If my top ten reasons to honeymoon at Hamanasi Resort were enough to make you take the plunge, today’s post is for you! Before you touch down in that tropical paradise, there are a few things you need to be aware of. From what to pack and what to leave at home to the best way to avoid the mosquitos, here are my eight Belize vacation tips that you must know before you go!
1.) It’s easy to get to…but also not.
Today, it seems rare to be able to get almost anywhere without the hassle of a layover. Unfortunately, Hopkins, Belize is one of those destinations. Because it’s remote, getting there does require quite a bit of traveling, but I promise it’s worth it! First, get yourself to Belize City, which is pretty easy to do from almost any major US airport. We hopped a quick 2-hour flight from Miami. From Belize City, you can drive to Hopkins but that will take you almost three hours and ain’t nobody got time for that. Instead, it’s much easier to hop a puddle jumper plane to the Dangriga Airstrip, the closest “airport” to Hopkins. The flight on this tiny, 8-passenger propeller plane is both exhilarating and a little scary but the views are crazy amazing! In 15 very short minutes, you’ll be in Dangriga and a short drive away from Hopkins. All in all, we left Pittsburgh on a 6:30 a.m. flight and were on the beach by 3 p.m. (gaining an hour due to the Central time zone). Not too shabby!
2.) Beware of the bugs.
One of the downfalls of traveling to this part of the world is the bugs. Both mosquitos and sand flies are a big nuisance and their itchy bites can be enough to drive you crazy. Bug spray is a must-pack item. My advice? Avoid anything all-natural or with less than 40% DEET. The insects are SERIOUS and weak repellant just won’t work. And yes, Zika is still a threat. Frequently apply and reapply it liberally over all exposed skin, paying particular attention to forgotten areas like the tops of your feet, the backs of your hand, and the back of your neck. Also, remember to rinse it off before bed; you don’t want to let it sit on your skin for too long. I felt like I was bathing in the stuff for 5 days straight and I still came home with a few bites. Don’t let this deter you from visiting, however! Just arm yourself with the strongest repellant you can find!
3.) Don’t just pack beachwear.
Part of the beauty of a Belize vacation is getting off the resort and exploring. Whether it’s a hike through the jungle, a Mayan cacao farm tour, or even cave tubing, you’ll likely find yourself on some pretty wild adventures. Make sure you bring appropriate clothing and footwear. Long hiking pants and sturdy shoes with soles built for traction are a must. Tennis shoes will only get you so far in the rain forest. If you don’t own hiking boots, don’t rush out to buy some. I got by just fine with trail running shoes meant for trekking through mud and over rough terrain. Don’t forget a very light weight, long-sleeved shirt or jacket. It will help protect you from insects, branches, and the sun. For tours on or in the water, a rash guard is a good idea. Other Belize vacation essentials include sunglasses, a hat, and a backpack to carry on tours.
4.) Consider skipping the currency exchange.
Airport currency exchange kiosks are a total rip off anyways, but you might be able to avoid exchanging your money altogether. The USD is widely – although not universally – accepted in Hopkins. At an all-inclusive Belize resort like Hamanasi, you don’t have much need for cash anyways. All incidentals are charged to your room, of course. But what’s even better is that you can also leave gratuities for your favorite resort staff members or departments as a whole. They’ll be added to your room total and you can pay for everything using a credit card upon check out. Even within the village, many merchants accept cards or USD, although it’s always good to double check before purchasing anything!
5.) You’ll work up a sweat.
If you want to spend the entire day lounging on the beach with a drink in your hand, Hopkins might not be the place for you. You can certainly do that, but with so much to do and see, I don’t know why you would want to. Instead, my vote is to be active. Go on a hike, explore a cave, trek a mountain to get to a waterfall, snorkel along the reef…whatever your pleasure, just do something. But be warned: some of the tours offered by Hamanasi Resort can be physically challenging! I’m in relatively ok shape and even I found myself huffing and puffing during the adventures. Before booking your excursions, the Hamanasi’s Adventure Center staff will go over all of the ins and outs of each tour, making sure you’re physically and mentally prepared. Don’t think they are just doing this for appearances; many of the adventures require strength and stamina! I’m not a doctor, but I think most people who are of average health will be fine and can complete the tours without issue. Just be prepared to work up a sweat and have sore muscles the next day!
6.) You might have to live off the grid for a few days.
Whether by design or simply due to the remote nature, many resorts in Hopkins are WiFi free. That’s right. Zero internet access. Some might see this as a deal-breaker while others will view it as a welcome respite from their email addiction. Whatever category you fall in, be prepared to live in the moment while you’re in Belize. In an effort to encourage you to disconnect from the world wide web and reconnect with your traveling companion, Hamanasi Resort offers WiFi in the main building only. The resort’s rooms are also sans TVs. It’s their little way of reminding you that you’re on vacation and that you could probably use some screen-free time. Think of everything you can do when you gain back those hours spent scrolling Facebook and taking Buzzfeed quizzes. Read a book, tap a nap, go for a walk, play a game…you can do literally anything! A few days without constant notifications and Instagram-induced FOMO might actually do you some good!
7.) You can pack for a purpose.
If you’re staying at Hamanasi Resort, your suitcase can be a way of giving back. Each year, Hamanasi runs matching fundraising campaigns to benefit various local, national, and international organizations. One of their latest efforts is with the Hopkins Belize Humane Society. Their goal is to change the welfare of both stray and domesticated animals in their community and to provide resources such as spay/neuter clinics, rabies vaccinations, and a free dog food program. Donations made by Hamanasi guests will be matched by the resort. But they also invite visitors to bring leashes, collars, beds, food bowls, and other supplies to donate. Being the huge dog lovers that we are, we wish we would have known about this collection in advance! However, you can still get your furry friend fix by hanging out with the resort’s unofficial pets, Gibnut the cat and Scabbi the dog, to name just two.
8.) You’ll be changed.
After a few days in Hopkins, you might never want to come home. Belize’s gorgeous surroundings and a much slower pace make it quite tempting to conveniently miss that flight home. Mark my words: this place and its people will change you. When confronted with the reality of the way of life in a third world country, you’ll be reminded of what’s most important. Many Hopkins residents don’t have much by American standards. But what they do have – a close knit family, pride in their heritage, a strong community – is treasured beyond anything they could hope to possess. A few days spent with some of the kindest, friendliest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting was an eye-opening, humbling experience. I hope you’ll be open and courageous enough to having a similar one!
Consider yourself prepared…both for your Belize honeymoon and the trip of a lifetime! If you’ve been to this part of the world, what other advice would you offer? Comment below!
A HUGE thanks to Hamanasi Resort for teaming up with Burgh Brides to bring you this post! While I was compensated for my work, all writing, thoughts, opinions, and love for the brand are my own. You can read my full sponsored content disclosure policy here.