Unscathed by overdevelopment because of a protective barrier reef that keeps cruise ships from visiting the many small islands along its coast, Belize remains a tourist haven where travelers seeking privacy or adventure can still find both. Days here are filled with edifying activities like guided trips to Mayan ruins or simple downtime spent watching boats go back and forth over the calm Caribbean. With it's good food, friendly people and reasonable prices, Belize is still a paradise. It's also 83 degrees and sunny as of press time.
Start your experience at Travel Belize (tel. 800/624-0686; www.travelbelize.org), the official website of the Belize Tourism Board. It offers information on what to do, see and eat; historical background; maps and travel information; and practical advice on how to get to Belize. Since it has long been popular among a diverse collection of backpackers, divers, luxury travelers and the ultra-rich, Belize has ample accommodations for every type of traveler (the website's lodging search engine allows users to price places with nightly rates as low as $21). Search results yield a contact name and number, area, price and description of the property. You can also find tour operators and licensed tour guides.
To get to Belize from the United States, Houston-based Intratours (tel. 866/952-0662; www.intratours.com) has discount flights to the capital Belize City available from a number of U.S. gateways. From August 22 to December 9, 2006 and January 16 to March 31, 2007, roundtrip midweek departure prices with Saturday stays include $481 from Chicago, $515 from New York, $518 from Miami, $525 from Houston, $499 from Los Angeles, and $541 from Minneapolis. Weekend surcharges will apply.
Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) offers two air-inclusive trips to Belize. An Ambergris Caye Getaway good for travel from October 1 to December 11, 2006 starts at $1,109 for air and seven nights lodging. Accommodations at the starting price are at the Mata Rocks Resort, a centrally located beachfront hotel just a quick walk to the shops, restaurants and casino in downtown San Pedro. If you're looking for an upgrade, Capricorn is a small resort with one of the country's top restaurants and three very private cabanas with air conditioning located right on the beach. The cost for two with lodging at Capricorn comes to $1,559 per person for the total package. Order the grilled lobster tails at the restaurant, which most diners arrive at via boat.
The other Go-Today trip visits Belize's southern coastal region Placencia, known for its quiet beaches, sleepy towns, proximity to the jungle and passionate people with Creole roots. The snorkeling and diving are just as incredible down south as they are up north, but the atmosphere is more relaxed, less harried (if Belize can be harried) and slightly less touristy and commercial. This seven-night air/land trip starts at $1,269 for a stay at the beachfront Nautical Inn on the Placencia Peninsula near a small Creole village. The small hotel only has 12 rooms but is equipped with a full bar, restaurant, a swimming pool and PADI-sanctioned dive shop. The purchase deadline for both of these Go Today packages falls on October 12, 2006.
Eco adventurers take note: Brendan Worldwide Vacations (tel. 800/421-8446; www.brendanvacations.com) has a nine-day eco-trip package that is locally hosted by professional guides. The trip includes all domestic travel in Belize while on the trip (including baggage handling at the airports), eight breakfasts, four lunches, services of an English-speaking local host, sightseeing trips to Mayan caves, cave tubing, rainforest visits, snorkeling at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and a visit to the Belize Zoo. This trip makes stops in Belize City, the Cayo District, a rainforest, and Ambergris Caye. All hotel taxes and service charges are also included. The Belize-only portion of the trip starts at $1,608 based on double occupancy. Call to price an air-inclusive trip.
Green Dragon Adventure Travel (tel. 501/822-2124; www.greendragonbelize.com), a Belize-based tour provider run by a former professional football player from the English Premier League and a VJ from MTV Europe, has short and long packages available to almost all destinations inside Belize. For horseback riders, there's an all-inclusive land-only seven-night "Jungle Horseback Riding" trip starting at $1,890 for adults and $899 per child that includes all accommodations, vehicle transfers, all meals, guide fees and local taxes. On your way through the countryside, you'll stop at wildlife preserves, waterfalls, operating farms, Mayan ruins and underground rivers. Green Dragon also has dive trips, extreme adventure trips and pure beach vacations of various lengths.
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