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Rich in exotic wildlife, tropical forests, white-sand beaches and lost civilisations, Belize really is a diverse pocket of overlooked beauty. This is a trip that has something for everyone - food lovers, wildlife spotters, jungle hikers and beach junkies alike will all find something to love about Belize.
Explore Tour Leader
8 nights comfortable hotel
4 nights comfortable lodge
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Belize City, the capital of Belize until 1970 at which time it moved to Belmopan. Its a typical Caribbean town, parts of the town are still largely built of wood and galvanised iron, with many of the original colonial style houses in an elegant state of disrepair.
For those arranging their own flights our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6 pm for the welcome meeting. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Belize City at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Belize's Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (airport code BZE), which is 16km, around 20 minutes' drive from the hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If you have booked your flights through our office then you will spend the first night of the trip in Houston at an airport hotel. Our hotels have a frequent complimentary shuttle service from the airport that you will need to catch (further details about this will be given to you in the joining instructions section of your trip notes), and you'll have the evening free to explore. You will then fly on to Belize City tomorrow morning to meet the rest of our group and our local leader.
Golden Bay Hotel (or similar)
Heading along the northern highway, we pick up those joining from London at the international airport, before continuing to the atmospheric Maya ruins of Altun Ha. Those joining from London may wish to change into walking shoes and other comfortable clothing, as well as having sun cream and insect repellent accessible, before departing from the airport. The pyramids and temples in this compact site are a great introduction to Belize's diverse cultural history - within less than one hour we will have journeyed from the Caribbean vibe of Belize City to the land of the ancient Maya. Later in the afternoon we travel inland to the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, an important wetland habitat. Settling down for two nights we enjoy the hospitality of our local hosts on the shores of the Crooked Tree Lagoon. Established in 1984, this maze of waterways and lagoons supports a wonderful variety of wetland species, perfect for our first close-up encounter with Belize's famed wildlife.
Birds Eye View Lodge (or similar)
Rising early this morning, we explore the lagoon by boat (in times of low water we will explore on foot). In this birdwatchers paradise we may spot wood stork, numerous herons, vultures, kingfishers, raptors and shore bird, and perhaps most notable of all, the rare jabiru stork - the tallest flying bird in the America's standing at 5ft with a wingspan of up to 9ft. We return to the lodge for breakfast and then set off by vehicle to the New River for the boat ride upstream to the 2000 year old jungle ruins of Lamanai. Water birds are abundant in the ancient rainforest cover and crocodiles may be spotted lurking along the river bank. Lamanai, the original name of these Maya ruins, means Submerged Crocodile, which helps to explain the numerous carved crocodile representations at the site. The ruins are located some distance off the beaten track and are still not reconstructed or cleared. We approach on foot following well-marked trails. The surrounding rainforest with its thick canopy of huge trees, and humid atmosphere adds an aura of mystery to the scattered and overgrown relics. A cache of children's bones has been unearthed from beneath one of the stelae, suggesting that the Maya practiced human sacrifice here.
We have the option of another early bird-watching walk and sunrise along the Crooked Tree Lagoon before our departure after breakfast. En route to the seaside resort of Placencia we will visit the Community Baboon Sanctuary in search of howler monkeys. Here we have a chance to watch troops of black howler monkeys swinging from the trees in their natural habitat, before we begin our journey south along the scenic Hummingbird Highway, where orange and grapefruit groves are surrounded by a backdrop of lush jungle clad limestone hills - The Maya Mountains. Our day ends in the beach resort of Placencia, a town located at the end of a narrow peninsula between mangrove lagoons and the Maya Mountains and the Caribbean Sea.
Sea Spray Hotel (or similar)
Placencia is southern Belize's premier beach spot and a jumping off point for visiting numerous cayes that form part of the Belize barrier reef - the longest reef system in the western hemisphere. Today, we have the option of a full day visit to Laughing Bird caye. It lies 9 miles west of the Placencia Peninsula and is an area of specific biological interest within the world heritage site. The day trip gives us two guided snorkelling trips directly from the shores of this picture postcard uninhabited tropical island, as well as an included lunch. Alternatively, you might like to relax and enjoy local life at the beach in Placencia.
This morning we visit the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. This is the world's first and only jaguar reserve, in the heart of an important large tract of undisturbed tropical forest that is thought to have the densest population of jaguars in all the America's; that being said, we would have to be extremely fortunate to spot one. The reserve is home to five species of wild cats, wild pigs, dwarf brocket and white tailed deers as well as Belize's national mammal - the tapir. More than 300 species of birds can also be found on an extensive network of maintained trails. We plan to do a hike through the rainforest to a small waterfall, a walk of approximately 5 kilometres on relatively flat terrain. For the more energetic there is a strenuous uphill hike to the clearing of 'Ben's Bluff', which offers incredible views of the forest and Belize's most iconic mountain - Victoria Peak, standing at 1120 metres.
Leaving the park we drive on towards San Ignacio, and stop at the inland Blue Hole for a refreshing dip. This collapsed limestone cavern is similar to the cenotes found in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and is located in yet another large protected forest reserve - the Blue Hole National Park.
Cahal Pech Village Resort (or similar)
San Ignacio, a traditional Belizean town, is an ideal place to base ourselves for the next couple of days. Straddling the Macal River which was once a critical transportation artery for the Maya and later the European settlers it is now a centre for many adventurous activities. Today we make a visit to the great classical Maya site of Xunantunich, Mayan for 'Rock Stone Maiden', perhaps for phallic or fertility reasons. We go by bus and then cross the River Mopan by traditional hand-winched ferry to arrive at the site. Occupied until about AD 850, the main plaza is dominated by an awesome structure called El Castillo - a massive pyramid which rises to 40 metres. On the top is a partially restored stucco frieze representing the Sun God and astronomical signs of the Moon and Venus. The superb view from the summit looks out over the forest with the Maya mountains to the south and the lowlands of Guatemala to the west. After visiting Xunantunich, we journey to San Ignacio and the lively market, full of Belize's colourful cross section of diverse people and the local produce they bring to town from the surrounding hills on a Saturday.
The afternoon is at leisure. You wish to make an independent visit to the Cahal Pech Archeological Site, or canoe into the Mayan underworld at the stunning Barton Creek cave system, located near to the Orthodox German Mennonite Communities found in Belize's interior.
In the middle of our busy trip, we have a free day to spend as we please around San Ignacio, or relaxing around the gardens and pool of our hotel. Visit the Mayan ruins at Cahal Pech or canoe at Barton Creek, if you didn't do this yesterday. Alteratively, a popular option is to visit one of the region's most impressive botanical gardens. The extensive collection at the Belize Botanical Gardens is surrounded by rainforest and rich in wildlife. There is the option to paddle back from the gardens by canoe, going downstream on the Macal River through unspoilt jungle scenery, stopping for a swim en route before reaching San Ignacio.
Leaving Belize today we drive to Tikal, just over the border in Guatemala. Arriving at Tikal we spend the day exploring this great Mayan metropolis, which can justly be compared with Egyptian and Greek masterpieces. Initially settled about 600 BC, Tikal was abandoned by its rulers around AD 890 and totally deserted a hundred years later. The city covered an area of 16 square kilometres. Re-discovered in 1848, only a few of its great temples and pyramids have yet been excavated. Accessible by foot are a number of outlying and little known temples still covered by a tangle of undergrowth, and for those with a head for heights, the views from the temple tops out over the jungle and the hidden city below are mesmerising.
Tikal Jungle Lodge (or similar)
We have a free day to enjoy here, with several options to make the most of the beautiful location. It's possible to go into the site to watch the sunrise (weather permitting!) from atop Temple 4, the highest structure in the site, and listen to the sounds of the forest come to life as toucans, parrots, spider and howler monkeys begin to stir. From here, further explore the jungle-covered ruins unaccompanied. Alternatively, take a trip to the colonial island town of Flores - this laidback spot is beautifully located upon Guatemala's second largest lake, Peten Itza, and a day trip here will get you out onto the lake by boat. Alternatively you can enjoy the day relaxing, spotting birds and other wildlife from our hotel pool.
We cross back into Belize today, taking some time for the border formalities and then heading straight to Belize City and its bustling water taxi terminal for our trip to Caye Caulker Once a pirate lair, this tiny but enchanting tropical island lies 34km northeast of Belize City and about 1.6km inside the greatest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The water taxi transfer takes about an hour and the boat can be fairly busy with locals and tourists alike, all speeding through the turquoise waters to the islands. Depending on the weather the boat may be choppy. We'll arrive to the island and walk to our hotel, our bags being transported by the island's system of golf carts.
Caye Caulker remains uncrowded, and unluxurious, with relatively modest prices in restaurants and bars, owned and run by the friendliest of local people. The local fishermen produce lobster, conch, fish and crab to supply the domestic and foreign markets. Fresh seafood is readily available and lobster is the best buy when in season from Jun to Feb. There's time to relax this afternoon, or talk a wander to nearby coffee shops, restaurants or bars for a cold drink.
Costa Maya Beach Cabanas (or similar)
Today we can participate in one of many of the optional activities available on the island. The Belize cayes have some of the best snorkelling in Central America, and it's well worth a trip to Goff's Caye or Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley for a full day snorkelling trip. Scuba diving is also available.
The trip ends at our hotel on Caye Caulker. From here, we get a water taxi back to Belize City. The water taxi takes around one hour. The earliest water taxi is at 6am and operates throughout the day. An onward road transfer to Belize's Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (airport code BZE), will be provided. The earliest your flight can depart is 9.30am.
For those on later flights we will provide unaccompanied water taxi transfers later in the day with connecting onward road transfers to the airport. If departing today from Belize City, these transfers will be provided free of charge. If you have the time, a couple of additional nights spent on Caye Caulker is a relaxing addition to the holiday.
Sub-tropical with a brisk prevailing wind from the Caribbean. Summer highs are rarely above 35°C, winter lows rarely below 15°C. Annual rainfall ranges from 107cm in the north to 364cm in the south and humidity can be high at any time of year. The rainy season extends from June through October with a short dry period in August, but some rain can be expected throughout the year.
2 Pin Flat
In the high plains (1524m-1981m) the climate is temperate all year round. In lower areas the climate is semi-tropical. The mountains can be cool especially at night. In general, the dry season in Guatemala lasts from Nov - April. From May to October there are often fine mornings and clear evenings but afternoon rains tend to be heavy. The Peten lowlands tend to be rainy all year round though less so from February to April.
Catholic and Protestant
Placencia - Full day boat excursion to Laughing Bird Caye US$90-$110. Scuba diving available at approx US$75-125. San Ignacio - Caving/canoeing at Barton Creek, half day US$40; Guided botanical garden self guided tour plus 3hr canoe trip and lunch US$65 (full day); Botanical gardens without canoe trip US$40; Cahal Pech US$5 Tikal - 2nd visit to ruins US$21; Sunrise tour US$35; Visit the Island of Flores US$40 Caye Caulker - Snorkel / boat trip to Caye Caulker Marine Reserve US$50, Snorkel / Boat trip to Hol Chan Marine Reserve US$100, Scuba diving is approx US$120 for a single tank dive on barrier reef; Full day Manatee Search and Snorkel with BBQ lunch - US$140 (min 4 pers) Please note that credit card payment is available for certain optional excursions, but many must be paid for in cash (including those in Guatemala and the snorkelling on Caye Caulker).
Bring lightweight, informal clothing. A jumper or fleece is advisable for cool evenings and you'll need a good waterproof jacket all year round or an umbrella. Long sleeved shirts and long trousers give protection against thick forest growth and insects on jungle walks. A swimming costume and sun hat are essential, and a snorkel rash guard shirt is strongly advised for snorkeling options.
Lightweight trail boots are preferable for jungle paths, and you'll want to bring sandals. Bring shoes you don't mind getting wet for exploring caves and wet beach landings.
One main piece of luggage and a daysack. Remember, you are expected to carry your own baggage so don't overload yourself.
Insect repellent, a torch, water bottle, and suncream. Binoculars are essential for bird watching.
During this trip we use a range of comfortable and locally-run hotels and lodges, perfectly located for exploring Belize's wild habitats. While two of our chosen options in Placencia and at the Crooked Tree Lagoon are much more simply furnished, with smaller rooms than other hotels, we opt to stay in these properties because of their fantastic locations. The Bird's Eye Lodge, used on most departures at Crooked Tree Lagoon, is in the heart of the Crooked Tree wetland habitat. The Sea Spray Hotel in Placencia is the only property here that has a prime location right on the beach. Don't go to this hotel expecting high-end facilities, but make the most of the Caribbean setting on the doorstep.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Belize: Visas are not required for UK, New Zealand, Australian, US and Canadian citizens. Guatemala: Visas are not required for UK, New Zealand, Australian, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. USA: If your flights pass through the USA, even if only in transit, you will require either a visa or an ESTA (an e-visa). Please read on for more information. Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can apply for an ESTA under certain conditions. This applies if you enter the country by sea or by air, and this must be done online via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov, no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have a biometric passport to apply for an ESTA. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. You should also be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Cuba since the 12th of January 2021, you will not be eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and will need to apply for a US visa. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need. Your ESTA application will ask for Point of Contact information. Please note that if you're only transiting through the USA then this is not required. If you're visiting or staying in the USA on an Explore trip, then our USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. Entry requirements for the USA can change regularly, therefore, please ensure you have the most up to date information before you travel by checking the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, TB, infectious hepatitis and polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against typhoid, infectious hepatitis and polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.