People arriving by cruise ship currently have to tender to get into port. What that means, for those who are not familiar with the term, is that instead of walking off and walking back on the ship, you have to take a smaller boat to get into the port. There were 5 or 6 large cruise ships in the day we came in but the tender process was still efficient, the large ferry type boats held at least 100 people and we were able to get off the boat on the 1st tender which took about 15-20 minutes to get into the docks. Belize will likely always be a tender port, the large ships can't get any closer because of the reef. There are several terminals at the dock area but even if you should forget which one you come in at it's still easy to find your tender back.
When it was time to leave Caye Caulker, heading for San Pedro on Ambergris Cay, I walked across the beach from our hotel to buy our water taxi tickets (US$10 each, credit cards accepted) for the 10 AM departure, giving us plenty of time to pack our backpacks for the short ride. It was not long before our departure time that we were standing at the end of the wharf with the other passengers waiting for the incoming craft. Upon boarding, the crew stowed the various backpacks under the seats and down a hatch inside the cabin while we grabbed a couple of seats just at the edge of the cabin in case it was a rough crossing. They have life-jackets aboard (check out the front window!) but none were required to be worn.
We were soon underway on what turned out to be a choppy sea, with the 3x200 HP outboard engines powering us along quite nicely. The 35 minute run to San Pedro stayed on the leeward-side of the coastal barrier reef to shelter us from the worst of the waves of the Caribbean Sea, so the ride was quite comfortable. As always on this vacation, the crossing time passed quickly as we compared notes with the other travellers and their adventures. The second photo shows a view from inside a second water taxi, three days later as we made another run all the way to Belize City - our island hopping days were over! The final photo shows the busy Water Taxi Terminal beside the yellow Swing Bridge in Belize City.
If you get the chance, be sure to take a water taxi ride at least once - they are fun, fast and cheap!
Our Trek Stop accommodations, just outside the hamlet of San Jose de Succotz, was very conveniently located for visiting the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich - a short 15 minute walk along the main highway toward Guatemala brought us to this scenic ferry crossing. This hand-cranked affair crosses back and forth over the Mopan River, providing the only access to Xunantunich since this site was opened to the public in 1954. The single operator winches the the ferry back and forth for both cars and pedestrians as they turn up on one side of the river or the other (second photo).
I had a good talk with him as we crossed on our 8:30 AM walk to the ruins, and he pointed out a very large Green Iguana (they can reach 7-feet in length) to me, as it lay out over the river on a tree branch, warming up in the morning sunshine. Tourists taking kayak tours on the Mopan (and ourselves as well on our tubing ride) have to keep an eye out here as they pass the ferry but it is not difficult since the aerial cable used to winch the ferry is plenty high above the water level. I gave the ferry operator $BZ2 (US$1) for his efforts on our short crossings here.
The water taxi from Belize City to Caye Caulker and San Pedro is quick and convenient. The fare is B$17 one way and B$34 return. The small power boats depart from the Marine Terminal in Belize City. The trip from Belize City to Caye Caulker takes 45 mins and to San Pedro it takes 1½ hours. Not all the seats are covered so you will need sun block.
Belize City - Caye Caulker & San Pedro 8 am -- 10:30 am -- 12 pm -- 1:30 pm -- 4.30 pm
San Pedro - Caye Caulker & Belize City 7 am -- 10:30 am -- 1 pm -- 2:30 pm -- 3:30 pm
From Placencia, there is a ferry directly to Honduras. The boat leaves Placencia, Belize every Friday at 9:30am, and returns from Honduras to Placencia, Belize on Monday. That is a direct connection across the Bay of Honduras, bypassing Puerto Barrios in Guatemala. It is about a 2-hour boat ride, give or take.
The fare is $50 US per person.
The Puerto Cortez (Honduras) ferry leaves every Saturday morning around 9, though probably later, from the docks at Dangriga. The ferry operators make smooth work of the passport control, for which you need to arive a tad early, though after the three hour ferry you are on your own to find the customs office in Puerto Cortez. Barter before making a deal with the money changers, they will offer bad rates at first. Also barter with the cabs that offer to take you to the customs house. It is not close to the port, so a cab is necessary, though you shouldn't pay more than 2 USD. The bus station is just around the corner from customs and there is an hourly service to San Pedro Sula, Ceiba, and other North Coast destinations.
Using ferries on the macal river is an experience, only because you seem to expect something diffirent, not the hand cranked ferry that they use.
Cars load themselves upon the unstable ferry as it moves from left to right as well as people jumping onto it trying to miss the large gap from road to ferry.
It is all still and quiet, apart from two men who hand crank the ferry across to the other side. From what I remember, there is no charge for this service and it is used all day every day.
Pour se rendre aux Cayes soit l'avion (20mn) soit le bateau. C'est un bateau rapide, ouvert où gens, bagages, et matieres premieres sont entassés et le tout à 35 noeuds sur une mer plate...Tres drole.Arret sur 2 iles, L'embarquement est plus que folklo...
Notre bateau s'appelait"Tsunami"...Brrrr
Two ways for going to the Cayes: the speedboat or th plane. We try both and it's so fine.
The boat sails between the islands , very quickly and stop in Caye Caulker before SanPedro. Getting on the boat is amazing, and funny...but it was called "Tsunami"...
If you ever plan to travel to Belize, and you are on a cruise ship, something you may not expect will happen. Evidently, the water from the Caribbean Sea and the shore of Belize is very shallow, so your ship will dock out in the middle of the sea, on the outskirts. Several tenders (boats) will pick passengers up from the ship and take them to shore. The tenders are very fast, so seasickness should not be a problem. Just be sure you make it back to the tender on time before the ship leaves........!
The're severall compagnies offering a place on their boats to the cayes. The biggest has a terminal just over the bridge (comming from the center). A one way trip will cost you around $7,5. If you by a round trip you'll get reduction.
The trip itself is also very nice passing many other cayes and the mainland at the horizon.
Getting to Belize is easy. Flights leave daily from Dallas, Houston, and Miami. It's actually kind of fun, when you are making your final approach, the plane gets really low over the trees, then makes a hard 90 degree turn to the left, and then lands a mere ten seconds later! definately not like any landing approach they allow in the US, but I didn't see a pile of smoking wreckage near the runway, so I guess it's safe! I understand there are a few cruise ships that stop in belize also, and it is a quick trip from Cancun as well.
I suppose you could rent a car and just drive around, but what's the fun in that? The key way to travel Belize is the way the locals do, by bus. The busses used by the various transportation companies are really just ordinary school busses, so the cost of travelling this way is very cheap. Also, the country is so small that to ride a bus from end to end, non stop would take you less than a day. There is airplane service to all major destinations, so this is the way to go for those who want to get there fast. Some locations have 'water taxi' service. This is the choice mode of transportation if you have to cross water. Not only is it cheaper than flying in the air, but flying across the surf at breakneck speed is just a lot more fun! You can get to Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye (pronounced 'key') and Placencia by water taxi. (You can also get to placencia by bus)
Take a taxi from the airport to the dock and then catch the 'ferry' (basically a scarab hull with bench seats and 2 big outboards) to the island.
Walking. The island isn't a mile long and only has 3 parallel roads and a few cross streets. I think there is a stop sign now, but what purpose it serves is beyond me.
Rent a Car... be aware of the local rentals they try to bill me the baucher with the coverage to the car.
From island to island better the off-shores, but it is also an experience to travel with the cesna airplanes
Convenient boat/ferry between Punta Gorda and Puerto Barrios, Guatemala - just over an hour, somewhat exposed to the elements.
If you don't want to go in your golf cart or walk, then catch a water taxi. They will get youmwhere you want to go in a very short time.
They are rather expensive though.