They say you should experience a cross-country road trip at least once in your life. But what if you could do it all in one day? Belize’s miniature size lends itself as the perfect country to carry out this bucket list dream. Roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts, Belize is quite easy to navigate and explore, holding six districts in total. At the very top, you have Corozal, a seaside town with the warmest people. At the other end of the country, there’s Punta Gorda Town in the Toledo District, also a coastal town thriving with the Garifuna culture. But between these two small, vibrant towns lies a handful of worthwhile rest stops you simply can’t miss. Driving from Corozal to the Toledo District takes a little over five hours in a private car. An ambitious feat, but not impossible. If you plan to take the cross-country road trip of your dreams and use every second of daylight to your advantage, here are some stops along the way worth a little delay.
After starting your journey from Corozal Town at 6 a.m., make your way to Orange Walk Town. For breakfast, stop at any of the tacos stands around town and get a taste of the nationally famous tacos everyone loves. The rolled-up chicken tacos are the go-to breakfast option for northerners, accompanied by either horchata or orange juice.
Continue your drive all the way bypassing Belize City and entering the Western Highway. Arrive at the Belize Zoo and book an early half-hour self-guided tour, admiring all the exotic animals of Belize. Snap photos of the swinging monkeys, majestic jaguars, and colorful scarlet macaws. Around 9 a.m., resume your road trip and continue onto the Western Highway.
When passing through Belmopan City, stop in at the local Farmer’s market for some trinkets and artisan pieces to take home with you. You might find rare sculptures or come across woven hammocks and other creative goods. Spend a few minutes grabbing some souvenirs for friends and then continue on your way.
By now it may be closer to 10:30 a.m., allowing you ample time to quickly get some photos of the inland Blue Hole. Belize consists of two blue holes: the one everyone knows and loves, and the one at St. Herman’s National Park. The latter is located just off the Hummingbird Highway and contains two main caves. Pop in to take some selfies at the deep-blue cenote before heading back up and out.
Not exactly a stop or attraction, but more of a photo op. Around mile 25 on the Western Highway lies Belize’s famous “sleeping giant.” While driving, you may spot a far-off mountain with unusual ridges. These ridges are what give the mountain the illusion of a giant slumbering, hence its name. Drive a bit more slowly to take in the giant mountain and its curious outline.
Stop for a coffee break at The Lodge at Sleeping Giant, which makes for a great photo-op directly from their restaurant.
By now it’s almost lunchtime, which means you have to stop at the renowned Ms. Bertha’s for a taste of her scrumptious tamales. The small, unassuming shack is known to both locals and repeat Belize visitors alike. No signage is needed, as you’ll know you’re there when you spot many cars parked haphazardly in the small clearing. Dig into your pair of tamales and savor the spice-ridden taste.
If you’re feeling up for a quick 20-minute hike to burn some of those tamales, check out Billy Barquedier Park turn-off a few minutes down the road. The park contains a stunning waterfall that is a welcome reward after the moderate hike. You can swim or simply admire the gushing falls before returning.
Now that it’s closer to 1 p.m., there’s no time to waste. Hit the road and keep going, enjoying the winding curves of the highway for a couple of hours. Once you’re on the Southern Highway, look for a sign depicting the Belize Spice Farm and Botanical Gardens. You don’t have to be a spice or plant enthusiast to enjoy this gorgeous place. It contains the largest black pepper and vanilla farms in the country. Not to mention, the place is adorned with tall teak, mahogany, and rosewood trees. The showers of multicolored flowers and plants are also almost too beautiful to bear. You can even ask for a general tour, spice tour, or culinary tour. Opt to spend about an hour here, before driving the rest of the way to Punta Gorda about one hour away.
You don’t need to stop at all of these when driving cross-country through Belize. But they do make great pit stops if you have some spare time on your hands and want to see all the beauty the small country has to offer.