Planning a Trip
Getting There & Departing
By Plane -- There are several daily flights into and out of Punta Gorda's little airport (PND). Maya Island Air (tel. 223-1140 in Belize City, or 722-2856 in Punta Gorda; www.mayaairways.com) has four flights daily between Belize City and Punta Gorda. These flights leave from the Municipal Airport at 8:10 and 10am, and at 2:30 and 4:30pm. Most of these flights stop 15 minutes later at the Goldson International Airport to pick up passengers. The fare is BZ$182 (US$91/£48) each way from Municipal Airport, and BZ$214 (US$107/£57) each way from the international airport. When you're ready to leave, Maya Island Air flights from Punta Gorda to Belize City depart at 6:45, 9:30, and 11:30am, and at 4pm. Most of these flights stop first in Placencia and Dangriga, and then at the international airport, before continuing on to Municipal Airport.
Tropic Air (tel. 800/422-3435 in the U.S. or Canada, 226-2012 in Belize City, or 722-2008 in Punta Gorda; www.tropicair.com) has five daily flights from Municipal Airport to Punta Gorda at 8:15 and 10:20am, and at 12:20, 2:20, and 5pm. These flights stop 15 minutes later at Goldson International Airport to pick up passengers. The fare is BZ$185 (US$93/£49) each way from the Municipal Airport, and BZ$218 (US$109/£58) each way from the international airport. Tropic Air flights depart Punta Gorda for Belize City's airports daily at 6:50, 9:30, and 11:30am, and at 4pm.
Flight times run between 55 minutes and 1 hour and 20 minutes, depending on the number of stops, since most flights to and from Punta Gorda on Maya Island Air and Tropic Air stop in Placencia and Dangriga to pick up and drop off passengers. On both airlines, flights are sometimes added during the high season or suspended during the low season, so check in advance.
By Car -- It is a long way to Punta Gorda. However, the Southern Highway, which starts just outside of Dangriga, is paved the entire 161km (100 miles) to Punta Gorda, where it ends. Coming from Belize City, head first to Belmopan and turn south on the Hummingbird Highway. Just before Dangriga, the Hummingbird Highway connects with the Southern Highway, which takes you all the way to Punta Gorda. Alternatively, you can take the Manatee Road turnoff just past the Belize Zoo, although the Manatee Road is a washboard dirt-and-gravel road for most of its length. It should take between 4 and 5 hours to drive between Belize City and Punta Gorda.
By Bus -- James Bus Line (tel. 207-3937 in Belize City, or 702-2049 in Punta Gorda) and National Transport (tel. 227-2255) have regular service throughout the day between Belize City and Punta Gorda. Buses leave at irregular intervals between 4:30am and 5pm, with at least 15 different buses making the run throughout the day. In Belize City, National Transport buses from the main terminal on West Collett Canal, while James buses leave from nearby, near the Shell gas station on Cemetery Road. It's worth getting an express bus, which should only take around 5 1/2 hours. However, there are far more frequent nonexpress buses. On these, the trip takes between 6 and 7 hours. In some cases, you may have to change buses in Belmopan or Dangriga. The one-way fare is BZ$28 (US$14/£7.40).
Departing buses begin running at 3am, with the last bus leaving at 4pm. All buses, even the express buses, stop in Belmopan, Dangriga, and Independence. However, the express buses are not supposed to stop along the route to pick up and drop off passengers at intermediary points.
By Boat -- Several boats run daily between Punta Gorda and Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. If there's enough demand, the boats may stop in Livingston, Guatemala, as well. Expect to pay between BZ$30 and BZ$40 (US$15-US$20/£7.95-£11) per person. The boats leave from the main pier in Punta Gorda. Requena's Charter Service, 12 Front St. (tel. 722-2070; email@example.com), is one of the more dependable operators. When the seas are calm, the crossing takes about 1 hour. Departures for Guatemala tend to leave between 8:30 and 9am, although there are often afternoon departures as well. The boats tend to return from Puerto Barrios between 2 and 4pm. You'll have to pay the BZ$7.50 (US$3.75/£2) in exit taxes. Note: When coming and going, be sure to get your passport stamped at the immigration office just up from the dock.
Punta Gorda is a very small and compact town, and you should be able to get around primarily on foot. If you're just too hot or tired, or you're heading farther afield, call Galvez's Taxi Travel & Tour Service (tel. 722-2402) or the Roots & Herbs Taxi Service (tel. 722-2834).
Another option for getting around is to rent a bike. Ask at your hotel, and they should be able to help you find one for rent.
Punta Gorda is a small coastal town, and the road into town runs right along the water before angling a bit inland. There's a tiny triangular park at the center of the town. On one side is the Civic Center, or Town Hall. On one corner is a cute little clock tower, and the Belize Bank anchors another corner. Still, much of the town's activity is water-based, and many of the most important businesses, hotels, restaurants, and government offices are located on Front Street, which runs along the waterfront. The town's main pier is off the center of Front Street. On the western edge of town, only 6 blocks from the water, is P.G.'s airstrip.
The Belize Tourist Industry Association (tel. 722-2531), in conjunction with local hotels and tourism operators, runs a well-staffed and helpful information center on Front just north of the main pier. This is a good place to come to find current transportation schedules, book a tour, or arrange a homestay.
For the local police, dial tel. 911 or 722-2022, and for the fire department, call tel. 722-2032. If you need medical attention, go to the Punta Gorda Hospital on Main Street, towards the southern end of town (tel. 722-2026). The post office (tel. 722-2087) is on Front Street across from the main pier. Belize Bank, 30 Main St. (tel. 722-2324), can handle most of your banking needs.
There's a Texaco gas station (tel. 722-2926) out towards the northern end of Front Street and a Shell station out by "The Dump." Finally, if your hotel can't or won't do it for you, take your dirty clothes to Punta Gorda Laundry Services, on Main Street across from the Belize Bank, which charges around BZ$12 (US$6/£3.20) per load.