Thinking about international travel with kids? You better Belize it!
Why You Should Consider Belize for Your Next Family Vacation
Over the years, my husband and I have taken several Caribbean cruises both alone as a couple and also with kids along for the ride (cruises are another really great and easy trip to do with kids). As a result of having cruised so much, we have done most of the cruise stops in the Caribbean over the years (but never a Disney cruise, although I’ve been told those are great as well!). The one spot that always drew us in the most and made us want to stay longer was Belize. So this year we decided to take the plunge and fly to Belize, along with our friends and ALL of our kids, five in total ranging from age 3 to 6. And we had the most amazing time! As a group, we genuinely cannot recommend Belize enough for your next family vacation. If you are considering a beach trip that is fun for both kids and adults, provides a little bit of adventure while remaining affordable and will create memories for years to come … I strongly encourage you to research Belize. You will not regret it!
Belize Is Family Friendly
Despite being in Central America, which I realize carries some uncertainty in light of the recent news out of Mexico, Belize is incredibly family friendly! After doing extensive research, we opted for a condo stay in Ambergris Caye. Many people have asked where to stay, and there are essentially two decisions. The first is deciding WHERE within Belize to go (beach or inland, as well as which town) and then what TYPE of lodging. After extensive research, we landed on a condo because we liked
the idea of having amenities like a kitchen and washer/dryer with kids (which we used daily). We thought that a hotel would feel too cramped for a week stay, and we also didn’t want the full responsibility of a house. A condo right on the beach was the perfect compromise, as we had plenty of space, amenities for day-to-day life and didn’t have the hassle of maintaining a full home.
As for the town and location, we knew we wanted to spend the week on the water (beach) and were not drawn to the inland options (though we hear the Mayan ruins and cave tubing are so fun)! Ambergris Caye is one of the more popular islands for tourists and locals alike. It was the best central stay for the excursions we wanted to do, as some of the other more southern islands involved quite a bit of road travel after landing in Belize City. It is recommend that you stay on the beach side, as opposed to the bay side of Ambergris Caye. While the sun sets on the bay side, the beach side was an excellent choice for us with kids because we were looking at the water every day, had easy access to excursions via our dock and actually saw a crocodile on the bay side one evening so … yeah, we recommend the beach side of Ambergris for safety, too!
Overall, the beach side of Ambergris Caye is incredibly family-friendly. You have dozens of water activities at your fingertips, most hotels and resorts have at least one pool, the Caribbean Sea is fairly calm and shallow, and you can choose from a wide variety of accommodations along the island.
Getting to and Around Ambergris Caye With Kids
Our travel involved two flights (MSY to MIA to Belize City) and then either a short flight on Tropic Air (i.e. a puddle jumper) or a water taxi ride to the island. We will tell you that getting to Ambergris Caye is a FULL day of travel; we arrived at MSY around 6:00am and were at the condo in Belize around 5:30pm (which was technically 6:30pm New Orleans time). Once you land in Belize, of course you have to do the typical customs check, but then you either need to board your final 15 minute flight (more pricey) OR take a cab to the pier to board the water taxi (more affordable but adds about 2 hours to the journey). We saved our pennies and hauled all 5 kids to the water taxi, and we were able to enjoy a few beers and quick snack while we waited to board. Almost all of the transportation options are in line with American pricing, and all of the individuals spoke fluent English. We did not have any trouble navigating the cabs, water taxi or airport. We did bring a decent amount of cash, though, which you will need for transport and tipping.
We had several excursions we wanted to do while visiting Ambergris Caye, and most of them will pick you up directly from your resort, house or condo’s pier! The typical mode of transportation on Ambergris Caye is either a golf cart (which we rented for about $500 for the week) or a cab. The golf cart was fun for the kids and pretty reliable, though you can only reasonably drive it about 3-4 miles with kids before a meltdown ensues. We’d recommend booking your golf cart in advance; ours was ready and waiting at the condo when we arrived. Outside of that, we either walked OR took one cab one time for a specific excursion.
Family Excursions in Belize
Once our excursions were booked, our mornings were easy: coffee and breakfast, sunscreen the troops down, and a quick stroll to the pier for our waiting boat. And on a boat is where you want to be! The water in Belize is truly spectacular; it is so crystal clear that you can see straight down to the sand and copious amounts of coral reefs. We did a boat excursion every day, and they included everything from snorkeling through the Hol Chan Marine Preserves, swimming with the nurse sharks (!!!) in Shark Ray Alley and our husbands and son even did some reef AND deep sea fishing.
On the days we snorkeled, our boat guides either gave us guided tours or let us roam around on our own. Our kids were content to play around in the water and do a little bit of snorkeling (I recommend a full face mask for younger kids, as it made it much easier for them to breathe regularly), or they hung out on the boats while our boat guides watched over them and the adults swam around the reefs. All of these excursions felt very safe to our entire group, and many were affordable (ranging $200 – $300 per family for a full day of fun on the water).
Shark Ray Alley is truly spectacular, so much so that we did it twice. The nurse sharks are not aggressive and are content to swim around you; the very skilled guides are even able to catch them and bring them up to you to pet! It is like a real life aquarium in the most amazing blue water you’ve ever seen. Along with the nurse sharks are stingrays and sea turtles and copious amounts of fish. Lunch was caught by our guides (including fresh lobster) and then grilled for us on private islands while we explored, built sandcastles, relaxed in hammocks and collected shells. A complimentary “baby-sitting” service while being served rum punch from a boat? You understand why we did not want to come back, right? A visit to Caye Caulker is also a great way to spend the afternoon, strolling through their mom and pop shops and having lunch on the beach. Every day was an adventure, exploring the beautiful coral reefs and islands of Belize. The people of Belize are friendly, kind, willing to help and genuinely happy with their day-to-day lives. They are full of tips, tricks and eager to make your vacation memorable, which is one reason we loved the week so much.
Eating In Belize With Kids
We spent our evenings either cooking dinner in our condo, catching the sunsets at different places on the bay side, or having dinner out at one of the many restaurants near our resort condos. We chose to stay at a condo that was a little further from the center of town of San Pedro but there were grocery stores and restaurants near our condo, so we never felt like we lacked options. One night we even cooked fish that the guys caught that day! There is literally nothing better than fresh ceviche with fish caught that day from the sea outside your door. Other days if we are being completely honest we ate chips and cheese and drank our dinner. As mentioned before, transportation was made easy with a golf cart rental, as that is the way most of the locals get around. We also chose to do one big grocery delivery of essentials to have in our condo when we arrived.
Belize is truly a great vacation destination for both kids and adults. Not only was the trip enjoyable for all involved, it is very affordable! Our flights, stay, groceries, transportation and excursions were well under a Disney trip in terms of expenses!
Know Before You Go To Belize
- You will need current and valid passports for all travelers
- We recommend bringing a decent amount of cash (American dollars are accepted)
- Choose between an inland adventure or the beach; if you want the beautiful water, the beach is where to be (it is unlikely you can tackle both parts of Belize unless you have 10 days – 2 full weeks)
- Budget a week for your stay, as it is a full day of travel to Ambergris Caye and back
- Secure a golf cart rental before you arrive, as you’ll be happy to have a way to get around
- Don’t overpack! This is a very casual destination where flip flops and bathing suits are the norm
- Bring copious sunscreen and bug spray; you won’t need much in the way of fancy outfits or accessories
- Book excursions ahead of time; while you CAN do it once you are there, you may find that the better ones are taken. Worst case is that it rains the day you are booked and it gets rescheduled
- There is no need for dining reservations ahead of time – we walked in to anywhere we wanted to eat
- Listen to the locals! They know the best snorkeling spots and how to keep you safe in the water
- Be ready to slow down, relax and have patience. Belize is not a fast paced country, so be ready to sit with a drink in your hand while soaking up gorgeous views and paying no attention to the clock
- Plan to stock up on liquor and wine at the duty free store at the airport – you will thank us later!