Harvest Caye (pronounced “key”), is a private island located in southern Belize, just five miles off the shore of Placencia. It is a 75-acre island with something for everyone and easy access to the mainland. With everything from eco-tourism, relaxation, water sports, and adventure, you are sure to enjoy this new cruise ship destination. In 2017, Harvest Caye was voted best new cruise port in the Caribbean by Porthole Cruise Magazine.
Not Your Typical Private Island
Owned by Norwegian Cruise Line, Harvest Caye is not designed as a typical, cruise ship-owned, private island. Norwegian partnered with the country of Belize to develop Harvest Caye as a hub to explore Belize. Walk, or take a golf cart, along the canopied pier into Harvest Caye for many activities.
Harvest Caye was developed by NCL in a responsible way. They planted thousands of trees and plants, including over 10,000 mangroves, as a habitat for birds and marine life. The Nature Center is helping the endangered scarlet macaws with a breed and release program.
Please remember to bring cash or a credit card to Harvest Caye as your ship card is not accepted at the port. You will need your card to reboard the ship.
Harvest Caye is committed to supporting the local economy and the island, hosting native performances, displaying local artwork, and providing space for local businesses to sell their products
Things to Do in Harvest Caye, Belize:
Swim in the Enormous Pool
Relax and enjoy the 15,000 square foot swimming pool. The pool has features like a swim-up bar with in-water seating and lots of lounge chairs around the deck. There are also palm trees for shade – even some on islands in the pool! Dance to the lively Caribbean music from the Landshark Restaurant, an affiliate of Jimmy Buffet’s restaurant chain. If you are looking for some privacy, there are pool cabanas available with lounge chairs, a couch, AC, a mini fridge, a private shower, and a personal concierge.
Enjoy the Beach
Experience the beauty of the Caribbean on this seven-acre beach with more than 2,500 lounge chairs. The sand is made from crushed seashells and the water sparkles as expected. Shade is available from the many palm trees, and, if you arrive early, there are some hammocks available for a refreshing beach nap. You can rent a float, play beach volleyball, or play chess on a life-sized chess mat. Rent a beachfront cabana and enjoy AC, a couch, a private bathroom, outside shower, fresh towels, a hammock, a golf cart for the day, beach lounge chairs, and a personal concierge.
Play at the Kids Splash Pad
The kids’ splash zone is filled with slides and a giant barrel which dumps water every few minutes – the effect is similar to a waterfall. Kids, and adults, will want to spend their whole day playing at the splash pad.
Visit the Nature Park
Learn about indigenous plants and animals at this wildlife sanctuary. The tropical scent of the Caribbean plants and flowers is intoxicating and you will see toucans, macaws, and snakes as you wander through the nature park.
Tour the Blue Morpho Butterfly Sanctuary
Explore the sanctuary and see hundreds of butterfly species. The beautiful butterflies fly around the glass house and mesmerize visitors.
Zipline Across Harvest Caye
Zip 100 feet in the air across Harvest Caye on this 1,300-foot zip line. The course starts at the top of the lighthouse and gives you an aerial view of the pool, port, coral reefs, and mountains in the distance. You can choose to zip in the Superman position or seated upright.
Kayak or Paddle Board
Belize is bordered by the second largest coral reef in the world and the waters surrounding the island are teeming with brightly-colored sea life. Kayak or paddleboard in a lagoon and encounter a variety of marine animals.
Relax and take a one and a half hour boat trip with a professional guide to tour the lagoon and mangrove estuaries. See exciting wildlife such as manatees and native plants, both in the water and on land.
Dine at the locally-owned Landshark Restaurant as your cruise ship meal plan is not valid on the island. The restaurant and bar are located in the pool area and offer air-conditioned seating. There is a wide variety of available food including a foot-long fish sandwich, salads, and ceviche.
The island has four bars where you can indulge in coconut-themed drinks and ice-cold beverages:
- Cat 5 Bar
- Rum Coco Bar
- Hurricane Bar
- Laughing Bird Bar
The shops in the market area are mostly locally-owned and sell locally-crafted goods. You will find hand-crafted gifts, paintings, t-shirts, rum, and chocolate. Moho Chocolates is a local shop which sells chocolates made from Belizean cocoa beans. There’s also a rum-tasting center where you will find exotic rums, wines, and spirits.
Explore mainland Belize with a variety of activities for every taste. Take a 15-minute ferry from the marina in Harvest Caye to the transportation hub of Malacate for tours around Placencia and southern Belize.
Boating and Fishing
If you would like to continue your day on the water, there are a variety of options available.
- Catamaran charters
- Fishing, including live-bait fishing, spincast fishing, spearfishing, and deep-water fishing
Explore the underwater world while scuba diving. There are lessons for beginners and professionals as well as specialty lessons like underwater navigation. Exciting areas to scuba include:
- Glover’s Atoll – 90 minutes away; dive at depths of 40-60 feet.
- Turneffe Islands – 90 minutes away; dive at depths up to 80 feet.
- Gladden Spit – 90 minutes away; dive at depths up to 60 feet.
- Barrier reef – 30 minutes away; dive at depths of 35-60 feet.
- Lighthouse Reef/Blue Hole – 3 hours away; dive at depths of 50-130 feet.
Laughing Bird Caye
Investigate this national park that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and approximately 40 minutes from Placencia. Laughing Bird Caye is a popular Inner Reef destination. Snorkel in a faro, a coral reef surrounding a lagoon. Explore coral gardens, reef fish, and many other marine animals. Encounter lobsters, arrow crabs, barracuda, and a huge variety of reef fish.
Silk Cayes and Turtle Alley
Discover the Silk Cayes and Turtle Alley with a private snorkeling trip. Enjoy the one-hour ride to the Silk Cayes, remote islands surrounded by a coral reef. Explore the protected marine reserve and inspect the brightly-colored coral and tropical fish. Dive into Turtle Alley an encounter sea turtles, nurse sharks, and rays. The animals are attracted to the area as local fishermen leave scraps for the marine animals to eat as they clean their catch.
Swim under a cascading waterfall in the rainforest of Belize without hiking through the jungle. Relax and observe this spectacular water display or plunge into the secluded Mayan King Waterfall.
Rio Grande River Tubing
Relax during the 60-minute ride to the Rio Grande River and learn about the area and local history. At the Rio Grande River, a Guide will provide safety information and distribute life jackets. Float slowly down the river for approximately one hour with the Guide leading the way. The river is between two and 14 feet in depth and is usually calm. Watch for local wildlife, like iguanas and Howler Monkeys, on the river bank and in the trees overhead. Enjoy some thrills as the river can run faster in some areas. Some excursions may also stop at a local hot spring.
Rio Grande River Rafting
Enjoy the 60-minute ride to the Rio Grande River and learn about the area and local history. A Guide will provide safety information, paddling instructions, safety equipment, and assign you a raft. There is a choice of single, double, or small group rafts which fit up to five participants. Larger rafts will also have a Guide to help with steering and paddling. Stay alert for Howler Monkeys and iguanas. The rafting experience will last approximately one hour and 20 minutes. The river is between two and 14 feet in depth and is usually calm. Enjoy some thrills as the river runs faster in some areas. There will also be a 20-minute stop at a natural hot spring.
Paddle along the coast of Placencia in a sea kayak. The tides can be a little rough, but less-experienced kayakers can safely paddle near the coastline. Experienced kayakers can paddle to nearby cayes and island hop to their heart’s content.
Observe the rain forest from above as you zip two and a half miles across the Mayflower Bocawina National Park. Bocawina is Belize’s longest zipline with 14 platforms and nine different runs. Fly down the longest run for 2,300 feet and get a birds-eye view of the rainforest.
Climb 1,000 feet to the top of the falls – about one and a half hours – through the rainforest while learning about the local wildlife from the Guide. At the top, swim in the sparkling waters and enjoy the breathtaking views of the rainforest and the Caribbean. Finally, rappel down the waterfalls over 250-feet with two rappels. Enjoy this adrenaline-filled four-hour tour.
Learn the secrets of the rainforest on your 20-minute hike through the jungle to the top of Bocawina Falls. Rappel 100-feet down the falls to the pool below. Relax with a swim in the waterfall pool after your exciting descent on this two-hour tour.
Discover Belize from above on a thrilling parasailing adventure. A flight crew will provide instruction and safety equipment. You will parasail hundreds of feet above the waters of Belize with a panoramic view of the island and coral reefs on this adrenaline-packed activity.
Experience Belize on horseback at a family-owned private ranch. Perfect for beginners and experienced riders, the staff at the ranch will ensure you have fun. After the ride, swim in a natural swimming hole formed by two rapids to cool down.
Nature and Wildlife:
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve
Hike on a wild jungle adventure in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve. Learn about the park history at the Visitors’ Center, six miles deep inside the jungle. This protected rainforest is home to jaguars and exotic birds, as well as other large cats. Begin your tour with a briefing from the Guide. Hike 40 minutes to the river and enjoy a relaxing float on a tube, followed by a shorter, 15-minute hike to the spectacular Ben’s Bluff waterfall, and a hike back to the Visitors’ Center.
Monkey River Tour and Manatee Watch
Trek into the remote jungle near Monkey River Village, where you are likely to see troops of black Howler Monkeys, deer, ocelots, tapirs, and other wildlife. An expert Guide will sail you through a mangrove forest and then hike through undeveloped terrain. Look for crocodiles, manatees, and turtles. Listen for the unique Howler Monkey communications as they loudly declare their territory.
Hike through Mayflower Bocawina National Park to observe and hear many different bird species. The tropical weather and undeveloped habitats are home to a large number of native and migrant birds. There have been over 290 bird species identified in southern Belize.
Cultural, Food & Drink Tours
Mayan Temple at Nim LI Punit
Journey one hour away into the past and learn how ancient Mayans lived at Nim Li Punit, which means “large hat” in the Mayan Kekchi language. The name was derived from a drawing found in the ruins of a Mayan ruler wearing a large hat on his head. Climb 100 steps around the ruins and imagine their lives and daily rituals in these beautiful ruins, which also house a museum and a welcome center.
The museum has a variety of artifacts, as well as Mayan drawings and writings. Notable at the ruins are the Plaza of the Royal Tombs and Plaza of the Stellae – stellaes are carved stone monuments used to record events such as battles and alliances. The ruins also feature a ball court and an observatory – the highest point is 220 feet. View the ruins from above where you may be able to glimpse views of the Caribbean. The area is shaded and the valley below is full of cohune palms.
Lubaantun and Blue Creek Cave
Explore Lubaantun, the largest Mayan ceremonial site in Belize. Lubaantun means Place of the Fallen Stones and it was built without mortar. Archeologists found a controversial crystal skull at the site which is still unexplained. Other artifacts include grinding stones, beads, shells, turquoise, and obsidian blades.
After exploring Lubaantun, hike 20 minutes through the jungle to the Blue Creek Cave Nature Reserve, where you can climb rocks and swim into the cave with a life jacket and headlamp. Discover a mysterious underground waterfall in this extensive cave system which local Mayans claim reaches all the way to Guatemala!
Mayan Village Life Experience
Discover authentic Mayan village life a mere one-hour away in Big Falls with two local families. Big Falls is located in southern Belize, surrounded by the enchanting rain forest. Visit the Cal family and learn how to grind corn and make tortillas from scratch. You will also learn about basic chocolate production and sample all you help create. The second visit is with the Chiac family. These Mayan artisans will discuss their work with palm trees and how they make hammocks. Explore traditional Mayan medicines, crafts, and culture.
Stroll north of Placencia Village to Seine Bight and experience the Garifuna culture in this village of approximately 1,000 inhabitants. Many of the traditional houses are on stilts. Enjoy the culture, beaches, and beautiful swimming areas. The village is primarily comprised of Garinagu, devoted Roman Catholics, and villages perform traditional drumming, dancing, and singing.
Local artists and craftsmen display paintings, straw hats, woven baskets, and dolls. Discover the wildlife carvings that are also hand-painted. Dine on traditional Garinagu foods such as darasa, fried fish, fried plantain, and bundiga. Savor pastries like coconut crust and powder buns.
Taste Belize Tours
Embrace Belize with your senses! Take a chocolate tour, cooking class, or rum tasting and discover the culinary Belize!
Experience hands-on, traditional Mayan chocolate-making, from bean to bar, and make your own chocolate! Local farmers grow the cacao certified organic beans. A local farmer will explain the chocolate-making process, detailing how the beans are extracted from the pods, fermented, and dried. Roast your own cacao bean on a clay griddle and make chocolate on the Mayan grinding stone. Taste the flavor of your very own chocolate and understand how traditional Mayan chocolate is meant to be savored.
Harvest Caye Spice Farm and Tropical Botanical Garden
Enjoy a 45-minute ride to a tropical paradise in southern Belize. The Spice Farm at the Golden Stream Plantation was established in 1990 and opened to the public in 2011. A visiting couple from India noticed the similarities in Belizean climate to India and started the project. Take a guided tour of the property for a one-of-a-kind sensory experience. The tour is approximately one mile with stops to taste exotic fruits such as jackfruits and mangos.
Enjoy the heady aromas of the ethnic spices such as cardamom, nutmeg, and clove. Encounter unusual trees such as the cashew, aji, and nellipuli. Be delighted by flowering plants like hibiscus, jasmine, and Ixora. The Spice Farm is also one of the largest vanilla and black pepper farms in the country, surrounded by teak, rosewood, mahogany, and sandalwood trees. A trolley is available for those with limited mobility and makes limited stops for riders to experience the farm.
Shopping at Placencia Municipal Pier
Shop for gifts, local arts and crafts, and tours at the Placencia Municipal Pier. The pier was gifted to Placencia Village so the villagers could enjoy the harbor and help the local economy grow. Dine at one of the restaurants on the pier and meet many tours for mainland Belize.
Enjoy tropical temperatures year-round with highs up to 87 degrees and lows of 77 degrees (Fahrenheit). The rainy season starts from July through November. The best time to visit Belize is the dry season, from November through April.
Speak Like a Local
Feel like a local when you understand the lingo. Following are some popular Belizean Kriol phrases:
- Gud maanin! – Good morning!
- Weh di gaan an? – What’s up?
- Weh yuh naym? – What’s your name?
- Da weh time? – What time is it?
- Fu chroo? – Really?
- Mi love Bileez! – I love Belize!
No matter what you do in Harvest Caye, you’re bound to have a great time at this memorable, cruise ship destination.
This guest post was written by Tammy Wunsch.