There are a number of guides available for hire right at the tender pier. If you do not book a shore excursion, I would certainly engage a guide to show you around. If your plan is to just wander around, there isn't much to see right at the port.
How much walking and climbing is required? I broke my leg back in March and my cruise is in July. I have not been released by the DR to start walking yet so I am concerned I will not be able to hike that far. This excursion sound so good it would be a shame to miss it.
John - I might wait to see how your leg has healed and how much stamina you have before you leave. The walk is not difficult, but it does require some minimal climbing and it is a good 20-30 minute hike (depending on the speed of the group).
Two years ago, my husband and I did the Wilderness Adventure Tour booked thru RCCL in Belize. It was fabulous, and worth every penny. I didn't want to venture off on our own (though we have done that in locations such as St. Thomas, St. Maarten)... saw their wildlife sanctuary (primitive), had a great local lunch at a restaurant (try the Belizan beer), and then onto a covered, opensided barge to go down Old Belize River to see manatees, iguanas, howler monkeys, bats, crocodiles. Fabulous! One of the best excursions we've ever had on a cruise!
We did Belize (sort of) on our own. When we docked it was lightly raining, but still warm and we were glad we didn't spend a mint on a ship's excursion to be rained upon.
We walked into the port and bypassed the usual assortment of vendors and tour guides. We walked the streets, enjoyed the foliage and tried to keep dry. We found a little shop that sold local handicrafts at about 1/2 of the price of those at the pier.
We eventually wound up near the 'core' area and relented to a private tour to get out of the rain. Our tour guide, Andre, was great, he drove all over the town, took us to an old church, the government buildings, and even the not so pretty (but more authentic) areas. We went to see schools (kids were so cute in their uniforms) and even 'allowed' him to pick up a friend of his son who was walking in the rain. He also took us to the Post Office to buy stamps for our collection (we NEVER would have found it on our own).
It was great fun! It cost us about $15 US for the tour (+tip).
RCI Sovereign of the Seas 2005
Caribbean Princess 2005
Carnival Paradise 2004