Picture it: the year 2020. A year of cancelled plans, self-isolation and grounded planes. With promising news of a vaccine to be distributed throughout 2021, we join the industry in anticipating a rebound. The year ahead will be huge and full of hope; for wellness, for travel, and for simply renewal. Although a vaccine is not necessarily a cure-all solution, actively seeking travel inspiration feels a little less selfish. Although, the more important questions await, such as: Where can we go? What hoops do we need to jump through to get there and back? Should we book now or wait for the fog to clear? Here’s the view from my crystal ball: We may not be traveling yet, but here’s a calendar curated to Belize adventures for any month of the year for when you are indeed ready. Whether that’s 2021 or even 2022.
Its page one, and now’s your time to set the pace for the year ahead. When we do travel again, there’s two approaches: all out ambitious escapes and mindful simplicity. If you’re feeling ambitious, opt for an exclusive-use, all-inclusive experience for the ultimate in privacy. The first one that springs to mind is Royal Belize, a Muy’Ono Resort. Certainly ranked as one of the most luxurious resorts catering to one party at a time, form a travel bubble with 10 like-minded adults on this 7.5-acre private island off the Southern coast of Belize. Children stay free.
If you’re craving more of life’s simple pleasures (like fishing on the Caribbean Sea), opt for fuss-free accommodations with Thatch Caye, a Muy’Ono Resort. The all-inclusive accommodations are breathtaking with a rustic Belizean feel, but only include the necessities (and air-conditioning, of course). After all, the benefit of an island getaway is the (welcomed) isolation. Instead, live out your overwater cabana dreams as you immerse yourself in your surroundings.
Some things are just synonymous with romance. Monogamous Scarlet Macaws in Southern Belize, the colorful Carnaval de San Pedro, and even the love of Lobster before the season closes. As the New Year unfolds, the most colourful (and noisy) feeding frenzy goes on full display as Scarlet Macaws gather in Southern Belize. Coincidentally, these lovebirds also form life-long pairs and are most plentifully seen around Valentine’s Day! Witness these locally endangered feathered kaleidoscopes flying freely in the wild as an unparalleled birding experience by visiting Red Bank Village on a birding tour.
Valentine’s Day is also the last day to indulge in your love of Lobster, with the open season of Spiny Lobster closing in Belize the following day. While we love grilled lobster for its sweet, smoky meat against the caramelized shell, we also love being sustainable. And on Ambergris Caye, locals love Carnaval! Though micro in scale compared to Brazil or Mardi Gras, the century-old Mestizo tradition of El Gran Carnaval is the number one event on Ambergris Caye in February. Body-paint, flour-fights, and homemade costumes awaken the cobblestone streets of San Pedro with a colorful jamboree to usher in the solemn Lenten season.
And lastly, what better way to revel in the month of love than showing love for Belize’s multi-talented artisans? Do so with Belize’s Street Art Festival. From vibrant paintings and hand-crafted jewelry to detailed wood carvings and perfectly-tailored clothing, the block party-style festival pulses with local talent in both Placencia and Belize City.
During a typical year, March is jam-packed with events in Belize. On the islands, its usually rum and sun for Spring Break. Dashing adventure beckons by day, while irresistible entertainment comes alive at night. On Ambergris Caye, live music in beachside bars spills out onto its cobblestone streets. Caye Caulker is day-tripper’s paradise, with The Split being the place to be for youngsters and young-at-heart alike. From Ambergris Caye you can enjoy a fun filled day out sailing to Caye Caulker with Xsite Belize Sailing. And inland, one of the world’s largest river traditions takes to the riverbanks of Belize – from San Ignacio to Belize City – for a buzzing 4-day canoe race, brimming with hair-raising competitiveness. Held annually near the National Heroes & Benefactors Day, onlookers cheer for its entirety: 175 miles.
Celebrate the first day of Spring (and simultaneously, both the International Day of Happiness and my birthday) on March 20 by getting outdoors. March’s weather is simply perfect, where daytime temperatures average around 83 degrees Fahrenheit. Head out for a day offshore fishing, where the sky melts into the horizon, or keep cool with river tubing inland.
Rising abruptly from the lowlands, the jagged Cockscomb Mountains are an impressive mass of rock visible from the coast. Within the range, Victoria Peak Natural Monument boasts the title of the highest mountain. With a height of 1,120 meters, Victoria Peak is also the second-highest elevation in Belize. And during Belize’s dry season, hikers have a unique chance to conquer the 27-kilometer Victoria Peak Trail. Add accomplishment and adventure to your April and take the 3-day expedition. After all, April tends to be the perfect month to summit: not too hot during the daylight trek, and not too cold for a restful sleep in your Hennessy Hammock. Plan as far ahead in advance by contacting its co-manager, the Belize Audubon Society.
Although, the ever-pleasant Easter Weather tends to extend into April, for those seeking the complete opposite of adventure. Cool Caribbean breezes and sunny skies combine where, in Belize, the charming term ‘go fly a kite’ is a welcomed invitation. After all, you may hear locals joke about “kite weather” before heading to the beach; add Hopkins Village to your list of where to enjoy it best. Stay nearby at Hopkins Bay, a Muy’Ono Resort, or rent your own travel bubble with Vacasa Belize.
Whale Shark diving is the prelude to a summer of feasting, frolicking and feeding by the world’s largest fish! And Gold Standard tour operator Splash Dive Center are already counting down to the days ahead. Although massive, whale sharks are only one of three known shark species that filter feed; in Belize, they do so in the southern tip of the country. Between March and June, visitors of the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve have a unique chance to swim with these gentle giants. Plan ahead with Splash Dive Center and add swimming with Whale Sharks to your bucket list with the following windows:
- April 25 – May 5
- May 25 – June 5
- June 23 – July 5
Later, venture into the Deep South; the chocolate stronghold comes alive to revel all things cacao with Belize’s Chocolate Festival. Held annually near Sovereign Day, three whole days are dedicated to the Maya food of the gods with innovative and traditional cuisine, alongside the enriching Maya culture. Stay nearby Punta Gorda at Copal Tree Lodge, a Muy’Ono Resort.
Culminating culture and cuisine with a well-earned sensory tasting, Belize’s food festivals are all the buzz for June. The Lobster Festival in San Pedro, Placencia and Caye Caulker coincides with the opening of Belize’s Spiny Lobster season – likely the country’s most popular festival yet. Huge block parties, live music and fragrantly-charred grills combine for a bonafide seafood bacchanal. And then, mangos reach peak ripeness across the country, which takes true form in the south. Celebrating the country’s mango varieties, Hopkins Village becomes animated with this wholesome celebration of ‘mangu’ – the Garinagu word for mango. Perfectly timed with peak ripeness of the season, June is ubiquitous to transform “green”, “turn”, “ripe”, and even “overripe” mangoes into aromatic Belizean delicacies.
Why visit Belize in July? Money, honey. July is situated in the midst of “low season,” and there’s Belize travel deals to be had. Besides practically no queues for any of the most popular tourism attractions, that also means every destination is Instagram-worthy, no Photoshop of the unbeknownst photo-bomber required. You’re also smack in the middle of Summer, which means it can get balmy quick. The jungle canopy always seems to provide some cooling relief, and you can escape to a jungle lodge in Belize’s Western interior. Stay in the only jungle in town at San Ignacio Resort Hotel, or in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve at the likes of Blancaneaux Lodge or GAIA Riverlodge. Not to mention, there’s also the option of the new, premier treehouses at Sweet Songs Lodge.
Serendipitous isolation: time your moment right and you could have the beach in Placencia, Hopkins, Caye Caulker or even Ambergris Caye all to yourselves. Pre-pandemic, Belize’s “busy” tourism season would dip from July forward to even October. Now, post-pandemic, you’ll practically have the island or peninsula to yourself. Privacy is the name of the game here, with nobody else in sight other than a few passing boats in the distance. Find a hotel on the Southeastern Coast, like Itz’ana Belize, here.
Then there’s the beloved Costa Maya Festival in Ambergris Caye, where locals flock for the long weekend. Bold and bright during the first weekend in August, the streets of San Pedro become filled with a cultural display of the Mundo Maya at the island’s most anticipated festival. Participants from all over Central America celebrate their shared heritage with music, parades, drinking and dancing before crowning a festival queen: Miss Costa Maya. Stay on Ambergris Caye from a choice of hotels here. Looking for longer rental accommodations on the island: check out The Landing at Tres Cocos and Escape Away.
From the flag raising ceremony to the carnival road march and the crowning of Miss Queen of the Bay, the entire month of September is a celebration in Belize for what the Baymen, and the latter political heroes, fought for centuries ago: Freedom. Held in both Belize City early September and Orange Walk Town on Independence Day itself, non-stop energy in colorful costumes take to the streets to dance in sync with Caribbean beats for Belize’s Carnival Road March. The reds, the yellows, the greens – Caribbean life is a swirl of color. Move with the steel pans and drums as the streets reverberate with rhythm.
There isn’t a Conch Festival, but locals and tourists alike celebrate the open season. For those of you wondering, Conch is a tropical marine mollusk, and it is delicious. As one of the most significant sources of revenue in the fishing industry, conch is a staple across Belize—absolutely irresistible in dishes like ceviche, fritters, curry, and soups. Most people describe conch as an uber-fresh parallel to calamari, with a slightly sweet and chewy texture. Conch fritters are bite-sized pieces of conch meat deep fried in batter for crispy little pockets of joy; ceviche means tenderized and cooked by freshly-squeezed limes, chunks of fresh conch meat, and a mix of vegetable companions unique to each chef’s hand; and conch soup is a coconut-fragranced chowder chock-full of tender meat, ground vegetables, and pure comfort.
Then, like a smoke signal preluding the restart of Belize’s high season, the Belize Birding Festival rolls around. Held at the peak of migration season in October, the Belize Birding Festival invites birders to embark on avian adventures, stroll vendor booths, attend workshops, share photographs and simply celebrate the near 600 bird species of Belize. Find the dates to 2022’s festival here. The 2nd Annual was held at San Ignacio Resort Hotel, whose photos are featured above.
On November 19, join in on the historically significant national holiday commemorating the arrival of the Garifuna to Belize in 1802. From infectious Punta beats the night before and re-enactments of the first landing at sunrise, honor the inspirational cultural survival of the Garifuna in Dangriga, and soak in Southern Belize. Stay nearby in Dangriga, Hopkins (at Hamanasi Resort), Placencia (at The Ellysian) or just offshore (at Blue Marlin Lodge on South Water Caye).
In December, settle into Belize’s reefs and peaks with the slowest pace as the year draws to a close. Besides, Christmas in Belize arrives with a full, boisterous energy; spiked Rum Popo, warm Tamales at midnight, and a slice of ham atop a thick slice of white fruit cake. Or, in my family’s traditions at least. Yup, the season comes decked out and shining like a bell. You can embrace it (with an upbeat local resort), or you can escape it (and go to a far-flung island, Gilligan-style). After all, December is full of dry, bright, sun-dappled days crisp with the temperatures that may even dip into the 60s. On the reefs, take it easy with a private island of your choosing; settle into Coral Caye, a Coppola Hideaway near Placencia or even the private vacation rental Casa Al Mar on St. George’s Caye.
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And if you’re really up for a little self-reflection on the past 12 months, venture into Belize’s peaks with a hike. Taking only the necessities, pitch a tent or Hennessy hammock atop Tiger Fern. The 4.3 kilometer out-and-back trail inside Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (and the world’s first jaguar reserve) gives hikers two options: a 360-degree vista of the Cockscomb range atop its campsite summit, or a refreshing double-waterfall against slate-colored forests. It truly is the perfect way to wave farewell to the year that’s passed. In the meantime, Belize awaits.