The adventurous Belize 7 day itinerary: road trip & island hopping edition

Though small in comparison to other Central America countries, Belize does not lack adventure. In fact, Belize boasts great jungle trekking, exploring Mayan ruins and cave tubing. Belize is the ideal Latin America country to embark on an adventurous vacation or a solo adventure

In January, I embarked on a week-long, solo road trip throughout Belize. I ventured to the Belize-Guatemala border and then down the Southern Coast to Punta Gorda. I ended my week-long vacation with a quick trip to Belize’s most famous Cayes (islands located off the mainland) — Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker.


Day 1

After numerous flight delays and forced to spend the night in the airport, I finally landed in Belize. Unfortunately, my 9-day Belize adventure was now slimmed down to a week. I quickly headed North without wasting another moment. I had planned to spend the entire day up north touring Orange Walk and making my way to Sarteneja.

As karma would have it, I only made it to Altun Ha and had a quick tour of the Community Baboon Sanctuary. If you have time, schedule a night hike at the Community Baboon Sanctuary to see the Howler Monkeys in rowdy spirits.

Driving through Belize’s northern country was eye-opening for me. Much of the road was riddled with potholes. I drove through communities plagued by poverty. Cruising in my newer rental car made me feel guilty and realize how privileged I am to be able to travel the world. I spent the night in Teakettle at Leslie’s Private Paradise.


 

Day 2

Old, hand-crank bridge crossing river to Xunantunich Maya ruins in Belize, Central AmericaI slept in and decided to explore the Mayan ruins for the rest of the day. Due to my many flight delays, I had to throw out my original itinerary and start over. My first stop was to Xunantunich, near the Guatemala-Belize border. Xunantunich is the only Belizean Mayan ruin site that overlooks the rivaled border. Its located in the depths of the jungle and visitors must use a hand-crank bridge to cross the river. After crossing the river,  travelers drive less than a mile up the road and the ruins appear over the treetops.

I explored the ruin site for a majority of the afternoon. The Xunantunich Mayan Ruins are some of the most well-preserved ruins in Belize and are also the second tallest. Thought the ruin site itself is comparatively smaller than others, with only three large ruin structures for visitors to climb, this is a definite must-see.

Xunantunich Mayan ruins overlooking Belize and Guatemala border

The view of the Guatemala-Belize jungle-foliage border is unlike anything else I saw during my trip to Belize. I sat in a literal daze for hours admiring the beautiful scenery from the top of Mayan ruins and paying that I wouldn’t become lightheaded by the altitude.

Visitors are truly immersed in the jungle while touring the ruins. I also spotted a troop of Howler Monkeys in the tree canopy while I was viewing the ball court of this ruin site.

Belize woman walking through Santa Elena, Belize's Saturday market next to Central American fruit vendors

For the hottest portion of the afternoon, I took refuge traipsing through Santa Elena’s outdoor market. The market vendors sold handmade crafts, souvenirs, second-hand clothes, spices and fresh fruits and vegetables. Many locals sat together gossiping under the colorful tarps to escape the hot afternoon sun.

I ended my day by exploring another Mayan ruin site. (This will be a common theme in this itinerary, lots of ruin exploration!) Cahal Pech is a ruin site overlooking Santa Elena. This ruin site was nestled in among the jungle brush and was less excavated than Xunantunich. Trekking through the half-excavated ruin site made me feel like a modern-day Indiana Jones. 

I ended my adventure-filled day by staying at the Pilgrim Paradise cabins on the outskirts of Santa Elena.

 

Day 3 

I beat the sun and its morning salutations this day. With a granola bar in hand, I navigated the bumpy terrain to the Douglas Silva Ranger Station when the sun peeked over the horizon. I decided to be extra adventurous this day and venture to the Caracol Mayan ruin site solo. In order to travel to Caracol, visitors need to sign in at checkpoints and accompanied by a convoy led by the Belize Defence Force.

Caracol is a two-hour drive one-way into the dense jungle brush over a road ravaged by crater-sized potholes. The rust-colored road has hairpin turns hugged by the dense jungle brush. Doing this trip solo without a passenger for the company or to help you keep your sanity was difficult.

Largest, main Mayan temple on Plaza A at Caracol Mayan Ruins in Belize, Central America
Caana, The Sky Palace, at Caracol.

Visiting the Caracol ruins is non-negotiable though. You definitely need to either book a tour or make the drive because they are spectacular. Caracol is the largest Mayan ruin site in Belize and it’s mind-boggling how large and expansive it is. Unlike the other Mayan ruin sites I visited, Caracol excavated not only the temples of the Mayan ruin sites but also other integral parts of the Mayan metropolis like ball courts, altars, burial grounds, monuments (called Stelas by archaeologists), tombs, etc.

Large fresca of Mayan warrior at Caracol ruins' main temple plaza in Belize

I would recommend hiring a tour guide to take you around the site because there are no plaques or signs that say what each architectural structure is and its importance to the city. A Defence Force officer guided me around the plaza he was patrolling and explained some of the structures to me.

After touring the ruins for six hours, I weaved my way out of the Mayan foothills and towards the eastern side of the country. I got to the resort I would be spending the night as the sun was setting. The Jaguar Creek Resort in Belmopan was so relaxing that I didn’t venture out anymore that evening.

Note: If you go with a tour company to view Caracol they might also take you to Rio Frio Caves and 1,000 Foot Falls. Both are down windy, gravel roads again. Since it had rained that afternoon, I decided that I didn’t want to chance getting stuck with my rental and felt safer driving solo on the highway.

View of jungle canopy and treetops in Belize at largest Mayan ruin site, Caracol deep in the jungle

 

Day 4 

My evening before at the resort was wonderful. I was pampered like a queen and anxious to explore what people consider the most beautiful stretch of highway in Belize — The Hummingbird Highway.

The Hummingbird Highway takes about two hours to drive one way. Along the highway are stops for the Blue Hole National Park, not to be confused with the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize. 

Jungle brush view from hike to St Herman's cave in Blue Hole National Park in Belize off the Hummingbird Highway

I explored the Blue Hole National Park, which is one of Belize’s hidden gems. No one talks about this national park, but it’s fantastic! Two gems in the park at St Herman’s Cave and the Blue Hole, not to be confused with the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize. 

I drove the rest of the way to Placencia, a growing beachside, tourist area in Belize with many resorts and casinos. Roughly 20 minutes outside of the town at Mayan Centre there’s a women’s cooperative that sells handmade crafts. At the local craft shop, you can inquire about a tour guide for the Cockscomb Basin, the jaguar preserve in Belize. The best time to go is at night when the Jaguars are active.

This is the evening where I faced my first Airbnb scam, so I scrambled to find a room in the bustling resort town of Palencia. Sadly, I missed my jaguar trek because of this scam. I finally found a room and slept for a few hours before hitting the road for my next day’s adventure.

Editor’s note 

If you’re looking for some hidden gems in Southern Belize head to Rio Blanco National Park or Lubaantun Mayan ruins.  

Day 5 

My last two days in Belize I spent exploring the Cayes. This came highly recommended, so my hopes were high. Sadly, the Cayes were not the highlight of my trip. 

sunset in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize overlooking calm Caribbean Sea with sail boat and motor boat on shoreline

The first Caye I visited was Ambergris Caye, the home of San Pedro. San Pedro is a bustling beach town known for its vibrant culture and delicious food. What’s interesting about this Caye is that there are no cars on the island. Visitors need to rent bikes or golf carts to get around. I opted for a golf cart and had a blast zipping down the cobblestoned lanes of San Pedro.

What people don’t mention about the Cayes is that you’re not able to swim off the shore due to the reeds that line the shoreline. Visitors need a boat to enjoy swimming or snorkeling with no reeds nearby. I was content to sit on the shore and just look at the Caribbean Sea.

I checked into accommodation early — the Daydreamin’ Bed & Breakfast — and relaxed like royalty for the remainder of the afternoon. They had a pool at the adult-only resort so I was able to tan a little as I enjoyed the tropical heat.

In the evening I headed back to downtown San Pedro to feast on some traditional Belizean food and enjoy some much-needed drinks.

Day 6 

I took the water taxi over to Caye Caulker for my last full day in Belize. Caye Caulker is party central. Nearly all the businesses are beach bars offering happy hour discounts all day long on Caribbean rum punch.

I opted to lounge on the beach and just enjoy the tropical heat of the day. Similar to Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker’s beaches didn’t have optimal swimming conditions.

colorful Caribbean buildings along sandy streets in Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is a lot smaller than Ambergris Caye, so visitors are able to walk around and explore the island. The different beach shacks and surf shops were fun to explore.

I then spent the rest of my evening lying in a hammock relaxing as droves of parties filled the streets. I woke up at 4 a.m. and there were still partiers in the streets.

pink and yellow sunset behind beachside food huts framed by palm trees and a sandy beach

Day 7

Early in the morning, I left my beachfront hotel and boarded the water taxi to go back to the mainland. On the way to Belize City, I watched the sun peek over the several green Cayes scattered throughout the Caribbean Sea. The waters no longer blue but pink and yellow. 

Before flying home, I grabbed some authentic Belizean grub for the last time at Le Petit Cafe. It was close to the shoreline so I sat and watched the cruise ships dock for a few hours.

Quirky Globetrotter

Hi! I'm Martha! The mastermind behind Quirky Globetrotter a feminist travel blog. Quirky Globetrotter is devoted to telling narratives devoted to female solo travel and hidden gems worldwide with an emphasis on intersectional feminism and how that impacts travel on a global and local level.

43 thoughts on “The adventurous Belize 7 day itinerary: road trip & island hopping edition

  1. Wow thought 7 days in Belize is a lot but I can see how to enjoy it properly you can take that whole week! Would love to go see Caracol ruins, seems like it wouldn’t be too popular. Can’t wait to our Caribbean’s trip and stop by here 100%!

    1. Hi Mimi! I’m so excited that you’re going to be exploring Belize! I also thought 7 days was a lot for such a little country, but I definitely didn’t even scratch the surface of what you can all do. Definitely want to go back and explore more ruins and caves! Happy and safe travels to you!

  2. Great information! The maps are very helpful and it’s easy to follow where you are. Keep it up!

  3. Oh I’m so jealous of your week-long trip!! I had a similar itinerary planned during my visit in 2016, but unfortunately it was just as Hurricane Earl happened. We got held up in Guatemala for an extra 2 days as there was too much debris to cross the border, and then when we finally did the after-effects of the Hurricane meant most of the main attractions and activities were completely shut down. ATM Caves, Xunantunich and Caracol were all completely off-limits, as was the Blue Hope and all other diving excursions. We ended up spending 5 full days on the Cayes (stayed on Ambergris but also explored some of Caulker) and while I had such a wonderful and relaxing time, I’m itching to go back and really see the country and it’s ruins, just as you did.

    1. Hi Rhi! I’m so sad to hear that you weren’t able to explore many of the ruins! The Cayes in my opinion were overhyped, but I can understand your situation. Definitely do try to plan a trip back someday to explore those areas — or live vicariously through my blog posts, ha! Happy and safe travels to you!

  4. Wow, I’ve heard of people visiting Belize for the beaches, but never a road trip. I love a good road trip, and the inner country of Belize is so new to me! I’d love to check out the Blue Hole National Park and the Cayes! So magical!

    1. Hi Rachelle! Road trips are Quirky Globetrotter’s specialty so I try to embark on one in every country I visit. The Blue Hole National Park was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my trip — such as true hidden gem! Happy and safe travels to you!

  5. Wow! What an adventurous journey! This sounds like a perfect road trip itinerary. The Mayan and the charcoal ruins are extremely fascinating and the Blue Hole National Park is breathtakingly beautiful. Your amazing pictures perfectly justify the beauty of Belize. I would so love to go for a road trip like this. Thanks for sharing the details of your trip.

    1. Hi Shaily! Thanks for reading! I wasn’t planning on embarking on a road trip in Belize, but I’m so happy that I did! It definitely made my experience that much richer and more unique. I’d love to go back and explore more areas soon. Happy travels to you!

  6. Isn’t it incredible how traveling to third world countries can open our eyes up to how privileged we are back home? I’m glad you had that experience and it was meaningful for you. I’ve only been to Belize once for one day, and apparently I need to go back because there’s so much to do there!

    1. Hi Diana! I was stunned at how diverse Belize was, too! I usually only hear about Belize as a quick pit stop on a cruise, but never really as a travel destination. I truly loved every moment that I was there. Thanks for reading. Happy and safe travels to you!

  7. What a great itinary, I have never been to Belize, but would love to visit the Maya and charcoal ruins and the Blue Hole national park and I have to say that I love your photos.

  8. Belize looks beautiful and it is such a pity that it is so far away from where I live because otherwise, I would have visited it already! I have always wanted to visited the Mayan ruins since the day I read about them but I did not know particularly about Caracol Ruins being the best of all those ruins. That’s good to know. Also, I would really love to visit Blue Hole National Park. I think I’ll also rent a car, seems like its the best way to explore!

    1. Hi Medha! Belize would be a long haul for you, but so worth it! I really was amazed by the beauty and intricacy of the Mayan ruins. I didn’t think I was going to be so stunned. Most people don’t take the time to rent a car, but I think it’s the way to go! Thanks for reading. Happy travels!

  9. Personally I love these long travelogues. It’s like reading a story so even if I never get to visit Bekize, i’d have seen it through your eyes. The landscape, coconut trees, horizon views all look amazing. So great you gave all this information and even included the maps. Great job!

  10. Wow it sounds like you had an awesome time on your road trip around Belize. I would love to visit one day, it looks stunning there and so authentic too. Shame about your experience at the cayes, but at least you can inform others if they plan on visiting. Hummingbirf Highway has to be the prettiest name for a highway in the world!

    1. I definitely had a blast! I think that Belize’s mainland is definitely underrated while the cayes are overrated. I hope more travelers take the time to dive into Belize’s culture and Mayan ruins, which are definitely a highlight of my trip. Happy travels to you, Lisa!

  11. Belize is at the top of our list for 2020! I really enjoyed reading about your experience. Some might think a week is a long time, but it clearly is a perfect amount of time. I am especially interested in the Mayan Ruins. Love your photos of these sites!

    1. Hi Leah! I definitely hope you get to Belize in 2020! I’m working on a Mayan ruin site post right now, so stay tuned for that. The ruins were actually the major highlight of my trip. I have never seen anything like that and I loved exploring at my heart’s content! Happy travels!

  12. Such a great itinerary! I always love to travel to Belize so it’s nice to read about it. Belize definitely has many things to offer, and I would love to visit Caracol ruins and exploring the Cayes. Blue Hole National Park also looks amazing too, and I’m sorry that you had Airbnb scam. Thanks for including the map in the itinerary. They are useful.

    1. Hi Ha! I try to be as detailed as I can in my itineraries without bogging down my readers with too many details. Caracol was definitely a highlight of my trip. I’m so happy that I took the plunge and explored it on my own. Happy travels to you!

  13. Santa Elena’s market looks perfect for me. I wish I was there now! Belize is much better since renaming from British Honduras.

    1. Hi Naomi! I loved talking to the locals, which I did a lot at the Santa Elena market. It was interesting hear about Belize’s history through them rather than at a museum. I definitely learned how being a British colony impacted the Belizean people and how they lived their lives. Definitely visit if you can!

  14. Wow what an adventure you had! There was a fair share of dramas that you had to endure and I admire you for doing it solo. It’s sounds like you packed a lot into your itinerary despite having to change your plans along the way. Belize looks like a fantastic place to explore.

    1. Thanks, Laura! I would definitely recommend Belize for any solo traveler. I definitely enjoyed my trip there. I was definitely spoiled and able to rent a car, but there are definitely ways to get around Belize such as public transport, etc. I hope you get to explore Belize some day soon!

  15. I’ve never been to Belize, but it looks beautiful! Except for the crank bridge – I’m not sure if I could do that! I love how you added the maps so we can see exactly where you went!

    1. Hi Victoria! The crank bridge was probably a two minute ride — I’m not exaggerating! I felt that it was fairly steady and overall I found it very quirky! I would highly suggest visiting Xunantunich ruins because there were some of my favorite ruins I saw in Belize. Happy travels!

  16. Have never thought of visiting Belieze before but after reading this post I really want to. Love the rugged and colourful look of the houses. I would definitely visit the Mayan ruins which are of interest to me. Overall a 6 day visit is just enough I think. Thanks for sharing.

    1. The houses in Belize are definitely more rugged and run down than in other countries. Belize is considered a third-world country, so supporting the local economy when you go is very important. If you do go to the Mayan ruin sites hire a local guide. They often do this to make extra cash to support their families, but they are always fabulous and informative tours. Happy travels to you, Amar!

  17. Wow what an incredible place is Belize with full of natural stuff, ancient civilization and a very unique Latin American vibes. I have been never been to Latin America but your 7 days road trip in Belize tempts to look out for this. Famous Mayan ruin looks interesting and it would be great to see them and know more about their living in ancient world.

    1. Hi Yukti! I definitely agree with you and traveling to Belize felt like visiting another time period. I loved experiencing how the Mayans lived and learning about their hardships. It definitely made me better understand the Belizean culture and their customs. Happy travels!

  18. Wow what an amazing road trip it is. I have many friends who had visited Belize for the beautiful beaches, but never a road trip. The maps in your post are a perfect way to guide the complete itinerary.

    1. Hi Riya! Unfortunately, most people visit Belize on a cruise or venturing only to the cayes (islands). I think the mainland is the overlooked gem and more people should venture to the Mayan ruins and truly experience the Belizean culture. I loved my time on the mainland and definitely wish I could have explored more.

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