If you ever want sneak off to a place that speaks of serene beauty and tropical relaxation, just south of Mexico is a small country formerly known as the British Honduras. Belize boasts a warm year round climate, white sand beaches and fascinating outdoor adventure for the interests of all ages. A go-to spot for newlywed couples and families for years, Belize has been attracting more diverse groups, like ours, year round. The summer is a typically low-season time-frame but the annual Costa Maya Culture & Music Festival is a definite worthy attraction in August. Our bags are packed – let’s go….
Once your international flight arrives on the mainland, you’ll need to get over Ambergris Caye (pronounced “key”). For the natives a 2-hour ferry ride is in order, but the quickest route for visiting vacationers is by “puddle-jumper”. Have your digital camera ready – there’s some great views of Belize Bay to capture during the 15 minute flight. Within minutes of landing your headed with bags in tow to meet your hotel pickup and your Belize adventure begins…
San Pedro is the main community on Ambergris and has all the makings of any southern town found in the US. There’s a serene, majestic feel to it with a town square, boutique shops, supermarkets, family restaurants, clubs and live music bars. The energy is laid back. The attitude is relaxed. No need to worry about the world you left behind while your on “La Isla Bonita”. Dress accordingly. Just chill.
Just south of San Pedro’s main strip was our resort, The Villas at Bayan Bay. The Bayan Bay property has 60 condo-style 1200 square foot suites with capacity for up to 4 adults each, a swimming pool and a private beach. A full service restaurant is steps away, if you don’t wish to cook in your room. Even better, you can arrange all of your personal or family water-sport, fishing, and Mayan adventure tours with ease right on site.
Kicking back ….
After getting situated in your room and recharged a bit, grab a seat at the restaurant or pool and ask the Bayan Bay staff to suggest their most popular food dishes at Rico’s. Why? Because the first point of interest in Belize is to sample the local signature lunch and dinner favorites. You see, the Belizian chefs are masterful with their choice of spices and seafood and many of the eateries are family run.
While the sun is high, take a dip in the property pool or pull up a deck chair under a palm tree to escape the penetrating rays. The pleasant sea breeze will do just the trick to get you feeling at home. Make certain to keep the pool hostesses busy with tropical drink requests during this first afternoon. Not a bad start to your getaway!
The days can be long and lazy, but dusk sets in on Ambergris and that’s a good time venture into town for a while. Take a nice stroll along the beach to get near the nightlife or hail a taxi passing down the main road. My personal recommendation, is to rent a golf cart from the hotel desk. Golf carts are the primary choice of private transportation next to bicycles here. If you have a family or group, cart rentals will add to the whole experience of Belize.
Downtown San Pedro is known for it’s choice of restaurants. You are almost assured to not be disappointed with any choice, but Elvi’s Kitchen and Caramba are two of my picks. Try any selection of the Mayan fish at Caramba’s – you’ll see what I mean!
The excitement of the start of the Costa Maya Festival weekend gets everyone here in an upbeat mood. Lots of Belizeans from the mainland venture over to the island to enjoy the festival as well. Most people are walking about, watching the street performers in the square and bar hopping to pass the time. Our group’s first nite ended hearing some great live music at Fido’s. Fido’s always has a great mix of locals and tourists hanging out there. Some nights feature a live DJ or reggae band, but the bartenders are friendly, engaging and are excellent at introducing newcomers to Fido’s Specialty Drink Shot Menu. This is a fun place, especially after a few shots, lol.
Sailing, Snorkeling & Dancing ….
Friday, is the best day before the weekend to get out early for a trip over to the neighboring island of Caye Caulker (pronounced Key Kaulker). The shopping and food are supposed be a bit cheaper there, but first there’s some blue ocean sub marine exploring to do.
If you’re a certified diver, that’s a plus, but for the novice ocean dweller, barrier reef snorkeling will be a perfect adventure. Get your group to take up a nice positions around every available area of the catamaran, the sail and snorkel swims will last a few hours at minimum. Mingle amongst your party, sun bath or even catch up on some sleep to fill most of your time, as the ship pilot ferry’s us out to the drop points. Once you get your basic instruction, the underwater world of this reef comes into full view. Take a nice water camera (digital or disposable), you won’t want to miss any of the critters swimming below and near you – it’s truly amazing. Did I mention the second part of the snorkel swim is in shark & sting ray alley? Oh, yes, make a note please. Not everyone will opt to participate in that snorkel dive, but those who do won’t forget it!
After 90 minutes around the reef, the catarman speeds (speeding is relative since it is wind powered) over to the next highlight of the day, a visit to Caye Kaulker. Caye Kaulker is not as large or vibrant as Ambergris, but quite charming in it’s own right and has a really small town feel. You can grab your choice of good eats here and find those unique shopping items along the roadside without the tourist pricing. Have extra sunscreen and good walking shoes handy to stroll thru the white sand streets. We found a few quaint bars along the main road and the homemade ice cream shops are excellent! Relax in the shade and enjoy a long conversation with the locals, but keep track of the time – the boat captain is strict about the afternoon departure time. Your day tour ends with a nice sunset sail back to Ambergis Caye! Rest and freshen up when your back at your room…the weekend nightlife begins tonite.
The location of where you have chosen to stay while in Belize makes all the difference for your choice of activities (if you choose to be active, lol). Most beach front resorts or bed & breakfast inns are close to the action in San Pedro town. Walk along the beach and you’ll find a number of small family-run restaurants. Our resort was home to one of the most popular places, Rico’s Grill. The annual Costa Maya Festival is in full swing now. Cultural performances, amusements, a beauty pageant and even a midnite reggae concert are enough to keep the native islanders excited. The center center of town will be buzzing. Bring your dancing shoes. The performance by this year’s headliner, Kevyn Little, was quite entertaining, and I think we got to sleep sometime after 3am that night.
Jungle Deep ….
We’d barely enough time to get dressed after the getting in from the concert when it was time to get up. Saturday ecotour activities are big a highlight of any vacation trip. Our guide for the day, Daniel Nunez, was already waiting at the hotel dock for the 7am pickup. Off we go…..speeding across the bay…this time back towards the northern river coast of the mainland. It’s very soothing to ride along the open blue water in the early morning hours. A school of dolphins got a kick out of our ride too, playing and jumping in the wake of our boat. This was pretty cool to experience up close – another reason to have your camera at the ready.
Breakfast was served, while we navigated the twisting jungle river topography. Next were shuffled into a van for a long scenic drive through the countryside. Danny gave us a lot of history on Belize during this time and shared folk stories about the early colonial settlers here. This makes for a great conversation. The final leg along the jungle river is awe-inspiring, you are in the heart of nature’s beauty. The arrival at our destination needs no announcement….when you get close, you’ll know. It’s almost like you can feel ancient spirits that once lived there waiting to greet you. Then, peeking out just behind the tree tops is the Mayan city of Lamanai.
Hidden way back in the jungle canopy the remnants of a fascinating culture exist for adventurists to see. Centuries old history & architecture excavated and unburied in plain view. The size of the building structures are impressive. Surprisingly, 75% of the city is still hidden in the earth and unseen. So many questions come to mind about the Mayan history while you visit here, you almost forget about the heat and humidity. For the fit and daring, take a climb (long rope provided) to the top of the High Temple. Over 100 feet up – the view is stunning, and not to be forgotten. Intriguing. Spiritual. Humbling. Well worth the 5 hour trek to get there and back. Wow, we got loads of great shots this day!
As a bonus to the day in the jungle, our tour guide/captain, invited us to his family’s restaurant for dinner that evening. We accepted and enjoyed a great meal at Hurricanes Ceviche Bar & Grill Restaurant. You see, Daniel is a 7th generation Belizian. He’s been fishing/sailing/touring these waters around Belize for years and has several businesses throughout the area. He even owns over 500 lobster traps and even built the speed boat we’d been riding in. Wow, this guy works non-stop, just so we (us visitors) don’t have to when we visit. I like that. Belize has good people and good vibes. Well it’s been a full day indeed, time to turn in or in our case, pass out. What will we do tomorrow? If could be another day of laid back activities or maybe we can finally do some jet skiing. No matter what, you get the general idea – the choices in Belize are boundless!
Now that you’ve heard it here from me and the Funky People Travel Group – add Belize to the top of your vacation list. It’s not just for couples anymore. It’s a great destination to come to/come back to. You’ll love it and the people. We’ll be back here again, real soon….Ciao for now Belize!
Check out the photos & videos from this trip in our media gallery!
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