“It was a short flight on to Belize City — Belize, British Honduras, the British intrusion on the coast of the Spanish Empire, the British mahogany colony, the origin of the Guatemalan claim to Belize, and the source of much of Georgian furniture in the London Salerooms (but there was no mahogany in Belize now; it had all been cut down). On the coast there would have been among the Negroes descendants of the slave mahogany log cutters. Inland, there was a Mayan population and there were mighty Mayan ruins.”

—V.S. Naipaul, from The Enigma of Arrival


what i found in belize

Today's Belize—independent only since 1981—is putting its money on tourism as opposed to logwood, mahogany, and chicle. Belize's popularity as a destination is relatively new and its tourism infrastructure continues to stretch, grow, and change, for both better and worse. I first went to Belize in the winter of 2004 to research and write the newest edition of Moon Handbooks Belize. On the plane down, I relished the 19th-century prose of John Lloyd Stephens as he traveled toward Belize and beyond.

"I was beginning a journey in a new country," he wrote, "it was my duty to conform to the customs of the people; to be prepared for the worst, and submit with resignation to whatever might befall me."

I traveled for my first three months, covering the streets, rivers, and islands by day and typing by night in as many hotels and resorts as I had time to sample. A year later, I returned on my first honeymoon. Along the way, I read the many hand-painted Belizean signs. "One Love," says the sign outside Rasta Pasta on Caye Caulker. Another announces the island's motto: "Go Slow!"