Hooray! Belize now has its own Rough Guide. In the past, Belize has been combined with Guatemala in one edition. The new Belize edition, by Peter Eltringham (who co-authored the old Guatemala-Belize guide and has a hand in several other of Rough Guides to Mexico and Central America) is a tour de force of relentless research, timely info and sharp writing.
I want to try to explain why this is such a good guide. But first, let's get something out of the way -- the name. Many North American reader still think the Rough Guides, published in London, are for budget travelers. In fact, as I understand it, the name Rough is an Anglicism meant to suggest that it is an approximation, an expected plan, as in a "rough plan." The Rough Guides, of which there are now more than a hundred, are definitely not just for travelers who are "roughing it." In fact, they cover all levels of travel, from budget to upmarket. A name change awhile back didn't stick, and the guides now go by the name by which they're known to experience travelers the world over, Rough Guides.
Anyway, back to the new guide to Belize. Peter Eltringham first came to Belize with the Royal Air Force. He's been just about everywhere in Belize and knows it inside out. Turn to any section, and his recommendations on hotels, restaurants and what to do are almost always spot on. Although he's generous -- occasionally to a fault -- with hotels he likes, Peter can be blunt: He's willing to call a hotel overpriced when it is or to point out the illegal cutting of mangroves by resort developers.
This guide is especially good on lesser-known destinations such as the southern cayes or Corozal District. There's also a helpful section on Tikal and one on the Honduras Bay Islands, though this latter section was written before Hurricane Mitch and is therefore nearly useless. A section called Contexts offers insightful information on Belize history, music, literature and other subjects.
In short, this is a must-carry for anyone traveling in Belize.