Ahhh vacation! It's been 5 long years since I had a vacation that relaxing. It was perfect, and exactly what I needed when I needed i...

Unbelizeable Part 1: Orange Walk & Lamanai

Ahhh vacation! It's been 5 long years since I had a vacation that relaxing. It was perfect, and exactly what I needed when I needed it most. I was honestly afraid of going because of how sick I've been. Thankfully, I finally started to feel a little better right before I left. And then wouldn't you know, relaxing helped me feel 100 times better! Stressing less is truly the answer for getting and staying in good health.

So our awesome trip started with a not-so-awesome beginning. We missed our first flight! It was an early morning flight so we tried cutting it close in the interest of sleep, and we cut it too close. Leaving late, a stop at the ATM, construction, and the then unknown-to-me fact that you have to check bags at least 1 hour before an international flight, meant that they would not even let us check our bags or try to make it to our gate. Lame town. Instead we spent our first day of vacation hanging out in the airport and flying to multiple cities, having an overnight layover, and finally making it to Belize a full day late. Luckily having to change all of our plans by a day didn't cost us much. Southwest never asked us for money for re-booking our flight (score!), the place we booked (we used Airbnb) was awesome enough to give us a refund for that night, and the tour we had scheduled hadn't asked for money in advance so they rescheduled for the next day without an problem. We quickly realized that this weird day was still mostly relaxing since everything worked out and we didn't have the kids with us! Whew! Huge thank yous to my amazing mother-in-law and our friend Lindsay who watched our kids for us and made it all possible!

So onto the rest of the trip and all the good stuff. We landed at the airport outside Belize City the afternoon of Sunday May 7th. We got through the tiny airport and customs without issue. We stepped outside to see the car rental place was exactly where they said they would be, a very short walk directly across the street. We even got the exact car we requested, a 4WD Jeep (you'll hear why later). And they exchanged some money for us for free! Don't waste your money paying to exchange it, most places you go in Belize will except U.S. dollars or Belize dollars (the exchange rate is always half of our dollar so super easy to remember). Just make sure you have small bills on you, no $50 or $100 U.S. bills as smaller businesses may not have enough cash to give you change. Then we checked our printed directions (no international phone bill for us, thank you very much), and headed out!

It didn't take much driving to realize everything we'd read about driving in Belize was totally true. The roads are terrible. Only the major roads are paved and even those are paved poorly with many, very large potholes, nobody follows any real traffic laws, there are very few posted speed limit signs, and even less marked road signs. There are random speed bumps in the highway, not all of which are clearly marked, and many will surprise you. They call them "sleeping policemen". Aha! Lucky for me, Brian loves that sort of chaos and he had a blast trying to drive like a local, except speeding. We never went over 55mph (the max speed limit) as we did not want to get pulled over. But we saw countless people hauling serious ass, even though we saw a surprising amount of police, considering how few people there are (population around 375,000).

It's a big part of the culture in Belize for people to hitch-hike. Cars and gas are super expensive (over $5 USD per gallon!) so not a lot of people have cars, and the public transportation system is not very good or offered everywhere. So mostly people walk, ride a bike, or hitch-hike! After not even an hour in the country, Brian made friends with some guys where we stopped to buy water and one guy asked for a ride a few miles down the road. He seemed cool, so we gave him one. He was super nice and we just talked about our kids and made small talk. Plus he lived in Crooked Tree which is in the midst of wildlife sanctuary. There were a ton of birds all over (hard to tell in the picture since they were far away, but every black or white spot you see is a bird). It was really beautiful. Since it was the end of the dry season, the water level of the lagoon was low, but during the wet season it rises over 7 feet and floods the road. They have to use a boat to get out! It was a great detour we wouldn't have taken otherwise.
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
So after about an hour drive, we made it to Orange Walk town in Northern Belize. We got checked into our first ever Airbnb place, and simply loved the little house we had booked. Our hosts were super friendly and helpful, the place was clean, and the AC worked very well (it's frickin' hot in Belize dudes). Their yard even had mango trees! As you can imagine, they smell and look so much better than anything we've ever seen in a grocery store in the US. The town of Orange Walk is small but quite lively. It seemed everyone was very active at night. My guess was because that's the only time it's not sweltering hot. Sunday night dinner wasn't very good since the only places open were Chinese restaurants (yep, so weird). But breakfast the next morning was so great. One of our tour guides, Antonio (who happened to be next door neighbors to our hosts) took us to a little tiny restaurant a short walk away where we had Fry Jack's. It's like what we would call Indian Fry Bread, with refried beans, cheese, and shredded chicken in some sort of amazing sauce. I've been craving them ever since and will be attempting to make these bad boys very soon.

Our main purpose in this part of Belize was to see the nearby Mayan ruin called Lamanai. So we'd signed up for a tour with a company called Jungle River Tours. Antonio road with us to the dock where we joined a larger group. The tour included a boat ride down the New River, about an hour one-way to the ruins. It was filled with more birds than you can imagine, gorgeous views of the surrounding jungle, enormous termite nests, giant snake cacti, teeny tiny bats, and one adorable monkey. Antonio's brother, Hilberto, was our guide and he was very knowledgeable about all the plants and wildlife along the river.

Snack Cactus
This rehabilitated spider monkey is by himself and out of his natural environment,
so all the guides feed him bananas.
Brian even got to feed him!
The river suddenly gets miles wide right before you get to Lamanai
Once we arrived, they fed us lunch of more delicious homemade, local fare. Coconut rice & beans, chicken stew (Hilberto called it "mystery meat" as a joke, but it was actually really good), fried plantains, and a Belizean coca-cola. That's right, I drank a soda for the first time in about 4 years. I had no tea or coffee that day which meant I had a raging caffeine headache. So I had a sip of Brian's coke and was shocked! It was so delicious I drank a whole one myself. Must've been the fact that it was made with real, probably fresh, sugar (considering all the sugar cane we saw growing in Belize) instead of high-fructose corn syrup! Seriously, wish we had that version here in the US. During lunch we heard our first Howler monkeys of the trip. So glad we were with a guide to tell us what that scary ass sound was. Would have been truly terrifying to hear that for the first time if you were alone in the jungle!

Next was a quick pass through the small museum there and then a short walk through the jungle to Lamanai. We saw some Howler monkeys way up in the trees in a few places, but none of the pictures turned out well. They're good at blending. Hilberto reminded us all to not look up at the trees with our mouths open, especially when passing under monkeys, as they like to throw unwrapped snickers bars at tourists. 😆

It was monkey nap time
The first ruin I saw in person, and many others after as well, literally took my breath away. I had never been in the presence of anything that old before. It was truly awe-inspiring. We learned a ton of information about Lamanai and the Mayans in general. The most interesting thing was how little of the site (and all the sites we saw on our trip) have actually been excavated. As you walk around these places, you realize every mound you see, even every place you walk, has history underneath it. It's best to show you the rest with pictures instead of words.

Mask Temple
Close-up of one of the Masks
High Temple, 108ft tall
Panorama from High Temple
On top of High Temple
I don't like heights, but I forced myself to climb all the ruins.
Totally worth it
Jaguar Temple
Close-up of one of the Jaguar faces

Stay tuned for 3 more posts about the rest of our trip, coming soon!

Part 2: Beach Life in Sittee Point
Part 3: Caracol
Part 4: San Ignacio, Xunantunich, & Cahal Pech


  1. I have always wanted to go to belize and I hope to one day very soon!

    1. Definitely go! And if you can, give yourself more than a week there. So much to do and see, I could've easily spent a month there!

  2. What an exciting adventure! I've heard great things about how beautiful and interesting Belize is. Looking forward to your other posts on it :)

    1. It is an amazing place and well worth a visit! I posted the second last night! Thanks for reading!

  3. Belize is so beautiful! And if only the snickers bars were actually falling from the trees haha.

    1. It truly is! It would be funny if an actual snickers bar came flying, but I would never touch it with those monkeys around! Haha! Thanks for reading!

  4. How wonderful that you were able to finally have a relaxing trip! The pictures of this adventure look like the two of you had an enjoyable and memorable experience. Also, I am someone who would also risk having a late start in favor of sleep, so I am glad it all worked out in your favor. :)

    1. It was indeed both enjoyable and memorable! And there was much-needed sleep! 😁 Thanks for reading!