Hi guys and happy Monday! Honestly, I don’t know how to introduce this post or even where to begin with my Belize Travel Guide. I had the highest expectations and the most wonderful pictures in my mind about Belize (spoiler alert, this vacation was even better than I had thought it would be!) Belize was one of those “on my bucket list” kinds of places that I only dreamed of going, hoped I would get to eventually, but didn’t think it would happen anytime soon. When my mom said, “hey let’s go to Belize” I laughed and said, “yeah!” but didn’t actually think she was serious. Here we are now, a week back from an incredible vacation, and it still seems unreal!
My mom did an amazing job with our two accommodations during the trip and both of the areas we visited complimented each other perfectly! There’s so much to cover with our week-long adventure that I’m splitting my travel guide/review into two main parts, which makes perfect sense since our trip was split in half (part 1 in the jungle, part 2 at the beach).
If you’re considering traveling to Central America, if you’re hesitant about traveling to Mexico (my family was a bit nervous about Mexico), if you’re looking for an unbelievable (and pretty affordable) destination, then Belize is it! I think the easiest/best way to cover all the details is just going day by day, so…here we go!
Friday January 5th – Travel Day
We arrived at BZE (the international airport) around 2:00pm Central Time (remember, Belize is an hour behind the east coast). There’s three options for travel between the airport and where you’ll be staying in Belize.
- Rent a car. After being in Belize I would say that while this is technically an option, unless you are a highly experienced off-roader and are comfortable with pretty rough terrain, then you’ll probably just want to stick to options 2 or 3.
- Set up a “transfer.” This is what Belizeans call a car service/driver. We were able to have the hotel take care of setting up our transfer from the airport and it was great! We loved our driver, he was super knowledgeable, friendly, and we learned so much about Belize during our 3 hour drive to Gaia River Lodge.
- Take a shuttle plane. As expected, this option is a bit pricier than having someone drive you to your hotel. We took a shuttle plane at the end of our stay back to BZE and it did save time, but the plane was 30 minutes behind schedule. Luckily we were still able to make our international flight out of BZE…I’m not sure if delays are typical, but just something to consider.
If I were to recommend a form of transportation I would go with option 2. You get to see soooo much of Belize by driving through the countryside. If you have a good driver they’ll even stop on the side of the road at certain places to show you things, or if you see something on the side of the road that you want to photograph then just ask them to stop and they probably will without hesitation! Transfers aren’t cheap, but they’re more affordable than flying and you really get to experience Belize so you won’t feel like you’re wasting time sitting in the car going from point A to B.
I should mention though…having someone drive you through Belize is definitely an experience. Even the busiest roads are in pretty bad shape and instead of stop lights or stop signs there are just a ton of speed bumps everywhere. Belizeans seem pretty annoyed by the speed bumps and kind of just slam on the breaks right before going over the bump rather than slowing down gradually. So it’s not the most pleasant car ride, but I think the scenery is worth it! Also be warned that Belizeans drive all over the road, staying to the right side, like we do in the US, isn’t really a thing in Belize. So don’t be alarmed when the driver is all the way on the left side to avoid pot holes, or if your drive is passing a car even though there is a double yellow line down the middle of the road.
To get to Gaia River Lodge the last hour of the drive is on a super bumpy dirt road, which our driver, Virgil, liked to call “free massage road.” Funny.
We arrived at Gaia River Lodge around 5:30pm and were greeted with open arms, big smiles, and complimentary tropical cocktails! These cocktails were much needed after the sucky free massage road. Nigel, who I believe was the manager of Gaia, showed us around the premises before taking us to our Riverside Villa. Ohhh how fancy.
A few things about Gaia River Lodge:
-Wifi is only available in the main reception area, NOT in your room. I liked being able to semi-unplug during this portion of our trip.
-The whole resort (resort isn’t the right term exactly, I guess when I think resort I think something super built up and dominating the landscape, but Gaia is built into the landscape around it in a respectful way)…anyway! Gaia has tons of stairs and requires lots of walking to and from places. If you’re not great with stairs and some challenging terrain then this might not be the perfect place for you. For us, we loved all the walking!
-The breakfast was incredible!! Lunch and dinner were decent, I think that most people would enjoy the food, but since my dad is a chef we were a little disappointed with the food. If you can, I would suggest on your way to Gaia stopping at a grocery store/stand on the side of the road to pick up lots of fresh vegetables and beans and other food so you can cook your own meals (if you stay in the Riverside Villa it has a kitchen).
Side note: I looked at the pictures online (check them out here) prior to our trip and the pictures looked nice, but wow, seeing Gaia River Lodge in person was so much more incredible! The pictures really don’t do it justice. On top of that, my family had no idea how extraordinary our accommodations would be! Our Riverside Villa was actually two separate villas, one was considered the master bedroom with its own bathroom and the other was more of a common living area (where my sister and I stayed). The second villa had a fully equipped kitchen, a dining area, living area, and two separate bathrooms! Katherine and I had our own sleeping spaces located around the perimeter of the villa on the screened in porch. It was scary at first sleeping with screens as walls and being so immersed in nature, but I actually came to love it! The roaring of the waterfall, right below our villas, was pretty loud, but again I loved how it was all I heard as I fell asleep.
After a little bit of unpacking a staff member picked us up in their car and brought us to the main reception area for dinner. (It’s a pretty far walk from the main area to the villa we were staying in and at night they preferred to drive us to and from for safety reasons.) During the day I loved the challenge of walking up the 200+ stairs to get to the dining area.
Following dinner I think we just got back to the villa and went to sleep!
Saturday January 6th – Relaxing Day
Instead of doing a day trip (cave tours, zip lining, Mayan ruins) on our first full day in Belize we opted for a lazy day lounging around Gaia. I think that our intention going into this trip was to do some excursion on our first full day, but once we got to Gaia we were so impressed by the facilities and gorgeous landscape that we couldn’t imagine not enjoying the resort during our stay. (We already knew we’d be out all day on Sunday for our trip to Tikal.)
While we all called this our “lazy day” it was far from! We had a 6:00am wake-up and set out on a guided nature walk at 6:15am. Morning jungle hikes are the best time to potentially see wildlife! Our guide, Rudy, was so knowledgeable, funny, and friendly! We learned all about medicinal trees, beautiful flowers, and wildlife in the area. While we didn’t see any mammals, we spotted a few birds and heard wild pigs in the bushes. So cool! Some of my favorite tid-bits from the hike were learning about the “yesterday, today, tomorrow” flower and the “give and take tree.” More on these below!
After waking up at what I like to call the butt crack of dawn for our jungle hike we worked up quite the appetite. Katherine and I enjoyed a sister breakfast (is that a thing?) together while my parents sipped on their coffee on a porch below the dining area nestled in the jungle’s canopy. The highlight of breakfast was the complimentary fresh fruit and orange juice and then the amazing fresh-made flour tortillas that came with my authentic Belizean breakfast.
Katherine and I knew we wanted to spend the rest of the morning lounging around, soaking up some sun, and settling into our “beach reads.” Gaia has an amazing set-up with lounge chairs, Adirondack chairs, and hammocks giving you plenty of ways to relax and just enjoy everything that Gaia has to offer. I have to say I never imagined myself on a lounge chair next to a waterfall in the middle of the jungle, but it was pretty darn peaceful and perfect. The water was a bit chilly, but it’s fresh river water coming down from the mountains, so what else would you expect? My sister and I did go in the water though and swam out to the waterfall. Super refreshing!
Continuing on with the sister-sister bonding, we grabbed lunch before meeting up with our parents for a mini-outing. Gaia has bikes for its guests to borrow and we did exactly that! It was about a 15-minute bike ride to our destination: Big Rock, a larger waterfall. There was a group of 20 people when we first arrived, but once they left it was just the four of us and really enjoyable. It’s a nice little outing, you can do micro cliff-jumping if you’re daring, or just sit on the rocks and appreciate the breathtaking waterfall.
Nothing super exciting for dinner, we just ate at Gaia again and went to bed early in preparation for our big outing the next day, to Tikal.
Sunday January 7th— Tikal
Super early start this morning! We had a 6:00am breakfast and were on the road at 6:30am heading to Guatemala (that is where Tikal is located)! In addition to my part 2 travel guide I will be doing a “Tikal Guide” since there is just soooo much to cover. Keep an eye out for that where I’ll be sharing everything from how extraordinary the experience was to the micro details. Here are a few teaser photos below.
Monday January 8th – Travel to Placencia
Prior to departing Gaia my family grabbed one last AMAZING breakfast. I mean I can’t stress enough how good those homemade tortillas were. On a full stomach we enjoyed the waterfalls for one last time before packing up and heading on the road to Placencia (a 3.5hr drive).
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of my travel blog where I cover our amazing few days at the beach in Placencia! Tons of beach pics coming your way!