Of all the components of our wedding that required planning, my husband and I were most ecstatic about booking our honeymoon. Jake and I both love to travel more than just about anything and felt this was the time to splurge on a fun and memorable trip. Deciding exactly where we were going to go was the hardest part!
At the recommendation of our good friends who had recently gotten married, we met with a travel agent specializing in honeymoons. I love to plan vacations, but given the sheer amount of DIY projects we were taking on for our wedding, it was much easier to leave the vacation planning to the experts. While we both wanted a warm, tropical location, we knew we didn’t want to just sit on the beach and drink piña coladas. Although we both love Hawaii, having been there already we really wanted to explore a new place and experience things we would not have the chance to do in our normal, day-to-day lives. Enter Audrina, our travel agent at All About Honeymoons. After meeting with us and performing a quick honeymoon “quiz” of sorts, she drafted three different honeymoon options for us. After looking at our selection, we both knew without hesitation that we would be spending the first week of August honeymooning in the beautiful country of Belize!
As I mentioned before, it was really important for us not to spend all of our time at the beach. We really wanted to experience the best the country had to offer. That being said, we split our honeymoon between a three-day jungle stay and a four-day island stay. It was the perfect combination of rustic adventure and tropical getaway. We opted to add Traveler’s Joy to our registry list. We wanted to go to Belize and actually get to have some adventures while we were there! Traveler’s Joy was definitely the most user-friendly option, and we knew that some of our avid-traveler guests would enjoy purchasing gifts for us to use on our honeymoon.
Our first stop after landing at Belize International Airport involved a long, jaunty ride through the Belizean countryside and over limestone-ridden roads to reach Hidden Valley Inn. The small resort sits atop Mountain Pine Ridge reserve, where we were to enjoy the first few days of our visit. Hidden Valley Inn is made up of just 12 bungalows, with a central restaurant and bar area. It is an intimate setting that lends itself easily to the beauty surrounding the inn. We cannot say enough wonderful things about the staff; they were friendly, welcoming, and incredibly knowledgeable about the plants and animals that inhabit the surrounding area.
Our first adventure at Hidden Valley involved trekking through the jungle, while the hum of the cicadas kept us company, to our own private waterfall! Mountain Pine Ridge reserve is home to several different species, including the puma and, most notably, the jaguar. While we didn’t happen upon either of those big cats, we hiked past beautiful pools and waterfalls, and saw dozens of blue Morpho butterflies -- fallen warriors, according to Maya legend. After an incredible hike, it was wonderful to come down the hill to a palapa complete with hammocks, lunch, fresh juice, and a little bubbly! We spent the next few hours relaxing, dipping into the beautiful pool, and listening to the rainfall. That wasn’t our only hike on the trip.
The next morning we ventured out at the recommendation of one of the staff members to King Vulture Falls. The trail was a dirt road and since we’d spent the previous day hiking through the dense, beautiful jungle, we weren’t quite sure what the appeal was. Then, we got out to the lookout point. The King Vulture Falls trail leads to the edge of an escarpment, offering an extraordinary view over a huge canyon covered in trees, with a waterfall on the opposite side. While we were not lucky enough to see any King Vultures that particular day, the area is known for spotting the large birds soaring over the canyon in the morning hours.
Later that same day, we headed out to Barton Creek with a guide from Hidden Valley. The drive was beautiful, and along the way, we drove past the local Mennonite farmers that have resided in Belize since the 1950s. Upon reaching Barton Creek, we put our life jackets on, climbed into a canoe, and got ready to row into a cave that the Mayans used for years. Inside, among the bats, stalactites and stalagmites, were remains of Mayan life, both pottery and skulls leftover from long ago sacrifices. We went a quarter mile into the cave, and although at times it was thoroughly eerie, the cave was also quite beautiful.
The next day, after heading down the mountain, we boarded a puddle jumper to head over to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, an island that’s a short 15-minute flight from the coast of Belize. The Caribbean is simply stunning and the view from our room at Ramon’s Village was nothing short of spectacular. Having never visited the Caribbean, we were pleasantly surprised by how incredibly warm and clear the water was, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. While we did not want to spend our entire honeymoon lying on the beach sipping cocktails, we certainly indulged ourselves for a day or two while in San Pedro.
When we were ready for action, we were picked up at the end of our dock to head out for an afternoon snorkeling excursion. The first half of our trip started at Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Ecotourism is a huge industry for Belize and much of their land and sea is protected, something that was important to us when considering a honeymoon destination. While snorkeling, we saw sea turtles, eagle rays, and dozens of various types of fish and coral. Once we had circled the reef, we returned to the boat and set out for Shark Ray Alley to swim with stingrays and nurse sharks. While we were a bit nervous, after some reassurance from the guide, we all jumped in. It was truly an amazing experience and something we will never forget.
On our last day in Belize, we again loaded onto a boat and set out for the mainland, heading up the river to visit Maya ruins at Lamanai. It was an all day excursion, and yet again, our guides were nothing short of impressive. At our second stop along the river, our guides alluded to the fact that they had a surprise for us. Not quite sure what the surprise was, as we’d left half the crew behind, we came upon a tree with spider monkeys swinging from the branches. I actually thought our guide was joking when he said that we were going to pull up to the tree and one of the monkeys was going to climb aboard. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened! After passing pieces of bananas out to interested passengers, we each had the opportunity to feed a spider monkey. They are long and lanky and look rather funny walking around on a boat deck, rather than swinging from trees.
After our monkey encounter, we headed back upriver to Lamanai. Following a yummy lunch of local Belizean food, we headed into the jungle. It was sweltering, but the ruins were magnificent. We even managed to climb the tallest temple, roughly eleven stories high. I am terrified of heights, but couldn’t bear to miss out on the experience. The view from the top did not disappoint. After exploring the remains of the city, we got back on board the boat to head back to Ambergris Caye, and in true Belizean fashion, we each had a glass of rum punch in hand.
Finally, the day arrived for us to head home. We could not have been sadder to leave this beautiful little country that had so much to offer. Jake and I cannot say enough wonderful things about Belize. In addition to all its beauty, it is incredibly easy to travel to as a foreigner. English is the national language, American dollars are accepted nearly everywhere, and the people are incredibly friendly. Having traveled abroad previously, I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of travel in and around the country. When all was said and done, our honeymoon cost us around $6,000, and it was worth every penny.
If you have an appreciation for nature and are looking for a little adventure to mix in with your relaxation, then Belize is the perfect place to spend your honeymoon. The food, the people, and the sights are truly unforgettable. We can’t wait to head back to Belize for an anniversary trip someday!