Francis Ford Coppola loves Belize so much, he opened two resorts there since his first visit. It took the rest of the world about three decades to catch on to the country’s allure. High on travel magazines’ lists of top destinations for 2012 and 2013, Belize is the Central American underdog travelers are quick to flock to, thanks to its untapped culture, friendly locals, and affordability. The country is chock full of boutique hotel gems, commanding ruins that rival Mexico, an underrated culinary scene, bohemian-minded beach towns, and even some activities that you can’t do in Mexico and Central America. The weather is warm year-round but with high-season looming in early November, here’s a starter kit to help you start planning your travels now.
Voted “2nd Top Island in Mexico and Central and South America” byTravel + Leisure for two years in a row, Ambergris Cay is an old-school, barefoot-minded oasis. Some hotels are decades old, locals and visitors get around by golf carts, and there are no corporations in sight (sorry, Starbucks). While backpackers thrive on nearby Caye Caulker, they still mix with high rollers in Ambergris and take to the carefree, laidback atmosphere, the vibrant nightlife (beach bar hopping is de rigueur), and the wealth of water activities. Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, and Ambergris Cay is the launching point to thrilling excursions.
Divers (and even non-divers) make a beeline to the famous Blue Hole, a large sinkhole that drops 400 feet into the ocean. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is just minutes from the shore of Ambergris Cay by boat and swarming with hundreds of marine life, including ubiquitous sting rays and sea turtles. Shark Ray Alley is just waves away, where visitors can get up-and-personal with friendly nurse sharks and manta rays. Don’t forget your underwater camera.
Stay: Victoria House. The 42-room, British-colonial-designed Victoria House is a charming boutique with several spacious room types (from plantation rooms and private casitas to contemporary infinity suites) that will impress all types of travelers. Right on the beach, Victoria House has two pools, a beach bar, and fine Caribbean cuisine to boot…
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