If you’re planning a trip to Belize, you may have noticed that two of the country’s popular spots have very different packing needs. San Ignacio, covered in jungle and offering tons of adventure activities, warrants some different clothing and items in comparison to the laid-back island vibe of Caye Caulker (or San Pedro).
Before my trip, I perused countless blog posts to try and figure out what I needed to pack. Yet, I still found myself weighed down with some items that really weren’t necessary!
For my female readers especially, I also wanted to give a fair warning on what to expect in regard to catcalling etc. on Caye Caulker – and how to handle it.
All that said, I’ve put together this guide to help you with your packing and prep process for your Belize vacation. I hope it’s helpful! Please note that this guide is geared toward women, but male readers may find some useful items here as well.
Table of Contents
- 1 Pack It
- 2 Leave It
- 3 Expect It
Sunscreen + SPF lip balm
Sunscreen is a must, even if you don’t think you burn easily. Depending on where you’re from, Belize is much closer to the Equator than you may be used to. Therefore, the sun can be deceptively strong even if it doesn’t feel that way. I’ve been using this sunscreen stick on all of my carry-on-only travel thus far, and it works like a charm. I also recommend a lip balm with SPF to protect that pout as well.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re going to be in or near the ocean at all, I implore you to get reef-safe sunscreen if you’re able to. Reef-safe sunscreen is typically devoid of two of the most harmful chemicals to coral reefs, oxybenzone and octinoxate. Although other sunscreens may still have chemicals that aren’t good for the reefs, we can at least do our part to keep the two most harmful out of the ocean as more brands are offering oxybenzone- and octinoxate-free options. Read more about reef-safe sunscreen here.
I’ll admit, all of us actually brought 6-7 swimsuits each. However, that’s because we were in Caye Caulker for the majority of our trip; we planned to dress cute for “adult spring break”; and we were able to use some of the bikini tops as pieces for our nighttime wear.
If you’re planning a low-key trip, you should be just fine with 2-3 swimsuits that you can wash and dry interchangeably.
Sarong or kimono cover-up
If you plan to get your beach-bumming on, I highly recommend bringing a sarong or a kimono as a breezy cover-up. It can also be a great piece to go from day to night (no joke, one of my last nighttime outfits consisted of a sparkly swimsuit under my floral sarong).
I wouldn’t recommend walking around Caye Caulker in just a swimsuit, because it’ll attract attention that you may not want (see my notes on catcalling below). That said, you do you! If you want to show off that body, I am here for it and won’t tell you otherwise.
Lightweight clothing and layers are an absolute must in Belize, no matter what area you’re in. Materials like cotton and linen are probably your best bet, and I would avoid denim as much as possible (excluding high-waisted shorts because those don’t cover much). I mostly packed dresses and skirts with breezy/thin tops to mix and match, and one pair of leggings for travel days.
Trust me, the humidity is no joke. I’ll admit, I thought that other bloggers were exaggerating and figured I would be fine since I’ve lived in Florida/visited humid places before/blah-blah-blah. NO. It is humid AF in Belize, period.
I think this is a no-brainer for any destination where mosquitoes and lots of bugs may be present, but I’ll remind you anyway: pack bug repellent! Between our group, we had a mix of Off! spray and repellent wipes with 30% DEET; but if you’re traveling solo and trying to pack carry-on-only, I recommend the wipes to avoid cutting into your liquid allowance.
Sturdy walking shoes
A good pair of sneakers (with tread) or universal sandals (Tevas, Chacos, etc.) are a must for San Ignacio. When you’re exploring the Xunantunich ruins and more, you do not want to be wearing flimsy shoes – trust me.
Light cardigan or sweater
Despite the humidity and warmth during the day, the nights might get a bit chilly (especially after your body acclimates to the warm weather). So, I recommend bringing a lightweight cardigan that you can throw on if you get cold.
Reusable water bottle
In this day and age, it’s so easy to find a reusable water bottle that there is really no excuse not to have one! You can choose one that rolls up and clips to your backpack, or a sturdy aluminum one (like our San Ignacio hotel gave us).
This might seem like a no-brainer because you’re going to a sunny place, but I will also add that you should bring a pair of sunnies that will stay put in case you do any really adventurous activities; and not make you too distraught if you lose them. Thankfully, that didn’t happen to us during any of our activities, but I wanted to make a note of it regardless!
Waterproof phone case
I swear by having a waterproof phone case and I’ve been using the same brand for years. This one in particular sits on a lanyard that hangs around your neck, and it seals so that your phone can go into the water (up to a few feet, don’t get crazy). The important thing to do when you first receive yours is to do the paper towel test that is recommended: put a folded paper towel inside the case, lock it, and submerge it in a sink filled with water. If the paper towel stays dry, you’re good to go.
Microfiber or Turkish towel
I have a microfiber towel that I use for yoga and travel alike, and it’s a great item to keep on hand! Microfiber dries much more quickly that your average bath towel, so it’s come in handy very often as a thin, portable beach towel. I’ve been hearing more and more about turkish towels as well, but I don’t personally use those so I can’t vouch for them. If you want to look into that though, here’s one that comes highly recommended.
All combined, our group had medicine for stomachaches, constipation, diarrhea, motion sickness, headaches, common cold symptoms, allergies, immunity and more. It might sound excessive, but I’d much rather be over-prepared on things that are small and easy to pack rather than be S.O.L. in a foreign country.
When I travel solo, I typically have a gallon-size Ziploc bag that has a mix of the medicines above. Be sure that your medicine is not expired though! I had this happen on my Portugal and Morocco trip, and I regretted not keeping my meds up to date when I came down with a stomach bug. Don’t be like me – be prepared!!
Just like my waterproof phone case, my dry-bag has become a staple for me whenever I travel to places with water activities. It’s lasted me through kayaking in Thailand, swimming against the ocean current to get to a cave in Portugal, and more. BUT, I found that I didn’t really need it during this trip besides during our snorkeling excursion. Here’s why: when we went cave-tubing in San Ignacio, we left our belongings in the locked van. And in Caye Caulker, we didn’t end up kayaking or doing any other water sports.
Thus, I will say “leave it” for this item, with a note to use your own discretion. If you’re planning to be in/on the water a lot, you might want to bring a dry-bag! It folds up well and doesn’t take up too much space.
My water shoes ended up being another item that I could have left behind. There just weren’t many activities that required them. You should be able to rent water shoes on any cave-tubing tour that you do; and if you’re kayaking around the islands, then you probably won’t be traversing on rough terrain. However, I would consider what activities you plan to do and (just like with the dry-bag) use your own discretion.
As I mentioned above, the one exception here is lightweight denim shorts, because I did find that these were great for some activities in San Ignacio as well as in Caye Caulker for going out at night. Otherwise, as a tourist who will not be used to the Belize humidity, I would steer clear of any jeans or heavy denim. It’ll just make you sweat more.
I can’t speak for the vibe on San Pedro, the island north of Caye Caulker, because there are more resorts there and the population tends to be more families, couples, etc. However, on Caye Caulker (and in San Ignacio, really), you won’t need super fancy clothes to eat or go out at night. Everything is very laid-back, and you can honestly get by during the day at most places in Caye Caulker wearing a swimsuit and cover-up.
Also, a note for female bloggers traveling solo: if you’re considering bringing some nicer clothes to shoot in, be aware that nearly anywhere you try to set up your tripod and get a cool shot, you’ll probably be approached by a local and/or catcalled. I thought about doing this during our stay (since I brought a cute skirt and some new swimsuits), but in the end it didn’t seem worth the hassle.
– Or any shoes that you care about, really. On our last two days in Caye Caulker, the rain caused the pavement to take on a wet cement texture that clung to our shoes with no mercy. Once I got home, it took forever to wipe off my shoes and try to restore them to former glory! If you bring a fancy set of sandals, you might regret it.
Due to the humidity, unless your hair just happens to respond exceptionally well to flat irons, blow dryers, etc., I would leave them and embrace your natural texture if you can. As someone with 3C curly hair, I often just slicked my hair back or let it air-dry as we went about our day.
Just like with hair appliances, this is definitely up to personal preference BUT I will say that you’re likely to sweat off that makeup. I made this mistake in Thailand, and it just made me break out more. So this time around, I just let my vacation tan be my “foundation” and brought a small concealer for under my eyes (they’re always a bit dark – thanks genetics!). To be fair, I have also been doing much better with my skincare routine in the past year – so I understand that this route isn’t feasible if you’re having a breakout. You do you!
Caye Caulker’s “Go Slow” Mentality
If you’re looking for a relaxed energy, Caye Caulker is going to be a great choice for you. The motto of the island is “Go Slow”, and you’ll find yourself appreciating the reminder every now and then. If you’re walking (or biking) too fast, you might even have a local call out to remind you. Try not to get bothered by this – it’s just the local culture.
Catcalling and How to Handle It
Speaking of local culture…unfortunately, catcalling is very prevalent. Thankfully, most of the time the words are pretty innocuous and just complimentary (doesn’t make it less of a nuisance, of course). Unlike in the U.S. and other countries where the catcalling can feel predatory and scary, here it’s seen more as a gesture of appreciation for your – ahem- appearance.
That said, if anyone crosses a line with what they say, feel free to stand your ground (although I would do so with other people around). One of the girls and I actually had an incident where we ended up yelling at these two guys who kept driving by us on a golf cart and saying stuff to us. After we yelled at them, they finally left us alone and weren’t seen again!
Tipping and Change Guidelines
Since so many of the tourists in Belize are American, Canadian, etc. tipping has come to be somewhat customary (and certainly appreciated) throughout the country. Online, I’ve seen that a few Belize dollars or 10-15% of the service cost is generally acceptable; while 15-20% may be more acceptable for tours. If you’re feeling more generous, then by all means tip more!
When it comes to paying for items and receiving change, here are two things to be aware of: first, always clarify whether a price is in Belizean or U.S. dollars, because it’s not always specified. Second, you can pay in U.S. dollars nearly everywhere; but you’ll receive Belize dollars in change.
I hope this packing and cultural post was helpful for you as you start to plan your Belize adventure. Was there anything I missed that you were hoping I would cover? If so, feel free to let me know in the comments!
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