If you wish to get a sense of what Belize was like before the tourist boom, take a drive along the sleepy Old Northern Hwy, which forks off from the Philip Goldson Hwy about 20 miles north of Belize City. The road was a major thoroughfare during colonial rule, but these days it gets very little traffic, especially to the north of the Maya ruins at Altun Ha.
The Old Northern Hwy is now freshly paved – but still very narrow – from the Philip Goldson Hwy until the turnoff to Altun Ha. It's a scenic drive that traverses dense jungle dotted with tiny villages. North of Altun Ha, the quality of the road declines drastically, and north of Maskall it's all gravel.