I know a few people who wish they could time travel in Belize. I also know a few people who wish they could enjoy those special “Belize life” moments more often. Today I have you covered on both – daydream away and enjoy a mutual appreciation for this wonderful, charming, quirky, fun country with a few growing pains.
*The featured image is not secret beach, however it was taken in that general area on March 24, 2009. I chose it because it represents beauty of undeveloped tropical beach jungle.
Now onto some excavated land, Belize history and a touch of geography.
Lamanai Ruins Circa 2015
The sign below, taken Sept, 20, 2015 represents the simplicity of Belize. A modest and neatly hand painted direction sign for such a grand Mayan site and it does an efficient job in the most charming way. While we are seeing more man-made signs, we still have many great sign painters in the country who do a wonderful job by hand.
Fun Fact: The word Lamanai originated from the word Lama’anayin, meaning, “submerged crocodile” in Mayan – Source Wikipedia Lamanai Page.
In case you did not know, Lamanai Ruins are located in Orange Walk district, in the northern part of Belize. This area offers a mix of history, culture and nature. Warm climate, and fertile soil make Orange Walk an ideal region for agriculture. It is big agriculturally, and known for growing sugar cane which produces: molasses, sugar and rum. A variety of crops are also grown in Orange Walk they include: tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, okra, cucumber, cassava, eggplant, sweet potatoes, rice, corn, beans, cacao, coffee, sour oranges and a few other tropical fruits. (Agricultural information was fact checked by a friend currently living on a farm in Orange Walk.)
I shot the following picture Sept 20, 2015. I loved landing at the Orange Walk airport and seeing a tall wall of sugar cane across the long narrow country road. It was so open and peaceful.
Lamanai Ruins, one of the major Orange Walk attractions are definitely worth visiting. I have taken the Lamanai tour from Ambergris Caye and from Orange Walk, which I liked a lot because it was a shorter boat ride down the New River, versus leaving from Ambergris Caye, which is a long day. Plus it’s nice to see different parts of the country. My friend and I stayed at Lamanai Landings, it was very tranquil.
I was fortunate to tour the ruins before they added wooden stairs, due to safety issues, as the High Temple at Lamanai is very steep. However, it was totally worth the climb. The pic below was taken on September 22, 2015. That was a fun small group tour out of Orange Walk. Our guide was excellent at pointing out wildlife on the New River, excellent in story telling, history and especially at conversing with howler monkeys.
Secret Beach – Circa 2014
I have such fond memories (around 2008) of when the popular Secret Beach Area in northwest Ambergris Caye was boat access only. It was so secluded and peaceful – beautiful Belize nature at it’s finest.
Click through to see the Mayan axe head I found while exploring with friends. I kept it for a minute to marvel at finding a tool so old (around 2,000 BCE) and fully intact. Then I carefully made sure it got into the right hands – Jan Brown, who was the Ambergris Mayan ruins main advocate and guide at the time. I enjoyed the excitement of finding a remarkable artifact that helped to document the island’s history, especially after it made it in the Marco Gonzales fundraising calendar.
The picture below is a fond memory from October 10, 2014. My friends and I loved taking a picnic to the other side of the island, and getting away from it all, “Gilligan’s Island style”. Such a beautiful untouched paradise filled with wildlife and wonders.
The development of Secret Beach has brought significant changes to the area. The once secluded beach area has transformed into a built up destination. It has also been a catalyst for more businesses to open en route to capture passing traffic.
Today, Secret Beach is one of the most popular attractions on Ambergris Caye, with its crystal-clear water, tropical beach bars and water park. It’s worth noting that the beach is off the beaten path and you will often end up with a bumpy, dusty drive there.
taco tip #30
Cart smart – pack a couple of bungee cords to secure belongings after a hot day of fun in the sun at Secret Beach. If you want to go the extra mile, put an “if found” note in your back pack and list your hotel. It’s also a good idea to change your screensaver on your phone to show a simple message of how to contact you should it go missing or bounce off the cart. That way whoever finds it will easily know to contact your hotel or what ever method you choose. Make it easy for your belongings to be returned to you as it often happens here.
The following image is from January 2022 at Happy Island beach bar beyond their restaurant tables. It is just a small sliver of what has become of the area. There are lots of restaurants, beach bars, a water park and a few accommodations.
These next two were taken Feb 2, 2023 by DJ Power, aka Cathy, a Canadian friend who was on Ambergris for the COBEC conference at the San Pedro High School. She took a solo drive up one morning just to see how much Secret Beach had changed since the last time she was here (pre Covid). She was stunned at how developed it has gotten but she still managed to find a quiet place (picture below on the right) to take a minute and appreciate the view before heading back to town. The other Tennessee friend Mary Beth (mywaterways.org and also here for COBEC) who was traveling with her did not even want to go see it. They have both been coming here a long time, watched many kids grow up, and seen many changes over the years.
Funny Sign – Circa 2017
A bit of humor is always a good thing. The funny sign below (taken November 4, 2017) is another illustration of the simpler side of island life. It also portrays the resourceful side of life in Belize – No paper? No problem! The owner of this vehicle got the job done anyways.
Bonus Picture – Circa 2018
I am leaving you with a bonus surprise picture from November 9th 2018. It was a warm and dusty day on the back roads. (I was living in San Pablo area at the time – upper floor of a duplex 2 bedroom 2 bath with a pool.) And I managed to catch another great moment of the resourceful side of Belize life. If you look closely there is a younger brother riding sidesaddle between mom and sister.
That’s what I love about living in Belize, you never know what you’ll see, but guaranteed it will often make you crack a smile.