The capital city of Belmopan is an easy and beautiful 2-hour drive from Placencia and while it isn’t a metropolitan center of art and culture, it is the hub of government offices and activities: Immigration, Department of Labor, the embassies, Ministry of Health and Education and whatever else you can think of. If you’ve spent a long enough time living or working in Belize you have probably needed to handle some business in Belmopan.
We’ve just returned from a trip to Belmopan. “We” being me and Mitch and my South African friend, Julia, and her two boys. If you follow this blog you might remember our mother and sons’ trip down south last year. It was great to see new sights and experience different things on our excursion but we’d vowed to never do it again because the boys had been so badly behaved in the car—I’m surprised neither of us had lost our voices from yelling at them! Well a year and 2 weeks later, we’d done it again… and these three hellions weren’t ANY better behaved. Complaining, bickering, roughhousing, inciting arguments, loud and obnoxious singing, flatulence… there wasn’t a moments peace! But Julia and I both knew we’d done this to ourselves and we were going to make the most out of it gosh darnit.
After adhering to one of our self-imposed lifestyle changes of NOT owning a motorized vehicle in Belize, Phil and I just broke down and bought a van. Of course we didn’t need to do it but it sure does make me feel safer knowing that if we had say, a medical emergency we could jump in our own vehicle and hightail it to a hospital without checking flight schedules, finding a rental car, or calling around to friends. Tragically, Placencia lost their local doctor to covid recently and his official replacement hasn’t been appointed yet. We have one private practice GP on the entire peninsula at the moment but if he is busy with other patients or called away on an emergency your recourse is to either wait or journey to another clinic elsewhere. Thankfully we are quite healthy and have managed to avoid injury (plan to continue this trend) but having a vehicle will also simply improve our quality of life here, facilitating more exploration of this beautiful country and impromptu weekend adventures. But our “new” (used) vehicle needed replacement tires which I thought was a great excuse to take it on its inaugural exploit… to Belmopan!
I had a quick and easy experience at Caribbean Tires. A massive, modern, clean and quiet showroom with non-pushy sales reps; it was like walking in to heaven after being in the car with those feral children for hours…and there was coffee! It was like North America but they didn’t try to up-sell me at all and they had the new tires on in 30 minutes.
Belmopan is a planned city and easily navigated with well-marked buildings and roads, even stoplights! There’s also an outdoor market place worth a wander for visitors even if all you seek is a cold soda and a hot fryjack. There’s designated green space and walking paths, a playground with minimal equipment mostly in disrepair.
There are accommodation options in Belmopan proper but we enjoyed staying just outside of the city in a community called Agua Viva. Ten minutes back down the Hummingbird Highway from the junction you see the turn off for Agua Viva, an odd sort of settlement of jungle farms and quarries and Mayas and Mennonites and foreigners. I was very surprised to see these muddy tracks of road all named with nice new street signs, unexpected when half the traffic is horse-drawn carriage. We stayed at our friend Natalya’s intimate and innovative guesthouse, the Tree of Life. This place is folksy, fun and family-friendly. It suited our mother and sons outing just perfectly with plenty of beds (though there was still fighting over top bunks) and a nifty game room that the boys relished. They have a lovely stream we didn’t have a chance to swim in but we heard the Howler monkeys at night.
I didn’t take any pictures of the property (this time, but I’m sure we’ll be back) because frankly I was too tired from making empty threats of disciplinary action for misbehaving children and it was a bit wet and overcast but here are some I pulled from Facebook.
I highly recommend a stay at Tree of Life for an affordable and unique overnight within easy reach of business in Belmopan- the soap is handmade by a neighbor and the eggs are free-range organic from the their own chickens. Ayala’s Natural Pool and Zipline is a stone’s throw from the cabins and though it wasn’t open at present I would LOVE to go back and check it out when it is.