Arriving in Punta Gorda
Way down in southern reaches of Belize is the Toledo District. It oozes laid back Caribbean vibes that characterize the region. It is full of diversity, delicious food, and loads of activities specially designed for history buffs, the adventurous, and the eco-minded. It’s a little difficult to get to, but the bus ride is totally worth it. The Cessna ride into the region is even more worth it.
Exploring Punta Gorda
The capital of the Toledo District is a quiet coastal town and the hub of the region. A local election occurred sometime before my visit in the fall of 2015 and signs of different political parties were scattered throughout the town. Instead of signs with the names of the candidates stuck into the lawns of supporters, the many political parties painted trees or telephone poles or used colorful flags.
Punta Gorda, or PG as the locals fondly call it, is the perfect place to base yourself while visiting. Rent or borrow a bike to get around town and catch local buses for day trips further away. There are many tropical conservation lands, cacao farms, and Maya temples to explore just outside of town. Guatemala is visible on the horizon and accessible by ferry from Punta Gorda.
Enjoying Punta Gorda
Head on out into the Caribbean Sea while in Punta Gorda. You can charter a fishing boat for the day or kayak through some mangroves.
Punta Gorda is the most sizable town in the region with under five thousand residents comprised of Garifuna, Mestizo, Maya, and Creole cultures among a variety of others. I serendipitously arrived in town on Garifuna Settlement Day on November 19. The national holiday celebrates Garifuna people settling in Belize (and several other Central American countries) after the British Army exiled them from the Grenadines.
All the shops close and everyone gathers in the town center to listen to music, dance, and drink. Traditional Garifuna clothes are worn, and everyone participates in contests like biscuit eating, beer drinking, or dance contests.
The weather can be unpredictable at times. It’s hot and humid and can rain at any moment. It’s best to bring a light rain jacket. Expect to sweat, even if it’s the most breathable jacket you can find. Perhaps you’ll be as lucky as I was to have beautifully clear, warm days while visiting.
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