Not everyone visiting Belize is eager spend all of their time swimming, diving, touring attractions like Mayan ruins and bar hopping into the wee small hours of morning. Getting to know the people, the culture and the personal side of Belize has become a favorite way to vacation in this lush Caribbean nation, so if the idea of getting more than a suntan intrigues you, consider a visit to Santa Teresa, located in a remote corner of the Toledo District. What can you expect if you travel here to see the real face of Belize? A peaceful world that time forgot and also an opportunity to help make sure this little village gets the help it so richly deserves.
Santa Teresa’s origins
Located deep in the lush tropical wilderness, Santa Teresa’s roots reach deeply down into Belize soil. Today’s population is tiny—perhaps 330—and the community’s cultural heritage originated in the past when this land was occupied by Mayan peoples. While some Santa Teresa residents work outside the village, others play host to visitors eager to know more about the way of life of people living as their ancestors did generations ago.
Plan your visit
The very best way to experience Santa Teresa is to hire an experienced guide, and you would be hard-pressed to surpass Island Expeditions. You wouldn’t hire someone from Ontario to show you around Belize City, would you? Santa Teresa guides are chosen by Island Expeditions for their knowledge and congeniality and since they speak English, ask all the questions you like when you visit. The highlight visitors seem to enjoy most is sharing a delicious, traditional midday meal of “caldo” with a host family. This tasty dish, prepared from locally-grown chicken, spicy broth and served with fresh tortillas, ends with a roasted cacao bean beverage. It tastes like chocolate coffee—and you’re welcome to sip a second cup.
Once you’ve spent time with your lunch hosts and seen a bit of the surrounding jungle, you will be taken by your guide to the tiny primary school and village store to round out your visit. Meet the children if school’s in session and learn about the many ways you can help area residents and visitors who have adopted Santa Teresa as their own by donating funds, computers, supplies and equipment. The Santa Teresa Program has grown exponentially over time thanks to generous Belizeans and tourists who have visited from around the world. Ask your Islands Expeditions guide how you can help, too, if you wish to do so.
Donations of new and/or gently used items that benefit the villages and the school are welcomed with gratitude and open arms. Think about shopping for school with your own kids and you’ll understand the types of supplies that are appropriate: backpacks, books, writing materials, soccer balls, shoes and items you think the people of Santa Teresa might need. Anything you donate is distributed by the village leader so everyone benefits. Let Island Expeditions introduce you to the people of Santa Teresa and find out how this vacation destination can touch your heart as well as your sensibilities!