Northern Belize is home to the largest concentration of Mestizos – a blend of Spanish and Yucatec Maya. Most speak Spanish and are devout Roman Catholics. Strong familial bonds are a trademark of the Mestizo culture. This combination means that religious holidays and festivals are a dramatic exclamation point on the social calendar and are complemented by colorful displays and costumes, traditional dances and cultural foods.
The twists and turns of the New River played a significant role in the district’s history as both the Maya and early settlers used the river to communicate and transport goods. Orange Walk’s most popular archaeological site, Lamanai, is located on the shore of the New River lagoon and is second in size only to Caracol. The district is also home to Belize’s largest private conservation area – Rio Bravo. A number of archaeological sites and stunning natural attractions can be found within Rio Bravo’s more than two hundred thousand acres of broadleaf forests, marshes and savannas.
Visitors to the Orange Walk district can choose to stay in hotels within Orange Walk Town, all with convenient access to the central park, banks, restaurants and grocery stores. Accommodations outside the town limits include eco-luxury and adventure in unparalleled natural environments.
The incredible history…the interesting culture…the inspiring beauty…Orange Walk is definitely somewhere that you’ll want to write home about.
- River cruise to Lamanai: During the twenty-six mile journey along the New River, visitors can spot howler monkeys, several species of birds and even crocodiles. At Lamanai, Mayan for “submerged crocodile,” get panoramic views of the area from the High Temple; meet Lord Smoking Shell at the Mask Temple and admire the king of the Belizean jungle at the Jaguar Temple.
- Visit the Mennonites: The residents of Shipyard and Little Belize are conservative Mennonites who refrain from using machinery. Visitors are always fascinated by the language, the means of the transportation and the unique way of life practiced in these communities.
- Picnic at Honey Camp Lagoon: Take a twenty minute drive outside Orange Walk Town to discover a freshwater lagoon fringed with a sandy beach. The swimming and picnicking spot is popular with locals, especially during the Easter holiday.
- Live the Village Life: For a taste of life in a Mestizo village, go to the Belize Tourism Industry Association’s office in Queen Elizabeth Park. They’ll coordinate presentations and/or trips to a village where you’ll learn cultural dances and how to prepare Mestizo food.
- Visit the Museum: The Banquitas House of Culture features displays about logging in the Orange Walk district as well as a small collection of Maya artifacts and general history information. Nearby is the 100-year old La Inmaculada Roman Catholic Church.
- Poc Chuc: This dish is comprised of thinly cut slices of pork sautéed with garlic and onions. The meal is typically served with black beans, a roasted tomato sauce and hot, handmade corn tortillas.
- Streetside Tacos: It’s what’s for breakfast in Orange Walk. The expert fingers of street side vendors rapidly place smoky, pulled chicken or pork, cabbage or chunky onion and cilantro, and a habanero based hot sauce in either a corn or flour tortilla.
- Dukunu: The kernels of sweet corn are ground into a corn meal “batter” which is then cooked in corn husks. The non-vegetarian dukunu is made by adding pre-cooked pork or chicken to the corn mixture in the husks.
- Rum: With so much sugarcane in sight, it’s no surprise that there is a variety of local rums to sample. One sip of any of Belize’s rums is enough to convince you to make room in your checked bag for a bottle to enjoy back home.
- Corn on a Stick: In Belize, corn on the cob is served on a stick and topped with mayonnaise, white cheese, lime and salt and pepper or any variation thereof. Street vendors walk around with huge pots of the steaming corn cobs, ready to serve you with the condiments of your choice.
Advertised accommodations are listed here. For a full list of Orange Walk properties, please turn to the directory in this book.
Tourism meets conservation at the La Milpa EcoLodge and Research Center and Hill Bank Field Station. Both properties are located within the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management area. All tourism revenues are used by the organization Programme for Belize to manage the more than quarter million acre private reserve.
- The La Milpa EcoLodge and Research Center: The lodge is just three miles away from Belize’s third largest Maya site. In addition to archaeology, guests can enjoy bird watching, hiking and visiting nearby Mestizo and Mennonite communities while enjoying their stay in very comfortable accommodations. www.pfbelize.org/tourism/
- Hill Bank Field Station: This property is a former logging camp and is twelve miles away from the impressive Lamanai archaeological site. Guests to the field station participate in rainforest conservation activities and explore wetlands and pine savannah. The accommodations are charmingly rustic, and staying at this secluded property offers guests unparalleled opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the Belizean wilderness. www.pfbelize.org/tourism/