What to do in Corozal, Belize

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.

Why?

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. 

Best places to drink in Placencia, Belize

From wine bars and bitters stands to beach bashes and renowned restaurants, your guide for where to find the best sips on this tropical peninsula.

Related content: • What to do  • Where to eat

Placencia, a laid-back village on Belize’s Central Coast, is far from a party town, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t places to indulge between stints on the beach.

Start with these seven imbibing establishments:

Where to eat in Placencia, Belize

Check out these 10 street stands, fancy hotel bistros and bakeries to get your grub on across this tropical Belizean peninsula.

Related content: • What to doWhere to drink • 

For a small village with essentially one main road and a boardwalk, the food scene in Placencia, Belize is nothing to sniff at.

From cheap roadside bites to lauded eateries, there is plenty to peruse, starting with these ten highlights:

What to do in Placencia, Belize

A guide to the best beaching, bitters hopping and day tripping the peninsula has to offer.

Related content: • Where to eatWhere to drink

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.

GUIDE: Caye Caulker, Belize

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.

CITY GUIDE: San Ignacio, Belize

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.

CITY GUIDE: 8 places to go in Guatemala City

At the moment, Guatemala City isn’t oft spoken of as a tourist destination — almost entirely due to its reputation of widespread, violent crime.

But as it boasts the country’s largest airport and is positioned as the hub of travel from the U.S., you just might find yourself there anyway, if you’re looking to explore the other bounty Guatemala has to offer.

If that’s the case, don’t panic: there are areas within the city that can be accessed without great risk if you exercise basic precautions and don’t wander off the beaten path. And what you find there — cobblestone streets, vine-draped facades and hip bars in the super trendy Zona 4 and vibrant markets and parks in the culture-filled Zona 1 core — just might inspire you to stay a day or two longer. It did, me.

CITY GUIDE: Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua: if you’re not well-versed in Central America, perhaps the name instantly takes you to the Caribbean rather than the Guatemalan highlands town where here crumbling ruins, 360-degree mountain views and new-wave coffee shops meet.

But while Antigua Guatemala — meaning “old Guatemala” — might not be on many bucket lists, the beautifully preserved Spanish Baroque architecture, labyrinth of stunning courtyards and wine bars and bounty of hilltop treasures have a way of making one wonder why it isn’t.

The area, in great part, is famous for its access to the surrounding volcanoes, and overnight hikes are available for reasonable fees. Choose to stay in the city, however, and travelers will be treated to vibrant markets, a diverse food and drinking scene and compelling art in a town adorned by its picturesque signature arch, elaborate churches and knobby cobblestone streets. 

What to see, eat and do when you go:

Falling in love with Lago de Atitlán in Panajachel

A handful of tins held still-fresh flowers against the little makeshift houses. Some of the colorful, stacked mausoleums boasted new, glossy coats of paint. But now, as the sun dipped lower, the graveyard was empty except for swallows passing overhead, called by the approaching evening to the watery grasses beyond.

I walked past the dusty memorials, an above-ground maze set against the backdrop of the Sierra Madre mountain range, and down the sloping path that bordered it. 

Then there she was: the tremendous Lake Atitlán, always there but ever in a different state — often peaceful, often vengeful and sometimes, at sunset, impassioned.

I was on the edges of Panajachel, one of the many towns lucky enough to perch along Lago de Atitlán, a translucent crater lake surrounded by hills and volcanos in Guatemala’s highlands. 

The shores of the town, now a center for tourist trade, offer rows of lakeside restaurants, built predominantly for white faces and heavier wallets, jutting out over the cerulean water. A short boat ride away, magnificent castle-like resorts built into the cliffs are stocked with every luxury.

But the real beauty of Pana, as its called locally, is that the best its star attraction is free to anyone craving it — the wealthy tourist, the poorer local, even the dead, who are graciously permitted to continue in the afterlife atop the dirt, in sight of perhaps one of the world’s most enchanting views.