A Collage Of Cultures—A Tour Through The Districts Of Belize
From the southern coastal district of Punta Gorda to the northern coastal town of Corozal, there’s a lot to see in Belize… and the views will take your breath away.
My first trip to Belize was in 2013, I landed in Belize City, the former capital of the country and the capital of the Belize district (which is also home to the current country capital, Belmopan). When I walked outside, my first sight was a gigantic fan palm tree—it’s branches spread so wide that it seemed like open arms waving and welcoming me. This district also claims the popular island of San Pedro on tranquil Ambergris Caye.
A few days after arriving I took a couple of boat rides to get to Caye Caulker to enjoy sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters… and an ambiance so magnetic and alluring that I felt I could stay forever!
During that first trip, I also visited the Cayo district, home to several of the many ancient Maya archaeological sites in Belize. Cayo is an eco-adventurer’s paradise. One of the best extant examples of a Mayan temple, Xunantunich, is here. Adventurous visitors can climb to the top of the temple, one of the tallest buildings in Belize.
Visit the nearby butterfly garden for some serenity and peace. The Technicolor adornment of these beautiful silent creatures is truly magnificent. But not so quiet were the endangered black howler monkeys up in the trees… Their raspy screeches are unforgettable.
Once I moved to Belize, I got familiar with the Toledo district, where I resided in the town of Punta Gorda, right on the Caribbean. This is the most southern part of the country and is so laid-back that it took me a minute (quite a few actually) to slow down to a seeming snail’s pace.
This area is made up of mostly Spanish, Garifuna, and Ketchi Mayan peoples and each group speaks English as well as their own languages. I tried my best to learn some of each, but, quickly fell short. Some people spoke to me in the Garifuna language because they thought I was of that ethnicity. But, when I gave them the look of a deer in the headlights, they quickly reverted to speaking English. I quickly got used to hearing people speak various languages in Belize. The lady I lived with in Punta Gorda was born in Guatemala and was attending a Spanish speaking church. She had lived in the States and spoke English well with a Spanish accent. But some of her friends were Garifuna, so she spoke that when she was with them. The multi-cultural atmosphere of Punta Gorda is unique and people blend well with each other.
The Belcampo Lodge is a 12,000 acre nature reserve located right outside of Punta Gorda. I don’t think I have ever felt so close to nature as when I visited here.
While staying in Punta Gorda, my hostess showed me around quite a bit. One day we took the bus to the Stann Creek district and visited the town of Dangriga. Dangriga is bustling and its stock of grocery items forced us to do more shopping than we had planned to! I had a special interest in visiting Dangriga, because the first Belizean I had ever met had been born and raised there. She had become the First Secretary at the Embassy of Belize in Washington, D. C. I met with her before my first trip to get some firsthand information. It was a great experience to come full circle and see her hometown.
After touring the town of Corozal on the northern most tip of Belize, I finally moved to the Corozal district. The lovely furnished apartment that I moved into is right at the Corozal Bay. It is also just 9 miles from the Mexican border—which means Americanized shopping! The expat community has done a fantastic job of developing different areas one of which is called Consejo Shores. The diverse architecture of the homes at the water cover a host of styles and colors… Some have thatched roofs, some have swimming pools. Communities to the south boast homes that are nothing short of spectacular. Plus, the natural landscape of Corozal is abundant with fruit trees, wildlife, and natural hideaways.
The sixth and last district I visited was Orange Walk, named after the orange groves that used to thrive there. Not so, anymore. What you will see as you ride down the road are acres of sugar cane as far as the eye can see. I found the town of Orange Walk to be a like a thriving metropolis in comparison to the rest of the country. I was shocked that it had three traffic lights (most towns in Belize don’t have a single one!).
While in Orange Walk I checked out Hotel de la Fuente in the downtown area, with rooms offering balconies with views of the New River. A ride down this waterway will take you to the world famous Lamanai Maya Ruin. Along the way, you will be treated to various species of birds, plants, and wildlife. Also in town is the La Popular Bakery, offering a tremendous variety of baked goods including bread, cakes, pastries, puddings, and other delicacies in an array of tasty looking colors.
I haven’t mentioned all the wonderful people I met along the way… but they were integral to the experience of this beautiful collage. I find nothing more beautiful than a sincere smile aimed at me and I was fortunate to receive many in each of the six districts I’ve visited.
It’s still a wonder to me that so many cultures live together harmoniously in Belize… the country is a multi-cultural wonder.
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and my eyes have beheld staggering beauty in Belize. But don’t just take my word for it… Come to Belize—you really have to see it to Belize it!