Belize’s Toledo District: The Forgotten Land
Every inch of Belize could be described as lush, but if you are interested in seeing a primeval world that’s as natural as it gets, a trip to the Toledo District will prove to be an eye-opener. There are approximately 1,700 square miles of rain forests, rivers, offshore islands, jungle and even mountains, making it the least-developed of Belize’s districts—but perhaps the most fascinating. The district has become known as “The Forgotten Land,” and the nickname aptly describes a place that’s so off-the-beaten track, one could simply disappear and live off the grid here without being noticed. If that’s your goal, don’t bother leaving a forwarding address before moving to Toledo!
Things to See and Do in Toledo Belize
This is the place to go if you seek opportunities to see nature in its raw, untamed state. Wander rain forests, explore cave networks or indulge your inner fish by snorkeling, diving, kayaking and tubing along waterways like the Monkey River and Rio Grande–or make Snakes Cayes your base, settle in and indulge in all of these. Bird-watching is at its best in Toledo, but if you’d rather see people, plan to visit villages like Monkey River Town and Toledo Settlement. Ask a guide to accompany you to Maya villages where descendants of Belize’s first people still live and then tour ruins where the remnants of pyramids, ball courts and stele can be explored at either Nim Li Punit or Lubaantun. Don’t leave Toledo without a stop in Barranco, a charming Garifuna village.
What to Eat and Drink in Toledo Belize
Beans, corn and rice are grown in Toledo as are cacao beans, the superstars of Belize’s burgeoning chocolate industry. If you’ve a penchant for chocolate and long to know how many ways it can be used in food and drink, come here in May to attend the Toledo Cacao Festival. Of course, man (and woman) cannot live by chocolate alone–so anticipate flavor-filled dishes served at eateries made from local crops that also include sweet potatoes, yams, avocados, oranges and plantains. All of these freshly-picked foods and spices can be found at the Punta Gorda market every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. You won’t be deprived of fresh seafood if you visit Toledo since the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, north of Punta Gorda Town, serves as both a sanctuary and a base for small-scale fishing and lobster enterprises.
Where to Stay in Toledo Belize
Your lodging options are fairly limited if you want to stay in close proximity to Punta Gorda Town, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have choices. TripAdvisor recommends The Belcampo Lodge, Hickatee Cottages, Coral House and BlueBelize, each of which is a short walk from town center and offers a variety of creature comforts. There is a nice selection of other hotels, rentals and B&Bs located a bit further from Punta Gorda Town, including offbeat accommodations like the Sun Creek Lodge and Nature’s Way. If you’re watching your pennies and require only a bed and a roof, book at the Cuxlin Ha Youth Hostel.
How to get to Toledo District From Belize City
If you fly into the Phillip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) from outside Belize, hop a commuter flight via Tropic Air or Maya Island Air, each of which which will deliver you to the Punta Gorda airstrip. Rent a car there or grab a shuttle arranged by your lodgings host. If you’re driving from the north or from PGIA, the Southern Highway is nicely paved. You can also get Roam Belize, a local tour company that specializes in tours and transfers to transfer you to Toledo from Belize City or the Belize International Airport.
On the other hand, the thrifty option is Punta Gorda Town’s James Bus Line, a perfect transportation option for the hostel crowd!