Even if you are not a stereotypical backpacker you can dress like one and do the whole backpacking thing through Belize on the cheap. Another option is to stay at some backpacking hotspots & then sneak off to more luxurious digs here and there. Part of the attraction of these places is paying, for example, $15 a night on lodging and having money left over to get out on some excursions. People who come to Belize and do not go on some of these trips are missing out on the best that Belize has to offer.
Since I live inland I know a great deal about what is available in this area. I have been in business here for over 6 years, primarily catering to backpackers, and have traveled around the country a bit myself. I have some personal experience with a few things that I love to do and will limit my comments to those things. There is a lot more out there than I am personally knowledgeable about and I certainly don’t intend this to be an all encompassing guide. Al Gore invented the internet for that.
In part 1 of this 2 part series we’ll look at exploring the islands along Belize’s barrier reef.
As much as I’d love to believe that Barton Creek Outpost is the highlight of Belize I have spent much of my adult life as a Navy Deep Sea Diver and a boat captain so there is a special place in my heart for turquoise waters, palm trees & warm island breezes. There are many inexpensive ways to experience all of this but here are a few that I have personal experience with.
Seakunga, Placencia. “Seakunga”, it’s fun to say the word and fun to stay there. We call Seakunga “Barton Creek Outpost on the beach”. It is a great facility that offers beachfront cabanas w/private bathrooms ($60US a night) as well as a large dorm style cabana ($15US a night pp) and tent rentals on the beach ($15US per night). Showers with hot water & bathrooms are available for campers as well as in the dorm style accommodations. Seakunga has been in business since 1994 and specializes in kayak adventures, both on the sea and inland whitewater trips.
Sea kayaking can be day trips from Placencia or fully equipped, guided, multi-day, island hopping trips. Island hopping excursions involve power boating to beautiful remote islands then deploying the sea kayaks to explore the area on your own. Guests snorkel & fish at their leisure then camp on the islands at night.
The cost for island hopping is $150US pp, per day. That includes powerboat with captain, kayaks & gear, meals, unlimited rum punch & snorkeling. They do not have fishing gear but when I went I rented good spinning gear for $10 a day from another source in Placencia. This trip is an incredible value and can be overnight or several days.
Raggamuffin Tours out of Caye Caulker. Among other things, they offer an amazing 3 day sailing trip from Caye Caulker to Placencia with snorkeling and fishing along the way. The sailboat typically has about 12-14 passengers & remains in the inner reef to take advantage of the calm sailing waters.
Passengers camp on beautiful Rendezvous Caye and Tobacco Caye whilst visiting Goffs Caye or English Caye and South Water Caye. Cost: $300 per person for three days and includes, food, snorkeling (twice a day), fishing gear (including spear fishing), camping equipment & rum punch.
Both of these island hopping options are an incredible value. A significant difference between multi-day island hopping with these two is that with Raggamuffin you are on a sailboat with a group of people you just met (which can be great fun) and with Seakunga you can go with just you and a friend or a small group of people that you put together. Seakunga also provides the sea kayaks that allow you to go off on your own and explore a bit. It costs a little more but there is something to be said for a bit of privacy on an incredible, remote, Caribbean island. There are advantages to both.
Tobacco Caye. I love Tobacco Caye! It is a 5 acre island dotted with palm trees and surrounded by amazing blue tropical waters. If you like sun, sand, water sports, Caribbean style drumming & drinks this might be the place for you. There are 5 inexpensive “resorts” on the island that are all a no frills type of situation. Prices start at $30US a day, per person, for a place to crash and three meals. You can arrange inexpensive fishing & snorkeling from there for less than $30US per person for a half day.
Here are two places on the island I have experience with:
Tobacco Caye Lodge: Probably the nicest place out there. Cost between $45-$55US, pp, per day. Includes three meals a day. We stayed in pretty reasonable cabanas although the last time I was there I got my fishing pole stolen off the porch (I knew better than to leave it there, see my blog, “Dey teef me!”). We had electricity about 1/2 the time and water for showers about 1/3 of the time. Since I was having such a great time I didn’t care about showers & electricity. Fishing pole, another story.
Gaviota Coral Reef: The least expensive place out there, cost between $30-$35US pp, per night. Includes three meals. These are very simple accommodations, an island hut to crash in after you enjoy a day in paradise. Judy & Dean run the place and are very friendly, offering a warm, personal touch that is hard to find elsewhere. The adjacent volleyball court is always great fun too.
There are a couple bars on the island and, surprisingly, drinks are reasonably priced. The sounds of drumming fill the air every other night or so and the evening festivities are a blast!
Transportation leaves from Dangriga which is a place I would otherwise avoid but is a reasonable jump off point to the island. The 45 minute boat ride is about $35pp, round trip.
There are cheaper places to stay around Belize but I find Tobacco Caye to be a very good value and they have what I’m looking for, amazing water, great fishing, aquarium-like snorkeling and a very cool island vibe.
In my next installment we’ll look at traveling inland and seeing the ruins and rainforest.