Eat at Ms. Bertha’s Tamales on the Hummingbird Highway
Seemingly a household name, Ms. Bertha’s Tamales can be found in the unmistakeable red and white cabin on the Hummingbird Highway. The perfectly-spiced, gooey chicken-and-corn tamales pairs perfectly with homemade hot sauce, and an ice-cold glass soda as a Belizean favorite. Bertha Lisbey passed away in 2015, but her daughter carries on her legacy. Serving both loyal and first-time customers from every corner of the globe, hundreds of tamales a day are done during peak season – each prepared with the same attention and love. Featured on CNN, AFAR, and local productions like Onli eena Belize, Bertha’s Tamales wins over locals and guests alike. There aren’t many places to stop along the Hummingbird Highway, but this is certainly a highlight for all Southern travels.
Who is Bertha?
Bertha Lisbey was a mother who raised and educated all her children by selling tamales on the roadside, along the Hummingbird Highway. Originally from the Cayo District, she learned to make tamales from her grandmother. In her community, she became known for her especially delicious chicken tamales. Bertha saw a need for a delicious substantial snack break on the long hot journey, to and from the Stann Creek Valley Road. She started in a little shack, rising before 4 a.m. to prepare the labor-intensive tamales, like grinding the corn into masa. She used the banana leaves to wrap the tamales for cooking in huge pots.
Little by little, she expanded and upgraded from humble beginnings. Stopping one day, the late Sir Barry Bowen of Bowen & Bowen Ltd., sampled the famous fare and decided to give her business a boost. Though dismissive of his commitment for a new shack, 3 months later, it arrived as promised.
Miss Bertha passed away at the age of 75, after having fed generations of travelers. Today, the tradition continues, thanks to her daughter, Aurora Lisbey, who holds Bertha’s secret fyah haat recipe dear. Aurora’s seven children pitch in to carry on the family tradition of making high-quality tamales, available seven days a week. ‘Bertha’ still has the same loyal patrons and reputation for being the best tamales in Belize.
About the Hummingbird Highway:
Belize is a small country with only a few major roads: the northern-bound Philip Goldson Highway, the western-bound George Price Highway, and the Hummingbird Highway, that cuts through the Maya Mountains. Undeniably, the Hummingbird Highway is the most scenic of all. Through its twists and uphills amongst lush valleys, drivers will pass fruit stands, coconut water vendors, and tiny roadside shops.