It's Belize's best-known venture into the world of international entertainment. Having begun life as San Pedro's Sea and Air Festival and quickly rechristened with the name Costa Maya, the annual bash on the beach is set to kick off on August sixteenth. Jacqueline Woods has a preview.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
The festivities have been trimmed into a more compact package, but this year's Costa Maya should be more fun than ever.

Melanie Paz, Director, Costa Maya
"Actually the format of the Costa Maya Festival has been cut down to actually four days this year. The reason being is that we find the people, especially the people from the mainland, find it quite difficult to go to the island for that many days. So instead of having a country for each night for six different nights we are going to have four days of very packed full entertaining nights this year."

A highlight of the festival will be the Reina de la Costa Maya beauty pageant on Thursday, August sixteenth. On Wednesday night the ladies, who will be representing the five Mundo Maya countries, gathered in Belize City where they were introduced to the media.

Over the next several days, the contestants will be touring the country and preparing themselves for the pageant.

Charlotte Romero, Pageant Co-ordinator
"Tomorrow they are going to visit Altun Ha they are going to visit the different places in Belize City. After that they will be flying to San Pedro where they will be taken to different places to go swimming, picnics. Then they are going to have rehearsals and there is going to be a San Pedro Night where they will be introduced to the people in San Pedro."

The ladies have been socialising with one another, getting to know about the various Mundo Maya destinations. One thing they have in common is their desire to win the title.

Melina Diaz, Miss Belize
"I believe that we are all queens first of all. But why I would want this title it is my first time in any sort of pageant affair and I think I am going to do my best so if I do receive the crown it will be well deserved."

Erika Lizeth Ramirez, Miss Honduras
"I want everyone to become aware of all the beautiful things that the Mayan people have created-all their hard work and sacrifices."

Evelyn Lopez, Miss Guatemala
"Well I think it is a very important crown and I will feel so happy and because I was prepared for it. I dedicate a lot of time to this and I have been in pageants a lot of times."

Mirella Onate Castillo, El Salvador
"You should be crowned because of your knowledge and your ideas about the Maya culture. Not about looks or colour, because people are not about looks and colour they are much more than that."

On hand at the presentation ceremony, was the reigning Miss Costa Maya, Sandra Glower of El Salvador. Glower says while she understands why all the girls would like to win, she advises them to keep it all in perspective.

Sandra Glower, Outgoing Queen
"To be yourself, to be comfortable an do not try to copy anyone, to be humble and just to have fun."

Miss Mexico, Evelyn Esther Pacheco was not present at the ceremony. We understand she is not feeling well, but is expected to be in the country on the weekend.

Most San Pedro hotels are offering special rates for the festival, but it helps to make reservations as early as possible.