My mother’s side of the family was born and raised in the country of Belize. It’s a small country in Central America that I’ve always considered to be part of the Caribbean. Although many would argue otherwise. My mother left her beautiful country when she was 18 and traveled to Florida. The years of my childhood were filled with sunny summer days of hearing Belizean kriol, and laughter erupting from our kitchen.
Belize located on a map.
I’ll never forget waking up to the smell of fresh flour tortillas on Saturday mornings. I would tip toe out of bed to see my grandma rolling out tortillas for breakfast. It always amazed me how she was able to roll each little mound of dough into a perfect circle. Sometimes I would get lucky and she would slip me a few before breakfast. There is nothing in this world as comforting as a fresh hot tortilla!
Over the years I had heard and collected so many wonderful stories from my family of their time in Belize. They told them with such passion, it was as if their words brought their memories to life. I could see, smell and taste every story they told.
For a while, Sage and I had been “trying” to take a trip to Belize. When I say “trying” I mean just talking about it. So finally we decided to stop dreaming, and just do it! We booked our flight for September and before we knew it, we were boarding the plane.
A peek at one of our views while we were approaching Belize.
The ride was only about an hour and a half but I was so nervous the whole way. I was finally going to be visiting the country I had heard so much about. For a portion of our trip we were even going to be staying with family I had never met before.
My uncle and cousins were waiting for us outside the airport, and we were greeted with hugs and smiles. He works on a dive yacht as a chef. The boat goes out for 2 weeks at a time, and then he returns home for 2 weeks. Alongside his wife and with the help of their children, he also owns and runs a delicious pizzeria called “Tan’s Pizza” in Orange Walk, Belize. We were lucky that our trip was during his time off so we were able to spend time with him.
We had plans to experience it all! Two days after our arrival we traveled to Jaguar’s Paw. It is known for excursions like cave tubing and zip lining through the rain forest. My heart was pounding the whole car ride because of how nervous I was. If you know me, then you know I’m pretty much a wuss. I don’t do heights. Or drops. Like I’m that person who you see at theme parks holding the bags and eating an ice cream waiting for my friends to get off the rides. I was terrified of zip lining. I’d never done it before and had no idea what I was in for.
Getting ready to go zip-lining!
We hiked up the trail with all of our gear to the first stop. Before I knew it I was hooked up to the line and flying above trees and rivers. I screamed the whole way across. But it was nothing like what I thought it would be. It was so exhilarating, I couldn’t stop looking at the rain forest below me and around me.
The beautiful view from above!
After all the fun we had ziplining, I was looking forward to the cave tubing. Our tour guide, Fevalius Castillo, who also happened to be my cousin’s, cousin, was seriously amazing. To get to the caves there was a bit of walking through the rain forest that you had to do first. But he took his time and showed us everything. When I say everything I mean everything! He even knew where a tarantula lived and pulled it out of the hole for us to see. Fevalius was born and raised in Belize. He knows so much about the rain forest and its plants and animals. And he also knows a lot about the Mayans that used to inhabit those parts of Belize. Oh the stories he shared with us made the walk seem very quick.
Also in case any of you are wondering, Belize is the only country in Central America that uses English as their national language. When our cave stop came up, I looked down and saw a long flight of stairs. Beyond the stairs was a glistening pool of water flowing through the mouth of the cave. There were small cliffs along the sides of the water. Before I knew it, we were each taking turns jumping off the sides and into the refreshing water. I was super nervous and I could feel my heart in my stomach when it was my turn to jump. But hey, I didn’t travel all the way there to NOT experience everything to its fullest.
We had to carry our tubes down the flight of stairs.
My brave cousin Marcy, volunteered to be the first to jump into the water. Yours truly was last because I am a scaredy cat.
My cousin Angelo, swimming around in the water after he dived in.
Once we were all inside the water, we took a few moments to swim around and enjoy the beauty of what surrounded us. Then, we finally got into our tubes and began our journey into the cave. You guys…it was AMAZING. We drifted through the cave while listening to Fevalius tell stories of the Mayans, and how they used the different cave systems. There were lots of bats flying around that we also got to see. Might I add that they were super cute! It was a surreal experience being able to travel down the cave as the Mayans used to do thousands of years ago. To see the earth in such a raw form left me speechless. If you ever find yourself in Belize please GO CAVE TUBING. But allow yourself enough time to take in everything around you. I can’t recommend Fevalius and his tours enough. You can find his information at vivtours.com. Feel free to also take a peek at their trip advisor page by clicking here.
All of our tubes were tied together so we didn’t have to worry about loosing anyone!
A look inside one of the caves.
The next day we were up early for our travels to Lamani. That’s the name of one of the Mayan ruin sites located in Belize. We had booked our tour with Lamani Eco Tours. You can find their information by clicking here. And again, an amazing experience! Their tour even includes a yummy Belizean lunch.
Our boat ride over to the ruins was filled with lots of suprises! At one point we even got to feed a spider monkey some delicious fruit. The ride was about 2 hours long but time quickly flew by. There was so much to look at on our way there! We were lucky that we decided to travel in September because that’s the slow season for Belize’s tourism. So when we reached the ruins, our group was the only one there! In total we only had about 10 people. Our guide said that during the busy season, Lamani can see over 1,000 people a day! I was super happy because that meant I could grab awesome photos without anyone in them.
Sage feeding a cute little spider monkey some papaya.
We got to climb the face of different temples. Lamani is home to the tallest uncovered Mayan structure. And of course our guide wanted us to experience it. I’m not gonna lie, at first I was hesitant. There was no way I wanted to climb something that high! My feet wouldn’t even move! But again, I had to tell myself that I did not travel all the way to Belize to NOT climb the highest ruin. So up I went. Very slowly. But up I went. Once I reached the top I could see the mountains of Mexico. Yes people, we were that high!
All 3 of us walking down one of the temples in Lamani. I needed the help from both of them because I thought I was going to loose my balance and roll right down the middle!
Stairs we had to take to reach the highest ruin.
But the view was beautiful. In that moment I felt fearless. We were only a few days into our trip and I had already conquered so many of my fears.
Our afternoons and evenings were spent with my uncle and family. We spent many nights trading stories over Belizean tea and fryjacks. Fryjacks are this delicious fluffy food that’s in between an elephant ear and a croissant. Pair it with black beans and cheese and you’re good to go! Although I had never met this part of my family, I instantly felt at home. It was like I had known them forever. They were so excited to show Sage and I everything Belize had to offer. After our excursions we went on lots of little adventures around Orange Walk.
One evening, my cousin Marcy whipped up a delicious pizza, wings, and burgers so that we could taste their menu from their pizzeria. Their food is soo yummy! And I’m not just saying that because they’re family! Click here to find them on trip advisor. And if you’re ever in Orange Walk go stop by their restaurant. The food is delish!
My uncle’s pizzeria in Orange Walk.
As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” After 5 days of staying with my family in Orange Walk, we boarded a plane to San Pedro, Belize. My uncle and 2 of my cousins drove us to the tiny airport where the 15 seater plane was scheduled to pick us up. I was honestly really sad because I felt like we were all just getting to know each other. I wasn’t sure when I would see them all again. As a US citizen I have the luxury of getting a passport and traveling to wherever I feel like it, whenever I feel like it. But in other countries such as Belize, they have to apply for visas to travel to places like the United States. Which is a big reason why they have never had the chance to visit. You can do everything right, but there is still no guarantee that you will be approved. And we’re talking just about visiting! I’m hoping though that I can at least start to make more trips to visit them. They helped me to create beautiful memories that I shall cherish for the rest of my life.
A cousin selfie.
Our sweet little ride that took us to San Pedro, Belize.
View above Orange Walk.
View as we were leaving mainland Belize on our way to San Pedro, Belize.
View as we were arriving to San Pedro, Belize.
Up and away we went, into the sky until my family was just tiny little specks below. 15 minutes later we were landing in San Pedro. Excitement began to build within me once again. We were looking forward to the second part of our Belizean journey.
To Be Continued… part 2 of our adventures is coming soon!