Opinions on Belize/Guatemala Itinerary
Replies: 8 - Last Post: Nov 28, 2012 9:16 PM Last Post By: npolet
Nov 27, 2012 11:58 PM
After some intense research, we've finally decided on what we want to do for our Belize-Guatemala trip this february, but it seems that no matter how much research I do, I seem to be missing bits of information on logistics and feel like I need some input from others who've been there themselves. I apologize in advance for the lengthy post- just want to include as many specifics as I can. Here's our "planned" itinerary- I'm looking for any tips, experiences, helpful info, opinions on ANY part of this trip, but I have included some specific questions as well.
Day 1 (Sat): Arrive Belize City 11am, shuttle to Parrot's Nest Lodge in San Ignacio
Day 2 (Sun): Relax day / Cave tubing
Day 3 (Mon): ATM Cave- I hear cruise ships do their excursions on Mondays- is this going to be annoying for the ATM cave? I.e. is our tour going to be packed?
Day 4 (Tues): Bus or shuttle across border to Tikal. Check in to one of the hotels in the park (suggestions?)
Day 5 (Wed): Sunrise tour of Tikal, shuttle down to Flores in afternoon and find a hostel (suggestions?)
Day 6 (Thurs): leave 10am on Linea Dorado bus down to Rio Dulce. Spend night at centrally located hostel (suggestions?)
Day 7 (Fri): Catch 1pm shuttle to Lanquin and check in to Utopia Eco Hotel. This is a newly built one- anyone tried it? I'm also considering El Retiro (but worried about the bed-bug situation) and Zephyr (we're social but not big party-ers so not sure about this one).
Day 8 (Sat): Semuc Champey / Bat Caves / Hiking
Day 9 (Sun): Catch shuttle back to Rio Dulce, then Lancha Ride to Finca Tatin
Day 10 (Mon) - Day 13 (Thurs): Rest and relaxation at Finca Tatin
Day 14 (Fri): lancha to Livingston and 7am departure to Punta Gorda, Belize. Flight from Punta Gorda to Caye Caulker (do you need to reserve a spot on this boat? I'm super worried about missing it)
Day 15 (Sat) - Day 21 (Fri): Snorkel and Relax on Caye Caulker. Probably do our PADI open water here (any suggestions for Dive companies?) (If we don't do our PADI cert, is 6 days a bit too long for Caye Caulker?)
Day 22: Fly to Belize City and then Fly home!
My concern is that the beginning of this trip is going to be too hectic. Does it sound crazy? I'm trying to fit in Semuc Champey but not sure if it's going to be worth all the hassle. If Semuc is absolutely worth it, then I'll probably look at rearranging the schedule to make it a bit less hectic- I can always take some days off of Caye Caulker and add them earlier (any other suggestions on how to make this trip more efficient would be greatly appreciated!).
I have tons more questions, but will put them in another thread as I think this one already has too many! I hope it wasn't too hard to follow. Thank you in advance for reading through it all!
Nov 28, 2012 8:22 AM
1Hi, I would just see how it goes and whatever you have left spend it on Caye Caulker. Of the three hotels at Tikal Park, the Jaguar place is the cheapest. No pool but I liked it. Livingston to Punta Gorda. Keep in mind you must arrange everything the day or night before, passport, customs, everything. Your trip sounds nice but a bit busy. I would take one thing at a time and leave time for the unexpected.
Nov 28, 2012 9:44 AM
2Day 3 (Mon): ATM Cave- I hear cruise ships do their excursions on Mondays
There is no fixed date for cruise ship excursions. It will be busy if ships are in port, but we don't have ships every day. If you let me know your dates (by private message if you wish), I can look up the cruise ship schedule, and let you know the best days to avoid the cruise ship crowd.
Check the cruise ship dates here...
Nov 28, 2012 9:48 AM
3I don't think you'll encounter cruise traffic on the ATM tour - it's a full-day tour, so unless cruise travelers are staying off the boat for a couple of days, it's really not doable.
We stayed in El Remate (Casa de Don David) instead of splitting our Guat. time between an in-park stay and Flores. The hotel had a shuttle that took us to Tikal at 5 a.m., and we were able to get a pick-up for the border on one of the early morning buses to the Caye Caulker water docks. Guessing Linea Dorado or the other buses would also do a pick-up in El Remate, as it's basically on the way to the border.
If you're curious, more info on our trip - we did San Ignacio, Tikal, Caye Caulker in 10 days - is on my blog http://molly-on-the-road.blogspot.com/2011/11/mini-trip-report-belize-and-guatamala.html.
Nov 28, 2012 11:05 AM
Nov 28, 2012 11:08 AM
5The main problem I see is that you've left out what for me is the heart and soul of Guatemala - the western highlands. Tikal is awesome and well worth the stop but I'd fly from Flores to Guatemala City and spend at least a few days between Antigua and Lake Atitlán. With only a week scheduled for Guatemala I wouldn't consider Semuc Champey worth 2 long travel days and just 1 day to enjoy - that's nearly half of your Guatemala time.
The early part of your trip is busy but fine. I liked Pacz for the ATM trip. When we did it in 2009 we were told it was available to cruise shippers, at least through them - maybe that's still true. I'd reserve ahead and ask for an early slot - we loved being 1st into the cave. Groups have to be no more than 8 but lots of groups go through every day.
Consider adding a stop at the Belize Zoo if you have time - very unique.
The Tikal Inn is my favorite hotel in the park. Jaguar Inn was good for us, too, but I love having a pool and the rooms at TI are very nice. If you can arrange a tour with Roxy Ortiz, do it - she's amazing. Note that only folks staying in the park are allowed the sunrise tours, though early morning tours that start after dawn are still nice if you decide to stay in El Remate or Flores.
You mention internal flights so I'm assuming you could afford one from Flores to Guatemala City; I'd spend whatever amount of time you can spare in the highlands and then head to Finca Tatin. I've also read that you'll need to be in Livingston ahead to catch the boat to PG.
I don't really get the 'fly to Caulker/miss the boat' combo. I'd reserve flights but you're probably ok just showing up for the water taxi in case you decide to fly from PG to the Municipal airport, taxi to the dock, and ferry to Caulker.
I love diving so recommend getting your Open Water certification. I had some good dives at Frenchies but haven't taken certification courses there. If you decide not to do your dive certification you could rob a day there for more time somewhere else. We loved the Raggamuffin sailing/snorkeling trip from Caulker.
Loads of photos and recommendations below - have a great trip!
Nov 28, 2012 12:22 PM
6Thanks so much for your input everyone!
Misterbee- I will send you a PM :) Definitely would like to know what days the cruises are docking so we can plan accordingly. It sounds like ATM will be fine on any day, but I would like to make sure we plan our cave tubing or whatever else we end up doing around there on a quieter day.
Bollygrl- thanks for the info and link to your blog- very helpful
Hopefulist- Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. I did look in to doing Antigua and particularly Lake Atitlan but had left them out because we tend to enjoy being in natural spaces more than cities and towns. I have a background in biology and very interested in Guatemala's biodiversity. I guess I figured that between Flores/Santa Elena and Lanquin that we might be able to get a little dose of Guatemalan culture along the way- or is it completely different in the Western highlands?
Thank you for the info on sunrise tours- it was unclear to me whether you could do the sunrise tour while staying in Flores, so I think we will stay in the park for sure.
When talking about the Caye Caulker-boat combo, What I meant was that my concern would be missing the boat from Livingston to Punta Gorda (since it only goes 2x/week). But since it looks like we'll be arranging everything the night before, that shouldn't be an issue. Once we're in Punta Gorda I think we can just fly straight to Caye Caulker (with a stopover in Belize City I think). I wanted to do it this way so as to avoid Belize City entirely (i.e. not have to take the water taxi). Several people who I've talked to said that even going to the water taxi is extremely uncomfortable. What are your thoughts on Belize City? Is it worth the flight money to avoid?
We LOVE snorkelling, so I think getting our open water cert would be right up our alley, plus we'd love to be able to do some diving back at home too. Quick question though: I believe it takes about 4 days to get your open water. During this time, do you think that the dives that are included in the training are enough (i.e. do you get to see as much as you would on a diving excursion)? Or will we want to budget for a couple of extra dives after we're certified?
Thanks again for all your help!
Nov 28, 2012 8:04 PM
7You will be doing 2 30 foot local dives and 2 60 foot dives, usually at one of the atolls so it will be up to you if it is enough. Check with both Frenchies and Belize Diving Services to see what they offer. Flying is simply a matter of money over time. Belize City is no problem during the day when you will be traveling...just a lot of hustlers around.
Nov 28, 2012 9:16 PM
8Thanks so much Greggo! Yeah I heard that Belize City is not really dangerous during the day "per-se" (providing you're being smart), just really uncomfortable. I'll check out those dive shops.
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