Affordable family vacations can be a tricky business these days with a family having so many different interests and expectations. How do you keep everyone engaged, entertained and enthused while spending quality time together?
Our answer has been family vacation packages to Belize, that little tropical jewel nestled in the heart of the Caribbean basin. Since our family first discovered Belize we have returned three times, and friends we have recommended the place to came back with glowing reports and thanked us profusely.
What is so magical about this tiny English speaking Caribbean paradise, and what makes it the ultimate affordable family vacation spot? After being asked many times why I love Belize so much, I put together my top 11 reasons:
1. It is mind bogglingly beautiful.
You won’t find a prettier, more varied landscape anywhere.
Start with the second largest barrier reef in the world with some 200 tiny islands, or cayes, running between it and the mainland dotted with a variety of coastal attractions.
Then move inland to pristine rainforests, the numerous Maya ruins, unpolluted rivers, the misty Maya Mountains and verdant farmlands and you have a picture perfect family holiday location.
2. It is affordable
Compared to other Caribbean vacation destinations, Belize represents value for money. Sure, you can spend a lot if you’re so inclined, but there are enough free or cheap things to do that a little money goes a very long way.
3. There is plenty to do for the entire family
The beautiful seacoast, reef and cayes offer unparalleled snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming, fly fishing, deep sea fishing and general angling, kayaking, boating, chartering, sunbathing, birding and any almost any water sports you can think of.
Inland there is exploring, hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, river kayaking, caving, birding and more.
And of course there are bars, restaurants, clubs, resorts and lodges throughout offering a huge variety of food, beverages, music and entertainment.
4. It is an educational experience
Belize is the perfect place to learn Spanish, natural history, Maya culture and archaeology, scuba diving, regional cooking, medicinal plants and herbal remedies.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek, for example, offers a natural history museum, medicinal plant trail, butterfly farm, a working Maya organic farm, guided nature trail and river tours, birding tours, horseback riding and a host of educational activities the whole family can participate in.
5. English and Spanish are spoken
With English the official language and Spanish widely spoken, you’ll have no trouble communicating in Belize, and what a relief that is.
6. The climate is near perfect
Sitting on latitude 17° N, bordering the Caribbean Sea and covered in living, breathing forest, Belize is blessed with one of the best climates in the world. It is warm all year round, with temperatures averaging around 81°F (27°C) along the coast and about 69°F (21°C) in the hills of the interior.
We’ve found that sea breezes keep the coast and cayes quite comfortable even in the hottest months, while the vast tracts of pristine jungle seem to fulfil the same function inland.
7. It is easy to work out the money
Another refreshing bonus to Belize is the ease of converting money. US dollars are accepted everywhere, and the Belize dollar is pegged to the US at two to one, so whenever you see a price all that is needed to calculate it to US dollars is to cut it in half. Anyone who has travelled with a family will realise what a benefit that is.
The people of Belize are by and far warm, friendly and peace loving. It is a hugely multicultural mix with Creole, Mestizo, Maya, Garifuna, Asians, Mid-eastern, Indian and Pakistani all happily getting along in this tiny country.
Since most locals speak English it is easy to meet and become friends with people.
9. Surf and turf
Where else can you wake up in dense tropical rainforest and be swimming out in the Caribbean Sea that afternoon?
Belize is only some 70 miles from eastern seacoast to western border, with quite a bit of variety in between.
Going from a Caribbean Island feel to exploring Maya ruins in dense rainforest can make it feel like you’re enjoying two holidays at once.
10. The most accessible Maya archaeological sites in the world
If you weren’t interested in Maya history and culture before coming to Belize, you probably will be by the time you leave (and know quite a bit about it as well).
Most visitors are amazed by how many accessible, intimate Maya ruins and sites there are. From fascinating, easy walks through park-like Xunanthunich, or the expanse of Caracol , and onto more ambitious trips such as Actun Tunichil Muknal, the cave of the Crystal Maiden, where visitors swim in and then spend the day walking and climbing through an incredible array of artefacts, altars and skeletons, Belize is a Maya buff’s dream and a fascinating eye opener to the novice.
11. Easy to get to and from
With direct flights to and from the US and Canada, easy connections and swift ground transfers, getting to and from paradise is hassle free, leaving more time to enjoy and less stuck in transit.
We also found family vacation packages that make it all even easier and provide good value.
For example, The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s new Affordable Family Vacation Packages and Surf and Turf deals are perfectly designed to accommodate a range of ages and interests and suited our clan perfectly.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think you get the idea. For a truly affordable family Caribbean vacation, it’s really hard to beat Belize. Even our picky kids agree – and that’s something that doesn’t happen every day.
Lucy Fleming, along with her husband Mick, is the owner and general manager of The Lodge at Chaa Creek, which is a private 365-acre nature reserve set along the banks of the Macal River in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. She came to Belize in 1977 and has served as president of the Belize Hotel Association in 2002 and 2003 and also served as president of the Belize Tourism Industry Association. For more information you can visitThe Lodge at Chaa Creek Web site.