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Belize with Kids - 10 Incredible Days

During our Central America 2022 adventure with our three kids (7, 3 and 11 months), we were privileged to spend 10/11 days in beautiful Belize and it was absolutely awesome. Here we summarise the activities, itinerary, route, hints and tips for Belize with kids.

Belize feels like the worlds best kept secret. There is no one here and yet it offers so much, for the kids and adults alike. Every moment has been filled with learning opportunities, cultural immersion, history lessons, wonderful people, connection to nature, and it’s been great to exist without technology on these fun-filled adventures. Car ownership is basically zero and I’ve never been anywhere on earth with so little traffic, making driving and getting around on our own schedule a breeze. The country felt incredibly safe too, not once did I feel uneasy about anything. And possibly best of all, these super friendly people all speak English making it incredibly easy too. It has become a contender for when we bust out of the Brexit island and set up our own hostel one day.

Our route (below) began in Corozal where we spent one night after entering from Mexico (Google Maps will NOT plot this part of the route as it doesn’t recognise the boat crossing from Corozal to San Pedro/Amergris Caye).

If interested, you can see how this week or so fits in with the wider 2 months backpacking trip here. The day of the overall trip is included within the day-by-day itinerary in Belize below.

We bused it down to Santa Elena and had the most chilled border crossing of our lives from Mexico. Didn’t even open our bags, not a single other soul in the building, and arrived hassle free into Belize. For a step-by-step guide to crossing between these nations, click here.

We had one brief night in Corozal owing to the fact that you can only get the ferry to the Cayes (tropical island paradises off the coat of Belize) early in the morning.

We took an early morning, two-hour watertaxi to Ambergris Caye, more commonly known as Isla Bonita (and this is indeed where I long to be!). To find out more about getting here and a way and our time on this island, click here. First impressions were awesome and very different from Mexico. Formerly British Honduras, they speak an amazing mix of English and Rasta-Kriol and food is Caribbean jerked with a hint of that Mexican spice. We knew we were going to love it here!

If you’re not waking at 5:15am to a mentally disturbed cockerel in already 30-degree air temperature, is it really backpacking? Thankfully, we had planned our a chill day for today.

On Ambergris, they drive golf carts not cars, so we hired one for a few hours and went to the opposite side of the tiny island to “secret beach”. I was surprised to find it did seem quite secretive, barely anyone there. In addition to the typical super calm, super turquoise water and coral sands we are becoming used to, we also passed an inflatable obstacle course which we just had to let Max have a go on. I was shit. We picked up some stunningly spicy epic jerk and burritos on the way back and FINALLY found our first vegetables on the continent!

In the afternoon, to our delight, it just happened to be “lobster fest 2022” so we headed down to the port to eat lobster on a stick, listen to a steel drum band and see a lot of nutters (and their dogs apparently…?!) dressed as lobsters.

After a few days chilling on various beaches and not much else, we decided to up the adrenaline and toy with what is considered over the line in terms of risk…and swim with sharks. All five of us!

Hol Chan Marine Reserve is an amazing channel through the second largest barrier reef in the world, and some say now more stunning than Australia’s equivalent. “Shark-ray alley” is a section home to many nurse sharks, sting rays and turtles. We were fortunate enough to see so many of each I can’t even count.

Treading water while carrying the baby and supporting Quinn while Max was determined to go off on his own and be eaten was a heart racing experience which didn’t leave much room for photography of kids with nature. We got one or two terrible snaps but the memories will last a lifetime, as will the epic video - and most importantly we made it out alive. All five of us!

This morning we left the ridiculous Ambergris Caye Isla Bonita and headed to Caye Caulker, the smaller, cheaper and more remote island off the coast of Belize. We spent the day drinking at “The Spilt”, which occurred when a 1960s hurricane basically tore the island in two. Adrenaline junkie Max dived probably 7m today the nutter.

I didn’t think we would top the nurse sharks so soon but here we are hand feeding wild sting rays on the beach and to think just 24 hours ago I was excited about the 3 I saw from about 10m away! My research told me that apparently these guys show up at the same time and same place every day since lockdown so I made it a mission to get there and it was an incredible, unparalleled experience.

This marked the end of island antics for several weeks.

A challenging day today as we knew it would be, but totally worth it. As I explain in later posts linked below, we decided the best way to minimise cost and enhance flexibility was to rent a car in the North and drive a loop of the country. This saved time and made things flexible too. To execute this, we took a boat from Caye Caulker to Belize city, an unknown bus (figure it out when we get there) for two hours to San Ignacio (which was several hours late) to pick up a car (which was the biggest piece of shit I’ve ever had the misfortune of being in let alone driving!), followed by a drive south for another two hours to the fishing town of Hopkins. For anyone wishing to get the bus, you book at the boat terminal, there are several operators to choose from all within their own shops/retail spaces in the building. We haggled this down from an initial $60 USD to $40. It’s a shuttle that waits to be full of passengers before it leaves, but has AC and I’ve had a lot worse!

The stop we had planned to break up the road trip was shutting as we arrived leading to very disappointed Mudies. The kids coped amazingly well thanks to some excellent audio books I had saved for the occasion (I will do a blog on our entertainment strategies soon!) and the fact that the drive was beautiful. The Hummingbird Highway goes straight through the mountainous jungle and is well paved/not potholed which made for a very scenic and quite enjoyable stage of the journey across the country. You can read more about our journey here.

Everything we had planned until today has worked out perfectly so we took todays issues on the chin. We made a lot of friends on the bus (and learnt a lot about our travel companions nations) which reminded me why I travel this way. No big deal and we arrived in Hopkins just in time for burritos on the completely deserted beach.

We were well off the tourist trail at this point (and prices dropped accordingly), half way down the Belizean mainland. Today was incredible; we hiked some hardcore jungle in the world’s first jaguar preserve. Of course, not much wildlife was stupid enough to come anywhere near the three noisy small humans. No matter how much we begged them to keep quiet, they squealed over a line of leaf cutter ants (that we followed for genuinely half a kilometre), big leaves and funny shaped sticks while we navigated squidgy mud trails. They certainly show us how the mundane can become the extraordinary! We also explored a crashed plane from the 1960s which was quite cool. When we were leaving there was an interesting incident when a lizard leapt into the car - he wouldn’t come out so I guess he just lives there now! Ha! For a full run down of exploring this area with kids, click here.

We cooled off in our first (then second, then third!) waterfall of the trip, The Mayan King waterfalls, which was bonkers beautiful and a welcome chilly temperature as it was 40 degrees here all week.

We always try to fit in a home stay with locals and today was an incredibly special day spent with an indigenous Mayan family. Elario and his 15 children have a traditional Mayan farm way down south, past the countries last electricity supply station into the wilderness proper.

His passion for sustainability was amazing as we trekked for hours through his lands tasting raw cacao (chocolate), papayas, sugar cane, bananas, lettuce roots, coconuts, ginger, pineapples, spices, corn, rice, limes and all sorts of fresh produce. The kids were so excited foraging about and the food was utterly incredible.

We then milled some corn and one of his daughters taught us how to make tortillas, which we then ate for lunch.

In the afternoon we spent a few hours on a bean-to-bar journey through raw chocolate making, from splitting the cacao pods and sucking the flesh out to fermenting and roasting the beans, eventually husking, grinding and mixing with chili, milk and water for tasty drinks and snacks. The kids absolutely loved it.

To end the day we jumped into San Antonio waterfall. Another tough one to beat, might have taken too many photos.

Today was a perfectly planned and executed transit day. We drove across the entire country to the border town of San Ignacio, just a few kms from Guatemala, with some great stops in between.

Our first was a Garifuna cultural centre in Hopkins, where I booked us a family drumming lesson. The Garifuna people are native Caribbeans, predating Spanish/Mexican and British influence. It’s amazing that Belize has two completely different indigenous cultures (and tonnes of subcultures in-between!); the Mayan and the Garifuna. For Garifuna, think Rasta Caribbean and you won’t be far off the mark. We had a blast with them this morning and someone came in to film us for a documentary, it was so chilled and relaxed, the baby joined in too with a maraca!

Our second stop was our last cenote of the trip, “The Blue Hole”. The clue is in the name, it was stunning and badly needed as it was 100% humidity at this point.

Finally, a local told us (loudly in front of the kids) that the best ice cream in the sub continent existed at a dairy factory in the centre of the country. So we checked that out and were rewarded with cheese, pizza, yogurt and ice cream of all kinds! We arrived in San Ignacio for a jam packed 36 hours ahead of us! Information on these stop-offs and the driving are included in this post.

Oh my goodness, another best day contender!! We headed out early to Xunantunich ruins, a 1,500 year old Mayan settlement, across a river requiring a hand cranked ferry trip which the kids loved. I was keen for this one as you can free climb all over these, including the very impressive (and f****** tall!!) El Castillo. To reach the top, climbing on all fours was necessary for all of us but Andrew. It was a real challenge in another 40-degree 100% humidity day. Careful focus required - It is very steep with uneven stairs and no guardrails. No one there (again!!) which made it all the more special. Quinn loved the bats we discovered in an alcove.

We managed to squeeze in one more, the ancient city of Cahal Pech for lunch. Much smaller but lovely atmosphere without any other tourists.

In the afternoon we managed another “best day of my life” with a trip to an iguana sanctuary. We all learnt a lot about their lives and the troubles these endangered creatures are facing due to climate change and poaching for meat. Several aren’t being returned to the wild and are tame as anything making for a memorable experience neither child will forget in a hurry. Even Willow was captivated and trying to join in. What a day! For a full rundown on this charming town, click here.

Day 11: Border crossing to Guatemala/Flores

I didn’t think it was worth doing a blog post specifically about this border crossing because it was just so straight forward. We arrived by taxi for $10 USD from San Ignacio which I feel was a bit too much, it took 25 mins. When we arrived there were plenty of people offering to change our left over Belizean dollars. We knew in advance not to do this, as there is a $40 (BZD) departure tax. What we didn’t know was that we wouldn’t have to pay for the kids, so it was $80 BZD total. This was dealt with at the first booth. The second booth was passport control for exit stamps. You then walk a very short distance to the Guatemala side where they check covid vaccination records at the first booth, and stamp your passport at the second. There was absolutely NO security of any kind, no one even touched a single bag at all and the whole thing took less than an hour.

Several people approached us offering taxi services once we were into the Guatemala side, and once we haggled a decent deal of $40 USD to Flores, we were off on the third leg of our adventure.

A Word on Costs:

I will add that Belize is fairly pricey, the islands are UK prices, around £50 for a family of 4 to eat out with drinks as well. Our tips were to buy cereal, fruit and milk from corner shops, eat breakfast in your room. Buy bread, meat and cheese and try and make a packed lunch. Find accommodation with a kitchen if you can and eat out every other day. This way we managed to stick to our budget of £50 a day for food. The mainland is nowhere near as expensive.

We paid around £40-60 per night for accommodation, skipped the requirement to get a pool as we were usually too close to the sea or too busy, and stayed in guesthouses and hostels with various degrees of success (covered in the individual posts linked above).

In Summary:

Belize is just fabulous, there are no words to describe it. I’d highly recommend getting over here before the rest of the world finds out how great it is.

Total spend: coming soon

Total distance: 778 km

Number of mosquito bites: 1,469,201

And finally, a reminder of the top 5 reason to go to Belize with kids:

  1. Endless Nature

  2. Easy Driving

  3. Touch History

  4. Clean and Safe

  5. Amazing Locals that Speak English

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