San Pedro, Belize
WHY WE LOVE IT:
Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, so that’s one less hassle for first-time visitors who want to try something different over the holidays. You can choose between one of Belize’s estimated 450 islands and islets, called “cayes” situated right on the Caribbean Sea, but we’d recommend heading for the largest and most populated one, called Ambergris Caye.
This caye is home to San Pedro, a sleepy beach town that makes a perfect home base. Though it has long been a popular spot for divers who come to explore world-famous sites like the Blue Hole, a world-renowned scuba destination, Belize is also great for a relaxed holiday getaway.
Do yourself a favor and visit the tongue-in-cheekily named Secret Beach on the west side of the island, where it’s less about scuba suits and more about letting the good times roll. This spot is most definitely not a secret, but it’s still a special spot of sand with shallow waters and mangrove trees aplenty. Rent a boat to get to a sandbar in the middle of the Caribbean and pretend you’re on your own private island.
Still not ready to remove your swimsuit? Visit Palapa Bar and paddle around in inner tubes to the sounds of live music with a local beer in hand. Christmas Eve means fireworks (professional and uh, more makeshift displays) all around San Pedro, but for something really special, head to the village of Gales Point Manatee on the mainland to see a Kriol tradition called “bram.” This is a celebration that combines caroling and dancing—basically spreading all the Christmas joy—from house to house.
Then, prepare to stay out late and get a little crazy on New Year’s Eve, which is Belize’s biggest party night of the year. Don’t wear your highest heels or go too hard early on though, since most revelers walk from one party to the next from sunset until well after midnight. Cure your hangover the next day with some legit ceviche (aka: citrus-cured fish) at El Divino Restaurant, a top spot that’s known for this local delicacy.
For Christmas Eve: Elvi’s Kitchen
For Christmas Day: Secret Beach
For Christmas Dinner: The Hidden Treasure Restaurant & Lounge
For New Year’s Eve: Holiday Hotel
For New Year’s Day: El Divino Restaurant