Belize and the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins

Belize

We’d been to Belize once before, and had taken an excursion to the Xunantunich Mayan ruins with lunch.  We had really enjoyed our day there, so when we had the chance to visit Belize again, we decided to take the same tour.  I don’t think that it would be a good idea to just get off the ship and walk around Belize City.  I’ve never done it, but it doesn’t look like there is a lot to do, and it doesn’t look like the safest area to me.  In my opinion, an excursion is the way to go when you visit Belize.

Tendering to Belize City

When you cruise to Belize the ship anchors five miles off shore, and you take a ferry (tender) boat into port.  It’s a large tender boat with seats on the main deck and on the roof.  They did pack them pretty full, and there were some people standing.  The ride took about fifteen minutes.

We really didn’t get to see much of the port area in Belize City.  There were four terminals, which I’ve never seen in a cruise port.  Each terminal had shops, and at the end of the terminal was where you got picked up for your excursion.  Our guide went so fast that he left us behind, and we spent our port time trying to find him.  And then when we got back, it was time to get back on the tender to go back to the ship.  (Hint:  make sure you ask your excursion guide before you get off of the ship which terminal you’ll be meeting at, just in case.)  The port area seemed pretty big, and it looked like it had a lot of shops.

Two hour trip

It was a two hour trip to Xunantunich through forested areas and small towns.  I really don’t think that there are speed limits in Belize.  The bus driver was really flying and passed many trucks even though it was only a two lane road.  Some cruisers were killed in an auto accident on an excursion in Belize the week after we were there and I can believe it. I was a bit nervous on the bus.

Carolyn, our guide, told us about the area as we rode along.  Since this was an MSC cruise and a lot of Europeans were on board, they had prerecorded audio tours for anyone who did not speak English, along with headphones, so they could follow along.  We passed some nice areas in Belize City, and some small houses and not so nice areas.  Many of the houses had bars on the windows and doors.  Carolyn told us that in Belize first the people work and save money for their house, then they build them.  They add on as they have the money. 

Xunantunich (Maiden of the Rock)

Once we got to the pyramid we got out of the bus, then had to get on a hand cranked ferry to cross the small river.  On the other side we got into vans and went the last mile up the mountain.  In this area you will find clean restrooms and a small store with snacks and bottled water.  You will see armed guards walking around the area.  Bring sunscreen and bug spray.

After that you still have to walk a good distance up the mountain to the ruins.  There are several small ruins, and we were told that everything here has been restored, so it’s not all original.  The best part was getting to climb to the top of the main pyramid.  You can see all the way to Guatamala from up there. 

Hope you’re not afraid of heights!

I’m not overly fond of heights, but I climbed to the top.  It’s not an easy climb, there are a lot of stone steps and not much to hold onto.  Keep that in mind as you decide upon this excursion. But the view is worth it!  I only stayed up there long enough to take pictures and come back down.  Getting back down is easier because you take a back way with more handrails.  Wish you could come up that way. There is a shaded area with tables at the bottom of the pyramid, so you could wait there if you wanted to.  It’s not required that you climb the pyramid.  But keep in mind that there is still a lot of walking on hilly terrain on this excursion.

Our tour guide told us about the entire area, the we walked back down the hill, took the vans back down to the bottom of the mountain, and waited for the ferry.  This is also an automobile ferry, so we had to wait for cars to come and go, then get on ourselves.  There were some tiny little blue birds sitting on the ferry.  Don’t know what they were, but they were cute.  

Shopping

On the other side of the small river, they had a small straw market with local vendors.  I would have liked to stop, but the tour guide rushed us past because we were running late.  We had no time to shop before lunch in San Ignacio.  We did, however, shop there last time and you’ll find the normal souvenir trinkets that you find everywhere.  The prices may be a bit better though.

And lunch

I’m not sure of the name of the restaurant in San Ignacio, but I believe it was called the Marimba Cafe.  We’ve eaten there once before, and liked it.  We only had 30 minutes to eat, but immediately as we sat at a table in the open air restaurant, they served us.  We had Jerk Chicken, rice and beans, and cole slaw.  I would have loved plantains.  The food was good, even though it wasn’t a huge portion. You’ll also get a bottle of water or soda.  They do serve beer. 

Last time we were there I picked up some Sweet and Spicy hot sauce that I loved.  But they were out of it this time which was very disappointing since this is the only place I could get it.  I ended up with some spicy sweet pineapple hot sauce.  They also had vendors with hand made goods outside the restaurant selling their wares.  We didn’t buy anything, but they have a variety of goods, including Mayan calendars.  Everyone takes American dollars. They are a bit pushy.  I would recommend this excursion.  

Back to the ship

Then it was back to the bus for a two hour drive back to the ship.  There was no guided tour on the way back, we just had some quiet time to relax.   We got back around 4:30, and the last tender back to the ship left at 5 pm.  We had just a couple of minutes to pick up a quick souvenir, then got on to the tender to head back to the ship. It was a busy day, but it was a good excursion.  And we saw rain while we were on the bus, but never had to walk in any.

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