When most people imagine their honeymoon, they think of a tropical paradise where they can relax all day and don’t have to worry about anything at all. Josh and I also saw the appeal behind that kind of honeymoon, but we also know ourselves well enough to know that if we didn’t have a little adventure thrown in there, we would be bored within a few days. I’d always dreamed of Tahiti or St. Lucia…but Tahiti would break our budget and St. Lucia was becoming too popular in my opinion. After hours of research and comparing pros and cons, we finally decided on Belize.
Josh and I are not really the “all inclusive” type of travellers, mainly because we feel we can typically spend significantly less money by not going the all inclusive route. However, since it was for our honeymoon and we didn’t want to stress about how much we spent on dinner or how we were going to get to the adventure activities we wanted to participate in, we chose the all inclusive route with a very small resort called Beaches and Dreams.
Beaches and Dreams resort has your choice between beach front cabanas and a newer boutique hotel. The cabanas don’t have air conditioning and the hotel does, but we went with the cabana and were completely comfortable with the breeze from the ocean breathing in through our windows at night. The hotel has a roof top deck, a pool, and a hot tub that can all be used at any time even if you are staying in a cabana. They also provide kayaks and bikes for guests to use at any time. Since the resort is so small, the beach area in front of it was never crowded while we were there. There is no shortage of palm trees, thatched roof umbrellas, hammocks and lounge chairs to relax in along the white sandy beach overlooking the crystal blue ocean.
On top of the great amenities and the beach front aspect of this resort, the all inclusive package includes your meals during your stay. The owners are a 5 star chef and a party chef and they do the cooking. Combine the skill with the fresh seafood that is caught daily and the local produce (sometimes picked from their own yard!) and every single meal was absolutely extraordinary.
A few more things about Belize that we were surprised about that may worry some travellers, but we found to be all part of the great adventure of being somewhere totally different. When we flew into Belize City, we had to hop on a tiny plane to get to Hopkins. One lady lost her boarding pass and was still allowed to board. Another person asked the pilot if they could sit up front with him in the copilot seat and he let her. Those things would never happen in the States! There was a driver waiting for us in Hopkins who drove us to the resort. The roads in Belize are absolutely awful and a large part of the country is in poverty. Let me note though that we never felt unsafe while we were there.
Don’t be fooled, we spent PLENTY of time laying around on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and walking up and down the beach. We took the kayaks out a couple times and rode bikes in to town more than once. While we loved every minute of that, we also loved experiencing what else Belize has to offer.
Horse back riding in the jungle-
Both Josh and I had been horse back riding before. I even took lessons when I was a kid. However, it was nothing compared to our experience in Belize. The ride lasted for a few hours while we wound along the trails of the jungle, seeing trees and animals we had never seen before. We were able to pluck fruit right from the trees to snack on, and we stopped at a river to give the horses a rest and play in the water. Our guide even let us gallop on the horses which never happens when you are not experienced and go riding in the states. We were racing the horses so fast that there were moments I honestly wondered if I would fly off. I didn’t though and it was exhilarating. My pieces of advice-wear pants (we hadn’t brought any due to the always high temperatures there) and wear bug spray. I was literally covered in over 30 bug bites from being in the jungle.
Xunantunich Mayan Ruins-
The main downside to this “all day” adventure is that most of your “all day” is spent driving to and from the ruins. The location was 2.5 hours away from our resort so 5 hours total drive time. Also, I assume you are allowed to wander the ruins on your own, but we had a tour guide. He mostly just repeated himself and called every lizard we saw “lunch.” The main temple is awesome and huge. We got to climb up it for a view of the whole place. There are also arenas, ball courts, a sacrifice/ritual place, and a palace. The tour itself was short lived, but our driver took us to a cool place for lunch, stopped for ice cream, and obliged to me asking him to stop at a chocolate shop with drove by before heading “home” for mojitos on the dock.
Waterfall repel and zip lining-
We spent one full day at Bocawina National Park. The park itself was full of hiking trails, beautiful flowers, and waterfalls. I would have been perfectly content just roaming the park for a few hours! We got to do a little more though and started out on a fairly rigorous, guided, uphill hike through the jungle along Antelope Falls. We reached a large natural swimming pool where you could jump off the rocks into the water. Josh and I continued to climb the rocks (while our guides were resting) to find a series of more and more natural swimming pools all the way up. When we were done exploring this area we went down to where the waterfall is the strongest and repelled down. It was dry season when we went so the waterfall wasn’t rushing quite as hard as it does during rainy season, but it was still cool.
We hiked back down for lunch before doing the zip line route. There are about 8 different cables your get to fly along, some as long as a half mile! The whole time you are zooming along either above or through the rain forest. It was a great experience with really cool views, even if we didn’t get to see any monkeys.
This experience wasn’t included in our original package, but anything you want to add on is super easy to set up just by telling the owners you want to go do it. We were both SO glad we added this day trip on to our honeymoon as it is easily one of the coolest, most unique things I have ever done in my life. Let it be known that this is excursion is not for everyone. There is swimming, tight spaces, pitch black, climbing, skeletons, and creatures involved. Our driver took us an hour and a half inland where we switched vehicles. I can’t say I wasn’t a little concerned by the nature of this vehicle which looked rough to put it nicely. There are exposed wires everywhere and every piece of the van is broken or falling apart. Once we started driving though, the reason for the vehicle switch and the vans poor condition became obvious. The roads were so bad that going over pot holes made you bounce up in your seat to the point of hitting your head on the ceiling. We also had to drive through a river where the van was just completely flooded with water. Eventually we made it to the entrance where you have your last chance to use the rest room, got fitted into our helmets (with flashlights-no light at all in the cave), left everything in the sketchy van (no pictures allowed), and followed our guide along the start of the hike. (This adventure must be done with a guide)
The walk to the entrance of the cave is easy and lovely, though you do have to cross the river three times…and by cross I mean walk through it. There are ropes to hold on to at the deepest spots. Once you get to the cave you are greeted with a pool of blue-green water at the mouth of a high vaulted ceiling. It is breath taking. The only way in is to swim so we jumped off the rocks and swam into the cave. The ceiling are ridiculously high and the formations are incredible. Most of the time you are walking through water. The deepest points for our trip were chest deep, though they said the water is over your head in several places during the rainy season. There are some places where it is a tight squeeze, and several slippery spots. There are several places where we had to climb the rock to get to higher grounds. The stalagmite formations that hang down like icing on a cake or like waterfalls frozen in time glitter in the light of our helmets. There are fish, crustaceans, spiders, insects, and bats all throughout the cave and in the water you are in. At one point, our guide made us turn off our lights so we were immersed in complete and total blackness while still having us walk forward following his voice.
Toward the end, you climb up onto some rocks and have to take your shoes off. You walk barefoot among ancient Mayan artifacts and skeletons, many of which have not been revealed yet because 95% of the stuff in the cave has not been touched or removed. Instead of digging through to find artifacts, they let them surface by the rise and fall of the rushing water. There are countless pots and pieces of pottery all left exactly where they were found. The only thing separating you from these is a piece of tape on the ground so you don’t step off the path and crush anything. There are several skulls and other bones that have been left right where they were discovered so can be inches away from them at any time. The most amazing thing is at the farthest back spot where you are allowed where a full skeleton of a teenage boy lies. We were told that he was probably taken there to be sacrificed. You can literally see every bone of this body. You can see where his spine got crushed and where his hand is caught in the rocks, trapping him there only inches away from where you stand to look. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.
The hike out goes much faster and after the walk back to the vans, there is a nice picnic lunch set up for you. My points of advice for this trip:
- DO IT. If you haven’t been completely scared off by my post, you won’t regret it.
- Wear good water shoes and take socks for the end part if you aren’t comfortable with being barefoot.
- Bring a change of clothes for the ride back–there is literally no way that you will not get completely wet.
- You can bring snacks (we didn’t). The guide will keep them in his bag.
- September is typically the wettest month so if you want the extra challenge, that’s the time to go. If swimming isn’t your strong point-avoid going at this time
This was another one of those awesome experiences that I had never done before and in my opinion didn’t last nearly long enough. Also another experience where we couldn’t really get pictures because it was dark. The cruise started with a long boat ride along the river where we searched for wildlife and gazed up at the billions of stars. Eventually we headed to a lagoon where movement makes the water glow. You can put your hand in the water and watch the water glow in the trail of your fingers. The fish and jellyfish all seem to glow and leave a trail of light in their wake as they swim around. This is something I could have marvelled at all night.
Whereas the thought of swimming with the wildlife and seeing the colors of the reef system have always been appealing to me, I am not a great swimmer and I didn’t really love the thought of having to breathe through my mouth instead of my nose. I put these worries aside for this trip and am glad I did. It did take me a little while to get used to the mask on my face but once I switched to a mask that fit better, I had no issues at all. Also, swimming is a breeze with you have flippers on! We went to two different spots and swam through all the beautiful coral and saw thousands of fish. We saw squid and swimming along in a straight line. We saw multiple sting rays..some normal sized, and some as big as a coffee table! We even saw two sharks. I literally could have spent all day doing that instead of just a few hours and will make sure to do a longer excursion next time I get the chance to snorkel.
This was another little side trip we added on due to my extreme love of chocolate. We got to walk the orchards where the cacao trees are grown. I literally never knew that it came from a large orange-ish pod filled with white, slimy squares (seeds). We got to break one open and taste the seed. It was hard for me to get past the texture but the flavor was nice and fruity. They break open the pods and collect just the insides before letting the seeds dry out for seven days. This is when they start to smell like chocolate. Then they need to be broken out of there shells where they take the nibs (very bitter–you get to try those too) and put them on a lava stone. You use another lava stone to create heat as you crush the nibs to the point of melting. Then you add as much sugar as you want depending on taste and some cocoa butter and repeat the process until the texture is smooth. Josh and I made one bar and the amount of work that goes in to it is insane. Our triceps were burning and ours was still a little grainy when we were done with it. I can’t imagine doing that all day every day. Luckily, within the past couple years, they finally got machine that do the lava rock part so they don’t have to do it by hand. Definitely an interesting tour, especially if you’re a chocolate lover like me!
Our honeymoon was the kind where you come home covered in bumps, bruises, scrapes, bug bites, and sore muscles, but had experiences you will never forget and made memories that will last a lifetime.