More than four centuries ago, the British began importing slaves from Africa to work on plantations in the Caribbean. Over time, these people began intermarrying with local Carib and Arawak natives, developing a new culture called the Garifuna.
After rebelling against the British, the Garifuna were pursued throughout the Caribbean. First landing on the island of Roatan (part of modern Honduras) where they adopted cassava into their diet, the Garifuna eventually arrived on the shores of Belize on November 19, 1802.
Every year, this momentous occasion is commemorated with the national holiday of Garifuna Settlement Day. Re-enactments of the historic voyage begin at dawn, and the rest of the day continues with a celebration of the music, food, dances, and culture of the Garifuna people. Dancers wearing elaborate head masks and ropes of shells fill the street while drummers beat out the rhythm of traditional Garifuna music or rock out to the strains of punta music, a style of music that blends African rhythms with reggae. Everywhere you go, Garifuna food favorites like cassava bread, hudut (a soup made from fish and bananas), and dharasa (a kind of tamale made with green bananas) is served on this day that celebrates all things Garifuna.
Located just outside the town of San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye, the award-winning resort of Banyan Bay is an excellent place to stay in Belize. The resort features one of the top restaurants in the country, luxuriously-appointed villas, concierge services, and a complete range of spa services.
After enjoying the festivities, guests can explore the beaches on the island or head to nearby popular spots on the Belize Barrier Reef, including Shark Ray Alley and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a mecca for snorkeling, sailing, and scuba diving.