By Lebawit Lily Girma
Belize’s southernmost district is replete with thick jungles and wildlife, while straddling the Caribbean Sea with its pristine reefs on the east. To boot, its interior is dotted with traditional Mayan and Garifuna villages, as well as East Indian communities. It’s no surprise then, that the Toledo District boasts a handful of Belize’s most established conservation organizations and programs, as well as a host of sustainable eco lodges.
The primary town, Punta Gorda—affectionately called “PG”—is a laid-back seaport where residents flock for fresh produce. On market days, Maya and Garifuna women display their fruits, traditional snacks, and crafts, while food stands serve hot breakfasts enjoyed on roadside stools. Home to the most diverse population in Belize—boasting Maya, Latino, Garifuna, East Indian, and Creole heritage—Toledo offers many more cultural experiences. Learn to make tortillas and caldo with a Maya women’s group, hike a spice farm, and spend a morning with a cacao farmer while learning about agroforestry. You could also time your visit for the annual Chocolate Festival, or the Maya Deer Dance Festival.
Nature adventures throw you into a world of birding, spelunking at Actun Yok’ Balum, waterfall swimming at Rio Blanco National Park, and hiking the Maya site of Lubaantun, shrouded in the mystery of the Crystal Skull. Sand and sea are a quick boat ride off Punta Gorda’s shores to explore the healthiest parts of the Belize Barrier Reef, boasting secluded cayes and beaches. Fly fish for permits, snorkel off the Snake Cayes, and watch the sunset from the remote Sapodilla Cayes. Toledo’s ridge to reef landscape remains one of Belize’s best-kept secrets.