Occupying a long stretch of coastline on the country’s northern tip, this unheralded gem of Belize is modest but beautiful, with a contagious pull.
Even if you’re making plans to travel to Belize, there is a good chance Corozal, a quiet, seaside town on the northern coast, isn’t on your radar.
It should be.
Besides boasting great food at affordable prices and a long stretch of coastline that — though bereft of any classic beaches — is laden with dozens of hidden coves, swimming nooks and elegant sea grape trees, Corozal is worth a trip simply to meet the people that walk its streets.
Because this little Belizean community just might be one of the friendliest, warmest places you’ll ever go.
Be aware that unlike many of the country’s other destinations that boast snorkeling/diving trips, sunset sails, water sports, tours and more, there isn’t much in the way of conventional “activities” in Corozal outside a pair of worthy Mayan ruin sites nearby.
But if you’re keen on the idea of taking quiet walks by the undeveloped shore, savoring an array of skillful, transition-rich cuisines and falling, seamlessly, into the charming community routine, well, perhaps you’ll be enchanted as I.
Tucked at the end of a peninsula on the Central coast of Belize, Placencia draws vacationers and retirees alike thanks to its tropical climate, prime beaches, laid-back vibe and English speakers.
The village won’t overload you with activities or bustle — part of its charm is that the Belizean adage “Go Slow” takes on a literal meaning here — but the longer you hang around, the more likely you’ll find there is more to this town than first strikes the eye, from the warmth of the intertwined local and expat communities to back streets that wind into the canals, revealing pockets of life not seen from the main stretch.
Like other tourist destinations in Central Belize, the prices are on the high end for Central America, a reality that should be evident at the first passing of shore-lining mansions and the celebrity-attracting Turtle Inn — a Francis Ford Coppola property that touts rooms for upwards of $500 USD a night. But just as there is luxury to be soaked up if you’re so inspired, there are deals to be found, too; and plenty to entertain for a week or more.
Chances are, if someone starts talking about Caye Caulker, “Shark-Ray Alley,” “KoKo King” beach and “The Split” are going to be among the first phrases out of their mouths. (Shoot, guess I just perpetuated that trend.)
Well, this isn’t that kind of guide — mostly because I didn’t DO the first two (I’m really bad at being a tourist), and the idea of needing a tour guide to tell you about the third is more ludicrous than a Belizean street without potholes.
Almost exactly three months ago, I sat on a bus bound for the Belize border after wandering through Guatemala for about four months (minus a couple stops in the States).
I felt this contraction in my chest, then.
I remember thinking, and writing, that I felt I would always be connected with Guatemala, that I would always harbor some special feeling toward the country.
It’s still true. I still practice with my Guatemala-based Spanish teacher twice a week. I still think and read about the political happenings in a place whose landscapes astounded me and whose traditions overwhelmed me.
But even now, it feels far away. Because as this month draws to a close, it’s leaving Belize (to move on to Honduras) that my heart is breaking over.
When I first announced my plans to head to Belize after several months in Guatemala, one of the first questions I got was whether I’d be able to have any “real” experiences in a county that elicits images of swaying palm trees, immaculate beaches and touristic experiences.
But although Belize — conveniently the only country in Central America whose official language is English — has a long coastline, one of the world’s best barrier reefs and vast supplies of clear, cerulean waters, it’s identity stretches far beyond the dispatches most often received.
My first glimpse of that reality came in San Ignacio — a little river town on the Western border that will live on as one of my favorite locales in my Central American travels thus far. Here, you’re only about 70 miles from the coast as the crow flies, but you’ll feel much farther away, surrounded by dirt roads, Mayan ruins — even within city limits — and a variety of cultural experiences. Walk down the main street and it will be immediately obvious that you’ve left Guatemala, even though you’re just over the border. Expect to smell curry, spice; you stop seeing much corn; that carbohydrate sustenance replaced plentifully by rice and beans. In addition to the expected Mayan and Hispanic influences, you’ll find a big population of Chinese, Asian Indians, Mennonite Germans and of course many of Creole backgrounds that lend great flavor and distinction to the food. You can hardly soak it up in a week, but I tried.