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 the airport, my first sight was a gigantic fan palm tree. Its 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; it’s one of the tallest buildings in Belize.
Visit the nearby butterfly garden for serenity and peace. The Technicolor display of these beautiful, silent creatures is truly magnificent. But not so quiet were the endangered black howler monkeys up in the trees nearby… Their raspy screeches are unforgettable.
After I moved to Belize, I became familiar with the Toledo District, where I resided in the town of Punta Gorda, right on the Caribbean Sea. This is the southernmost part of the country and is so laid-back that it took me a minute (quite a few, actually) to slow down to the seeming snail’s pace of life here.
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 fell short. Some people spoke to me in the Garifuna language because they thought I was of that ethnicity. When I gave them the look of a deer in the headlights, they reverted to English.
I got used to hearing people speak various languages in Belize. The lady I lived with in Punta Gorda was born in Guatemala but had lived in the States and spoke English well. 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. People blend well with each other… as they do everywhere in this country.
While staying in Punta Gorda, my hostess showed me around quite a bit. One day we took the bus to the Stann Creek District to visit the town of Dangriga. We found Dangriga to be bustling compared with Punta Gorda. Its well-stocked grocery shelves motivated us to do more shopping than we had planned to do.
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 on life in Belize. 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 American-style shopping! The expat community has done a great job of developing different spots here. The architecture is diverse. Some homes 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 lush with fruit trees, wildlife, and natural hideaways.
The sixth and last district I’ve visited in Belize is Orange Walk, named after the orange groves that used to thrive here. Not so anymore. What you see as you drive through Orange Walk today are fields of sugar cane… acres of them, stretching as far as the eye can see. I found the town of Orange Walk a thriving metropolis compared with the rest of the country. While most towns in Belize don’t have a single traffic light, Orange Walk has three.
I haven’t mentioned all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way, as I’ve been discovering Belize end to end… but they have been integral to the experience of this delightful collage. I find nothing more beautiful than a sincere smile aimed at me, and I’ve been fortunate to receive many in every Belize district where I’ve spent time.
For me, one of the best things about Belize is how so many cultures live together harmoniously. The country is a multi-cultural wonder.
For In Focus: Belize
Editor’s Note: The Early Bird Discount remains in effect for our fast-approaching Live and Invest in Belize Conference taking place Jan. 20–22, 2016, in Belize City. Details are here.
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