My first time traveling north of the international airport. My friend, Meghan, is visiting from Hawaii so we decided it was the perfect excuse to plan a new adventure and see some new sights. We grabbed her from the airport, had the obligatory welcome beers over lunch at DiBruwry, then jammed up the Northern Highway to Orange Walk. We stayed in cabanas on the river at El Gran Mestizo and LOVED it; I wish we’d had more than just one night there. We scheduled an excursion to Lamanai Archeological site through the hotel and traveled by boat for the tour- what a great day! Planning your Belize trip itinerary? Orange Walk is definitely worth a day in the line-up. Here’s what I recommend to see and where to stay.
We stayed at El Gran Mestizo, a small resort right on the New River, and we were so impressed with the amenities and service. Cute and comfortable cabins, a nice pool, BBQ area, boat launch, and a wonderful restaurant with a killer happy hour. They even have a small playground at the restaurant, Maracas, that Mitch tested and gave his stamp of approval to.
The service was great; we were welcomed with drinks at the bar and a nice complementary breakfast was included with our stay. They arranged our Lamanai tour and you get picked up right from their dock. Everything was very convenient and affordable. Contact them directly to plan your visit; they’re a pleasure to correspond with. email@example.com We’ll totally be back again with more friends!
The top attraction in Orange Walk is the Lamanai Archeological site. This site is especially interesting to history buffs because it is one of the longest continuously inhabited Maya sites. Occupied as early as the 16th century BC all the way through the 17th century AD, Lamanai is renowned for it’s Pre, Classic, and Post Classic Period architecture and artifacts all in one area. Meghan has an archeologist’s keen eye for artifacts, she plucked up dozens of pottery shards as we walked through the ruins and found an iron piece from the British Colonial Period. (of course you can not leave the site with these but we had fun cataloging our finds)
The site is expansive and you could easily spend the entire day or even two going through the many partially excavated areas but most tourists just hit the main Temple loop: the Mask temple, High temple, and Jaguar Temple. Our guide, Carlos, was incredibly knowledgeable and made a mean picnic lunch. He’s worked for decades in the area as a guide and researcher and is passionate about the history of the area and conservation of it’s natural environment. Ask for him specifically when you book through the hotel or call him directly at +501-661-0485
We enjoyed the lazy, winding river ride to and from the site just as much as the ruins themselves. We saw loads of beautiful birds, sunbathing turtles, and oodles of water lilies. It was about an hour’s worth of relaxing riding each way and I was in awe of Carlos’ seemingly effortless ability to navigate the turns and channels of the river so expertly.
I’m itching to go back and explore OW town a bit more because the very brief peek we took has me intrigued. They had a large primary school compound, a library, and a proper gym. Have you spent any time in Orange Walk? Let me know in the comments what I should see and do next in the district.