Belize makes the “short list” of winter vacation inspirations for its sheer range of attractions – marine to inland (offshore cays to underground caves), historic to cultural (colonial sailing lore to hand-ground corn tortillas), man-made to natural (3000-year-old Mayan ruins to Jacques Cousteau’s Wall)!

Belize offers excitement for both the soul and the body, and is also the perfect place for both to relax!

It’s vaccination-free, english-speaking, and safe, yet authentic, and only 7 hours from NYC!

When I was in Belize, I wanted to experience it all! So I devised Adventure Week – split between inland jungles, caves, and Ruins, and the rest on the water!

Landing in Belize City, there’re plenty of modern hotels, where I organized myself, enjoyed the pool and bar, then struck out with my guide into the country. The drive took me through backcountry villages, past locals harvesting coffee and ginger, near Mayan ruins, along the Guatemalan border, and into the Jungle to my lodge.

My private jungle chalet was really neither… shared with a spider or 2, and more shack than chalet, it was tucked under the rainforest canopy, in a tiny village consisting of no more than an open air dining hall and oddly elegant pool. It did have a private modern bath, and at my doorstep, a jungle teeming with excitement! I laid in bed that first night, in the pure dark that only true wilderness reveals, and listened to unrecognizable creatures mate and hunt, just on the other side of the wall.

Rainforest location is perfect for all kinds of adventure. I chose jungle mountain biking, whitewater kayaking on the Mopan, and an intriguing tube float through an underground cave! (there’s also zip-lining – or Aerial Tours, as they like to call it – plus hiking and caving) The biking was a bit wild – between boulders, branches, and bogs, I more than once met the mud of the rainforest, but otherwise, these treks are good for anyone, as long as they are mildly athletic and mostly game!

And best of all, guides bring all the equipment and know-how, including interesting tidbits about tropical animals, medicinal uses of jungle plants, and more… so all you have to do is show up with a smile!

In restorative contrast, I spent afternoons wandering Mayan ruins, learning the history of the centuries, and marveling at the intricate and artistic stonework that I clamored over in my quest for the peak! There, above the jungle canopy at the temple’s highest point, I was bathed by tropical winds as I took in views, far into Guatemala and even at times to the coast.

My guide was full of stories, of both long gone civilizations and recent archeology work, and I found myself imagining these ancient lives, here is this deep jungle setting, and the interconnected society that must have thrived throughout the Yucatan around the time of Christ.

No visit to Belize would be complete, though, without time on the water, so for the 2nd half of my week, I headed to the coast, to a launch that delivered me to my private cabana on a remote caye, about 45 minutes offshore, run by Slickrock Adventures. Completely comfortable (of course, your definition of “comfort” must include solar showers) and with full service (not only meals, but a nightly cocktail hour – Belikins and beach volleyball), this caye feels like Robinson Crusoe at the Regency!

Just check out the photos… they are too good to be true!

Again, my idea of vacation is more adventure than relaxation, so I crammed my days – sea kayaking to science labs on nearby cays, scuba diving down Jacque Cousteau’s Wall, snorkeling “treks” through the endless shallows (just drop a mushroom anchor off your kayak and jump in!), windsurfing and paddle-boarding, punctuated by naps in the shaded hammock of my private cabana.

We coined the Sunset Surf Club, where we surf-kayaked the perky, but not pummeling, surf onto our west end beach, as the water turned from light blue to dark green, then plum and finally that luminescent peach, reflecting the sun as it set over our island.