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What Do You Know About Belize?
Today Norm Goldman, Editor of sketchandtravel.com and bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as a guest Joshua Berman, co-author of Moon Handbooks Belize. Joshua is a travel expert in Belize, and recently chose this small Central American country for his honeymoon; he has also lived and written extensively about Nicaragua and Honduras.
Welcome to Sketchandtravel.com and Bookpleasures.com Joshua and thank you for accepting our invitation to be interviewed.
Please tell our readers something about yourself and your expertise regarding Belize.
I have lived, worked, taught, and traveled in Central America since the US Peace Corps sent me to Nicaragua in 1998. Since then I have returned to the region to write guides, lead service trips, and visit friends. and adopted families. Last year, I was asked by Avalon Travel Publishing to take over Chicki Mallan’s Guide to the Moon in Belize, which, when it first appeared 15 years ago, was the first and most acclaimed guidebook in place. I gladly accepted and continued to research and write the sixth edition, which appeared in early 2005.
Where is Belize?
Belize is nestled in the northeastern corner of Central America, bordered by Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to the north, Guatemala’s Petén Desert to the west, and the Caribbean Ocean to the east. Culturally, however, Belize and its hundreds of cayes (islands, highlighted keys) is more Caribbean than Latin. English is spoken everywhere (along with seven other languages). The diversity is astounding, especially considering there are only 260,000 people in the entire country.
Would you consider Belize a good choice for a romantic getaway or wedding and honeymoon destination? Why?
Absolutely. The Belize Tourism Board actively markets the country as a destination for lovers and there is no shortage of special honeymoon and romance packages to choose from:
They can rent their own waterfall for the day at the Hidden Valley Inn.
Couples can get moody mud massages at the Maruba Resort Jungle Spa.
They can slide down a vertical cave shaft together, at the end of which they will find a flower-strewn bed next to an underground spring in Ian Anderson’s branch of caves. The list goes on and on.
Belize’s size (smaller than Massachusetts), easy access (just a two-hour flight from Miami or Houston), and stunning selection of small, intimate resorts and lodges seal the deal. To solidify my endorsement of Belize as a romantic destination, I even took my bride here on our honeymoon (ah, the work never stops)
When is the best time to visit Belize in terms of weather, costs, crowds and availability of flights from the US, Canada and Europe and Australia, etc.?
Some resorts distinguish the holiday season from the normal high season, with even higher prices and lower availability around Christmas, New Year and Easter, be sure to book during these times. High season (re: more tourists and high prices) is generally from mid-December to April; this is also the dry season most years, though December, January, and even February can play host to cold fronts that either blow right through or stick around for days.
Your best bet – be prepared, both in dress and attitude! A week of stormy weather can ruin a planned snorkeling-only vacation, but it can also provide the perfect setting to explore the rainforest or enjoy a hot tub and fireplace at Mountain Pine Ridge.
June, July and August technically fall in the rainy season and travelers during this time are rewarded with significantly discounted prices on most accommodation, rain during these months can mean just a quick shower each afternoon, or it can go on for days . August is the big month for European travelers and travelers, while December and February are dominated by North Americans. Some tourist businesses close completely during the months of September and October, the peak of hurricane season.
Can you give our readers an idea of the costs involved if the trip originates from the US, Canada and Europe and Australia?
Conventional travel wisdom calls Belize the cheapest vacation spot in the Caribbean and one of the most expensive in Central America. There are many mid- and high-end accommodations throughout the country, ranging from US$25 to hundreds of dollars per night. Exact hotel rates are elusive in Belize; seasonal fluctuations are accompanied by various taxes and service charges, sometimes up to an additional 25 percent. Always make sure that the fee you are quoted is actually the same amount you will be required to pay. And, of course, great deals abound in the low season (May to November), when room rates drop across the board.
For food, budget travelers can get by on less than $20 a day, but you’re on vacation, right? Tickets range from $5 to $25, depending on where you are; at the trendiest restaurants in San Pedro, a delicious dinner can cost up to US$75 per person. Some resorts include meal prices in their nightly rates, which can be a good deal.
Remember to budget an extra US$40-80 per person per day for activities such as scuba diving, sailing trips and guided tours of Belize’s rainforests, ruins and fascinating cave systems. Experienced and independent travelers can move for less, but transportation can be a hassle.
US$10 per person per night is the ultimate price for budget accommodation and will get you anything from a cramped, stuffy concrete box in most towns to a generous wooden hut at the Trek Station (on Cayo) and points of other hot backs.
If you had to choose 5 unique places in Belize for a romantic getaway, honeymoon or wedding destination, which would they be and why?
First of all, remember that choosing a place to stay has a lot to do with where you want to be and what activities you want to do during your stay: beach or rainforest? Diving or hiking? Reef or wreck? Want to be pampered with massages or get sweaty and fuzzy with your lover on a jungle trek? Get an idea of what kind of trip you and your honey are looking for, then dive in and book it. The following are just a few of the luxury romantic Belize accommodations that stand out in my mind for quality and intimacy. For more on Belize’s abundant budget options, browse a copy of my book, Moon Handbooks Belize.
Starting on gorgeous Ambergris Caye, just offshore from Belize’s famous barrier reef and three miles north of the village of San Pedro, you’ll find Capricorn Resort, offering intimate beachfront seclusion in one of three bright, airy cabanas. taste. The Goat Restaurant is one of the best (considered the best by many) on the island.
Nestled on 7,200 acres of private property in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Preserve, Hidden Valley Inn is a tranquil haven for hikers and birders who will have a blast exploring the resort’s 90-plus miles of hiking trails and roads. old cuttings and then cozying up in front of their cottage fireplace, listening to the birdsong outside (especially nice during the cool, foggy, rainy season). The property includes lush broadleaf forest and pine habitat. The two diverse ecosystems are separated by a geological fault line, which marks the edge of a 1,000-foot high escarpment. Numerous streams of water spring from the mountain and then flow down the steep slopes, often into deep, inviting pools; The Hidden Valley trail system runs through all of them.
On the Placencia Peninsula, Kitty’s Place is one of the best and most modest resorts on this long strip of beach resorts, call it “low luxury” and check in your shoes at the front desk. Be sure to plan a day or overnight trip to Kitty’s private island, French Louis Caye, 12 miles offshore with great diving and luxurious accommodations.
Two of Belize’s most romantic, beautiful and expensive options are Francis Ford Coppola’s wonderful pair of resorts: Turtle Inn and Blancaneaux Lodge, located on the Placencia Peninsula and Mountain Pine Ridge, respectively, and offering a number of collective packages . Both locations feature breathtaking architecture and artwork from around the world, as well as top-notch services and amenities.
Located about an hour north of Belize City, Maruba Resort Jungle Spa pampers body and soul, as evidenced by its acclaimed spa treatments and unique focal points spread around the grounds: A small, glass-adorned chapel; a palapa-covered stone chessboard; two pools that seem to spring from the jungle complete with waterfalls. The rooms are spaced for privacy and go by the names Moon, Fertility and Bondage, to name a few. All boast carved masks with an eclectic neo-primitive motif, mosaic tile floors, standing candles, cement fountains, tiled bathtubs, shuttered windows and fresh flowers on the massive feather beds and bathrooms.
What people need to know about celebrating a wedding in Belize in terms of requirements, different hotel experiences, etc.
Belize is gaining quite a reputation as the perfect place to tie the knot. A growing number of resorts cater to weddings of all sizes, some quite creative (such as ceremonies underwater or on top of the Mayan pyramids). If you leave, you must be in Belize three business days before submitting your marriage application to the Registrar General’s Office (tel. 501/227-7377, not open on weekends or local holidays). You receive your documents back the next business day for your ceremony. If you were divorced or widowed, bring a photocopy of your death certificate or divorce decree. The Belize government charges $100 for the license and you will need a birth certificate or passport.
How far in advance should a couple prepare for their honeymoon, romantic getaway or wedding in Belize?
Honeymoons and getaways are easy and don’t need much advance booking, except during holidays and at the most popular resorts. If you are planning a high season wedding that will require multiple guest rooms, book a year in advance if possible. Otherwise, a few months is usually enough.
What resources are available online about weddings and honeymoons in Belize?
Some wedding specialists can facilitate paperwork, ministers, flowers, booked hotels, celebrations, etc. including Katie Valk for anywhere in the country, Iraida Gonzales in San Pedro and Lee Nyhus in Placencia.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers that we haven’t covered?
Yes, keep an eye on my website for new links and developments regarding romance in Belize and beyond; I have the most popular Belize forums and news posted on my links page. Also, MY PUBLISHER’S SITE will soon feature sample itineraries and other excerpts from my book to make planning your trip to Belize even easier. Finally, remember the words of Kurt Vonnegut’s prophet Bokon: Special travel tips are dance lessons from God.
Happy trails, everyone, Joshua
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