As a professional food traveler (which is the best job in the world I might add!), food tours are something I intentionally seek out in new destinations as a way to learn about the cuisine and culture of the place. Sadly, Belize has never really had an organized walking food tour of any kind — until now! Belize Food Tours officially launched May 28th to a group of hungry and enthusiastic media attendees.
Dora Guerra and Felipe Paz — a dynamic and energetic brother and sister team — have joined forces to bring the first food tour to Ambergris Caye, Belize. Born and raised on Ambergris Caye themselves, they are the ideal people to bring this exciting venture to life. Their passion for sharing both Belize’s culinary riches and its cultural history, combined with a keen marketing sense, tells me this is going to be a exciting addition to the island’s tourism offerings.
Irish playright George Bernard Shaw once said, “there is no sincerer love than the love of food,” and I couldn’t agree more. I referenced this quote when I wrote the book dedication for my dear friend, renowned chef Daniel Negreira’s second cookbook as well. It’s something I truly believe in and words I try to live by.
Even struggling through language barriers and encountering cultural differences as I travel, I’ve found that food is the common thread that brings everyone together. Unless you’re talking hotly contested debates about who has the best Philly Cheesesteak or the German Altbier and Kölsch beer wars of course!
Some of my most cherished travel experiences and many of my best friends today have resulted from various food travel experiences. Whether it was the gas station owner in Macedonia who ran to his house to bring us a jar of his family’s home-made red pepper sauce (ajvar) or my favorite Belgian chocolatier reopening the store after hours just for us, these tales and acts of kindness have become cherished travel memories.
Seeing the whole team of Belize Food Tours in action, there is no doubt that their love of food is genuine and there is a deep-rooted passion surrounding it. And, that passion definitely comes through during the tour — the way Felipe describes each dish and how his face lights up when he talks about his family’s history on the island. A food travel guide can make or break a food tour, and Felipe will definitely make Belize Food Tours!
My impression is that food travelers have been slightly intimidated by Belize’s culinary scene in the past, which has contributed to some misunderstandings and the cuisine not being as widely publicized as it should be. This is likely due in part to the multitude of cultural influences at play. You have Maya, Mestizo, Garifuna, European, and even some Lebanese and Asian influences in more modern times, just to name a few. Yes, Rice n’ Beans is probably the most notable and recognized dish in Belize, but it’s only a small glimpse into what makes the country so exciting as a food travel destination. The launch of Belize Food Tours will help bridge that gap, introducing everyone to a variety of not-to-be-missed Belizean eats.
Marketing and Pre-Launch Excitement of Belize Food Tours
Luckily for me, the stars were aligned, and I was back in Belize around the time the tour was set to launch. I pushed my return flight out a few days to give me the opportunity to stick around for the actual media soft-launch on May 28.
On a small island where everyone pretty much knows everyone else, Dora and the gang did a great job at creating quite a buzz long before the launch date was announced. And, I’m flattered by all the messages I received asking if I was somehow a part of this venture, and if not, did I at least know who was. I wish I could say I was the mastermind here, but alas, I am just one of the very enthusiastic and hungry supporters of Belize Food Tours!
I have to admit, this was by far the most delicious media invite I’ve received. They delivered personalized Belize Food Tour goodie boxes filled with a variety of fun local snacks, a cool keychain, and a WTF? (Where’s the Food) shirt. Talk about VIP status!
Who Should Take a Belize Food Tour?
You might think only first time visitors to Ambergris Caye should take a food tour.
Despite visiting Belize for over ten years and living on Ambergris Caye for over four years, I still learned quite a bit on the tour. A Belize Food Tour is for anyone looking to get acquainted with the food scene in San Pedro and/or repeat food travelers looking to learn more about the restaurants and foods that are an important part of the local culture on Ambergris Caye, and in Belize as a whole.
The tour also provides an opportunity to sample new dishes and menu items you might’ve overlooked in other favorite spots, while learning more about the history and traditions of each.
Did you know fish balls were a common Sunday food?
I didn’t. In all my years in Belize, I’d never had a fish ball –I’ve had them elsewhere in the world, but not in Belize. I was intrigued to learn they are often eaten as a snack on Sunday afternoons.
When to Schedule Your Belize Food Tour
I highly recommend you aim to take the food tour at the beginning of your vacation. It not only gives you an overview of many of San Pedro’s best restaurants, but you’ll also learn about other little hole-in-the-wall spots not directly included on the tour, which you can go back and visit later on your own.
On every single visit to Belize I made in years past, I always ran out of time to eat at all the places on my list. Heck, it happens on every one of my trips around the world — even destinations I’ve been to a million times.
Look at this as a way to get a well-rounded intro to the best eats in Belize, after which you can then formulate a game plan for the remainder of your trip.
What To Expect on Your Belize Food Tour?
You’ll start the tour by meeting Felipe in Central Park. His energy is infectious, and he’s chock full of interesting stories about a wide array of topics. Learn what it was like to grow up on Ambergris Caye as tourism was emerging, dine at his grandparent’s restaurant on the beach, and even learn about the island’s start and important historical landmarks in town.
Without revealing all the stops on the daytime food tour, I’ll just say that you’ll sample a generous mix of food and drinks. You’ll get to try local beverages — some with alcohol — a number of savory eats, and even a few sweet and refreshing treats. Expect dishes to contain a mix of meat and/or seafood, and maybe you’ll even try some more unique Belizean foods. Think: Gibnut, aka Royal Rat! Dubbed the “Royal Rat” after it was served to Queen Elizabeth on her prior visit to the country, gibnut is one of the more interesting dishes you’ll find in Belize.
Keep an open mind about gibnut, channel your inner Andrew Zimmern, and enjoy this delicious “bizarre food.”
Other iconic Belizean eats you might sample include traditional Maya tacos, ceviche, and Belizean rums and liquors.
And, if you’re familiar with the term “Food of the Gods,” you’ll be excited to know you will sample some delicious Belizean cacao within locally produced “bean to bar” chocolates.
Belize Food Tours plans to offer three different tours to start:
- Belizean Bites: Daytime Tour, 8 Stops with 10 Tastings, Wednesday to Saturday $62 US pp
- Savor Belize: Evening Tour, 7 Stops with 12 Tastings, Wednesday to Saturday $72 US pp
- Sunday Brunch/Breakfast Special: Coming Soon
Important Food Tour Information to Note
There is alcohol included at some of the stops, so be sure to advise if you’re traveling with young ones or don’t drink yourself. If you have any food allergies, it’s important to let Belize Food Tours know in advance, as everything is prepared to be served as the group is seated since there is a tight schedule to keep.
Also remember that there is a strict season for many foods in Belize (lobster and conch being two of the big ones) so the items in some dishes may vary based on the time of year you are visiting.
Tours last approximately three hours and the daytime tour takes place from 11:30am to 2:30pm. While most things do move on island time in San Pedro, it’s important to be punctual for your food tour. Allow extra time for island traffic if you’re driving into town or schedule the taxi a little bit earlier for this. Each stop has an allotted time and being late can throw off peak lunch times for these restaurants, all of which are very small mom and pop type places.
While you aren’t necessarily walking long distances, you’ll want to come prepared. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat, as it does get warm out there! Guides have water and you’ll also be given frozen washcloths to cool off part way through the tour; those can be a life saver during the longest walking part of the tour!
You will be walking on relatively stable cobblestone streets for most of the tour, but wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be on the beach as well. Daytime tours begin in Central Park and end a little further south near Holiday Hotel.
And, finally — and most importantly — come hungry! You definitely won’t be looking to eat for a few hours after this tour!
Connect with Belize Food Tours on social media here:
- Belize Food Tours Facebook
- Belize Food Tours Instagram
- Belize Food Tours Twitter
- Snapchat @BelizeFoodTours
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Disclosure: I was a guest of Belize Food Tours for their inaugural launch, but as always, all views, opinions, and calories gained are my own!
Looking for more delicious food tours in other destinations? I highly recommend Devour Spain and Walks of Italy, while Viator offers a nice selection of food tours and cooking classes in countless other destinations all around the world.