Many of our guests arrive a day or two early for one of our week-long adventure packages. We often get questions about touring Belize on your own. I have a favorite one-day loop trip that takes in the Baboon Sanctuary, the Belize Zoo, and my favorite restaurant for lunch: Cheers. Because it’s a loop, you can start anywhere on the loop and circle around and end up back in the same place. I’ll describe it here as if you are arriving in the country and continuing from there to stay at Black Orchid Resort or the Howler Monkey Resort, with the plan to do the driving tour the next day. However, the itinerary can be modified as you see fit to go in a different direction, or to stay in a different location.
So, landing at BZE, you will first rent a car. Renting a car can be expensive in Belize (about $100/day), so this is most affordable for a group or family of four or more. If you compare the car rental to a guided tour, the car rental compares favorably when you consider four people x about $75/day per person for the tour.
All of the Belize car rental places are in the parking lot at the airport, so that part is easy. You don’t have to make arrangements in advance unless you are traveling at peak times like Christmas or Spring Break. Once you have your car, drive out of the airport and turn left on the Northern Highway, going north. You will go about 5 miles to the turnoff for the town of Burrell Boom. Turn left there and continue on to Black Orchid Resort or the Howler Monkey Resort, where you have already made reservations for the night. Most flights do land later in the day, so you would not have time for this tour without having the full day ahead of you, and you will need a place to stay. Black Orchid is about 25 minutes from the International airport, and the Howler Monkey Resort is about 45 minutes away, located in the village of Bermudian Landing.
After breakfast at the restaurant at Black Orchid the next morning, you will have to decide whether you are taking all of your luggage with you, or coming back to pick it up. That will depend on what you plan to do next. It will likely be easiest to take it with you, unless you plan to spend several days at Black Orchid.
Continuing west, drive on into Burrell Boom Village and beyond due west to the village of Bermudian Landing. This is where the visitor center for the Community Baboon Sanctuary is located. It’s a small, semi-funky, but charming museum. Well worth the minuscule entrance fee.
There will hopefully be a guide there offering to take you to the baboons (actually they are Howler Monkeys, but the locals call them “Baboons”.) By all means hire them! The fee will also be surprisingly affordable. A young woman walked us about a block back into the trees and there were the monkeys!
When you have had your fill of the Baboon Sanctuary, get back in your car and go back to Burrell Boom and turn south (right). You’ll be heading toward Hattieville. When you are almost to Hattieville you will pass the prison! You can see the prisoners right there inside the fence, it’s quite strange, but interesting. It’s a view of the country most people do not get.
At Hattieville you turn right and head west toward the Belize Zoo and Cheers Restaurant. Don’t miss Cheers. If you are hungry, go there first, it’s a little bit past the zoo. Then double back to the internationally famous Belize Zoo. You’ll want to spend several hours there. They quit letting people in at 4 pm, and close at either 4:30 or 5:00. Allow at least 2 hours for the zoo, but really you need 3 or 4.
After you have finished your tour, you don’t have to go back the same way. Continue on the Western Highway back almost to Belize City, then take the brand new cut off back over to the Northern Highway so that you miss downtown Belize City. You will come right out by Brodie’s Supermarket and the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel. Continue to the International Airport to return your vehicle (which is why you might be glad you don’t have to double back to get your luggage at Black Orchid.)
If you are meeting us for the first night of your adventure tour, take a cab from the airport back to the Biltmore to start your tour with us! Here’s the route.
[photos by Lucy Wallingford and Kathe O’Donnelly]