“Why do you want to spend one week in Belize?” my friend asked. “There’s nothing there besides beaches.”
He knew I wasn’t a beach person. I can do a day or two on the beach, but any longer than that and I will get bored and start looking for other things to do. What he didn’t know, though, was that Central America’s second smallest country had lots more to offer than just beaches.
I quickly realised that a week in Belize was nowhere near enough. I had a fantastic time, and I easily would have found enough things to do to keep myself busy for another week or two.
Most backpackers rush through Belize because it’s the region’s most expensive country. But if you choose your activities carefully, you can easily travel Belize on a budget and have a good time.
I hope you choose to spend more than a week here, but in case you’re short on time or are looking for a first inspiration, here is an ultimate Belize itinerary that takes in the best of the country. You will experience a mixture of beaches, jungle, wildlife and ancient history – basically, a taste of everything Belize has to offer.
One Week in Belize – the Ultimate Belize Itinerary
Day 1 – 2 – Placencia
Placencia offers one of the country’s most beautiful beaches in combination with friendly people and a Caribbean atmosphere. Located on a peninsula, Placencia is also known as ‘the caye you can drive to’.
We arrived here from Guatemala. First, we took a boat from Lívingston to Punta Gorda, then a bus to Independence and from there, a water taxi to Placencia.
If you arrive from the north or by air, the easiest way is to take a bus from Belize City to Independence and then also to continue by water taxi.
You can also take a direct bus from Belize City. But since this bus only goes once a day, going via Independence is a far better option.
No matter how you arrive in Placencia, I suggest staying at least two nights. If you have more time than that, even better.
Things to do
As I said, Placencia has a beautiful beach. You can spend a whole day relaxing at the beach. Or you could go snorkelling, do a tour to one of the tiny islands located off the shore or cruise down the Monkey River to see wildlife.
When I was in Placencia, I woke up at six in the morning to a tropical thunderstorm. It didn’t stop raining until noon, so I didn’t spend much time at the beach. I went out in the afternoon to take pictures but didn’t linger to relax or go for a swim.
Instead, I spent the afternoon walking through the colourful village, which was just as awesome as the beach.
Placencia has a pedestrian walkway called ‘the sidewalk’. It runs parallel to the beach and is lined by wooden houses painted in bright colours, souvenir shops, beach bars and restaurants. I recommend you take your camera with you and spend some time walking from one end to the other.
If you decide to stay for more than two nights and want to see more of the area, go to the main road. Here, you can find several tour operators. If you’re in the right season, you could go looking for whale sharks. And as I already mentioned, Placencia is close to Monkey River. I didn’t do the day trip myself, but I heard of people seeing and hearing howler monkeys, an awe-inspiring experience.Did you know that the howler monkeys were used to record the dinosaur roar in Jurassic Park?
But you cannot just find monkeys. If you’re lucky, you might see crocodiles, iguanas or even manatees.
What to eat and where to stay
One of the best places to have dinner in Placencia is Rumfish y Vino, a restaurant that uses lots of local ingredients. It is, unfortunately, also quite pricey. If you want to splurge on a meal, we recommend that you come here.
Besides that, you need to buy some ice cream on the sidewalk and eat your frozen treat while walking along the beach. What more do you need?
We stayed at Lydia’s Guesthouse, where we had a private room with a shared bathroom. The rooms and the bathrooms were spotless, the price was reasonable, and we had everything in the kitchen that we needed. Plus, Lydia was very nice and gave us excellent advice on what to do, where to find supermarkets and how to travel onwards.
Day 3 – 5 – Caye Caulker
Everyone I met on my travels had been to Caye Caulker. It seemed to be the place to travel to, so of course, I went here, too, to see what it was all about.
Don’t come to Caye Caulker expecting beaches as beautiful as in Placencia. Instead, come here expecting a relaxed atmosphere, friendly locals and a great place to meet fellow travellers.
From Placencia, a bus leaves at quarter past six every morning. It is the only bus to go to Belize City. Your only alternative is to take a water taxi to Independence and a bus from there.
In Belize City, you will arrive at the Novelo bus terminal. From here, it’s a short walk to the water taxi. The ferries to Caye Caulker leave regularly, and you shouldn’t have to wait for longer than an hour or an hour and a half.
We stayed on Caye Caulker for three nights, which is a reasonable amount of time to explore the island.
Things to Do
The one thing you need to make sure when travelling to Caye Caulker is to come with the right expectations. As I said, the island does not have beautiful beaches, so if you think you’ll spend your days on a Caribbean beach, you will be disappointed.
In fact, if you want to relax at a beach, I would advise you to stay in Placencia for three nights and just do two nights on Caye Caulker.
But despite the lack of beaches (and shade, for that matter – bring plenty of sunscreen), you can do lots of fun things on Caye Caulker.Check out our detailed article about all the
First of all, the island is located inside Belize’s only UNESCO world heritage site – the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. That means you can do some fantastic snorkelling excursions from here. Just look for day trips to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
Plus, if you know how to dive and have an advanced divers license, you could go on a trip to the famous Blue Hole.
I haven’t done any snorkelling myself since my friend doesn’t snorkel and we wanted to find activities we could enjoy together. But I have talked to a lot of people who went snorkelling, and everyone loved it. They saw sea turtles, stingrays, sharks and even manatees, not to mention hundreds of colourful fish.
If you don’t snorkel, don’t worry. We still found plenty of things to keep us occupied for two full days, so you will enjoy your time here, too.
First of all, take a long walk through the village. Caye Caulker is full of colourful wooden houses and friendly locals. You can find a photo opportunity at every corner. Don’t be shy to ask locals if you want to take their pictures. I have not had a single person turn me down.
After walking through the village, you will eventually end up at The Split. It’s on the northern tip of Caye Caulker’s South Island. Caye Caulker used to be one island, but a hurricane split it into two parts, and now you have the South and the North Island.
The Split a great place to hang out, enjoy a drink and splash in the water.
If you want a place with more shade, take a free shuttle boat to Koko King on the northern island. Here, you can rent a VIP area with shade, two beach lounges, chairs and a hammock. We spent a whole day here, reading, relaxing, talking to a new-found friend and cooling down in the water.
In the evening, go for a sunset cruise with Raggamuffin, a tour that I can highly recommend. It is not cheap, but it is very relaxing to sit on a sailing boat and watch the sun disappear behind the horizon. If you need more inspiration on activities on Caye Caulker, read up on it here.
What to eat and where to stay
I had good food, and I had below-average food on Caye Caulker. My best experience was, without a doubt, at Chef Juan. This tiny restaurant serves excellent dishes for an excellent price. I went for the curry, which I can highly recommend. My friend had a pulled pork burger, and that one also looked terrific.
Very close to Chef Juan, in the same street, you find a tiny fry jack stand. It’s called Jenny’s To Go Food, and they offer tostadas for breakfast (or early lunch). These are small fried tortillas topped with meat, beans, vegetables and cheese. You will need to eat at least two of them, but they’re affordable and delicious.
On Caye Caulker, it is easy to find street food. I had an excellent burrito that I bought from a street food vendor. Our room neighbours brought home delicious banana cake one day, and I saw multiple people selling fruit. If you’re looking for a snack, just walk down the street, and you will find one.
As for hotel options, we stayed at the Blue Wave Guest House. It was one of the cheapest options for a private room with a shared bathroom. The room was okay. It wasn’t the best we’d ever had but not the worst one either. Just be careful if you’re planning on using the kitchen as it doesn’t have a fridge.
My advice for Caye Caulker is not to leave your booking until the very last minute and to look at all the available options carefully.
Day 6 – 7 San Ignacio
San Ignacio is located so close to Guatemala that from one of the nearby Mayan ruins, you can see the border. This jungle town is perfect for a taste of ancient history. In the area, you can find many Mayan sites. Plus, you have the chance to get close to iguanas at the Green Iguana Conservation Project.
Getting to San Ignacio is very straightforward. Take the ferry from Caye Caulker back to Belize City. You now have two options. You can either take a minibus straight from the ferry terminal (make sure to haggle down the price). Or, for half of the price, you can catch a chicken bus from the Novelo Bus Terminal. They leave every half an hour and take between two and a half to three and a half hours.
My minibus, for some funny reason I don’t understand, actually needed just as long as the chicken bus – even though we didn’t have a single stop along the way.
I stayed in San Ignacio for two nights. If you have the time (and the money to do some of the expensive tours), you could easily stay longer.
Things to Do
As I already mentioned, San Ignacio is the perfect base for visiting the nearby Mayan sites. There are two ancient cities that you can easily visit by yourself. The first one is Cahal Pech, located right in San Ignacio. It is so close that you could even walk here. We didn’t visit it ourselves since we went to Xunantunich instead.
Xunantunich is larger than Cahal Pech, and it is very easy to access, too. Go to the bus station in San Ignacio and take any of the buses headed towards Benque. Tell the driver that you want to go to Xunantunich and he will drop you off at the ferry in San Jose Succotz.
It’s a short (and free) ferry ride across the river. On the other side, follow the road to Xunantunich. I recommend coming early in the morning since it’s an uphill walk of about one mile. We went on a cloudy morning and were still dripping with sweat by the time we made it there.
What I loved about Xunantunich was the museum near the entrance. It gives lots of information about the Maya, the surrounding cities and Xunantunich itself. We usually like to have a guide for visiting archaeological sites, so we know what we’re looking at, but the museum was good enough that we felt we didn’t need one.
After having exhausted ourselves by climbing to the top of the highest pyramid, we returned to San Ignacio. If you want to see Cahal Pech afterwards, by the way, get off at the roundabout shortly after the town entrance. It’s as close to that site as you can get and saves you a longer walk.
Besides Mayan temples, you can also see some wildlife in San Ignacio – and you don’t even have to leave the city. The San Ignacio Resort Hotel is home to the Green Iguana Conservation Project.
In Belize, green iguanas have gotten rarer and rarer since locals like to hunt and eat them. The Conservation Project breeds these iguanas and releases them into the wild. It is a fascinating place to learn about iguanas and to get very close to them.
In fact, I got so close that my scratches took a few days to heal.
If you are not travelling on a budget, there are more things you can do in the area. Mayans used the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) caves as a religious site. Tours through these caves are supposed to be amazing and everyone I talked to who had done them loved them.
You could also visit Caracol, the largest Mayan site in Belize. Getting there requires travelling two hours on an unpaved road through the jungle, but the pyramids are amazing.
What to eat and where to stay
We researched both lunch and dinner options and had some pretty good food while staying in San Ignacio.
For lunch, we recommend you to go to Martha’s Kitchen. The food is not exceptionally good, but it is very cheap, and it is the best I’ve had in that price range in Belize. Plus, my burrito was so huge that I took the remaining half home and had it for dinner.
On our first evening, we decided to splurge and go to the Crave House of Flavour. It is not the cheapest restaurant in San Ignacio, but the food is exceptionally tasty. It took me a long time to order because I couldn’t choose between all those fantastic dishes on the menu. If you’re looking for a recommendation, the risotto is excellent.
My friend and I stayed at J & R Guest House. It’s a tiny guest house run by a lovely old lady. The rooms were small, but everything, from the rooms to the shared bathrooms was spotless. And here, unlike on Caye Caulker, we could find a fridge in the kitchen – and everything else that we needed.
Best time to visit Belize
The best time to visit Belize is from January to May. This is the dry season when you can enjoy the best weather. Some places, like Placencia, can get rain all year long but it gets much worse in autumn.
One week passes far too quickly. If you have more time, you can find lots more things to do in Belize. San Pedro on Ambergris Caye and Hopkins on the mainland are both supposed to be great if you’re looking for more beaches. If you’re interested in wildlife, travel north to the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. And for more Mayan ruins, rent a car in Belize city and go and check out Altun Ha.
If you do any of those things, anything I listed on this itinerary or visited a place I have never heard of, we would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment and tell us about your experience.
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