Belmopan – the capital of Belize that didn’t want to be a capital
The history of Belmopan is actually told relatively quickly the city wasfounded only on August 1, 1970. At that time Belize was still a dependent English colony. In the year 1972 then from British Honduras the Central American state Belize became.
Belmopan is located about 80 kilometers inland and is therefore mostly spared from hurricanes. This was also the reason why Belmopan became the capital of Belize. Until 1970 Belize City was the capital of this country and colony.
However, in 1961, Hurricane Hattie, which also caused the split on Caye Caulker, caused enormous damage in Belize City, and so it was discussed whether the government headquarters should be moved further inland.
Belmopan was and is a planned city – which can be seen very clearly in the streets and the generous parks. The city was designed during the planning for 40,000 inhabitants. But since the city is not very attractive for residents and the climate is much more unpleasant than on the coast live to this day only about 24,000 inhabitants in the capital of Belize
Arrival to Belmopan
After we have already driven with the Belize Water Express Taxi from Chetumal to San Pedro and from San Pedro to Caye Caulker and everything has always worked great for us was also clear that we wanted to take the Belize Water Express Taxi from Caye Caulker to Belize City again. Per person were due here about 18 dollars (USD). The crossing took this time a little longer than from San Pedro – I think it was about 45 – 50 minutes.
Already at the port, there are several options to choose from to reach Belmopan. You can either go on the expensive Express Bus Tours – here the price from Belize City to Belmopan is about 12$ – 15$ USD. For this you get then an air-conditioned bus with Wi-Fi.
The other way to get to Belmopan via Mexico is to take ADO to Belize City and from there take one of the countless options to continue to Belmopan.
If you decide for a chicken bus the price is about 3$ – 5$ USD so much cheaper. However, these are non-air conditioned buses with little or no options for a traveler’s luggage.
Accommodations in Belmopan
In Belmopan there are not too many accommodations you can book. The supply is equally limited on Booking.com as it is on AirBnB.
During our 4 night stay in Belmopan we stayed at the Hotel El Ray. This is a small family-run hotel near the American Embassy. Here we paid incl. breakfast for two people and hotel room with private bathroom, TV and air conditioning about 65 euros a night.
As already in San Pedro and Caye Caulker, there are not so many hotels here in Belmopan as for example in Mexico Tulum. Development and tourism in general is still in its infancy here in Belize and will only run properly in the next few years.
The accommodations are mostly located in the lower sector, so who is looking for luxury accommodations in Belize must dig deep into your pocket (300 – 500 euros a night in a double room) or make do with a standard room (these are on average about 50 – 80 euros a night).
Restaurants and shopping in Belize’s capital
What kind of food do you eat in Belize? We asked ourselves this question, of course, when we finally arrived in the capital from our journey from Caye Caulker. We quickly found out that it was very similar to Cuban food. The main meal in the region is apparently always rice with beans. Since we are not a big fan of Creole cuisine, we naturally tried to find alternatives for us and ended up with Mexicans and Asians.
For a dish here on average 10$ BZ – 30$ BZ dollars are due. Of course, it depends on whether you just want to eat pasta or a few tacos or rather beef with garlic and onions.
For two people we were on average between 30$ BZ – 60$ BZ due. That corresponds to about 13 – 27 euros per meal including drinks (water and soft drinks). In terms of taste, the Asians in Belmopan have convinced us the most.
In addition to some restaurants and snack bars in the city center is always the market city (Tuesdays and Thursdays) here there are great fruits and fresh vegetables and all sorts from the region a visit to the market is worthwhile.
The retailers are scattered across the city, sometimes the stores remind us of an Oxxo because they have a similar large selection of drinks as in Mexico, but sometimes the store reminded us of a corner store that sells car tires and nails in addition to toast and drinks. Price-wise, the stores are about on the level of Mexico(significantly cheaper than on the Cayes).
Info: Most of the restaurants and stores are run by Chinese families. Chinese investors are currently pumping a relatively large amount of capital into Belize. If you talk to the population about these issues most residents are not very happy about it, because profits flow abroad and do not stay here in the region.
Activities in Belmopan
Admittedly, Belmopan is not the city of cities – and probably only worth a trip if you love nature. We like to walk through forests and be shown nature and wildlife or explore it ourselves. Therefore Belmopan was a good starting point for some tours we did.
Bird Rescue Belize
A very personal highlight of our trip to Belize is the Bird Rescue Center Belize near Belmopan. This Bird Rescue is run by an elderly couple from London and is funded by accommodation rentals and donations.
The center takes in wild birds that have been injured or birds that have been confiscated by the Belizean government for not being kept in a manner that is appropriate for the species.
Note: Please make an appointment here, the Bird Rescue Center is not open to the public for tourists, however Nikkii and Jerry (the owners) are always happy about a visit and small donations.
Here is some more information: http://www.belizebirdrescue.com
The Bird Rescue Center housed over 180 birds when we visited in January 2019. From pelicans, parrots, hummingbirds and toucans, it really does have it all.
Many of the birds that have been rehomed come back after release and live in the couple’s garden since they always provide food for the birds.
It was a great and warm visit, if you love nature and birds you should definitely stay here for a few nights and enjoy the nature (unfortunately we didn’t know until our visit that there are also rooms here).
If you stay directly in Belmopan it takes about 45 minutes (on foot) to reach the Bird Rescue Center Belize. Part of the walk is along a great dirt road directly to the bird rescue center.
Another day trip from Belmopan was to the Belize Zoo. The zoo is about 25 kilometers away in the direction of Belize City. You have the option of taking the bus that goes directly from the center to the zoo or taking a private driver. The private driver will then wait for his guests directly in front of the park until they have finished their tour. For a private driver you have to calculate about 50$ USD.
The Belize Zoo is a very special zoo. It is also an Animal Rescue Station or a shelter for animals that can no longer survive in the wild for any reason .
In total, there are 36 different enclosures with different species which, however, all in Belize are also native. You can find eagles, vultures, puma, aguti, jaguar, coatimundi and various monkeys.
The tour lasts about 1.5 – 2 hours.
Unfortunately, the entrance fee is not quite cheap for foreigners. Here 15$ USD per person are due. For locals there is of course a decent discount. However, one should keep in mind that this is a park that does something good for the native animals in Belize. Therefore, we saw it as a donation.
Guanacaste National Park
Guancaste National Park is a national park that was created in 1973 it is located right on the Belize River. The park has only a size of 20 ha and is therefore also completely explored in 1 – 2 hours (if you take your time).
Admission per person is very fair $5 BZ.
The park is worth a nice walk through the jungle and is a nice half-day activity.
Getting to the park from Belmopan is relatively easy – either take a cab for a few Belize dollars or walk directly there, takes about 30 minutes from the center.
Safety in Belmopan
Admittedly, we felt the first time on our 3.5-month trip in Belmopan the first time a little uncomfortable. We were on the road during the day (in the evening, you should avoid the cities of Belize) and were then approached by a rather friendly guy and then came into conversation. We explained that we were looking for something edible. We talked about typical food in Belize which seems to be very similar to the food in Cuba and then the conversation got weird – since we were coming from a certain direction he said if we were staying at the El Ray Hotel (which was true) and then he told us about the drug laws in Belize until he stopped at my fitness tracker and asked for the watch. From then on we tried to end the conversation politely but firmly and then walked away.
Somehow we had an uneasy feeling the entire time we were here, which was not confirmed.
We have talked during our 4 nights in Belmopan with very many residents and were each time again very positively taken by how sympathetic and nice people deal with tourists (much friendlier than on Caye Caulker).
Belmopan looks like a ghost town during the day – there are few cars driving on the spacious streets, now and then you see a cyclist or a pedestrian. The overall impression is somehow abandoned and dead, so you probably don’t really feel comfortable.
During the week between 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., the city seems busier and safer, which is simply because the people and workers are on the road at this time and give the region its own touch.
As mentioned above Belmopan is not a station that is suitable for every tourist. However, if one is open to the people and/or nature, Belmopan is probably one of the most unspoiled places in Belize.
Since Belize City itself is avoided by many Belizeans (violent crime, muggings etc.) Belmopan is in our eyes a good and safe alternative to really get to know Belize.
People speak with tourists very openly and friendly. Around Belmopan there is great nature to discover and the prices are a lot cheaper in direct comparison with the offshore islands..