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Belize Review (nmc)


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Before Jamcruise Sarah and I went to Belize here is the review Sarah wrote:

Almost six months after our wedding, Chad and I

felt it was high time to finally embark on our

honeymoon! Even before our wedding, we decided

to wait for a winter belated get-away so we could

leave cold Toronto for a sunnier climate. We

knew our destination would be south of the border

(OK – south of the US border), on a beach, within

close reach to snorkeling and other “adventure”

spots, but not be too rugged or “hard core.”

While we considered Costa Rica and Panama for a

jungle adventure, we decided those places would

be a bit too adventuresome for a much-needed

relaxing honeymoon. Alas, we discovered Belize –

a small country in Central America just south of

the Mexican Yucatan that has beaches and some of

the best snorkeling in this hemisphere. As a

bonus, English is Belize’s first language and

they use the US dollar as an equivalent currency.

We chose Ambergris Caye (pronounced “key” – like

a Florida Key), an island just off the Belizean

coast, as our destination.

I love the feeling of walking off a plane in

December and feeling a warm, humid breeze against

my face – just the experience we had in Belize

City. The international airport is on the

mainland coast, so we boarded a small

puddle-jumper flight to reach Ambergris Caye.

The view from the island flight gave us a taste

of the next 9 days: clear blue water dotted with

coral reefs, sandy islands with palm trees, and

dots of small developed areas.

San Pedro is the small town on Ambergris, and our

hotel was about a mile or so south of the town.

The town is low-rise – no Waikiki high-rise

developments, no huge resort complexes – and all

the streets are sand (with the exception of a few

strips laid with concrete patio pavers).

However, shops, bars, restaurants, a few grocery

stores, and dive shops are closely-packed within

a ¼ mile square area that hugs the beach and

feels somewhat congested with residents and

tourists – but despite the “crowd” we never felt

unsafe or clausterphobic in town. Most people

walk or ride bikes on the sandy streets. Those

in a hurry or less physically inclined, use golf

carts. The only cars on the island are Toyota

Previa mini-vans used as taxis!

Banana Beach Resort was our hotel home on the

island. “Resort” is used loosely – do not

confuse a Belizean resort with the kind you’d

find on other Caribbean islands or in Hawaii, as

Belize is much more laid-back. Our room had a

large bedroom, clean bathroom, small kitchen with

dining table, a couch and a TV, and overlooked

the courtyard patio. Just a few steps from the

pool was the beach and beach bar. There was also

a nice restaurant on the street-side of the hotel

which offers “gringo” food and hints of local


The “beach” on Ambergris is a continuous strip of

sand about 15 ft wide that lines the island. All

portions of the beach are public. In fact, Chad

and I found it easier to walk to town along the

beach than dodging the bikes, carts, vans, and

pot holes in the streets! The water is shallow

for at least 20-30 feet off the shoreline, and

due to the reef about a mile offshore, the water

is calm with little to no wave action – perfect

for a quick dip after a pina colada!

There are many dive shops/travel shops on the

island to meet all of your diving, snorkeling,

boating, fishing, and excursion needs. We didn’t

pre-plan or pre-book anything before we left

Toronto, and we were never denied a day-trip due

to overbooking while on the island. Basically,

you can call or walk into a shop to sign up for

an excursion the day before you wanted to go. We

used the travel shop at our hotel to book

excursions, as it was convenient and prices

between them and other shops were the same or

within a few dollars.

As advertised, the snorkeling in Belize is

incredible! We took 3 half-day trips to various

sites within a 20-minute to 1-hour boat ride from

San Pedro. Mexico Rocks is a site with lots of

corral and fish; Hol-Chan Marine Reserve boasts

sting rays (we floated about 3 feet above a

“flock” of rays!) and loggerhead turtles; and

Coral Gardens displays various types of coral and

small fish. We even saw 2 nurse sharks at Coral

Gardens – yikes! Even though it was fairly windy

and we had a couple of rainstorms during our

trip, the water was always fairly clear and

yielded excellent visibility.

We also took a day trip to a Mayan ruin site

called Lamanai on the mainland. The trip to the

site through mangrove-lined winding rivers was

almost as cool as the site itself! Our guides

had incredible eyes and pointed out various

birds, flowers, and animals during the trip. The

ruin itself was amazing – tall, stone temples in

fairly good condition after several excavation

and conservation campaigns.

Another non-snorkeling excursion took us to a

marine reserve that is home to about 30 manatees.

Although it took a while for our guides to spot

these elusive sea cows, we finally found a spot

where a manatee surfaced several times. He was a

big one --- about 10 feet long! The trip also

went to Caye Caulker (somewhat less developed

than Ambergris, but become a hot destination)

where the guides showed us a very well-concealed

sea horse among the sea grass.

On our last full day on the island, we went reef

fishing with an old guide named Abel. He took us

to several natural and artificial reefs (that he

built himself) loaded with snappers. Although no

fish were much bigger than 10-12” long, they were

abundant and it was really fun reeling them in.

After about 3 hours of fishing, we hauled in

about 40 fish which Abel gave away to local


Beyond the beach, I found one of the best

experiences during our trip was meeting the

locals and many ex-pat Americans and Canadians on

the island. On our first day, we hunted out

“Crazy Canucks Beach Bar”, owned by a couple from

Calgary. While there on several occasions, we

met some really interesting characters: Heather

and Paul from Vancouver who now own the only

fresh-coffee roasters on the island, Captain Ed

from Victoria BC who helped set up tug boat and

barge service to the island years ago, and

Michael from Wisconsin who comes down a few

months of the year to just chill out. We also

met the owner of PepperOni pizza – the best pizza

on the island!

Speaking of food, we were most impressed with the

inexpensive local fare: chicken and beef

burritos (rice, beans, meat, cabbage in a fresh

tortilla), coconut rice, salbutes (fried tortilla

topped with chicken, cabbage and tomato). The

seafood was good too – just beware of “BBQ fish”,

which ends up being fish with BBQ sauced dumped

on it! Our favorite food shack was called

Antijitos, just a short walk from our hotel. It

looks like a shack and it is, but the food is

marvelous, cheap, and we got the “bonus” of

watching Spanish-language soap operas while

eating our meals!

In summary, Ambergris Caye gets a “double thumbs

up” rating as a primo honeymoon or general

vacation destination. Everything and everyone is

laid-back, relaxed, and very island-style. Shoes

are optional, and shorts/T-shirts are acceptable

everywhere. Once you pay your airfare and hotel

bill, you can stay quite comfortable fairly

inexpensively (depending on your bar tab and

number of excursions you take). I would

definitely return, and I would recommend

Ambergris to anyone: adventurers, older folk,

parents and kids, etc. It’s unBELIZEable!!




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