The Orange Walk area of Belize has a diverse range of locals from Creoles to Mennonites. The town of Orange Walk is an ideal location for exploring the Altun Ha and Lamanai and a variety of nature parks and is often used as a stop on the way to Mexico. However, honestly, there’s not much in town, and I wouldn’t suggest spending more than a few days here before moving on. It’s a bit run down, and with so many other places to visit in Belize, I don’t find it worth an extended stay. See the ruins, head back down to the beaches!
Hostel prices – Accommodation is not particularly cheap here, and there are very few hostels. Most dorm rooms cost 40 BZD per night, and private rooms will start around 50 BZD in a hostel.
Budget hotel prices – Expect to pay between 120-200 BZD for a double room.
Average cost of food – By eating like a local, you can expect to save the most cash with meals costing about 10 BZD in restaurants around town. There are a lot of street vendors here that sell cheap chicken and corncakes for 2-6 BZD. Conversely, a sit down meal at a restaurant with drinks will be upwards of 40 BZD. If you’re eating on a budget, expect to pay about 100 BZD for a week’s worth of groceries.
Transportation costs – The bus from Belize City to Orange Walk Town costs about 5 BZD and takes 1.5 hours. The town is compact enough that you can walk round, so don’t worry about public transportation in most cases.
Money Saving Tips
Shop around – Prices for excursions can vary greatly based upon what is included. For instance, a trip to Lamanai including lunch can be up to 30 BZD more expensive than one without.
Bring your own food – Because many trips cost extra for lunch, bring your own food and save money.
Things to See and Do in Orange Walk
Altun Ha – Altun Ha is one of Belize’s most popular tourist destinations. The main attraction at this Mayan site is the Temple of the Masonry Altars, dating from the 7th Century. The Temple is 54 foot tall and a climb to the top rewards you with a panoramic view of the pyramids and plaza below. I found it to be one of the most impressive sites in the country.
Shipstern Nature Reserve – Shipstern covers an area of more than 27,000 acres and protects a diverse range of habitats, ranging from saline wetlands, and lagoons to Yucatan tropical forests. With such a vast and varied terrain, it’s no surprise that the reserve is home to all five cat species in Belize, the endangered Baird’s Tapir, 300 species of birds, and a myriad of other plants and animal species.
Cuello – Dating back to the early years of the Mayan Civilization, Cuello is the oldest Mayan Site in Belize. It is estimated that the site is between two-three thousand years old and is located on private land, so you must gain permission from the Cuello family whose land the site sits on.
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary – Birdwatchers will enjoy Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary sits on a site of 25 square miles which is made up of swamps, lagoons, and waterways. For just 8 BZD, you’ll have the opportunity to see over 286 species of birds.
Lamanai – Lamanai, or “submerged crocodile”, is one of Belize’s largest ceremonial centers and is easily the most impressive Mayan site in Northern Belize. Lamanai is 24 miles along the New River from Orange Walk, and the journey is filled with wildlife and bird spotting opportunities. The ruin site itself features various plazas, temples, stellae, colonial structures, a visitor’s center, the remnants of two 16th century Spanish churches, and a colonial sugar mill. It was my favorite site in all of Belize.
Mennonite Communities – There are many Mennonite communities throughout Belize, but Orange Walk has the most. Most communities are sustained by farming, and locals can be seen riding around in their horse drawn carriages and speaking a form of archaic German.
La Inmaculada Church – La Inmaculada is one of the few Spanish colonial churches in Belize and is located in the center of town. It’s small and run down but a reminder of the Spanish influence in the country’s history.
Rio Bravo Conservation & Management Area – The Rio Bravo occupies 4% of Belize’s total land area and consists of 406 square miles of protected rainforest. Jaguars are a common sighting here, as are toucans, iguanas, and Baird’s tapir. There are also nearly 400 species of birds within the forest which makes it one of Belize’s most popular birding destinations.
La Milpa – This archaeological reserve is the third largest site in the country, after Caracol and Lamanai. Twenty-four plazas and eighty-five major structures have been identified here, however, this area has yet to be excavated.
Nohmul – Near the Corozal border, this is supposed to be the highest point in Orange Walk, with it’s name meaning “great mound”. Look for the unique raised walkway that connects two ceremonial sites. Since it’s not on the regular tourist route, you will want to gain permission ahead of time to visit Nohmul.