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John and Mandi

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Breaking Belize Down, A Budget Friendly Option

Oct 15, 2016
by John
in: Belize

Many overlanders skip Belize because it is said to be expensive, it is also not actually part of the Pan-American highway. We are not Pan-Am purists, especially considering that we drove around Belize on two separate occasions during our current trip. Each of our tours ended with a rather high cost per day, it doesn't have to be that way.

Looking back enables us to recommend a much more budget friendly route, full of some of the best parts of Belize. Now, our proposed itinerary would be hard to complete on one tank of fuel, unless you can easily travel 600 miles without needing to fill up. Fuel prices are high in Belize, we believe the experiences will far outweigh any pain at the pump.

In our opinion, Belize is a beautiful country full of the happiest people we have ever encountered. While we endeavored to explore almost every inch, there are still many places and hidden jewels we will one day hopefully get to enjoy. Our advice and itinerary are just a starting point. It could be easily extended to two full months, or altered to include a couple more things on any given day. At the least, we hope it encourages many future travelers to visit a country we hold very dear, one we will never hesitate to visit.

The Mostly Full Monty

Total Budget: $1200 or $60 per day for 20 days

The total of everything mentioned below and an additional $27 for a BTL SIM is $760, leaving $440 for food, fuel and other incidentals. All prices are for two people which is restated a few times to hopefully avoid any confusion. Please note, the $160 allocated for food to stay in Hopkins/Placencia is already in the $760. As in all things, YMMV.

Day 1: Cross the border from Mexico fairly early ($20), don't forget to buy your vehicle insurance ($30), grab any supplies needed in Corozal and head for one of the free places listed in iOverlander near the Belize Zoo. Open one of your bottles of wine in celebration, it'll be your last for a while as wine prices in Belize are outrageous.

Day 2: Visit the Zoo when it opens, $30. It'll be much cooler and most of the animals should be moving around. We managed to see almost every animal and wandered slowly, covering the entire place almost twice in two hours. Our first Fry Jacks were purchased there, yum. Next, head over to Nohoch Che'en for some late morning/early afternoon cave tubing, $10 entrance fee and approximately $80 for the tubing. After drying off, follow the Hummingbird Highway to the St. Herman's Blue Hole parking lot for the night, $5.

Belize Zoo, Belize

Belize Zoo

Nohoch Che'en, Cayo, Belize

Nohoch Che'en

Nohoch Che'en, Cayo, Belize

Nohoch Che'en

Day 3: Swim in the Blue Hole and/or hike St. Herman's Cave and some of the other trails in the park, $8. Head southeast toward the coast, stopping at the Kropf's Bakery for cookies and The Country Barn for fresh ice cream on your way to either Hopkins or Placencia.

Days 4-6: Vitamin D therapy. We preferred the Mariposa Beach Suites in Placencia, which is free to camp at as long as you patron the restaurant at least once per day. The prices vary widely, breakfast and lunch the more reasonable, we thoroughly enjoyed lounging by the pool overlooking the ocean and catching up on the WiFi. Let's just say $160 would make for a very comfortable stay. Don't forget to supply up in town before leaving.

Mariposa Beach Suites, Placencia, Stann Creek, Belize

Mariposa Beach Suites

Mariposa Beach Suites, Placencia, Stann Creek, Belize

Mariposa Beach Suites

Day 7: Leave early to make the chocolate tour at Ixcacao, $80. You might need to email ahead to lock in a spot. A homemade Mayan lunch is included as well as plenty of chocolate tasting. Juan will have you make your own chocolate the old fashioned way, stone ground. He also lets overlanders camp on one of his properties in a lush jungle setting. They are a great family!

Ixcacao, Toledo, Belize

Ixcacao

Day 8: Head into the Maya Mountains to either Rio Blanco, $10 to visit and another $10 to camp in the parking lot, or Noh Sos which appeared to be free. We are not sure if you can camp at Noh Sos so our figures include the $20 for visiting and camping at Rio Blanco.

Rio Blanco, Toledo, Belize

Rio Blanco

Noh Sos, Toledo, Belize

Noh Sos

Day 9: Drive out to Mayflower Bocawina, $10 to visit and $5 to camp, and hike to Antelope Falls. It's a tough one with a swimming hole at the top. You may be able to get in another hike, we just day visited.

Antelope Falls, Mayflower Bocawina, Stann Creek, Belize

Antelope Falls

Days 10-12: Loop back towards the Belize and Guatemala border, stopping at Mana Kai campground in San Ignacio, $10 per night. Javier and his family are extremely welcoming and San Ignacio is a great town for supplies and good food. Make sure to book the ATM Cave tour with Javier as soon as you arrive. He has one of the best prices, $170 for two, it is like no other experience. Also be sure to try the Indian Tacos at Mickeys for breakfast if you get the chance, a steal at $1.50 each. The extra day can be used to explore Spanish Lookout or just to lounge in the hammocks catching up on WiFi, an early start allows both. Don't squander all your time though, you'll need 6 days of supplies for the Mountain Pine Ridge area.

Days 13-18: Take the bumpy drive into Mountain Pine Ridge, free, making the first stop the guard shack where the Caracol convoys leave from. You could join a convoy to visit the ruins, $15, it's a bumpy drive but our favorite set of ruins in all of Belize. After the ruins, check in with the military to let them know you'll be camping in the area, then on to Rio Frio Cave. The cave takes less than one hour to explore before making your way to Rio On Pools. We suggest spending every night at the pools, parked behind the pavilion, lazing and soaking the days away.

Caracol, Cayo, Belize

Caracol

Caracol, Cayo, Belize

Caracol

Rio Frio Cave, Cayo, Belize

Rio Frio Cave

Rio on Pools, Cayo, Belize

Rio on Pools

Rio on Pools, Cayo, Belize

Rio on Pools

Day 19: Drive to Big Rock Falls and have fun hiking down the rickety stairs to the river and falls. Camping is allowed in the parking area so you could leave Rio On Pools a day early to spend more time at Big Rock Falls. Once you've had your fill, head back to Mana Kai for the night.

Big Rock Falls, Cayo, Belize

Big Rock Falls

Day 20: Prepare for Guatemala! You'll need Belizean dollars to pay the exit fee, $40 (BZ80) for two people, and some cash to exchange into Quetzales. Be sure to thank Javier and visit Ko-ox Han-nah for pork tacos if you're wanting to skip having to make dinner. You could also make a trip to Spanish Lookout if you missed it the first time.

Day 21: Bye, bye Belize... hola Guatemala!

So where's Caye Caulker? We purposely didn't include it for a few reasons. The free camping on the beaches out towards Punta Allen, Mexico, is better in our opinion, as is Placencia, and we included the ATM Cave tour instead. With both Placencia and the ATM Cave tour being fairly pricey endeavors, Caye Caulker can be substituted for one or both. Also, Snorkeling with the Nurse Sharks is not cheap. The tubing at Nohoch Che'en or the chocolate tour at Ixcacao can be removed to cover it if desired. It's why we called it the Mostly Full Monty.

The Mini Monty

Total Budget: $798 or $42 per day for 19 days

Basically the itinerary above with the removal of the cave tubing at Nohoch Che'en, the chocolate tour and overnight stay at Ixcacao, and the ATM cave tour. That reduces the expected expenditures to $420 leaving $378 for food, fuel and other incidentals (adjusted to just under $20 per day). It still includes the $27 for a BTL SIM and the $160 allocated for Hopkins/Placencia. Finding a free spot in Hopkins and using only free wifi can further reduce the total cost to $611 or $32.16 per day, there is nothing wrong with that. The Belize Zoo, Hummingbird Highway, St. Herman's Blue Hole, Rio Blanco, Noh Sos, Mayflower Bocawina, San Ignacio, Caracol, Rio Frio Cave, Rio On Pools and Big Rock Falls make for a great time and experience.

Really, why skip Belize when you can experience beaches, rivers, caves, swimming holes, waterfalls, and one of the most impressive undervisited set of ruins...all for the starting price of just over $32 per day!


Say what? (2)
Oct 22, 2016 at 02:05 PM
Excellent recap. Thanks for all the good ideas.
Oct 22, 2016 at 04:08 PM
Anytime Rhonda! Since we are only about 100 yards from each other, we'd be more than happy to show you more photos if you are interested in any of the places we mentioned... maybe over breakfast or wine ; )
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