We’ve been to many countries in Central America, but for some reason, Belize fell by the wayside! Many families automatically think of Costa Rica when considering Central America (or in our case, Nicaragua and Panama!). We love Central America and all it’s tropical jungle and beach adventure! Belize with kids is a perfect family vacation. Not only are the beaches filled with activity, but the jungle is something a lot of people forget about. For us, the jungle is the best part! We finally made it to Belize this past January!
Our trip started with a jungle adventure. We arrived in Belize City and had a three hour layover until our puddle jumper flight down to the southern end of the country – Punta Gorda airstrip. I must admit, I was a teeny tiny worried about the flight – puddle jumpers make me so nervous. But the flight was amazing! Soaring over green rolling jungle, turquiose water and little islands dotting the coast. It’s so fun to see other countries from the air and showed just how diverse the landscape is in Belize. Our resort, Copal Tree Lodge, works with Tropic Air and they were great. Word of warning though – make sure your flight to Belize City lands around 3:45pm or before….the last flight to Punta Gorda is at 5pm.
We landed in Punta Gorda and after a small snafu with our transportation to the resort (translation, they weren’t there to get us!), we made it. The lady in the Punta Gorda airport (translation, one room building next to an airstrip) was super nice and called the resort for us to ask them where they were! Shortly thereafter, they showed up full of apologies….Belize works on island time y’all!
Driving up to the resort afforded us beautiful views of the sea and Punta Gorda to the right, and rainforest to the left. We also caught a glimpse of the farm that Copal Tree Lodge owns. Much of the organic food that Copal Tree serves is from the farm. The also have some hilarious, very loud goats! When we came up the hill to arrive at the lobby, we were beside ourselves….the lobby was fantastic! All soaring white ceilings and open air and palm trees and just an amazing jungle/eco type feeling. It’s no wonder they are part of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World. We had a fantastic first impression and couldn’t wait to explore.
The entire main lobby area of Copal Tree lodge is open air, which I love, with comfortable couches throughout and even a telescope for spotting monkeys in the trees. Which we did right away! The people are super friendly and it was a wonderful relaxed place that was good for both kids and adults. And there are a million activities offered. Everything from chocolate making and tasting, to rum tasting and a million kayak or boat tours. They also have plenty of activities that are very kid focused, such as a farm tour and tortilla making classes. An activities menu is written on the a chalkboard in the lobby every evening. The front desk also has plenty of printed copies.
Copal Tree is not only in the rainforest, but it’s also right above the Rio Grande River. The resort has both a long, long, long staircase down to the river or a really fun funicular (warning….it’s really slow). We wanted to relax, so we did a simple hike and farm walk and took kayaks out on the river, but other than that, we relaxed by the pool, ate amazing food and took one, lovely sunset cruise on the Rio Grande. We also enjoyed sitting on our porch at night, listening to the howler monkeys…..which, by the way, are LOUD. While our whole family loved the resort, it might not be for every family. The main pool is not heated and during December it was anything but warm (this is not uncommon in rainforest lodges in Belize). The staff claimed that the sun heats it up, but the rainforest has a lot of trees and the sun didn’t stand a chance in December. Great for shade, not so great for kids who want to spend time in the pool. If your kids are pool focused, this isn’t the place. For us, this portion of our trip was the cultural/immersive portion of the trip before we hit the beach!
Hit the Beach!
We flew from Punta Gorda (another tiny plane *gulp*) to Dangriga Town and easy peasy, we were picked up by our resort, Almond Beach, and we were on our way! Hilariously, the hotel transportation forgot to pick us up again, but the nice lady in the “airport” called the resort and said “Ummmmm, where are you, your guests have landed.” Gotta love island time. Dangriga Town Airstrip is only about 30 -40 minutes from the resort in Hopkins.
I am a beach girl. I admit it. And the fam is a beach family! And even though I feel that people are missing out when they only go to the beach while in Belize, I have to say, the beach was fantastic. However, beaches in Belize aren’t really what people picture in their heads. It is not all pristine clear water and huge, wide white sand beaches like much of the Caribbean. At least not on the vast majority of beaches. The really clear water is usually out a bit of a distance from shore and best experienced via a boat/snorkel tour.
I was impressed by the beach in Hopkins! I’ve seen so many photos from clients of huge seaweed problems in Belize but Hopkins barely had any. A smattering here and there and the staff was raking it up pretty quickly. The beach was fairly large, with plenty of grass covered cabanas and lounge chairs, plenty of paddle boards and several kayaks. The water, while not crystal, was a blue-green and yet, we could even see the bottom. It just wasn’t the bath water you see in Cayman Islands!
The whole resort was amazing. Almond Beach and Jaguar Reef Resorts are on the same property and there is a huge variety of room types. Everything from standard hotel rooms, to one to two bedroom suites to villas. And the location was fantastic….far enough away from the town of Hopkins that you feel kind of quiet and secluded, but close enough to rent a golf cart and go into town. I loved the Belizean charm of it all. Super laid back and friendly. And generally relaxing which was something we needed!
Our very favorite thing to do on this beach was hang out on The Big Dock…..a large bar/casual restaurant built out onto a dock right in the middle of the water. The bottom floor has hammocks that open to the water below and a fun jumping platform, complete with a rope for those daring enough to try. Word at the resort was that there were manatees hanging about a few days before we arrived. We spent a lot of time on this dock, jumping, playing in the water and drinking fruity, tropical drinks!
We also went on an island hopping snorkel tour, which was so fun. We saw three different islands, including one that only had birds on it, which is most definitely not my favorite thing (fear of birds is real everyone) and cruised all over the place. We stopped in a particularly clear area of water, right over a reef and snorkeled and saw not one, but two nurse sharks, which was very exciting for all of us. Even more exciting, Max ended up getting Scuba certified during out trip. Yay!
I’ll be following up with another post on where to stay, what to do and where to eat when in Belize! In the meantime, if you’re thinking of planning a trip to Belize, hit me up. It’s one of my favorite trips to plan. firstname.lastname@example.org