Solo Travel to Belize - 5 Day Itinerary
From Costa Rica, my next destination was Belize. I flew out from San Jose Airport with a stop over in Panama before arriving in Belize City. The plan was to attend Belize’s National holiday, essentially the biggest party of the year in the country. I was fly to Belize, bus it to Hopkins, Dangriga and them move on to see some other cities. Belize is very close to the Tikal ruins in Guatemala so I made time to stop there as well.
Day 1 - Arrival in Belize City
My hostel provided free transfer to the airport at 5 am. That is one of the amenities I look for when I’m choosing a hostel right before I leave a city or country. It can save a bit of money when the hostel offers free transportation to and from the airport. Sitting on the plane to Panama on Copa Airlines, they served us complimentary sandwiches and a drink. The flight was short only 59 minutes long.
As I just recently told my family and friends back home that I quit my job to travel the world indefinitely, I’ve been receiving a bunch of messages from them asking “if I was crazy, if I’m alive and when I am coming home”. “A big question is “why I am doing this?” I can’t answer with certainty as to why except that this feels so right. I’m not even scared. I’m pretty resourceful so what’s the problem. I just knew that if I was ever going to do it, now was the perfect time. It felt like the perfect moment to take on this challenge. I am free. No kids, no girlfriend, no ties except for my house; which I plan to sell.
Also, as I look out of the airplane window, I think it was destined for me to do this and better myself. One of my biggest fears was to be alone. That was why I always rushed into relationships. After I got the balls to end my last relationship, I felt an overwhelming calm and freedom. Once I got used to being alone at my own house, I was able to think about what I wanted most, and my biggest passion is to see the world. Doing this all alone is what I needed most in order to conquer my biggest fear.
Hopefully, I meet some life long friends along the way and see some spectacular sites. None of this was planned but that is perfect because I wouldn’t have gone through with it otherwise.
Copa Airlines is amazing. We were given hot empanadas and chips with free liquor. I started talking to this lady on the plane sitting next me who is from Belize. She gave me some tips and told me to check out excursions to Dangriga for the early morning ceremony. Also, wisely said that it’s good to get my travel fix out of the way now before things get in the way and I can’t anymore. I appreciated the support.
Once I arrived at Belize airport, I took a taxi to the bus station, which was crowded and sketchy looking. There I met a fellow American who was also going to Hopkins. We made it on the same old raggedy school bus to Dangriga then almost missed the connecting bus to Hopkins which is where the hostel was where I was staying. We got off at Hopkins Junction but needed a ride for the rest of the way into town. The hostel took forever to pick us up, about ready to hitch hike if needed, but finally we made it. We rode on a tuk tuk in to town in the dark. It was scary but fun.
The Kismet Inn was bigger than expected and the place was crowded. People were on the porch drinking, while the host who owned the place was cooking. They showed me to my room. It was a private queen room, as that was the last room left. It faced onto the beach front. It was comfy, quaint and private with a mosquito net. I chatted with some folks from Ireland, Poland, and other European countries. The owner of the hostel announced dinner was ready and we all sat down together as one big family. It was good home cooked meal with salad, homemade bread, rice, sauerkraut and shark. I learned from the host that the boats for the ceremony come by in the morning by our shore in front of the hostel, so no need to go to Dangriga.
Day 2 - Hopkins, Belize
Slept pretty comfortably under the mosquito net with the fan blasting and the sound of the waves crashing. Woke up to the sound of roosters crowing.
Side note: the MOSQUITOES are really bad there so bring plenty of repellent.
Today is Garifuna Settlement Day for the Garifuna people of Belize. Celebrated each year on November 19. Hopefully I can see the boat ceremony on the beach shores and maybe catch the parade in town.
I went to the beach straight away which was only a few steps away from my door and caught the sunrise. It was chilly, wind was blowing but the view was indescribably amazing! I get why people come here for the beauty. While I was waiting for the boat ceremony to begin I hungout at the back of the hostel laying on the hammock. There the ceremony began shortly after. The boats went by with the drums beating. It all had a very Caribbean feel. After, I laid on the hammock again for hours, it was so peaceful. Then I decided to walk into town for some water and to find lunch.
Walked into a little restaurant and ran into a Japanese lady I recognized from the hostel. She was having lunch with a lady from Spain. They invited me to sit with them. We talked about traveling and where they’ve been. We ordered the traditional dish Bundiga, with fried whole fish. It took over an hour to make but we drank agua de sandia while we all talked about our adventures. I loved meeting such like minded adventurous people. One of them suggested I visit San Ignacio for more of a Spanish feel in the town.
Later that evening I met up with one of the ladies from France who was also staying in the hostel and we went to see about finding a local party to continue the National Day celebration.
Day 3 - San Ignacio, Belize
Woke up early intending to catch the bus at 7 AM, but it turns out due to the holiday there was no bus out of Hopkins. We ended up sharing a cab with another couple from the USA. Then made it on the bus to Belize City and from their I switched to another bus at Belmopan that was heading to San Ignacio. The bus ride was long and many more Spanish speaking people were on this one. The hostel here is nicer than I imagined. They actually had hot water.
San Ignacio is small but reminded me of Mexico, a Spanish Colonial feel. After exploring the city for a bit I caught a bus to check out the ruins nearby called Xunantunich. They have a bridge that has to be hand cranked to get across the river. Back at the hostel I met some Americans and Australians and went for beers and dinner at a local restaurant named Hannah’s.
After a long day of traveling by bus I was tired and went to bed early.
Day 4 - Tikal, Guatemala
I booked my tour to Tikal a few days in advance. We met the tour guide early in the morning and and took a minivan across the border to Guatemala. On the way I met two women who were also traveling solo. One from Kansas and the other from Ukraine who now lives in New York. We ended becoming travel buddies for the day and walked around the temple ruins together. They told me they were planning on doing the ATM tour the next day and I decided to tag along and check it out. Everyone was talking about how amazing it is so I booked it that night.
The ruins were huge and it took all day to walk around and see all the different temples. Later that evening, the three of us met up for drinks and dinner. We finished 3 bottles of wine and sat and talked all night. (I’m still friends with the lady from Kansas to this day. We’ve met a few times since then in different parts of the world.) I really am having the time of my life!
Day 5 - San Ignacio, ATM Tour
ATM stands for Actun Tunichil Muknal - a cave tour that leads to an ancient Mayan burial site. Now prior to my stay in Belize, I had never heard of this tour. Lots of people in the hostel talked about it but I really didn’t know what to expect before going. Without a doubt I do not regret this experience. It’s probably one of the most unforgettable tours I’ve taken in all my years of traveling!
Woke up super early to meet the tour guides and took a very bumpy ride up to the park entrance. Once we hiked through the jungle to the cave entrance we were told we were not allowed to bring ANYTHING, no cameras, no phones, etc. All we were provided was a helmet and a headlamp. We had to dive immediately and swim into the cave entrance, from there we went in single line yelling instructions back to each other as the guide led us through the darkness. We had to climb, swim and hike in and out of the water, mostly in total darkness aside from our headlamps. The highlight is when you reach the burial site for the “Crystal Maiden” which you have to climb very carefully to see. The walls of the cave are damp and slippery and we watched a few people take some hard falls. It was scary but so much fun.
A truly epic experience!
The next day I was leaving Belize, sadly, to hop on a very long bus ride into Mexico. It was a short time I spent in Belize but a really magical time exploring caves, making new life long friends, and soaking in its natural beauty.
One must do I missed is diving in the well known Great Blue Hole. I plan to return at some point to scratch that off the bucket-list.