Escape the crowds in northern Belize and the Cayes, and make your way down south to a charming and tranquil town called Punta Gorda, locally known as “PG”. This town is often forgotten, yet it boasts luscious rainforests, fascinating caves, excellent fishing, seaside views, and a peaceful environment authentic to Belize.
Rich in natural attractions and diverse cultures, charming Punta Gorda is an undiscovered gem south of Belize. Punta Gorda is the capital and largest town of the Toledo District, geographically part of the Gulf of Honduras. This town is also the gateway to neighboring countries, Guatemala and Honduras. This town is best known for its Maya influence, great fishing, laid back lifestyle, and rich landscape.
With a population of about 6,000 people with its inhabitants mostly of Ketchi, Mopan Maya, Spanish, Garifuna, East Indian, and Creole descent. Essentially, it’s known as a small melting pot town in the extreme south. In an article written by Dr. Gerald Zuniga from Guatemala, he ultimately described Punta Gorda Town as “the most beautiful town.”
How to get there?
Charming Punta Gorda is connected with bus services to the north, by boat to Guatemala in the south, and by air to Belize City, through Placencia or Dangriga.
Several buses go daily between Belize City and Punta Gorda. However, the best option and most frequent service is provided by the James busline. The regular bus takes about 6 hours and the express takes about 5 and ½ hours. Traveling by bus is the cheapest route for $12 US one way.
- Mariestela Watertaxi by Requena’s Charter Service. This boat departs daily at 9 am and 2 pm from the Municipal pier, near the Customs and Immigration Office, between PG and Puerto Barrios in Guatemala. Also, another boat departs daily at 2 pm from Puerto Barrios pier, near the Shell gas station. This boat ride takes about 1 -1 ½ hours and costs $30 US one way.
- Pichilingo runs a daily boat departing Puerto Barrios at 10 am with a duration of 1 hour and $30 US one way.
- Memo’s Boat Service runs daily from Punta Gorda to Livingston, Guatemala, at 1 pm and returns at 3 pm. Fares vary depending on the number of passengers but run normally for $25-$30 US.
Other options are Shark boy and Tek-date boat service. Keep in mind these boats are small open boats for pedestrians only. However, there’s no auto ferry between Guatemala and Punta Gorda. An exit fee must be paid when departing from PG to Guatemala, or from Guatemala to PG.
Both Maya Island Air and Tropic Air offers daily flights to Punta Gorda from the municipal and international airports in Belize City. Usually, flight duration is 1-1 ½ hour. Each airline therefore offers 4 flights daily with flights from Municipal airport for an estimate of $148 US one-way. Alternatively, you can fly from the international airport for $175 US one-way.
Activities for all!
- Warasa Drum School- Warasa provides traditional Garifuna drum lessons, dance lessons, and drum making workshops for individuals or groups. While doing these activities, you will also learn about the original Garifuna community and culture. Lessons are provided by a local Garifuna drummer and everyone will get their own drum to play on. Prices start at $12.50 US.
- PG Town Market- Find stalls after stalls of locally fresh grown fruit and vegetables, while enjoying the showcase of the unique diversity of southern Belizeans. Although available daily, the larger market days are Wednesdays and Saturdays.
- The Living Maya Experience- Established by two Mayan families, experience the opportunity to watch and participate in the life of a traditional Mayan home. This experience therefore offers learning the basics of Mayan bag and hammock weaving, grinding of the cacao plant, and preparing Mayan meals for the entire group.
- Rio Blanco National Park- Enjoy the 25-foot rock ledge and 20-foot falls of cool, clear waters during a hot Belizean day. This park offers hiking trails, caving, and exploration of Maya Ruins. But for a real rural experience, the nearby village of Santa Elena has a guesthouse you can stay at overnight
- Blue Creek Cave- known in Maya as Hokeb Ha, meaning “where the water enters the earth.” Blue Creek Cave has refreshing rapids and deep-water pools to the lush rainforest. An invigorating tour combing hiking and swimming Mayan waterfalls.
Written by Jiyoung Chehade