Visiting Belize

Belize City

Belize City is a port city of Belize, Central American country. The Haulover Creek River divides the city on the north and south sides and empties into the Caribbean Sea. It has a rotating bridge from the 1920s, which can be used manually and is a crossing point on the sides of the city. On the north side, the Belize Museum traces the country's history with exhibits that include Mayan artifacts. The Image Factory gallery exhibits local contemporary art.

At the mouth of the Haulover Creek, is the Baron Bliss lighthouse, named after the benefactor of Belize, with its tomb on the outside. Cruises dock near the Tourism Village, which has travel agencies and commercial areas. The south side has colonial buildings such as the Government House of the nineteenth century made of wood and the Cathedral of San Juan, with its old organ of the mountains. The commercial port of Belize is to the southwest. The boats depart from the marine terminal on the north side to the nearby islands, such as Cayo Corker and Cayo Goff, known for their beaches and coral reefs. Inland from the city, is the May

Belize City has a tropical climate between hot and hot all year round. There may be rain at any time of the year, although between February and May it is the driest period. Between November and January, it is slightly colder and receives a large number of visitors. There may be strong winds between june and november, the hurricane season of the Caribbean. The Day of Baron Bliss (sea) is a public holiday with celebrations, including a regatta in front of the lighthouse. Independence Day celebrations (sep) last several weeks, including a carnival with street parades and music.With its British colonial history and a long Caribbean coast, Belize is culturally similar to many of Britain's former West Indian island colonies, with a majority creole or Afro-Caribbean population. But it also includes a large native Mayan population, especially in the north and northwest of the country. As a result, although English is the official language, Spanish is also often spoken. In the south east along the Caribbean coast live the Garifuna (Black Caribs), an Afro-Amerindian culture.

After long journeys starting in what is now the Netherlands in 1790, via Germany, Southern Russia, Canada, the United States, and Mexico, several thousand German-speaking Mennonite Christians arrived in Belize in 1958 after long and detailed discussions with the government regarding specific exemptions and privileges. They are easily recognizable by their speech (somewhat distinctive from modern standard German) and "quaint" dress.

World class attractions include exploring the lush jungles with exotic plants and animals, deep sea fishing, swimming, snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean Sea with its attractive reefs, and visiting the Mayan ruins. Income levels are still very low and the infrastructure is very basic. The Belizeans are very proud and friendly to visitors and the tourist industry grew greatly in the last decade.
lan a trip to Belize in 2018, and you’ll be ahead of the curve. Of the half-dozen properties that are bringing in a high tide for luxury, only Mahogany Bay has opened its doors. But its arrival is significant. “Our resort is on an island with about 2,000 hotel rooms—closer to 2,200, now that we’re open” says Clifford. “Of those, less than 500 are up to international standards.” Most of the accommodations, she says, are casual bed-and-breakfasts, leaving a big gap in the market.

Mahogany Bay fills that hole. Its lobby occupies the largest wooden structure in Belize (a riff on a colonial-style Great House), and its clapboard cottages and villas stand along a series of picturesque canals. Guests can request “dressing cocktails”—in-room drinks to enjoy while getting gussied up—or lounge in overwater hammocks. Some will recognize it as the backdrop for the most recent Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

When it opens in November, Itz’ana will have a similar upscaling effect in the beach town of Placencia. Apart from the Coppola family’s Turtle Inn and the tiny Cayo Espanto, Itz’ana will be the only luxury game in town, with 50 sustainably designed rooms and suites, a dedicated Rum Room, and a Hemingway-inspired aesthetic. (Blackadore Caye is still projecting an “end of 2018” opening, but locals are highly skeptical of the timeline.) 

Visit during the spring and winter months, when the weather is warm and dry. Simply fly into Belize City—which has recently added direct flights on Southwest and WestJet airlines—and then book TropicAir transfers to get from place to place. The country is roughly as large as New Jersey, so almost any two points in Belize can be connected within an hour.

And bear in mind: Sophia Coppola may have said that Belize is a place to do nothing, but the country offers plenty of tempting excursions. Scuba diving, fly-fishing, kayaking, picnicking by secret waterfalls—it’s all easily arranged, and that’s just scratching the surface.

What’s Next

Save your Belize trip for 2020 or beyond, and you’ll find a totally different destination. For one thing, plans are underway for an international airport in Placencia, which would make it faster and easier to access one of the country’s best beaches. “If the airport happens, it’s the icing on the cake,” says Ronan McMahon, a real estate expert and contributor to International Living, who named Placenia among the three overseas beaches most likely to boom in 2018.

The influx of major luxury brands—such as Autograph Collection and Four Seasons—will also bring dramatic change. As Crawford puts it, people are more likely to travel to a lesser-known destination when a company they trust is there to welcome them.  

The former Mayan city of Altun Ha.Photographer: MaRabelo/iStockphoto
It’s not just Americans that are making bets on Belize, either. On a recent night, Clifford found guests from Manhasset, N.Y., San Francisco, London, South Africa, Montserrat, and Jakarta all sitting around Mahogany Bay’s bar—proof that an international clientele has started to catch on.

But neither she nor Crawford worry that Belize will become overdeveloped. “The luxury market will continue to take off here,” says Clifford, “but we’re not on the yacht circuit, so we won’t become St. Barth, and the building code keeps everything at five stories, so we won’t become Cancun, either.”

“You can’t build on all of the 450 islands out here—some are far too small,” explains Crawford, “and they won’t be places for massive destination resorts.” It really is like the Ma