My friend Megan and I heroically eat our way through the Crescent City, one bad adjective choice at a time.
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.
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.
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:
Check out these 10 street stands, fancy hotel bistros and bakeries to get your grub on across this tropical Belizean peninsula.
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:
A guide to the best beaching, bitters hopping and day tripping the peninsula has to offer.
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.
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.
You just might be hearing more about this tiny, picturesque island in Northeast Guatemala very soon.
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:
The first blast rattled the contents of my bedside table, jolting me from sleep.
I pushed aside the covers and sat straight up.
Then there was another — BOOM.
The sound reverberated throughout the valley that snuggled San Cristóbal de las Casas, a picturesque Mexican mountain town near the Guatemala border, echoing off the dark hills.
Fireworks? I looked at my phone. It was 4 a.m. No way.
The blasts kept coming, doing their best impression of bombs dropped from the sky. Were we under attack? (By… someone? I wasn’t aware we were in threat of war, here.)