Guide 2: Toledo District

Often called the “Forgotten District,” Toledo is only a four-hour drive from Belize City but most Belizeans treat it as if it’s located in Panama.

After arriving at the airstrip in Punta Gorda, my guide, Bruno Kuppinger, told me, “Only in Toledo can you be Jacques Cousteau in the morning and Indiana Jones in the afternoon.”

What I’d do again

Buy three warm Belikin stouts and spend a few hours talking to Paul Nabor, Garifuna guitar player for The Three Kings. Mr. Nabor is 83 years old, but still looks good in a wifebeater and fondly remembers his time touring the world.

What I’d skip

Of the several different Maya ruins I saw in Belize, Lubaantun is one of my least favorite. It’s the possible home of the crystal skull that the latest Indiana Jones flick is “based on,” but the ruins themselves are small and not overly impressive.

Where I slept

* In a hammock arranged through the Guesthouse program of the Toledo Ecotourism Association, which operates in the villages of San Antonio, San Miguel, and Laguna.

* Tranquility Lodge

What I ate

* Creole dishes with East Indian flavor, served buffet style with an unspoiled view of the Caribbean at Marian’s Bayview restaurant.

Most memorable moment

Exploring the underwater cave in Blue Creek, which the ancient Maya believed was the entrance to the underworld.

Today, with a headlamp, a guide, and a swimming suit, Blue Creek Cave is visited for swims/treks that can last up to 16 hours (I only went for two) and has clear water, bats, and underground waterfalls.

What Belize would like to promote

Cacao Festival has been held annually for five years in Punta Gorda. Highlights include a wine and chocolate tasting, music and cultural events in the ruins of Lubaantun, and demonstrations of the chocolate making process.

What Belize would like to forget

In November of last year, a drug plane with $50 million of cocaine used the Southern Highway as a runway, landing right on the road in the middle of the night. The plane is associated with the biggest drug bust in Belize’s history, and local law enforcement were involved in facilitating the landing.

For the full story: Honduras Wants Drug Plane

What I wish I knew before I came

Sage advice from a ten-year-old girl in Laguna Village. “If a scorpion stings you and your spirit is weak, you will become sick and die. But if your spirit is strong, you will only feel some pain and live.”