Beauty and the Beach: Adventure Travel in Belize’s Islands

Researching next month’s trip to the Yucatan and Central America, I came across this tidbit – of the more than 400 islands off the coast of Belize, only two have any public tourist infrastructure at all.  This naturally makes me curious – what is happening on those 398 islands? Before we jump off the tourist trail just yet, let’s quickly visit the two tourist traps. The first is world-famous Ambergris Caye, which is the reason most folks come to Belize at all. Crystal clear water for snorkeling the coral reef and great deep-sea fishing, plenty of modern amenities, English spoken, it’s like a Conde Nast-sort’s dream come true. Then there’s Caye Caulker, which is like a little brother of sorts to Ambergris, just a bit to the South.

So what about those hundreds of other islands? Well, to say that there’s no tourist infrastructure on them at all is a bit of fib, because technically there are a few private islands with fancy lodges like Turneffe Island or Coco Plum Island, where a four night, no frills stay starts at 800 bones.  Ok, so there’s at least four that have given way to tourism, what about the rest?

For a real island getaway, St. George’s Caye is about 20 miles off the mainland and steeped in history. The tiny island was settled in the 17th century, and the site of a famous battle between British and Spanish naval forces that is still commemorated today.  There’s only around 20 year-round residents here, but a few resorts have sprung up, and there’s more sand for sale. Interested? You can get your own piece of paradise for only $85,000.

To get really far out there to some of those untouched islands, you’ll probably need a guide who can show you some of the local wonders like fishing the lagoons of the Hicks Cays. 

For lighthouse fans, Mauger Cay offers a lonely light outpost on the far eastern reaches of the islands. It’s also home to a few rare bird species, if that’s your thing.

Finally, there’s Glover’s Reef, a Wilderness Conservation Society research station that has dorm space for marine researchers, no word on whether tours will be offered soon.

There’s a taste of Belize’ hidden treasures – we’re depending on you to report back on the other 390!