Spices & Temples in Belize: Western Caribbean Day 2
March 10, 2018
Our second port on our cruise was at Harvest Caye, Belize. (Read about the first port, Roatan Bay, Honduras!) Harvest Caye is actually a private island owned by Norwegian Cruise Line, but is a popular new port! Since we wanted to try different experiences at each port, this time we pre-booked an excursion through the cruise line – the Mayan Ruins & Spice Farm excursion. We were lucky to have gotten a $50 excursion credit when we had booked our cruise, but were slightly disappointed to find out that it only worked on one of our bookings – not both. (Check out my cruise advice to avoid mistakes like that!) Either way, we were excited to have a new adventure in Belize.
Welcome to Belize
Booking your excursion through the cruise line means that it is usually easier to find your group once you get off the boat, and you are guaranteed to make it back to the boat on time at the end of the excursion. For this particular trip, we had to take a 30-minute boat ride from the ship dock to the mainland, then a one-hour bus ride to the destination. Yes, this was a little time-consuming, but that’s sometimes what happens when you get to port!
The first part of the day was at Nim Li Punit, a Mayan ruin site. The name “Nim Li Punit” means “Large Hat” in the traditional Mayan language of Kekchi and comes from a carving in the ruins. The site originally consisted of 26 ‘stellae’ or large tower-like rocks with carvings. Over time, many of these stellae have fallen, weathered, or been destroyed. A few of the stellae have been relocated to the visitor center building to be seen up close.
Exploring Nim Li Punit
For our tour, we had two local guides who led us around the Mayan grounds. The views were amazing; everything was so green! We saw ruins of former buildings and temples. A ball court is in the middle of the grounds, were Mayans used to play. Off to the southern part of the site are royal tombs, which have been excavated. Our guides explained that they had just recently found objects buried there and that the excavation was still active. Just beyond the tombs you get a fantastic view of the landscape of Belize. Take a few moments to enjoy it!
After our tour, we had a little time to see a local market that was set up near the entrance. Our tour guide told us that his wife made handcrafted goods to sell there and introduced us to her. I bought myself a wooden bowl, hand-carved into a heart shape.
Belize Spice Farm
After Nim Li Punit, we got back on our bus to go to the spice farm, which I was most excited about! Once we arrived at the Belize Spice Farm and Botanical Gardens, we were given a few moments to eat. There was a small buffet of local cuisine as well as a few selections of local beer and other beverages. After eating, we were told to board a tractor cart to see the farm.
We were lucky enough to sit in the back row of the car, next to one of our guides for the day. So, in addition to the actual tour, we got even more insight into the Belize lifestyle from him! He told us more about the fruits they eat and how they live. His father even worked on the farm, so we waved to him later on as we passed him by. It was amazing to learn about all of the fruits and spices grown on the farm. We had several opportunities to try them as well! From fresh black pepper off the stalk to juicy cacao beans, it was such a unique experience. We got to hold, smell, and taste both familiar plants and new. I highly recommend it!
Returning to Harvest Caye
After the tour we got back on the bus and the boat to get back to Harvest Caye. Once on the island, we had some time left to explore. There were lot of shops and a restaurant, as well as a wildlife walk and a beach (of course). We looked at the birds, iguana, and butterfly garden. Then we headed to the alcohol shop to purchase some Belizean rum to take home. It was delicious!
While I know there is so much more of the country to experience, I am so glad we got to visit Belize. I hope to come back someday to swim with the sea turtles! Have you ever been to Belize? What did you do there? Let me know in the comments!