Photo: Tikal pyramid, located in Guatemala (courtesy Ka'Ana Resorts, Belize)
Belize is known for its beautiful coastline, bordered by the world’s second-largest barrier reef (and its famous Blue Hole), but while diving and relaxing along its white sand beaches make for an easy escape from workaday worries, this welcoming, English-friendly country has something more exciting that can cement a new couple’s bond: pyramids. Travel across the Mopan River on a hand-cranked chain ferry to the 1,400-year old Xunantunich pyramid, one of the region’s most legendary and popular archaeological sites. Or make time to join an outdoor yoga class at the Mayan ruins before climbing above the tree canopy for stunning views from the top. Then, take a horseback ride along the banks of the Mopan and head into the small town of San Ignacio for handcrafts and local fare, such as the cheesy chalupas.
Luckily, after so much exertion, luxury accommodation awaits, so you can wash it all away and rest up for another day of exploits.
Located on the western border of the country, an oasis in a rustic region, Ka’ana is centrally located to Belize’s many wonders and minutes from Guatemala, which means it’s an easy launch pad for daytime adventure with guaranteed luxury at night, including a full spa, pool, and casitas with outdoor showers. Owners Colin and Ronan Hannan, world-traveling brothers, are connecting the beaches with the adventurous West and even offer helicopter rides to a Mayan pyramid for overnight “glamping” — butler and chef included — for the luxury jungle experience. Mile 69 1/4 Western Highway, Cayo District; KaanaBelize.com
One of the most unusual facts about Belize: its large Mennonite population, transplanted from the United States in the 1950s, means a wealth of cheeses, breads, and sausages familiar to North Americans. The restaurant at ka’ana offers exotic fresh seafood dishes — try the poached Belizean spiny lobster tail with garlic lime butter or smoked reef snapper on a burning cedar plank — along with unusual sides like a spicy Mennonite sausage with guava chutney and dukunu, a Mayan cornmeal tamale with coconut milk.
Explore the actun tunichil Muknal caves. an expert local guide takes his group deep within the jungle, hacking away at vegetation, pointing out wildlife, and crossing streams until you reach the mouth of the actun tunichil Muknal, one of the most impressive cave systems in the world. this sacred cave holds secrets of the Mayan underworld and takes some bravery as you plunge through chilly waters with only a headlamp to show the way. But the payoff — skeletal remains from ancient sacrificial ceremonies — is an unforgettable mix of adventure and culture you won’t soon forget.
Editor's Note: While the people we met while visiting were warm and accepting, LGBT travelers to Belize should be aware that there are regressive laws in the country that prohibit same-sex relations. According to the United States State Department website:
The current criminal code states that “carnal intercourse” with any person “against the order of nature” shall receive a punishment of 10 years’ imprisonment. This law was interpreted as including only sex between men, but the law was rarely enforced. Additionally, the Immigration Act prohibits “homosexual” persons from entering the country, but immigration authorities did not enforce that law. In May 2013, the Government of Belize (GOB) released its Revised National Gender Policy 2013 (RNGP), shortly after the arguments before the Supreme Court on a constitutional challenge to the “anti-sodomy” element of the Belize Criminal Code. The Court has not yet issued its decision. The RNGP for the first time included sexual orientation as a protected status in a document that was endorsed by the Government of Belize cabinet. This has generated some opposition and protest by socially conservative groups. The tourist friendly San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, remains relatively open and welcoming to the LGBT community. Outside of the tourist friendly Cayes, LGBT persons, especially males, are reluctant to display affection in public (including holding hands) because incidents of verbal or physical assault have been reported. There continues to be a significant hostile sentiment towards individuals who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT). LGBT issues are frequently highlighted in the press and can spur passionate discussions at community forums, and there has been at least one instance of violence reported against these individuals.
For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Belize, you may review the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.