What To Expect When Driving from Belize City to Toledo

Southern Belize is synonymous with being an “off the beaten path” destination. And while there’s no shortage of rustic, authentic experiences to enjoy in Belize, the drive to the Toledo district on two of country’s most scenic highways is a beautiful tour in itself. Instead, you’ll find an unexpected journey of paved roads from Belize City’s Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) all the way to the oceanfront of Punta Gorda Town. 

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The John Smith link road connects the Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE:PGIA) to the George Price Highway and Philip Goldson Highway. Image via Government of Belize

With tourism as a mainstay of Belize’s economy, the John Smith Link Road officially opened in September 2020—acting as a quick and easy connector between the international airport and the George Price Highway. In an hour or less, you’ll find yourself in the City of Belmopan: Belize’s capital. Fun fact—Belmopan is the smallest country capital in the world, and no international airport!

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The National Assembly Building of Belize, located in Belmopan, is the home of Belize’s two houses of Parliament: House of Representatives (lower house) and Senate of Belize.

One roundabout later, the centrally located Belmopan connects you onto the scenic Hummingbird Highway. Winding roads leads you into the Stann Creek river valley as agricultural lands (mostly citrus and banana) spans out ahead. Near Mile 25 is a large, looming mountain undulating just right to resemble the silhouette of someone sleeping on their back. It’s the infamous Sleeping Giant, so popular that the Belize Collection property that overlooks it even has it in its name: the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge

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Venture to Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge’s lookout tower to admire its eponymous mountain ahead. Image courtesy The Belize Collection/Monica Gallardo Photography

You’ll stay on the incredibly scenic Hummingbird Highway for about 2 hours before switching over to the Southern Highway. Until then, you must stop at Miss Bertha’s on the Hummingbird to try hot, fresh tamales! Tamales are a traditional Mesoamerican dish of corn dough (masa) that’s filled with recado-seasoned meat and a tomato based sauce gravy (called col) then steamed in plantain or banana leaves. At Miss Bertha’s, they add even more flavor by cooking it over an open fire hearth (or in Creole, over fyah haat).

miss bertha tamales by CC

Tamales from Miss Bertha’s are a must-have on Southern-bound road trips.

On the highway at each village, it’s not uncommon to find roadside vendors selling plants, fresh pressed cohune or coconut oil, and locally harvested fruits and vegetables, like a 5 lb. breadfruit!

Driving the Hummingbird Highway in the Stann Creek district

Driving the Hummingbird Highway in the Stann Creek district. Image courtesy Roeming Belize

The Southern Highway will take you directly into Toledo. The stunning views continue, opening to breathtaking vistas of the Maya Mountain Range. You’ll be on this road for about 45 mins to 1 hour depending on where you’re staying. Red Bank, which is on the way to Punta Gorda, is a popular location at certain times of the year to see the beautiful scarlet macaws in all their majesty. Tours to Red Bank need to be booked beforehand. 

scarlet macaw trees belize

Photo courtesy Roni Martinez, bird guide.

The drive is an easy ride, drivers can’t get lost and there are road signs along the way to guide if you’re unsure where you are. Flying to Southern Belize is always an option and a beautiful flight over, but a road trip is always a lot of fun! 

Header image courtesy Roeming Belize 

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