Nine Great Reasons For Not Visiting Belize

Expat travel agent Cathi Bray explores nine great reasons you either should or shouldn’t be visiting Belize. It all depends on your own perspective and if you’re a glass half full or half empty person.

After living down here for a while, I can give you nine reasons you shouldn’t even think about visiting Belize! And so, without further ado, please read on and learn why Belize isn’t for you:

1. It’s not Cancun—or Miami Beach, or Punta Cana!

If you’re looking for the busy tourist locations with tons of nightlife, all-inclusive, name-brand resorts, and all the conveniences of the US/Canada/Europe, you won’t find that in Belize.

Miami Beach, Florida: Not at all like Belize / James Dyde

2. No fast food!

Mexico has many American-branded restaurants, but not Belize. You’ll find no chain restaurants here, and I’ve only seen one drive-thru restaurant that even resembles an American drive-thru—in San Ignacio.

We heard a couple leaving the resort one morning turning down breakfast because they said they would “pick something up on the way” to the Mayan ruins. LOL. Nope, not going to happen.

3. No mega-grocery stores or malls!

Nope, no Neiman Marcus, no JC Penney’s, no Sam’s, no Walmart!

You can go to Sam’s Club in Mexico, and to many other stores equal to those in the US, even Walmart, but not in Belize.

There are stores, but not like the ones you’re used to.

Many stores in Belize are small spaces in crowded retail areas carrying everything from personal toiletry items to appliances, to clothes, to baby needs—pretty much everything, but rarely the name brands you might know.

Foreign visitors often ignore local grocery stores because they don’t look like US grocery stores. Many times they don’t even have a sign showing what they are.

Also, groceries are expensive if you’re buying American/international foods. Better to go to the local farmer’s markets/fruit stands and eat like a local.

4. No fancy resorts at some of the best beach locations!

There are some great resorts on Ambergris Caye, but not so much in Caye Caulker; at least not the high-end, branded, all-inclusive type of resorts you find in other beach locations.

And it’s the same in Placencia, Maya Beach, and Hopkins: beautiful beaches, no all-inclusive, branded resorts.

Cake Caulker, Belize / Ralf Steinberger (Flickr) / Commercial use allowed

5. No easy access to the beach!

International flights come into Belize City, but you can’t take a taxi from the airport to a beautiful beach like you can in Cancun. You take either another small flight, a water taxi, rent a car, or take the bus (not a great idea, except for the most adventurous).

6. No Buc-ee’s bathrooms throughout the country!

If you’re not from Texas, insert the name of your favorite super-clean, travel-stop bathrooms—sanitized and functional. You won’t find any of those in Belize, and sometimes you will be hard-pressed to find a bathroom anywhere if you are driving through the country.

The Belize Zoo has a decent bathroom in their parking area so that is a common stop for us.

And expect to pay $1 for the privilege of using the bathroom, when you find one unless you buy something in the store/restaurant. Sometimes you get toilet paper for that dollar as well but not always.

7. No Mexican food!

Okay, there is some Mexican food in Belize, but Belize is not Mexico, so you won’t find the Tex-Mex you’re used to.

Some US citizens think native Belizean food is bland compared to Mexican food—but that may be why Belizeans love their hot sauce. Marie Sharp’s and/or Hot Mama’s is a staple on every Belizean table.

8. No super-cold, central air conditioning!

This is something visitors and those who move to Belize have to get used to. Yes, many hotels have AC, but not all—but even then, they keep it off during the day to save electricity and will ask you to do the same. This can cause some pretty warm evenings until things cool off.

Power in Belize is also famous for going out, so even if you have AC, and have it on, it might not be consistent.

9. No movie theaters!

Well, there is a couple—in the entire country—but that won’t be a common past-time for you here.

There is one indoor movie theater I know of, and I’ve never been to it. The other is an outdoor theater which I’ve been to several times.

Same with bowling alleys, arcades, most of the activities you may find in the US—not here.

These are all valid reasons why you’re bound to have a miserable time if you end up visiting Belize. But what if you want to ignore our advice and come down anyway? What reasons are there for visiting Belize?  Well, here are nine more reasons right here…

1. It’s not Cancun – or Miami Beach, or Punta Cana!

Think Cancun in the mid-1970s.

Construction had begun on the Hotel Zone we know today, but it was still a developing part of Mexico and not the mega-tourist-destination it is now.

But that’s part of the great beauty of Belize.

You get to see this country now, in its more natural and native state, unlike the way it might be years from now—more like Cancun is today, most likely.

Don’t miss seeing the real Belize now while you can. You’ll be glad you did.

The real Belize / Mangrove Mike (Flickr) / Commercial use allowed

2. No fast food!

Come on! Do you really need to eat that stuff, anyway? You’re in another country! Try the native cuisine and enjoy something different!

Belize has some amazing restaurants, but it might not be what you’re familiar with. Take a chance—you won’t be disappointed.

3. No mega-grocery stores or malls!

Shopping is not really a pastime here, at least not for the expats/tourists, unless you’re looking for souvenirs.

You won’t be spending your time shopping in Belize, although there are clothing stores, furniture stores, appliance stores, stores with a little of everything.

You might not find your favorite brand of shampoo or cookies—or you might, but then the cost of them will shock you—but you won’t lack for the necessities. Try the different brands, I’m sure you’ll find one you like.

And go to the farmer’s markets. Try a local fruit you’ve never seen before. Cook a meal with natural, clean food unloaded with the sodium and whatever else you might find in food in the US. It’s good, it’s healthy, and your body will thank you.

And if you really want certain brands, you can bring them with you.

4. No fancy resorts at some of the best beach locations!

There are beautiful resorts in Belize, and most have their own beautiful beach, but there are locations like Caye Caulker with gorgeous stretches of beach and no five-star hotels on them—or even four-star, three-star—any-star.

But staying in a locally owned cabana or one of the small boutique hotels can be nice—don’t expect Marriott bedding and feather pillows, though.

After all, it’s the beach and the authentic flavor you’re in Belize for, right?

5. No easy access to the beach!

This causes you to have to see more of the country.

When you fly into Cancun, you can take a taxi to the beach. Not so in Belize. Your international flight will arrive in Belize City, but that’s not where the beautiful beaches are, so you must take further transportation, which is an amazing experience in itself.

You can take a small flight to the island of Ambergris Caye or to the Placencia Peninsula, or Punta Gorda, and enjoy the amazing Caribbean Sea from a birds-eye view.

You can take a taxi from the airport to the water taxi dock and ride over the turquoise Caribbean Sea to Caye Caulker or San Pedro/Ambergris Caye.

Or you can rent a car and drive to Hopkins, Dangriga, Maya Beach, Placencia—or even Punta Gorda – all with beautiful beaches (you can also take a small flight there). You could also drive inland to the wonderful town of San Ignacio, and from there enjoy all the amazing things to do in the interior.

6. No Buc-ee’s bathrooms through the country!

This is tough for some of us, to be truthful. Clean, or even functional bathrooms are few and far between in some areas, and you learn pretty quick where they are. You develop a list of your acceptable bathroom stops, over time, so it’s just a “Belize thing” that you adapt to.

But you’re in Belize for the experiences, right? This is one of those.

7. No Mexican food!

There is Mexican food, but um, Belize is not Mexico. Nor is it a typical Central American country with a strong Spanish history. Belize was a British-owned territory for many years, so the local fare is not what you might find in Mexico and other parts of Central America.

Rice and chicken are staples in the Belizean diet as well as seafood and fruit.

And you will find most Belizeans put the local hot sauce on EVERYTHING!

But if you stay a while you really develop a taste for clean, natural food. Coconut water and watermelon juice are two things I have every day, along with food from the farmer’s markets or my favorite local restaurants.

Oh, and if you want incredible orange juice, get the oranges with the bright green peel. We thought they were unripe, but they’re the best oranges you’ve ever had—that’s the color they should be! And seafood right from the sea? Can’t beat it!

8. No super-cold, central air conditioning!

You get used to it after a while, and I will say living close to nature and having less “canned” air becomes more important. Although there are those super hot days and nights when you need it.

9. No movie theaters!

Well, there are a couple of locations showing outdoor movies from time to time, and there is a movie theater in San Pedro.

But you’ll spend your time enjoying the company of friends, walking the beaches, watching the crab races at Crazy Canuck’s, watching the sunset over the lagoon with a glass of wine, or playing corn hole at your favorite outdoor restaurant.

Maybe you’ll watch an outdoor movie sitting in the pool at The Truck Stop on Ambergris Caye.

Then there’s the snorkeling, diving, fishing (oh the fishing!), etc.

Your idea of “activities” changes and you begin to slow down and find more value in the simple things.

Caya Espanto, Belize / Mike’s Birds (Flickr) / Commercial use allowed

Belize is a wonderful country to live in or to visit, but again, it’s not Cancun. That’s a good thing. That’s why many people live here and visit often—they don’t want “Cancun.”

If you want a laid-back, relaxed, authentic, outdoors, simple vacation, Belize is PERFECT for that!

Catherine “Cathi” Bray is a travel agent, freelance writer, and firearms instructor who splits her time between Belize and Texas with her husband, Tom and their Great Dane/Mastiff mix, Allen, and Poo-Hua-Hua puppy, Maya.