Settled in 1823, the Belize town of Punta Gorda was once considered to be so remote that it was only accessible by boat for decades. It is the most southerly town in Belize and even though the Southern Highway now reaches the town, and has even been paved so that easily connects the town with points north, there’s still that sense when you visit of this place being a distant frontier.
Commonly referred to as PG, it is a quiet place with clean, paved streets, few cars, lush vegetation, and a very slow pace. PG is both a port and a fishing village that is situated on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. Despite its waterfront location, visitors don’t necessarily travel to PG to enjoy its coastal charms as the town has no beach to speak of. However, it is a good starting point from which to visit some magnificent offshore cays.
The town is located some 330km (205 miles) south of Belize City. PG itself is the capital of Toledo District. Geographically it is part of the Gulf of Honduras. The surrounding Toledo District is home to various Mayan ruins and numerous villages that are still peopled by Kekchi and Mopan Maya Indians, who have been migrating here from Guatemala over the last century.
The town springs to life on holidays and market days, which are held on Saturday and Wednesday mornings, when the villagers and Guatemalans from across the border pour in to buy and sell hand-crafted produce and simple household goods in an area around the main clock tower.
Of the nearby Mayan ruins Lubaantun (near San Pedro Colombia) is the most visited because of the beautiful, uncrowded ruins that have been dutifully excavated and the visitor’s centre which has information to help visitors understand the significance of the site. There is also an air of mystery about this site because the famous Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull was allegedly found here in the 1920s.
Most people take a tour out to the offshore cays which include the Snake Cays, the Moho Cays, and the Sapodilla Cays. These, together with the Port of Honduras Marine Reserve are destinations which offer visitors some of the best snorkelling and diving trips in Belize.
There are plenty of activities to try once you get to Punta Gorda. The Rio Blanco National Park is within easy reach, and there are boats and water taxis which have regular services from PG to Livingston, Guatemala.