Few things can top baking on white, soft sand in Ambergris Caye or floating on the crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea off of Placencia. Belize is known for these monumental experiences for a water-lover, after all. Browse any guidebook and you’ll become smitten with the small country’s affinity for sun and sand. Still, with a new year comes new vacation ideas, and if you’re looking for something a little off-the-beaten-track, Belize has got you covered. To give you some travel inspiration, here are our top picks for alternative beach holiday destinations in Belize.
Talk to any local in the Cayo District’s San Ignacio Town and you’ll learn their favorite refreshing pastime is lounging at the Macal River. You can set up a lovely romantic picnic near the riverbank or paddle downstream in a canoe. San Ignacio Resort Hotel offers a tour for the latter, where you get to spend two hours canoeing on the meandering river while observing a multitude of wildlife. There may be no sand or lapping waves that you’re used to on beach vacations, but you’ll be tanned and refreshed all the same.
Lakes are the new beaches, with the added perk of no fighting over prime tanning space. One such place is Vaca Lake, located in the upper part of the Macal River Valley. This hideaway in Belize is more than meets the eye, even to the water-lover. Apart from being tinged with a deep green hue, Vaca Lake also has a few stunning waterfalls that make great pitstops when on a pontoon tour. The six-mile-long lake may be man-made, but the nature views are second to none. You can book a pontoon tour to float around the lake while seated with your group of friends. Keep an eye out for vibrant bird species, spider monkeys, green iguanas, and more. After playing spot-the-wildlife, stop for a dip beneath the cascading water of one of the waterfalls.
Aptly named, Five Blues Lake near Belmopan exhibits five dazzling shades of blue in its waters. The local swimming hole is still mostly unknown to tourists, which means there won’t be any crowds when you decide to spend the afternoon diving in. The national park is surrounded by dense forest creating a lost-in-paradise feel that feels both intimate and more unique than other beach getaways. Once you’ve explored the 200-foot-deep cenote, take the time out to hike the neighboring jungle and birdwatch to your heart’s content. That’s not something your average beach getaway provides, for sure. Explore the towering limestone cliffs and keep your eyes peeled for the White Hawk. You can opt to take a self-guided trail and wander around either on foot or mountain bike. There are also kayaks for hire should you want a little more adventure in your “beach”’ getaway.
The quiet fishing village of Sarteneja sits on the bay of the Corozal District. One of the most spectacular highlights of this seaside village is the killer sunsets you can view of the Caribbean Sea. Many Belizeans from neighboring towns and villages make the day trip out to Sarteneja to swim in its warm waters and gaze upon the weathered fishing boats. The village also boasts a rich Mestizo culinary scene, ideal for trying out new delicious cuisines. You can reach Sarteneja either via boat or by road from Orange Walk Town. There is also a water taxi stationed at the municipal dock in the village should you wish to continue your beach endeavors and make your way to San Pedro.
Featured Photo: Sarteneja by Jessica Sawers. This article was published Jan 11, 2022.