Just a two-hour flight from Miami, Belize offers a rich blend of Maya ruins and lush forests, still wild enough to host Jaguars and a diversity of tropical birds, butterflies, and mammals. This nation’s warm, hospitable people speak English and have a strong tradition of caring for their biological legacy.

Join us for a relaxed-pace Christmastime tour to explore Belize’s biological treasures and cultural roots. We emphasize birding, but also examine natural history and Maya heritage while having some simple, relaxing fun. Colorful resident birds are joined by winter migrants, making birding each day extraordinary and fun!

Belize is Central America’s least populated country and logistics for travel here are simple—from US gateway cities it’s only a two-hour flight. Treat yourself this holiday season!

Tour Highlights

  • Spend Christmas Day at Tanager Rainforest Lodge—relax by the pool, stroll the lodge’s trail system, tube or kayak down the Rio Grande
  • Bird at the Nim Li Punit Maya site and stop for a local farmer’s chocolate demonstration
  • Explore the lush Placencia Lagoon, lush with waders and other wildlife
  • Relax with quiet beach time at Azure del Mar Resort
  • See Scarlet Macaw at Red Bank Village

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Sat., Dec. 21      Arrivals in Belize | Tanager Rainforest Lodge

Welcome to Belize! 

We transfer to Tanager Rainforest Lodge via a quick flight to Punta Gorda, which we book for you. Then, settle in for four nights at this outstanding location. Tanager Rainforest Lodge is located on the forested banks of the Rio Grande River (inflatable tubes make swimming fun and are provided for leisure time). This is one of the very best birding lodges in Belize, with attractive grounds, a swimming pool, and locally-influenced accommodations with thatched roofs that include hardwood interiors, sparkling bathrooms, comfortable furnishings, and fully screened windows.

Before dinner, we may spot Russet-naped Wood-Rail and scampering agouti on the open lawns fronting the main lodge building, which has a breezy, covered porch, Wi-Fi access, and comfortable seating—perfect for relaxing with an afternoon drink or morning coffee, while watching Rufous-tailed Hummingbird at the feeders or pondering your bird list.

Our lodge offers outstanding birding right on site, and it’s possible to spot species like Gartered Trogon, Yellow-billed Cacique, Gray-headed and Golden-hooded Tanagers, Grayish Saltator, and Red-throated Ant-Tanager literally steps from your door. Specialties like shy Bare-crowned Antbird and Rufous-breasted Spinetail (the most northerly species of this largely South American group) are regularly recorded within earshot of the main lodge, while the immediately adjacent Rio Grande River provides habitat for four of Belize’s five kingfishers (Green, Amazon, Belted, and Ringed), which can be seen without leaving the property.

This evening we get to know each other and discuss activities for the coming days, go over our species list, and listen to the eerie calls of Common Pauraque as the sun sets. Over the next three days we have the chance to bird and explore in a range of habitats, from savanna grasslands and coastal forests and mangroves, to interior forests and swamps.
Accommodations at Tanager Rainforest Lodge (D)

 Sun., Dec. 22          Morning Lodge Birding | Afternoon Birding Excursion

With such excellent birding right on our doorstep, it’s hard to resist getting up at the crack of dawn. Coffee is ready ahead of breakfast, and a walk around the grounds is sure to be productive. Our local guide, Steven Choco, takes us on two early morning bird walks. This morning we plan to bird the lodge property, which sits on thirty acres on a long meander of the Rio Grande and includes riparian, secondary growth forest, disused agricultural land, orchard, and meadow habitats. Species we search for include Black-faced Antthrush, Barred Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Bare-crowned Antbird, Black-and-white Owl, Crimson-collared Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Black-crowned Tityra, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, and Stub-tailed Spadebill.

After an excellent breakfast, we stay with Steven Choco for more birding on the lodge grounds. Then, in the late morning we head out with a packed lunch. All of the field trips from the lodge are within a thirty-minute drive, meaning less time in vehicles and more time outdoors. Depending on what’s being seen at the time of our visit, we may head to Blue Creek Village or a similar site (Forest Home), both featuring mature broadleaf and gallery tropical forests with riparian understory habitats.

Birding at both sites can be excellent, with important species in field and forest edge habitats include Striped Cuckoo, Bronzed and Giant Cowbirds, Plain-breasted Ground Dove, Blue-black Grassquit, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, and Scrub Euphonia. The gorgeous Crimson-collared Tanager and closely related Passerini’s Tanager (the latter a specialty for southern Belize) are also both found along the road into Blue Creek (as well as on the lodge grounds). Less common raptors like Gray-headed and Double-toothed Kites are occasionally seen here, together with the common Roadside Hawk.

Birding mature forests in these areas can yield a number of intriguing mid-canopy and understory species, including Lesson’s Motmot, Little and Great Tinamous, Collared Trogon, White-breasted Wood Wren, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Red-capped Manakin, Black-crowned Antshrike, and the seldom seen Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher. Along the forest margins we look for Collared Aracari, as well as White-whiskered Puffbird and Rufous-tailed Jacamar, the latter species typically sitting motionless for extended periods as they wait for large insect prey.

We may venture down to Punta Gorda to check out the shore or bird at a friend’s lodge where flowering gardens attract a different mix of species. Then back for drinks on the deck and a great dinner, artfully prepared.
Accommodations at Tanager Rainforest Lodge (B,L,D)

Mon., Dec. 23          Blue Creek or Guide’s Choice | Sunset at the Dump Rice Fields

Steve is such a master birder, and we like to allow him some choices to make the most of the moment. We may choose Blue Creek, a great hike with some primary forest and attendant elusive species; or, we may rise early to leave for birding among mature forest about two miles from the coast at Punta Gorda. The area is home to a troop of Yucatan Black Howler Monkeys that we have a good chance of seeing and hearing in the forest canopy. There are local pocket wetlands where we look for Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, and other egrets as well as roosting Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.

We return to Tanager Rainforest Lodge for lunch at Pearleen’s restaurant. This is Caribbean food like you’ve never seen, almost reason to book the trip! We may visit a local spice farm during the mid-day quiet hours, a fascinating operation with tropical spices grown from around the world.

Before sunset we have the option to visit what is known as the “Dump Rice Field,” an expanse of rice paddies and swamps located a short drive from the lodge. The road passing through sits on an elevated causeway, with side tracks leading into the marshy areas. Key species here include Sora, Ruddy and Uniform Crakes, Purple Gallinule, White-throated Flycatcher, Least Bittern, Short-tailed Hawk, Limpkin, and Common Tody-Flycatcher. Dinner this evening is at the lodge.
Accommodations at Tanager Rainforest Lodge (B,L,D)

Tues., Dec. 24        Nim Li Punit | San Felipe Hills

After grabbing coffee, juice, and a roll, our early morning birding outing today with Steven Choco focuses on the Nim Li Punit Maya site, located just six miles from the lodge. Nim Li Punit, which is Kekchi Maya for “Big Hat,” dates from the Maya Classic Period that flourished from the 5th through the 8th Century AD, and consists of three distinct plazas and several step-pyramids. In 2015, the second largest carved jade artifact in Belize was discovered here. The site itself is set high in mature forest with fantastic views east across the coastal plain to the cays in the Gulf of Honduras.

The area offers some very good birding, including several woodpeckers (Lineated, Pale-billed, Smoky-brown, and potentially Chestnut-colored) and woodcreepers (Streak-headed, Wedge-billed, and Ivory-billed), as well as various migrant warblers and vireos. Other possible highlights include White-crowned Parrot, Keel-billed Toucan, White-throated Thrush, Hook-billed Kite, Red-legged and Green Honeycreepers, Bat Falcon, Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet, Blue Grosbeak, Montezuma Oropendola, and Rose-throated Becard.

We return for a proper breakfast, and then head out for the San Felipe Hills, a karst landscape about 12 miles from the lodge. Our goal is to bird across an orange grove (Belizean orchards are not the manicured settings we’re used to at home, and can be great for birding), and eventually arrive at the karst limestone foothills of San Felipe that rise to a height of around four hundred feet. As the ground slopes upwards, we enter a broadleaf forest. We look for some of the most difficult to locate species in Belize, including Tody Motmot, Rufous Piha, Rufous Mourner, Northern Schiffornis, Nightingale Wren, Scaly-throated Leaftosser, White-winged Becard, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, and Northern Barred Woodcreeper.

As the day heats up, we head to Ixcacao Maya Belizean Chocolate a small twenty-year old business run by Juan and Abelina Cho. We have lunch there with a chocolate themed main course and a selection of beautiful vegetable dishes from their own gardens. We also have a chance to try a variety of chocolate flavors such as chocolate with salt, chili, cardamom, ginger, and coconut and learn about the chocolate making process. We return to the lodge for a break—swimming or kayaking, or perhaps a good book and a hammock on your veranda.

We gather on the lodge’s porch this evening to update bird lists and review the day, and after dusk we may get lucky and hear (or even see) one or more of the resident Black-and-white Owls, which previously nested on the lodge grounds (and were recorded here in 2017 and 2018). We should also see Common Pauraque and Lesser Nighthawk flitting across the dusky sky before we head inside. Dinners her are excellent, often featuring fresh seafood and Belizean beef, with local fruits and vegetables. This evening, those who wish can attend a midnight mass.
Accommodations at Tanager Rainforest Lodge (B,L,D)

Wed., Dec. 25         Christmas at Tanager Rainforest Lodge

Merry Christmas! Today is gentle, with lodge and possibly local birding opportunities, as well as time to just relax in nature. With such excellent birding right on our doorsteps, it’s hard to resist getting up at the crack of dawn, soaking in all the morning bird song with coffee or tea in hand. The lodge sits on thirty acres within a long meander of the Rio Grande and includes riparian, secondary growth forest, disused agricultural land, orchard, and meadow habitats. Species we could see this morning as we stroll include Black-faced Antthrush, Barred Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Bare-crowned Antbird, Black-and-white Owl, Crimson-collared Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Black-crowned Tityra, Pale-billed and Lineated Woodpecker, and Stub-tailed Spadebill.

Off-site excursions may be available, but we leave today loose to keep things relaxed and enjoy the holiday. Tonight enjoy a special dinner at the lodge and hear about plans for tomorrow’s adventures. 
Accommodations at The Tanager Rainforest Lodge (B,L,D)

Thurs., Dec. 26      Transfer to Azure del Mar

This morning we enjoy a final breakfast at Tanager before saying our goodbyes. Steven Choco stays with us for the remainder of our trip. We transfer to our new lodge, Azure del Mar, a two-hour drive. Our lodge is right on the beach on the Placencia Peninsula and boasts 150 feet of beachfront on the Caribbean Sea. This is a small resort with a pool, restaurant, and bar on sight. The resort also has kayaks, paddleboards, and snorkeling gear for water exploring, and perfectly placed hammocks to relax in and soak in the beach time. Look up for terns, frigatebirds, pelicans, and more … and keep a close watch on the lodge grounds and the beach for herons, egrets, migrant warblers, and resident tanagers, woodpeckers, and (of course), Bananaquits.

We relax today—we’re at the beach after all. We may have an optional close-by birding excursion or simply just settle in an enjoy.
Accommodations at Azure del Mar Resort (B,L,D)

Fri., Dec. 27     Morning Birding at Placencia Lagoon | Resort Relaxing

We enjoy a pleasant breakfast this morning at the lodge before heading out to do some morning lagoon birding. The Placencia Lagoon lies behind the peninsula and is nearly 15 miles long. This rich estuary boasts enormous marshy wetlands and connects to three important waterways—Mango Creek, Jenkis Creek, and Waha Leaf Creek. We specifically keep our eyes peeled for the stunning Jabiru and other waders, as well as other water dwellers like Morelet’s Crocodile, West Indian Manatee, and even dolphins. The mangroves along the margins host myriad birds, including Common Gallinule, Mangrove Cuckoo, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, darling Boat-billed Heron, Snail Kite, Common Black Hawk, and more.

This afternoon we relax at the resort; Steve is around if you have ID questions and we may offer a casual afternoon birding stroll. 
Accommodations at Azure del Mar Resort (B,L,D)

Sat., Dec. 28        Red Bank Village | Resort Relaxing

We depart early this morning for Red Bank Village in the Stan Creek District. The hills behind Red Bank are the most accessible area in Belize to reliably locate Scarlet Macaw. Conservation organizations, as well as the village of Red Bank, have been involved in a macaw monitoring program for well over a decade, gathering data on the movement and behavior of these charismatic birds that arrive in the area in December and depart by early spring. The dates of our tour match well with the presence of these birds at Red Bank, maximizing our chances to enjoy this spectacularly gaudy parrot.

We start in the village and then slowly work our way (on foot and by vehicle) into the forest and towards a cacao plantation. If we’re fortunate, we see flights of macaws over the nearby hillsides. We also bird the forest-scrub road margins as we move along, watching for saltators, Green-backed Sparrow, Gray Catbird, Long-billed Gnatwren, Dusky Antbird, and Blue-black Grosbeak.

Eventually we pass the isolated Mennonite outpost of Roseville, and approach the cacao plantation. The plantation provides very good habitat for birds and wildlife, and on past stops here both Tayra (a large omnivorous mammal from the weasel family, sometimes called bush-dog) and Howler Monkey (heard only) were documented. Among the more interesting birds we saw here on a prior trip were Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Great Antshrike, Northern Schiffornis (we crawled after this one under the cacao plants), White-winged Becard, Crane Hawk, and Great Black Hawk.

Again, our afternoon is relaxed at the resort. We enjoy a final celebratory dinner and bird list tally tonight.
Accommodations at Azure Del Mar Resort (B,L,D)

Sun., Dec. 29     Departures

After breakfast we board our short flight back to Belize City airport for flights home. (B)

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Cost of the Journey

Cost of the main tour is per person, based on occupancy $4990 DBL / $5515 SGL, from Belize City. This cost includes: all accommodations; all meals as stated in the itinerary; group airport transfers; ground transportation within Belize; both domestic flights; professional guide services; park, preserve, and other activity fees; lodge tips; and miscellaneous program expenses. This cost does not include: roundtrip airfare to and from Belize City or items of a personal nature such as laundry, porterage, telephone charges, or alcoholic beverages. Gratuities for your local lodge guides in Belize are not included, these are at your discretion, but highly appreciated and recommended.

Travel Details

Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.

Arrival and Departure Airport: Philip S.W. Goldson International (BZE) in Belize City

Arrival Details: Plan flights to arrive December 21, 2024, no later than 12:00 PM. We have a flight to Punta Gorda at 2:00 PM.

Departure Details: Plan flights to depart December 29, 2024, after 1:00 PM. We have a short flight back to Belize City in the morning.

Travel Tip: If you arrive early to rest up from your travels, we recommend booking a night at the Black Orchid Resort. You will need to be back at the airport by 12:00 PM on December 21 for the flight to Punta Gorda.

Entry Requirements: See "Essential Information" section under the "Know Before You Go" tab.

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.


Southern Belize

  • Stephen Grace

    Stephen is an award-winning author, natural history educator and conservationist. He has also contributed to documentary films, and his nature photography has been widely published. Over the past two decades, he has introduced groups of travelers to nature and culture in destinations as varied as Uganda, New Zealand and Alaska.

    After moving from Colorado to the Oregon coast, Stephen was captivated by the sight of a Tufted Puffin carrying fish back to its burrow, and the first time he heard a Swainson’s Thrush sing, he knew his life would never be the same. He has been studying birds and sharing their beauty with people ever since.

    Formative experiences during Stephen’s journey as a naturalist have included tagging along as a teenager with his grandparents in Madera Canyon, where he absorbed their love of Arizona’s sky islands; helping people with different ability levels experience the Yellowstone ecosystem when he lived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and sailing aboard a historic schooner to share the wonders of the Salish Sea with students.

    Now based in Port Townsend, Washington, Stephen explores the Pacific Northwest by backpacking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, biking, trail running, and skiing. His wide-ranging natural history pursuits include coring trees to count their growth rings, identifying bats by analyzing their biosonar signals, hunting mammoth tusks in Pleistocene bluffs, searching for the elusive Rubber Boa, preserving native prairie, raising awareness about plankton, and leading sea slug safaris.

    Other trips with Stephen Grace

Map for Christmas in Belize

Essential Information +

Ahead of your tour: Make sure your passport will be valid at least three months after Read more

Ahead of your tour:

  • Make sure your passport will be valid at least three months after the date of your scheduled return to the U.S. No Visas are required for U.S. citizens for stays of this length in Belize. See "Passport, Visa & Documentation" section below.
  • Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Belize and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “General Health and Inoculations” section below.
  • Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
  • Plan your international flight reservations to arrive into and depart from Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE). Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
  • Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry- on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Arrival into Belize City, Philip S. W. Goldson International (BZE)

Please note. If you are delayed in travel, please FIRST call the number of our Belize operator. As a backup, contact our office (these numbers are on your emergency contact list).

Please make sure we have both your ARRIVAL and DEPARTURE information. It is imperative that we have your correct TRAVEL information; we appreciate if you email us a copy of your flight reservation. They will check internet for your updated flight information.

Please plan to arrive into Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City no later than 12:00 pm. Upon arrival and entering the terminal building, you will come to Immigration and then Baggage Claim and then the Customs Area.

  • For Immigration, get into one of the lines for Visitors and have a copy of your hotel emergency contact list so when they ask where you are going, you have the data handy. Take a photo of this on your phone if easier for you ahead of the tour and know where you are going. After your passport has been stamped for entry, you will enter the luggage claim area.
  • For baggage, have your claim stubs handy, many countries want to see these as you exit.
  • For Customs, you will notice that there are two routes to exit through customs with your claimed luggage. For most of you, the exit marked “Green Line” will be your way out of the terminal. However, if you have anything to declare at customs, you must follow the “Red Line”. The “Green Line” bypasses the customs procedure to save you time. It is not always open; in which case you go through the normal “Red Line”.

Your guide will meet you upon arrival to baggage claim. We have a flight to Punta Gorda at 2:00 PM.

The local representative, or the front desk of your first night hotel, will have a packet with your itinerary, local information, and any schedule announcements you may need. Our guide for the journey will provide you with an overview of your trip at an orientation meeting the first night of the trip, or the first breakfast following, depending on client arrival times.Please make yourself at home at your first night hotel– the front desk staff will assist you.

Please check the Travel Details tab of this tour for additional information and updates.

Departures from Belize City, Philip S. W. Goldson International (BZE)

You have to be at the airport about three hours ahead of your scheduled flight on this return, so we do not advise booking early morning flights; after 1pm is recommended.

We will provide transfers or arrange for taxis to the airport for all departures as needed for the departure day. The departure fee is now typically built into your airline fare.

Please check the Travel Details tab of this tour for additional information and updates.

Passports, Visas & Documents

Guidelines and regulations can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s documentation requirements 60-90 days ahead of traveling. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Belize.html. If you are from another country, please contact the tour destination’s embassy website for guidelines.

Passport: At the time of writing, U.S. citizens must have a passport that is in good condition and at minimum is valid at the date of entry through your scheduled return to the U.S. However, we highly suggest at least 3 months validity beyond the end of the tour to allow for unexpected delays in return travel. Please check that expiration date! You should have at least one blank page per entry stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted. 

Visa: At the time of writing, a tourist visa is not required for stays of this tour's duration.  You will need proof of a return ticket. The necessary documents will be distributed by your airline while in flight or provided for you upon arrival. We advise that you bring your eContact list of hotels for use at immigration as well.

As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.

General Health & Inoculations Information - Be Prepared!

Health requirements for entry to any country can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s health requirements and recommendations 60-90 days ahead of traveling. A helpful website for planning is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for Belize or by phone (800) CDC-INFO or (800) 232-4636.

We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency. 

Anti-malarial drugs are not required for any area that you visit. There are occasional reports of Dengue Fever in lower elevation areas, for which there is no vaccine. Dengue fever, Zika, and other diseases are contacted by mosquito bites so be sure to use mosquito repellant containing DEET or Picaridin. At the time of writing, the risk of malaria is perceived to be low in Belize. The best precaution is to dress with long sleeves and spray up. More information can be found at https://redplanet.travel/mdtravelhealth/destinations/belize.

Vaccinations: Please bring your up-to-date vaccination records with you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4- 6 weeks before departing on your trip. 

Prescriptions: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage.  Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use, a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. 

Allergies: To be prepared for environmental triggers to allergies or breathing difficulties, please bring your allergy and/or asthma medication(s).  If you have severe allergies talk to your doctor about carrying an EPI pen and notify your guides. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.

Common Ailments: We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over-the-counter medications for prevention or treatment of common ailments (such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, cough, congestion, head or body aches, motion sickness, insect bites and sunburn); as well as ointments, moisturizer, sunscreen, oral rehydration salts, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, cotton swabs, nail clippers, and tweezers, etc.

Daily Itinerary

We generally follow the published itinerary but we do network with other guides and may make changes if we hear of great bird sightings or a new opportunity. The joy of our travel is tremendous flexibility, and we make every effort to do the things you particularly want to do. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.

The pace of the trip is moderate, with some early morning departures, extensive field time and now some options for hikes. It is also easy to take it at a vacation pace! You can pace yourself within our typically active schedule.

Weather & Climate

The climate in Belize is tropical, and in general, the weather during your stay should be humid with warm to hot temperatures (75-90°F) in the lowlands, but can cool off into the high 50°Fs to mid-60°Fs in the early morning and evenings. The hot and rainy season ranges from June-October, while November-February have slightly cooler temperatures (though still warm and tropical!) with tapering rainfall. February-May begin with the dry season, that eases into the hotter and wetter summer months. Be sure to remember your rain gear, as the rain, at times, may be quite intense - a light rain jacket or poncho is good and YES do bring an umbrella. Boat tours when there is cloud cover can be cool. Your raincoat can double as a layer to combine with a light jacket possibly some evenings.

Annoyances & Hazards

Mosquitoes can occur in the forests; therefore, a supply of insect repellent containing DEET is essential. At grassland or farm locations you will encounter chiggers, if so, spray your shoes with repellent, and tuck your pants into your socks, this helps a lot. When back, be sure to shower and air out your clothing. Chiggers are a part of lowland and mid-elevation habitats throughout Central and South America. Your guide should have a good read on if it has been wet enough that they are active. There can also be poisonous snakes and insects, though encountering them is rare. Do listen carefully to any advice given by your local guide. And remember the sun is strong and be prepared with proper protection.

Food & Drinks

Menus at lodges and restaurants are varied, sustainably based on the wonderful local ingredients available, and delightfully prepared in a sanitary environment. As with any case when traveling we urge you to consider what your body is used to before you eat something. Trust your common sense when consuming food and beverages. This is the best way to avoid any unwanted problems. Ask for recommendations from your hotel or refer to a guidebook such as Frommers. Meals reflect the contributions of American, European, Spanish, and local cuisines.

The CDC considers tap water in Belize not safe to drink. Bottled water will be available for field trips and drinking water is provided for you to refill a bottle. One of the many ways we strive to do our part for the environment is by trying to reduce our consumption of plastics; if convenient we appreciate if you can bring reusable water bottles.

Packing, Clothing & Laundry

Dress is very informal and laundry services are available for a fee at our lodges. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day. Again, the climate is warm to hot, so you will be comfortable in lightweight clothing.

Please, pack light. We are serious about this – we move around a lot; you just do not need much to cope with tropical life! Please do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down please! Hair dryers are available at most Lodges. 

TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field and have one day’s clothing change (including a change of underwear!). And please do not pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!

Spending Money

The official currency in Belize is the Belizean Dollar. We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a credit card. For the current exchange rate, please refer to an online converter tool like www.xe.com, or your bank. U.S. dollars in good condition (no rips or tears) are taken as a form of payment but shopping for smaller handicrafts may necessitate using local currency. If you have U.S. dollars, then there is no need to exchange currency before your trip since it is accepted at almost any business. If you would like local currency, you won’t need to exchange much money since you can use U.S. dollars at most places. You will be able to change money after your arrival at banks or hotels, though ATM machines are available in Belize City at the airport. Out of the airport they are infrequently available.

When using the ATM to withdrawal cash, keep in mind it might only accept cards from local banks or not allow cash advances on credit cards. Many U.S. banks charge a fee of $1 - $5 each time you use a foreign ATM. Others may charge you a percentage of the amount you withdraw. Check with your bank before departure. You must become familiar with how to use your ATM card and PIN number ahead of the journey.

Major credit cards are accepted in Belize. We suggest you have more than one card available, if possible. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (VISA and Mastercard are commonly accepted; American Express is less common). You can use credit cards at lodges to pay your bar and gift tabs. Not every shop will accept every card. Some smaller shops and restaurants, or taxis require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. Also, we recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees.

Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise you use them.


Tipping is optional and completely at your discretion. If you would like to show our appreciation to your guides, lodge and hotel staff or anyone associated with this tour, it is entirely appropriate. Know that they appreciate anything you care to give and of course you can do more if you wish! Lodges normally have a box for tips that the staff share, and hotels you would just tip the maids as you do at home. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services.

Here is a standard suggestion for tipping on birding trips:

  • Birding tour guide: US $10.00 - $15.00 per day per guest
    Note: If there is more than one guide, this can be split among them, so that is a total, per person, per day
  • Tour driver if different from guide: US $5.00 - $7.00 per person/day
  • Lodge staff: US $6.00 - $10.00 per day per guest
  • Transfer (airport shuttle) driver: US $2.00 - $3.00 per person
  • Hotel & international airport bellmen: US $1.00 per suitcase

You may wish to bring small gifts for local people that you meet and enjoy (this is totally optional!). T-shirts, school supplies like pens and small notebooks, inexpensive watches and baseball caps are always popular. Your guides can pass along school supplies to a local school if you bring them. They also love any nature books/coloring books.

Cell Phones & Internet Service

Your guide is well connected and can help if any urgent communication need arises. However, it is highly recommended that you travel with a cell phone, if only as a precaution for the unfortunate occurrence of a medical emergency during an outing and needing swift accessibility to critical personal or medical contacts. 

Please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country. Options include activating international roaming, purchasing a local SIM card at the airport (newer phones may not accept SIM cards), or simply turning off cellular service and relying on Wi-Fi to make calls and access the internet. If your phone can connect to Wi-Fi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Another option if you have access to Wi-Fi is to use smartphone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls. Many smartphones, tablets, or laptops come with one of these apps pre-installed or you can download for free.

Your hotels and most local restaurants provide Wi-Fi at least in their common areas. Although it is generally a reliable service, it can be affected by adverse weather conditions due to the remote location.

Make sure if you do NOT want to use your cell phone that you turn off your cellular data. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. Putting your phone in airplane mode if you mainly use it for photos will save the battery as well. 

Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers, unless it appears to be an emergency. This disrupts other guests, plan on cell phone call use on your own time.


The standard in Belize is the same as in the United States and Canada: 110 volts AC (60 cycles). Plugs are set up in the same style. However, three-pronged outlets can be scarce and existing three-prong outlets may feature even-sized flat blade plugs, so it's helpful to bring along adapters for both two- and three-prong outlets. For more information: www.power-plugs- sockets.com/belize


Belize does not observe daylight savings time and is on the same time as our Central Zone in the U.S. A great website if you want to tell someone to check ahead of calling you is www.timeanddate.com.


Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!

Pace & Protocols +

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of Read more

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect

You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.

Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.

The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.

We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.

Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role

Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.


Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.


As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.

Photo Release & Sharing

We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.

By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.

Travel Insurance

You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global RescueWorld Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.


Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.


Packing List +

Please Pack Lightly! Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid Read more

Please Pack Lightly!

Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure your name and address are printed on the inside of the bag as well as on the luggage tag. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, identification, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. Your carry-on bag must be able to fit under the seat, or it will be taken away by airline staff and put with the regular luggage. You will want a daypack for field trips, so this is the ideal carry-on. We recommend that you check with your airline a week or so before your departure regarding luggage weight and size restrictions.

In general, the weather during your stay should be warm to hot (75-90°F) in the lowlands, but at least 20° cooler in the early morning and evening. Check your favorite weather website closer to your departure to better predict what the weather will be on your adventure.

Dress is comfortable and informal throughout the trip. Dressing in layers is the best way to be comfortable. Lightweight long sleeve shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing as they are more protective from sun and vegetation. But if you like to wear them, you can bring shorts. Choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty or muddy and things that are comfortable and easy. A light jacket should be enough in the cooler evenings and on boat rides. Water shoes are great when on the boats.

Note on clothing colors and insect repellent: We recommend muted colors of tan, brown, khaki, grey or green, as they are spotted less easily than white or bright colors, though camouflage clothing is not recommended, and in some countries, not legal to wear. It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.

Clothing & Gear

  • Lightweight long pants, 2 pair
  • Lightweight long sleeve shirts – 2 or 3
  • Shorts 
  • T-shirts or equivalent (1 per every other day recommended – remember you may buy some there!)
  • Personal underclothing
  • Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry
  • Comfortable walking/hiking shoes such as tennis shoes
  • Lightweight hiking boots. Please note that forest trails will be on uneven terrain and may be muddy – good tread and support are essential!
  • Sandals for evenings, travel days, and for wearing on boats (optional, TEVA style are great)
  • Lightweight raincoat or poncho
  • Lightweight jacket, fleece fabric is ideal
  • Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes or a skirt, sundress, etc.)
  • Bathing suit
  • Hat with broad brim
  • Bandana (optional, great for cooling off when you are hot and sweaty. They even make them with a gel inside for several hours of cooling)
  • Field vest (optional), a great source is Big Pockets

Equipment & Miscellaneous

  • Airline tickets or E-ticket verification
  • Passport, visa (if required), travel insurance info, money & credit cards.
  • A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person at all times (such as a secure, under-clothing document pouch)
  • As a backup: copies of all the above (phone and/or paper) packed in a separate location than on your person, plus a set given to your emergency contact at home as a backup. For passport, copy of the  ID and entry stamp pages.
  • Small daypack to carry gear while hiking
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Binoculars
  • Camera and charger/extra batteries, memory cards/film, lens cleaning supplies and instruction manual (optional)
  • Spotting scope and tripod (optional – guide will have them)
  • Tablet/laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB stick, USB cord and charger (optional). If bringing a laptop or tablet, bring a good dustcover to protect it at all times.
  • Umbrella – compact and not brightly colored
  • Walking stick – we find that many travelers appreciate a walking stick on trails, sporting goods stores carry collapsible models that pack easily in your suitcase (optional)
  • Small flashlight with fresh batteries. Please note that if you like to read at night, lighting in other countries is often poor in the rooms, and you may want to bring a booklight, headlamp, or flashlight for this purpose, and for navigating dark pathways back to your cabin at night from dining areas.
  • Alarm clock
  • Sunscreen/lip balm with SPF
  • Sunglasses with neck strap
  • Insect repellent (something containing DEET, and sulphur powder or other for chiggers (try a garden store)
  • Toiletry articles
  • Water bottle (or plan to refill one bought on location)
  • Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
  • Field guides (optional)
  • Sink plug (often not available, a flat universal one is easiest to use)
  • Washcloth (again, available some places and not at others)
  • Laundry soap if you plan to do hand washing
  • Earplugs – in urban and even rural areas barking dogs and traffic noise can be annoying
    Rechargeable power bank (optional)
  • Snorkeling gear if at a beach lodge (available on sight as a rental, additional cost. If a regular snorkeler, you will want to bring your own mask and snorkel, perhaps rent fins)
  • Steri-Pen or other UV water treatment device to help cut down on the use of plastic bottles (optional)


WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!

Medical & First Aid

  • Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van, drives, etc.
  • Personal medication (and copy of vital prescriptions)
  • Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments (Imodium or Lomotil, antihistamine cream or tablets, eye drops, etc.)
  • Copy of eyeglass prescription, copy of medical prescriptions, and any medical alerts
  • Heath insurance and vaccination information (kept in personal pouch with other travel documents)
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
  • Band-aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
  • Antibacterial hand soap or hand sanitizer, small vial


Suggested Reading List +

These books are, of course, optional, but recommended to help you get the most out Read more

These books are, of course, optional, but recommended to help you get the most out of your trip.

Top Picks

Birds of Belize

Merlin App – Belize Pack. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Belize

Lonely Planet Belize 8

General Reading

A Natural History of Belize: Inside the Maya Forest

Maya Nature, an Introduction to the Ecosystems, Plants and Animals of the Mayan World

Field Guides

Birds of Belize

A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America

Birds of Mexico and Central America

Birds of Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama

A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico

A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of Mexico and Central America

A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Maya World: The Lowlands of Mexico, Northern

Wildlife & Nature

Belize: Reefs, Rainforests and Mayan Ruins

Belize and Northern Guatemala

Birds of Tropical America: A Watcher's Introduction to Behavior, Breeding, and Diversity

The New Neotropical Companion

A Naturalist’s Guide to the Tropics

Nature of the Rainforest: Costa Rica and Beyond

The High Frontier: Exploring the Tropical Rainforest Canopy

Life Above the Jungle Floor

History & Culture

Frommer’s Belize 

Moon Handbooks, Belize

Understanding Belize, a Historical Guide

Insight Guides, Belize

Belize in Focus; A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture

Chilies to Chocolate: Foods the Americas Gave the World

The Lords of Tikal

Tikal, An Illustrated History of the Ancient Mayan Capital

Time Among the Maya

Lost Cities of the Maya

There is a good selection of books available for sale at visitors’ centers, and your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.


Useful Links +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more



Punta Gorda, Belize

Tanager Rainforest Lodge

Nature, Wildlife & Biology

Audubon - Birding and Ecotourism in Belize

Belize total country bird list with status

Birds of Belize –iNaturalist

Endemics of Belize

List of Butterfly species from Wikipedia

Hummingbirds of Belize

Yucatán Black Howler Monkey


Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Organization

Convention on Biological Diversity – Belize

Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center

National Geographic article – “The Struggle to Protect a Vital Jaguar Corridor”

Government biodiversity report - Extensive and Technical

Geology & Geography

Geology of Belize

Geography of Belize

History & Culture

History of Belize

Culture of Belize

Belize Country Profile – BBC News

Belizean Cuisine

National Geographic Article “Who Were The Maya?: Decoding The Ancient Civilization’s Secrets”

Nim Li Punit Mayan Ruins

Helpful Travel Websites

Philip SW Goldson International Airport (BZE)

National Passport Information Center

Homeland Security Real ID Act

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

ATM Locator

Foreign Exchange Rates

U.S. Department of State International Travel Information – Belize

Canada Travel and Tourism - Belize

Travel Health Pro (UK) - Belize

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - Belize

Electricity and Plugs - Belize

Date, Time, and Holidays - Belize

Photo credits: Banners: Keel-billed Toucan (Canva Stock), Lamanai (Canva Stock), Black Orchid (Canva Stock), Jabiru (Peg Abbott), Black Howler Monkey (Canva Stock), Belize Birding Group (Carlos Sanchez), Great Black Hawk (Carlos Sanchez) Gallery: Lodge (Peg Abbott), Black-cheeked Woodpecker (Gerold Morrison), Lagoon Scenic (Peg Abbott), Barred Antshrike (Peg Abbott), Slaty-tailed Trogon (Gerold Morrison), Red-lored Parrot (Gerold Morrison), Belize birding group (Peg Abbott), Bat Falcon (Peg Abbott), Eastern Meadowlark (Gerold Morrison), Cinnamon Becard (Gerold Morrison), Chestnut-colored Woodpecker (Gerold Morrison), Lodge (Peg Abbott) Primary Photo Gal: Lovely Cotinga (James Adams), White-collared Manakin (Peg Abbott), King Vulture (Peg Abbott), Belize flower (Peg Abbott), Smooth-billed Ani (Peg Abbott) Secondary Photo Gal: Hibiscus (Peg Abbott), Ornate Hawk-Eagle (Narca Moore-Craig), Gartered Trogon (Peg Abbott), Lineated Woodpecker (Peg Abbott)


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