One of the newest ports in the western Caribbean cruise itinerary for Norwegian Cruise Line guests is the brand-new Harvest Caye Port. Opened to the public in November 2016, the 75-acre island features plenty of facilities and activities to have fun on. Such as the 15,000 square foot swimming pool. A 1300-foot-long zip line which is 136 feet above the ground and a beautiful 7-acre white sandy beach. It’s no wonder there are so many things to do in Harvest Caye, Belize.
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Owned exclusively by Norwegian Cruise Line, this cruise port justifies the $50 million and the 4 years of hard labor that was spent creating it. The non-tendering port could be one of the most authentic Caribbean cruise port there is. And probably the reason why it was voted the best new cruise port in the Caribbean in 2017.
Norwegian Cruise Line partnered with the government of Belize to make this cruise port as authentic as possible. So, forget big shopping names like Diamond Internationals. NCL made sure that all the 400-staff working on the island are locals. And that all the restaurants, amenities and shopping stores are locally owned. Even the materials used to construct the man-made port were sourced locally from Belize.
A Glimpse into Harvest Caye Port
On arriving at the port, you are greeted by the lush greens of Belize’s forests, a lighthouse landmark, and the beautiful port itself. Even though this is not a tendering island, the ship still docks some yards away from the shore. Leaving you to go on a long walk on the long pier connecting you from the ship to the port.
NCL was nice enough though to have the pier canopied, to protect you from the glaring sun of the Caribbean. It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk down the pier depending on your speed. But you can always hitch a ride on the golf carts wheezing up and down the pier if you don’t want to walk the long distance.
The port’s entrance is lined with mist jets that spray you with water keeping you cool and moisturized in the Caribbean heat. The paved paths lead to different facilities available on the island, starting with the shopping area which features shops like Moho chocolates, Rum testing center and other small shops that sell jewelry, t-shirts, perfumes, handwoven items and beautiful paintings.
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Note: You have to carry cash or a credit card to shop or purchase anything even a meal on the island, your ship card is not accepted at the port, but required for onboarding the ship once the day is over.
At the center of the port is a directions board, that shows you where to find everything on the island. To the left of it is the excursions pavilion which joins the marina where you take boat transfers to Belize’s mainland. This is where all the excursions start from.
At the center of the cruise port area, behind the directions board is the Blue Morpho butterfly and wildlife/nature sanctuary. This is a free nature park, where you can visit and learn about Harvest Caye’s flora and fauna.
To the right of the center is a giant swimming pool area, the beach, the lagoon, a kid’s splash pad, the Landshark Bar, and Grill. Here is where you will probably spend your day if you haven’t booked any excursions.
Further down the island, you will get to the lighthouse called the Flight House where the 1300-foot-long zip line course starts from. Right next to the lighthouse is the start point of the lagoon, which is famous for kayaking and paddle boarding.
Things to do in Harvest Caye, Belize
With all these facilities, Harvest Caye features a lot of fun packed activities for you to enjoy on your port day. So, here are:
1. Hang Out, Dance and Relax at the Swimming Pool
To the right of the welcome center is a 15,000 square foot swimming pool. This swimming pool is one of the best we have seen on a cruise port. It’s huge, beautifully designed and featuring an under the bridge section, a swim-up bar with several in-water seating mimicking an open-air restaurant in the water.
There are plenty of lounge chairs surrounding the pool, for you to relax in. Palm trees are featured widely at the swimming pool area, even within the swimming pool, to provide shade and also gives you a beach-like sort of vibe.
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If you love to dance then you will enjoy energetic Caribbean dance music played at the Landshark restaurant right next to the pool. If you fancy some privacy away from the crowds, there are several pool-facing cabanas available. Their prices start anywhere from $250 a day. They are air-conditioned, and feature lounge chairs, a couch, mini fridge, a personal concierge and a private shower stand. There are shaded pool beds as well, for you to enjoy your port day, like a boss.
2. Relax at the Beach
If the pool isn’t for you. Head on to the beach, grab a lounge chair, put on some sunscreen and enjoy your beach day. Behind, the pool area, across the pavement is a 7-acre beach lined up with at least 2,500 lounge chairs.
The beach features white man-made sand, made from crushed seashells. The ocean provides warm turquoise blue ocean waters common to the Caribbean. There is plenty of shade available from the many palm trees present on the beach. But for more comfort, there are clamshells available for rent at $30 a unit, a day.
Hammocks are few and if you want to snooze in one, you will have to arrive at the cruise port early. Rent a float pad and float in the warm waters all day long. Get competitive on a game of beach volleyball if you are feeling active. Or play jumbo-sized chess on a chess mat, with chess pieces the size of a 3-year-old.
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3. Kids Splash Pad
A bit further along the pavement dividing the pool and beach area is a kid’s splash zone. If you have kids, then this is the place they will want to spend their day. It’s filled with fun water toys like slides and a giant barrel that dumps water on the kids every few minutes so that they enjoy a waterfall-like experience.
4. Visit the Nature Park
To spice things up a little bit, NCL added a plant and wildlife sanctuary on this cruise port. The sanctuary is home to macaws, toucans, butterflies, snakes, and other small animals. It’s free to visit this nature park, where you’ll get to see and learn about this species of animals that are indigenous to the island.
One thing you will notice, from the moment you visit this port, is its beautiful flowers and plants, which make the island very colorful, giving it a tropical Caribbean scent. You will find out more about these flowers and plants at the wildlife sanctuary.
You should also visit the Blue Morpho Butterfly Sanctuary while at the park. This secluded area features hundreds of various beautiful butterfly species. A highlight of a visit to the sanctuary could be how beautiful the butterflies look when they fly around in the glass house.
5. Zipline Across Harvest Caye
One of the most famous things to do on Harvest Caye is ziplining. The zipline course starts from the top of the majestic lighthouse and runs crisscross Harvest Caye. You will soar 100 feet above the port and get a bird’s eye view of the pool, port area and over the waters, seeing as far as the coral reefs and the Mayan mountainsides of Belize.
The zip line is 1,300 feet long, you can choose to zip line in the Superman position or seating upright. All in all, you will want to take this ride. It will give you a dose of adrenaline that will last for days and a once in a lifetime kind of experience that will give you a lasting memory.
Anyone can take the ride except pregnant women, people with heart challenges and any other physical condition that might not allow you do it safely. This activity will cost you from $89 an adult or $69 a kid.
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6. Relax at Beachfront Cabanas
Some of the most beautiful beachfront villas in the Caribbean are found on Harvest Caye. The beachfront villas are air-conditioned, well furnished, with a couch, TV, mini fridge, a private bathroom, outside shower stand, beach loungers, hammock, beach chairs, fresh towels, a golf cart for the day and a personal concierge.
If you want to enjoy a more private beach experience then for $499 or more, you can enjoy a beachfront cabana and a piece of the beach all to yourself or with 5 more people.
7. Kayak or Paddle Board at the Salt Lagoona
Belize is among the fortunate islands of the Caribbean that have access to the Mesoamerican coral reef. It is the 2nd largest in the world and as such the waters that surround the island, are filled with colorful sea life. Take a trip to the lagoon and kayak or paddleboard on the salt Lagoona which is home to various species of sea animals. Or take a boat tour of the lagoon and view the sea folk while enjoying the cool sea breeze.
8. Taste and Drink Belize
Contrary to common practice in privately owned cruise ports. Norwegian Cruise Line and all its affiliate cruise lines don’t offer a free lunch or extend your drink package on this port. Instead, meals are bought from the Landshark grill and bar restaurant. This restaurant, an affiliate of Jimmy Buffet’s restaurants, is locally owned by one of the top restaurant’s owner in Belize (Known as Provision).
NCL did this as an agreement with the government of Belize so that the people of Belize could get some form of economic compensation going on from this tourist site in their country.
Found right at the pool area, this two-storied restaurant with ample air-conditioned seating places is where you can grab a delicious foot-long-fish sandwich, chicken wings, grilled chicken, fried shrimp, salads or ceviche, a traditional Belizean delicacy.
The island also has 4 bars, the rum coco bar, Cat 5 bar, hurricane bar and the laughing bird bar. Where you can grab cold coconut themed cocktail drinks or cold Belikin beer from. The prices for a cocktail range anywhere from $9-12, while a beer costs $5. In any case, you always have the option of returning to the ship for lunch and snacks if you feel that the food on the island is pricey.
9. Shop and Carry a Little Piece of Belize with You
NCL, tried to make shopping on this island as authentic as possible. Most of the shops in the market area are locally owned and sell locally made goods. Visit the market area to get yourself handcrafted souvenirs, beautiful paintings, jewelry, perfume, t-shirts, rum or chocolate.
Right after you enter the port you will come into the market area, where you will be greeted by Moho Chocolates a local shop selling chocolates and soaps made from Belize cocoa beans. A checker matt selling cool Caribbean themed t-shirts, a rum testing center, where they sell exotic rums, wines, and spirits and many more stalls and carts selling various crafts. Enjoy shopping here and carry home a little piece of Belize.
Harvest Caye Excursions
10. Lagoon, Savannah Wildlife, and Mangrove Estuaries Tour
This one and half hour excursion will begin with you taking a boat at Harvest Caye’s Marina. A friendly professional guide and an experienced captain will then take you on a tour of the lagoon and mangrove estuaries.
Here you will get to explore tropical wildlife at its home. You might sight animals such as the Manatees grazing by or in the waters. On the narrow estuaries, you will get to learn all about the plants (both in water and land) and the wildlife at this place.
This is a soothing trip that is also informative, it will leave you refreshed and more knowledgeable. Prices range on sail dates so best check yours from NCL for your planned cruise date.
11. Visit the Mayan Temple at Nim LI Punit
Discover how ancient Mayans used to live, their practices and rituals in their drawings and writings at the Mayan Ruins. This Mayan ruin site found in Belize’s Jungle was named Nim Li Punit meaning “Large Hat” in Mayan Kekchi language, because of a drawing discovered of the Mayan ruler wearing a large hat-like article on his head.
These beautiful ruins that give a glimpse into ancient civilization also feature a museum and a welcome center. The museum has some of the larger stelas, with well-kept Mayan drawings and writings. You can find artifacts and other cool historical tidbits at this museum.
The ruins site also has a ball court and an observatory in one of the plazas. Enjoy a fresh look of the surrounding from the plaza. This excursion will start with you being taken on a 30-minute boat transfer to mainland Belize. From Belize, you will take a 1-hour air-conditioned bus trip to the ruins.
There are at least 100 steps to negotiate at the ruins. But good thing, the ruins lie under a canopy of trees. Which makes it convenient to explore the area in a comfortable manner, away from the glaring Caribbean sun. Exploring the Mayan Ruins at Harvest Caye will cost you from $99 for Adults and $79 for kids and the price will vary with cruise dates.
12. Go on a Rainforest River Tubing Adventure
Explore the rainforests of Belize while floating on a tube in the spring-fed jungle river. For just $99 an adult or $69 a kid (8 years and above) you will get to go on this thrilling adventure.
Located deep in the jungles of Belize is the Big Falls Outpost privately owned eco-lodge property where the excursion is featured. You will be taken on a 15 minutes boat ride off Harvest Caye, to Belize mainland, where you will get on to an air-conditioned bus that will take you to the excursion.
The one-and-a-half-hour bus ride will take you through beautiful quaint Belizean villages such as Mango creek which was a sawmill settlement in the early 1940’s. All this while the charming and professional guides, narrate to you about the history and cultural practices of the people of Belize. You will also have a view of the Mayan mountains where the ruins are located and go through pine and hardwood forests.
Once you get there, you will be given life vests, a tube and start the adventure. At the end of the excursion, you will go on a short 5-minute educational nature trail walk back to big falls outpost. Where you can change, purchase authentic Mayan handicrafts, photos, souvenirs or even get lunch if hungry, before being taken back to the ship.
Note: The river offers faster rides during rainy seasons and slower rides during the dry season.
Parasail hundreds of feet above Belize waters on a parasailing adventure. This adrenaline-fun-packed activity will leave you with a very memorable experience.
Similar to all other excursions, you will be taken to the Marina, where a flight-crew will give you orientation and safety briefing. Once you are prepared, you will start your adventure soaring high above the waters of the island having a panoramic view of the entire island, the surrounding waters and the beautiful coral reefs up ahead while being towed by a boat.
Anyone past the age of 8, who meets the physical conditions necessary, can take this ride for only $99 per person including kids.
To finalize on this article, find out which are the best times to visit this Caribbean paradise, below:
Harvest Caye Belize Weather
Harvest Caye, receives tropical temperatures all throughout the year, with highs of up to 87° and lows of 77° Fahrenheit. The temperature doesn’t vary widely and only fluctuates by about 10° Fahrenheit all throughout the year. The rainy season starts from July to November. The best time to visit Harvest Caye is from late November to mid-April, this is the dry season on the island, where the skies are clear and the sun is out. Another good time is just before the onset of rainfall in May to mid-June.
While this article gives you a glimpse into the wonder of the new NCL port that is Harvest Caye, there are a lot more things to do in nearby Belize.
Consult with your cruise line on snorkeling and scuba excursions, which if taken to the best sites, Belize is known to be one of the best diving spots in the world, including the famous Blue Hole of Belize.
So, there you have it, folks, 12 things to do in Harvest Caye, Belize. Remember to enjoy yourself and relax. Happy Cruising!!