A couple weeks ago, I spent a full week in Belize with my family. This was a really fun trip. I got a lot of questions about where to stay and what to do but this wasn’t really one of those trips where we did a lot. We stayed at the Portofino Beach Resort (it was really lovely) and didn’t really do much besides a day long excursion to the Mayan ruins and a couple trips to Secret Beach.
This trip was all about the kids and having time together. My sister and her husband chose the resort because they could get a nice suite (two bedrooms and a living area with a kitchen where they could cook for their picky-eater kiddos). My parents and I crashed their trip, booking the resort’s two beachfront rooms. It felt sort of like family summer camp. We did a lot together but we did the trip two different ways. My sister and her fam rented a golf cart, went into town to get food to cook, etc. My parents and I did not rent a golf cart and got the all inclusive package which included our transfers and the flight from Belize to San Pedro (and a taxi to the resort). We ate all our meals at the restaurant.
The trip wasn’t perfect but we had the best time. I’m going to get into all the details below!
A Week in Belize
I flew on Delta, flying from Charleston to Atlanta, and then Atlanta from Belize City. Then at Belize City I flew Tropic Air from Belize City to San Pedro. Then a 35 minute golf cart ride to Belize. (This part was a little bit brutal, you know I love a golf cart ride but it’s very bumpy and dusty as half of it is down a dirt road. I was very dirty/dusty after each trip!).
It was a quicker trip than I had thought; and a lot easier than I had anticipated. (I’ve had some real doozy travel days since moving to Charleston since there are few direct flight options; Holbox and Anguilla both felt much harder to get to). My flight was at 7am with a 90 minute layover; I landed at noon. Then a 1:40 flight to San Pedro, (only 15 min) and a 40 min drive to the hotel. I was at the pool by 3. Not bad!
We stayed at the Portofino Beach Resort. I loved it. The staff was so friendly and the food was amazing. Seriously, SO good. The food was the second best part of the trip (number one was family time!). I had stone crab for dinner most nights. We ate like kings. There is a great continental breakfast in the morning that is free for everyone, and if you do the all-inclusive there are tons of amazing options like a veggie scramble, an omelette, avocado toast, etc. Lunch is delicious (so many great salad options) and there’s a 3 course dinner every night. The waiters (especially Gianni and James!) were so friendly and accommodating and just nice to chat with.. Also: GREAT coffee in the morning. This is important!
It’s rustic and cute and when we stayed (Feb/Mar 2023) it was reasonably priced. The hotel has 17 rooms. My parents and I did the two beachfront rooms. I loved my room. A big comfy bed with a mosquito net canopy (there weren’t any bugs in the room) My sister and her family took the “upper mansion,” a two bedroom suite with a kitchen and small living area.
They also have a great spa. I got a massage (on the beach!) one morning, and my dad and I both got pedicures.
A few things to know about Portofino Beach Resort.
- I do wish it was a little closer to town. It was a 30-40 minute golf cart ride on a dirt road. We didn’t really explore the town because we were so far out.
- There was a pretty big seaweed issue, which was a bummer. I mention this because I’d want to know before planning a trip but feel badly even complaining about this because they had workers were down on the beach every day raking it and carting it away, but there is SO MUCH SEAWEED. The hotels face an uphill climb: even with daily maintenance (there were workers there every single day!) it just piles up. We couldn’t swim in the ocean at the beach, and I had figured I’d get exercise by walking along the beach. You couldn’t do that. Mountains of seaweed blocked each way. The kids loved playing in it though!
- It was very windy. Like, you can’t put your book down or it will blow away. We did a little research and this isn’t even the windiest time to come (apparently, that’s April).
- This is a small thing but worth noting if you do the all inclusive option: just know that the alcohol options are limited. It’s domestic liquors only (lots of rums, one mediocre vodka, no tequila), lots of beers, and no wine. We were a little bummed that we had to pay extra for wine and tequila/margs which were our drinks of choice!
I think I had stone crab for dinner four out of our seven nights? It’s a full pound! I still think about it.
It was warm but really, really windy! Like really windy. I think this might have been more specific to the part of the island where we stayed. (Where we were it was very windy and there was a lot of seaweed in the ocean, but by Secret Beach it wasn’t windy at all and there wasn’t any seaweed). In some ways this is nice as you never feel too hot but if you are reading a book, it makes it hard.
Visiting the Lamanai Archeological Reserve:
Okay this was the best but also… an excessive amount of travel. It took us about 5 hours each way to get there (a car ride, a ferry ride, a van ride, a boat ride) for 3 hours at the ruins. I am so so glad we did it (a must!) but if I were to take this trip again, I’d do a night on the mainland (a reader recommended San Ignacio). See the ruins and caves, and then get to the islands separately for some R&R!
I highly recommend visiting the Lamanai Archeological Reserve. We booked the excursion via our hotel. My photos don’t do it justice, it took our breath away. The city/site dates back to 1500 BC and contains 738 structures. Of the 738 only 6 are partially exposed and open to the public. It breaks my heart a little bit because of course exposing the structures (and preserving them) is very costly but the government just doesn’t have the budget.
This was about a 20-25 minute golf cart ride and where we were advised to go to dodge the seaweed and be able to swim. But the name is deceptive, it is not secret at all. It was the most crowded place we went, and there were big signs proclaiming SECRET BEACH everywhere.! I giggled at the irony.
The water was really nice and we managed to snag 5 lounge chairs in the shade. (Get there by 10am to claim a spot!). It’s nice because you can order food + drinks and use the bathrooms, though I am pretty sure that I got sick from the food. So maybe proceed with caution (drink bottled drinks, not frozen drinks like I did and stick to chips).
- I got asked if this would be a good spot for a honeymoon. I think it depends what kind of trip you are looking for. If it were me I’d want something a little more luxe for my honeymoon but if your taste is more rustic, absolutely. This is personal taste though! And also, a thing with traveling with a significant other: there’s no door on the bathroom (why is this a thing, so many of my fav hotels in Mexico do this too) soooo if you are traveling with your significant other that is an interesting thing to manage.
- Take out cash! You’ll be fine using dollars (don’t worry about converting it) but make sure you have lots of cash. Most places also take credit cards but I didn’t see very many ATMs. Nowhere we went seemed to take Amex.
- Wifi worked well at the resort (their TripAdvisor page said otherwise), and my data plan worked well anytime we left the resort.
- When we got to the paved part of the road, I noticed Coco Beach Resort. It looks very nice and is also close to some cute restaurants and coffee shops. I can’t personally vouch for it but if you want to be able to hop around a little more, this might be a better option.
- I have a sensitive stomach and have to be really careful when I travel. At the hotel I ate everything under the sun and had a million frozen daiquiris. I did not get sick at all until the last day and I blame this on the frozen drinks and/or ceviche I had at Secret Beach.