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Barefoot Luxury

Insiders are calling Central America the new Hawaii. If so, Belize, just below Mexico, is the new center of cool. Only a few jet hours away from Texas, you’ll find a tropical paradise where you can climb ancient ruins, scuba dive and so much more that help you feel like you’re really getting away from it all. Just say Belize, please.

One needn’t wonder why an ancient civilization like the Mayans were attracted to this region where they could create a self sustaining culture on the land’s many attributes. To modern man, that answer is simple. Belize, about the size of New Hampshire, offers a wealth of natural endowments…from the shimmering blue sea to the vast vegetation and a rich culture full of such friendly, giving people.

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With Guatemala as a neighbor to the west and south, Mexico to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the east, it’s the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest in the hemisphere that offers hundreds of cayes to explore. For those who love water, this country is rich in water sports of all kinds – beyond scuba diving, yachting, Katamaran sailing, and deep sea fishing readily available in this gentle climate that averages 80 degrees year ‘round. There’s no confusion that Belize is a paradise for all outdoor activities. You come here to be enriched by physical exercise… as well as laying on the beach. Both are recommended and while traveling to such a dynamic country as this, being on the go provides the best fun-filled vacation.

There’s snorkeling, lagoon kayak tours, a manatee safari, and bike riding around the Ambergris cove for the most action-packed days possible. Nigel Simmons, of the Tuff Enuff Tours in Belize states, “There’s everything - and then again nothing to do here, if you want - on the island. You can choose to be as active or relaxed as you want to be.” To experience the best of the island, zip lining has become a favorite outdoor adventure. Harnessed onto a cable and zipping throughout the rain forest from tree station to tree station is one of the most exciting sports created. Uniquely experiencing the rain forest so high up is like flying with the exotic birds, but better. There’s also cave tubing for the spelunker set. That means cool, dark caves with its native bats a part of the guided experience.

When in Central America, do as the Central Americans do and that means climbing the ancient ruins nearby in Lamanai, up the New River into the rainforest. From the resort, it takes two boats and two small planes, as well as a shuttle to go into the remote area to get to the destination - and it’s well worth the effort. Occupied as a bustling community for almost 3500 years and known as the “Great Eastern Capital” according to Maya hieroglyphics, the Spaniards happened first happened upon these ruins in the mid-sixteenth century. What was once a prolific Mayan civilization can now be rediscovered by exploring this formerly inhabited rain forest that offers an almost spiritual experience for each visitor. Long forgotten temples, living quarters, amphitheaters for entertainment and sporting events can all be seen here, and can be compared to today’s mid-sized American town of that era.

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When much of the modern archeological digs of the ruins occurred in the 1960’s, huge quantities of carved jade objects and other objects of the area’s ancient wealth was found in its 13 royal tombs. Most of the temples have yet to be unearthed in just this region alone, so when hiking and spotting exotic monkeys and birds, one must think about all the hundreds of hillside temples yet to be professionally unearthed for study. About three stories tall, the tallest temples are to be climbed by those in the good health and physical shape. And it’s worth every step to embrace the view from the top of the structure and feel the sense of accomplishment the Mayans must have felt.

If you want to see the best of Belize, Journey’s End Resort at the private Ambergris Caye five miles by boat from the bustling tourist town of San Pedro. is the place to stay once you’ve made the 20 minute flight from landing in Belize City, the capital of Belize. Fifty acres of exotic bliss await you at this tropical nirvana. With its recently completed two million dollars in renovations, the resort offers a laid back luxury not found nearby. Ruben Munoz, the general manager of the resort says it best, “People come here to forget about their cares. Here we offer them ways to do that, from the food to the sports to the beautiful surroundings.”

Accommodations come in all sizes at Journey’s End, but staying in the villas overlooking the beach is highly recommended. Decorated in bright Caribbean colors and old world woods with four poster beds and 400 thread count sheets, it’s the perfect respite after a busy day of adventuring. Whether a romantic getaway or a group gathering, the hotel can accommodate just about any need. Want to have a private beach picnic? No problem. Or a specialty themed dinner? Done. It’s all possible at Journey’s End thanks to the superior cuisine from the resort’s two restaurants, Luna for the five star dining experience and The Smiling Toucan, the other beachside eatery serving more familiar fare. While dining under the stars or Luna’s palapa thatched roof, local seafood and exotic vegetables, international specialties are a way of life here. A sunset champagne dinner boat cruise can be reserved, too, where you see the island chain and share the crisp ocean breeze by moonlight.

After a relaxing day of sunning on the private beach of the resort, try the Serenity Spa. From facials to massages, Serenity specializes in regional treatments. Recommended is the Vanilla and Mango Brown Sugar Glow, a scrubbing treatment guaranteed to help create a fresher skin tone and the Rose Mud Wrap, a silky wrap that creates a completely refreshed feeling.

When you think you’ve seen all there is to experience in this tropical paradise, there’s even more. From seeing the jaguar preserves the to the shark dives, manatee safaris, fly fishing and helicopter tours, Belize offers so much fun that ensures the reputation of this la