Belize: Paradise next door.

Have to agree pretty much with this morning's post by Carly Ledbetter on the many reasons to include Belize in your vacation planning, among them fewer than average numbers of tourists, fabulous beaches, terrific scuba diving and snorkeling on the second longest coral reef in the world, and numerous Mayan ruins. My only disagreement is over the recommendation to visit between November and April; off-season prices drop precipitously, plus from May to October you'll pretty much have the place to yourself. Summers are hot, for sure, but you'll be in the water most of the time, anyway. Just keep an eye out for the occasional hurricane.

Robles Point, northern Ambergris Caye
Photograph by Julian Rivero
The rest of the story: 9 Reasons To Head To Belize For Your Next Vacation Getaway by Carly Ledbetter (HuffPost Travel). See, also: 10 Things You Must Do During Your Next Trip to Belize by Sucheta Rawal.

Belize
For even more exclusivity, avoid touristy Ambergris Caye for a spot on the mainland. Our recommendation: Robert's Grove Beach Resort, a hacienda-style hotel on 22 acres of white sand beach in Placencia, not only close to the barrier reef, diving tours and fly fishing trips, but also within easy reach of tropical rainforests and Mayan ruins.

For a rainforest experience, book a stay at Black Rock Lodge, a cozy eco-resort nestled in the dense rainforest above the Macal River in the Mayan Mountains, 2.5 hours west of Belize City, south of San Ignacio. The forest surroundings offer opportunities for canoeing on the Macal, horseback riding to Xunantunich, hiking various canyon trails among verdant local flora and fauna, and bird watching (the Lodge is one of the few places in Central America where you might see all three species of Toucan in one morning). Add in roomy rustic cabins
Where is Belize?
and a restaurant featuring fresh, organic vegetables grown on site, and you'll never want to leave. At least we didn't want to.

Resources: AmbergrisCaye.com, Belize in the CIA World Factbook, the Belize Audubon Society, and Belize by Lebawit Lily Girma (Moon Handbooks). Belize is a hair over two hours from Miami and just under two and a half hours from Houston. Air service is provided by American, Maya Island Air, United, US Airways, Tropic Air, TAG, Avianca and Delta.

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