When coming to Belize by boat, many travellers arriving at Punta Gorda don´t pay attention to the relaxed little town in the south of the country. Ususally they immediately jump onto a bus going to the main tourist spots. At least so did all of my companions arriving with me at the docks. But there are good reasons to spend some nights here.
The villages and their well preserved archaeological Mayan-sites provide lots of information and in the remote villages you will find opportunities to experience Mayan culture and enjoy the natural beauty of Belize. Using Punta Gorda as a starting point travellers can visit lots of places which are easily accessible in a day trip. When using public transportation they can save a lot of money instead of booking guided tours, which are more comfortable but really expensive.
You can stay either in one of the hostels or make your way to Franklin Castro (firstname.lastname@example.org / +501 722-0401), where you can find more comfortable rooms, a stunning view over the town and the sea. Frank lives in a uniqiue building right at the town centre and offers rooms as well as an apartment. You will find hot showers, TV, WiFi, a fridge and a welcoming host. And you will have a shady place in the hammock to relax in.
Before it comes to my suggestions, find here some information about Punta Gorda as well as the places to see nearby.
To visit Nim Li Punit take the James Bus (leaving daily at several times) to Belize City. You can get off at the highway and then walk for 1 km to the small site, then get on the bus north again to Golden Stream where you can find a spice farm offering tours as well as some waterfalls and natural pools in the village (it´s a 15 minute walk).
Buses to San Pedro Columbia leave from Monday to Saturday. Here you can refresh in the river and explore the bigger Mayan Site of Labantuun. At the Agouti Chocolate Farm you can learn all about Cacao and Chocolate. On the way to the remote Maya-villages you will also find an aboretum where you can explore ecofarming and local plants.
In Blue Creek, which you can only reach on specific days, you will find the Mayan Centre of Learning which is mainly frequented by foreign students. For more adventure check out the canopy walk and jungle tours.
It is useful to call the places you want to go to in advance, they will tell you when the buses (especially back to PG) are leaving.