Well I finally made it to Belize! Located in Central America, this country that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the jungle has been on my list for quite some time.
Firstly, because of it’s close proximity to Houston (you can’t beat a 2 1/2 hour nonstop flight from IAH) and second, because of my lifetime fascination and love for all things and anything marine or wildlife.
Getting To & Around Ambergris Caye
Little did I know my three-day adventure would begin as soon as I landed at the Belize Airport (BZE)! Our connecting flight to San Pedro (our destination and gateway into the island of Ambergris Caye), would be onboard an itty-bitty 14-passenger plane with Tropic Air. I’m not quite sure what I was envisioning but I will admit, I hadn’t been this scared of flying in a really long time. However, the amazing views from above calmed by nerves and as we crossed over the stunning Blue Hole of Belize, our 15-minute flight quickly came to an end. Whew! If you are not into the whole “tiny plane” thing , you can also take a ferry. A 75-minute boat ride was dipping way too much into my 3-day vacay so the not-so-scary plane was my ultimate choice.
Once you’re in San Pedro you’ll quickly realize how everyone gets around town. A majority of folks (including travelers) in Belize commute using golf carts. Not only is it a ton of fun driving on the sometimes unpaved streets, but you get to feel as though you are home and not just visiting. The locals are nice and I felt safe the entire time I was driving around the city; even in the evenings. Renting a golf cart is a requirement to round out your Belize experience. While zipping through the narrow streets at blazing speeds (not really) I made pit stops enjoying street food, dancing with the locals, shopping for gifts to take back home, and took a few shots to the head with some new friends I met along the way.
Eating & Drinking My Way Through San Pedro
Traveling to Belize during the hurricane season has it’s pros and cons. Well I visited smack dab in the middle of the peak “rainy season” (mid-September) and couldn’t have had a better time! However, after going through a devastating hurricane season here in Houston, I can see why many choose to visit during other times of the year. Of the three days I was there, it only rained on one evening and the weather during each day and on the other nights was absolute perfection. The fact that you may have your entire hotel/condo/resort to yourself is another plus along with the fact that the island slows down considerably which means the crazy crowds are minimal. Our stay at Pelican Reef Villas was just heavenly. And did I mention how inexpensive everything is during this time?
If there were any cons it would be the availability of the restaurants. About 30% of them closed right after Labor Day and didn’t open back up until late September/ early October making for slim pickings if you planned to stay longer than a week. But I enjoyed plenty of Belizean cuisine and had my fair share of tropical cocktails. There were enough restaurants that remained opened where I didn’t have to worry about visiting a place twice.
I made several stops to eat and drink my way through San Pedro over the course of 3 days. Elvi’s Kitchen blew me away with their blackened snapper served with stew beans and white rice. Caramba Restaurant let me pick my own fresh catch (you literally picked it out by hand yourself) and I had some of the best seafood soup I have ever tasted. Rum + Bean, a coffee bar that also whips up awesome handcrafted rum cocktails, hooked me up with fresh frozen dranks (think Strawberry Pina Cola with fresh pureed strawberries and fresh coconut juice). And Palapa Bar & Grill surprised me with chocolate covered bacon! No matter where you go Rice and Beans (cooked in coconut milk) reigns as the quintessential Belize dish. So make sure you order that whenever you can and add a side of ripe fried or baked plantains because their just too good to pass up.
Welcome To The Jungle (& Ancient Mayan Ruins)
Known for its massive reefs and Mayan ruins, I knew one of the two would be how I spent my last day. I’m not completely in love with snorkeling so a day spent in the jungle and exploring the ruins at Lamanai, one of the oldest continuously occupied Maya sites in Belize, was high on my list. And that meant I had to get back on that dang itty-bitty plane! But this time I was prepared for it. After a 15-minute flight back to Belize City, an 1-hour drive north of Belize City to a mestizo village named Carmelita, and a 2-hour speedboat ride up river, I would arrive at the Mayan Site of Lamanai. The boat ride was just as exciting as the Mayan ruin itself where I encountered spider monkeys (one actually got in my boat and I got to feed it – yes, real story) and many different species of birds.
Upon reaching Lamanai, our private tour of the Ancient Mayan City began. We hiked up several temples in the rainforest, got up close and personal with Toucans, tarantulas, and heard small (but very loud) Howler Monkeys in the distance. It was truly an amazing day and one I won’t soon forget. The amazing remnants of our history that you can actually touch just takes your breathe away.
Good bye for now Belize, I’ll be seeing you soon!