could live anywhere that doesn’t produce good coffee. So for that, I’m so thankful. Oh and Belizean rum is pretty good, too!

13.  There’s always a fiesta or bash somewhere and the music is so rich

Belizeans love a good party. Whether it’s sitting by the water and playing their own music, or partying at a summertime fiesta with live music, food vendors and games. A live concert in Belize is a blast – because of how varied and rich their music is – from African-inspired Punta to Brukdown to Paranda, the list goes on. And everyone loves to dance here – none of that “standing and watching” business you see in other Caribbean or even some African countries.

14.  It’s all organic

Most of the food is organically grown – from chicken to rice to vegetables. The dairy is delicious too. Good to know, seeing as I have to eat out all the time while I’m here.

15.  There are tons of easy-to-access offshore islands

I wish I lived in a country with so many gorgeous offshore islands or “cayes.” Talk about a convenient weekend getaway! All easily reached by water taxi. I’d probably explore a different one every month if I lived here, even the uninhabited ones.

16.  It’s safe for solo female travelers, even at night

Belize is one of the safest countries I’ve visited so far. In some of the Caribbean countries, I’d never walk alone at night, even at dinner time. In Punta Gorda or on Caye Caulker, for instance, I’ve felt safe enough to walk to the restaurant at night and back (though not super late) – everyone’s out and about on foot or bicycles and the streets are well-lit.

17. Ladies, no cat calls here

That’s right, no obnoxious “hey baby” while I’m walking around and no following me down the street (okay, that only happened once). And if the men approach, they make up a business reason to hand out their card before quickly walking away. That’s as aggressive as it gets! Pretty surprising, given how much worse it is in other Caribbean countries. As a solo female traveler, I can definitely appreciate that.

18.  It’s a family-oriented culture

When Belizeans go out to relax and enjoy their time off, it’s always with family. There’s a very strong culture of the family unit here. I think I’ve hit a record on the number of couples and families I’ve spent time with in one country in one trip. :-)

19.  You see lots of unique wildlife

From jaguars to iguanas and birds, I’m always discovering some kind of wildlife I’ve never seen before.

20.  You’re minutes away from the world’s second largest Barrier Reef

I could snorkel off the Belize Barrier Reef every week. It’s the most beautiful underwater world I’ve ever seen so far.

 

And what’s really amazing, is that I could add 20 more reasons to this list!

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Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma has contributed writing and photography to CNN Travel, New York Magazine, AFAR, American Way, Travel Channel, BBC Travel, and others. She’s the currrent author of MOON BELIZE for Moon Travel Guides and is completing a second title, MOON BELIZE CAYES. Lily is also AFAR's Jamaica Expert, and author of the AFAR Jamaica Country Guide. A serial expat, she's lived and studied on three continents, including Africa–from her native Ethiopia to Côte d'Ivoire–and Europe, and is fluent in four languages. A former attorney who ditched the office for the road in 2009, she favors all things culture, adventure and storytelling, and escapes Washington DC’s winters every year.

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13 Comments

  1. Diana 18 September, 2011 at 7:53 PM #

    Wow-it’s almost over. The time has gone so quickly. I’ve learnt a lot from your blog posts and Belize is now on my South American list to visit.

  2. Marilyn Cutkelvin 18 September, 2011 at 10:06 PM #

    Lily, u hit the nail on the head everytime… This is beautifully said; well written, and all so true…. not to mention ur very lovely photo shots!!! One thing, however, trust u have secured ur Belizean flag by now! :-)

  3. MeG 18 September, 2011 at 10:29 PM #

    Diana, Belize is in Central America…but from here you can enjoy all Central then hit up South!! I can’t wait for you to experience our tiny, but beautiful country! :)

  4. Candice 19 September, 2011 at 9:00 AM #

    Ahhh, that water. What an amazing trip.

  5. Rodney C. Davis 19 September, 2011 at 1:39 PM #

    I’m homesick all over again… wanna go home! What lovely photos… and you can make hudut? Wow. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Lebawit Lily Girma 19 September, 2011 at 3:27 PM #

    Thank you all!!

    @Candice, yes got to love that water…:-) @Marilyn that’s my next post!! and thank you….

  7. MBlanc 20 September, 2011 at 2:36 AM #

    @ Lily, I’m a proud Belizean and therefore very pleased by your positive review of the country. :) Thank You! I know not everyone has good things to say, and to be fair, a few visitors have ran into unfortunate incidents on their trip. However, I feel that there has to be a certain willingness to experience the unfamiliar and to embrace the uniqueness of our distinct and diverse culture, not to mention the relative simplicity of our lifestyle. P.S. @ Diane, Belize is in Central America, not South America . . . :)

  8. Josue 23 September, 2011 at 10:08 AM #

    @MBlanc: Eloquently said! Indeed, one must be willing to plunge into the unknown in order to gain a taste of the flavor our melting pot of cultures has to offer. @Lily: Once again, great post – keep ‘em coming Road Warrior!

  9. Kendra 23 September, 2011 at 11:11 AM #

    This post put a big smile on my face! I love my country and feel blessed to live somewhere so beautiful and that has so much to offer and so I am happy when others love it too, so thanks! :-D

  10. Julie 25 September, 2011 at 6:19 PM #

    Loved this- you helped me see things about Belize I haven’t noticed (like #17– it’s true!).

  11. Lebawit Lily Girma 25 September, 2011 at 8:46 PM #

    Thanks, Julie! That’s funny on #17. I’ve since been told by locals that there are plenty of catcalls…but not in my experience!! The men have been very polite.

  12. Penny 2 March, 2012 at 3:08 AM #

    I love the information you take time to share. I saw you at pan yard and around Belize last September and I wondered who you were. Now I know that Belize has a strong advocate and friend in you. Thanks for the COMPLEXD about our wonderful first lady Kim Simplis Barrow. She is truely an inspiration to all women and peoples. I pray for her healing and continued strength. When I thinks of her I remember “Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1

  13. Lebawit Lily Girma 5 March, 2012 at 10:47 AM #

    Thanks very much, Penny! I appreciate your feedback. I was in Belize all of last summer working as a writer/photographer with the BTB and Matador Travel magazine. If you use the search function at the bottom of this page you’ll find lots more articles on Belize. :-) Thanks for stopping by!

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