There isn't much to see or do in Corozal Town. It's mostly just a stopping point for weary travelers. However, it sits on the shores of a pretty, quiet bay with amazing turquoise-blue water that is officially the Bay of Chetumal, but locally dubbed Corozal Bay. If you want to split hairs, the small bay just off Corozal Town could be considered a separate entity from the larger Bay of Chetumal that it sits in.
If you've just come from Mexico, you can take a day or two to walk around town and marvel at the difference between Mexican culture and Belizean culture. The countries are so close and yet worlds apart. Belize is truly a Caribbean country, with frame houses built on high stilts to provide coolness, protection from floods, and shade for sitting.
The heart of Corozal Town is the small plaza between 1st Street North and 1st Street South and 4th and 5th avenues. This is a good place to grab a bench and watch the locals go about their daily business. If you're hanging out here, it's worth a quick visit to the Town Hall to see the historical mural painted by Belizean-Mexican artist Manuel Villamor Reyes. The mural covers the local history from the Mayan era to the days of sugar cane plantations. However, if you want a really inviting park bench, I recommend heading a couple of blocks east to tiny parks and public lands you'll find all along the bayfront. Just off the town's central waterfront area, there's the little Corozal House of Culture (tel. 422-3176). While it's far from impressive, you can glean a little bit of the area's history by touring its simple exhibits. Originally built in 1886 as the town's Custom's House, the museum has a collection of Mayan artifacts, as well as natural history exhibits and photos, documents, and relics from the town's more recent history. The House of Culture is open daily from 8am to 5pm; admission is BZ$10 (US$5/£2.65).
If you haven't yet had your fill of Mayan ruins, there are a couple to visit in the area. If you look across the water from the shore in Corozal Town, you can see Cerros or Cerro Maya on the far side of the Bay of Chetumal. "Cerro" means hill in Spanish, and the site is that little bump in the forest you can see across the bay. (Up close it seems much larger.) Cerros was an important coastal trading center during the late Pre-Classic Period. Some of the remains of this city are now under the waters of the bay, but there's still a 21m-tall (70-ft.) pyramid built right on the water's edge that you can climb for a wonderful view of the bay. Ask around town to find someone willing to take you by boat to the ruins. Or you can drive, by heading out of town to the south and catching the free ferry across the New River; this will connect you with the road to Cerros.
Right on the outskirts of town you'll find some of the remains of another ancient city many believe was the Mayan trading center of Chactemal (Chetumal). It is currently called Santa Rita. Corozal Town is actually built on the ruins of Santa Rita, which was an important late Post-Classic Mayan town and was still occupied at the time of the Spanish Conquest. The only excavated building is a small temple across the street from the Coca-Cola bottling plant. To reach it, head north past the bus station and about a kilometer (1/2 mile) later, at the sharp curve to the right, take the road straight ahead that leads up a hill. You'll see the building 1 block over to the right.
Two Nearby Nature Reserves
Bird-watchers and naturalists will want to visit the nearby Shipstern Nature Reserve(www.shipstern.org). The reserve's 8,903 hectares (22,000 acres) protect a variety of distinct ecosystems and a wealth of flora and fauna. Managed by the Swiss International Tropical Conservation Foundation, Shipstern Nature Reserve is home to over 250 bird species, and its mangroves, lagoons, and flat wetlands are excellent bird-watching sites. The massive network of lagoons and wetlands is home to manatees and Morelet's crocodiles. The reserve also has lowland tropical dry forest unique to Belize, as well as a butterfly breeding project. The reserve is open daily from 8am to 4pm. Admission is BZ$10 (US$5/£2.65) per person and includes a short guided hike. It is possible to spend the night in some simple accommodations or pitch a tent inside of Shipstern Nature Reserve; rates are around BZ$30-BZ$40 (US$15-US$20/£7.95-£11) per person for a room and BZ$10 (US$5/£2.65) per person for camping. There's no restaurant here, but kitchen facilities are available at the rooms. To make a reservation, call the ranger station at tel. 423-2247.
Tip: The wetlands here are a major insect breeding ground. This is a bonanza for the birds and bats, but you might want to bring along plenty of insect repellent, and probably lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants.
Five kilometers (3.1 miles) beyond Shipstern Nature Reserve, on the edge of the peninsula, lies the tiny lobster and fishing community of Sarteneja. In Sarteneja, the best place to stay is Fernando's Seaside Guesthouse (tel. 423-2085; www.cybercayecaulker.com/sarteneja.html). Fernando is an excellent guide, and he can arrange everything from fishing or snorkeling trips to Mayan ruin excursions and night tours of the Shipstern Nature Reserve.
To drive to Shipstern Nature Reserve and Sarteneja, you used to have to first drive down to Orange Walk Town and take the Sarteneja Highway through San Estevan and Little Belize. There is now another route that cuts some time and distance off this trip. Heading south out of Corozal, stick close to the bay. Just outside of Corozal, take the small barge ferry over the New River, which then connects to the roads to Copper Bank, Progresso, and Shipstern and on to Sarteneja.
Several buses daily connect Shipstern Nature Reserve and Sarteneja to Orange Walk, Corozal Town, Chetumal, and Belize City. Alternatively, you can hitch a ride on the Thunderbolt heading to San Pedro, or hire a boat on the docks in Corozal for around BZ$160 (US$80/£42). The price is for the entire boat, and most can carry as many as 10 passengers.
Tropic Air (tel. 800/422-3435 in the U.S. or Canada, 226-2012 in Belize City, or 422-0356 in Corozal; www.tropicair.com) will land its regularly scheduled 7am and 5pm flights between San Pedro and Corozal at an airstrip in Sarteneja, if there is demand. The fare is BZ$86 (US$43/£23) each way.
The Bacalar Chico National Park & Marine Reserve lies about an hour's boat ride away from Corozal Town. This is a great spot for snorkeling and wildlife viewing. Ask around town or at the docks; you should be able to hire a boat for around BZ$240 (US$120/£64), and the snorkeling equipment and a bag lunch will probably run an extra BZ$30 to BZ$50 (US$15-US$25/£7.95-£13) per person.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.