5 nights at Chan Chich---Where next?

Aug 4th, 2003, 04:19 PM
  #1  
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5 nights at Chan Chich---Where next?

Hi There,

My husband and I are going to be in Belize end of March/beginning of April next year. I've already booked 5 nights at Chan Chich. Where should we go for the other 7-8 nights? I'm looking for a place where we can:
1) Spend time relaxing on the beach
2) Go on several different snorkeling trips. We don't mind taking a boat ride to a good site- but I don't want to spend the entire day on a boat
3) eat great food
4) isn't too crowded. We prefer to be away from the mainstream but with higher-end accomodations.

Budget isn't really an issue based on what research I've done.

Also what are your recommendations on spending all 7-8 nights in one place versus going to two places?

Thanks for the help!
lost is offline  
Aug 5th, 2003, 06:55 AM
  #2  
 
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Definately split your time between the bush and beach. Both ecosystems are extraordinary and it would be a shame to travel so far and not experience both. Take a look at Placencia. Snorkeling is a full day trip based on one of the coconut shaded islands on the reef, but boat travel is about 45 plus minutes each way. There are islands closer to the reef, but they are either more crowded (ambergris), geared towards budget travel (caye Caulker, Tobacco Caye) or are the only lodge/restaurant on the island/atoll (the dive/fishing lodges). Or look at Hopkins area.
KatieValk is offline  
Aug 5th, 2003, 07:45 AM
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I disagree a bit with Katie on this. I like Placencia but think Ambergris Caye is the place for you.

Crowded? Not by the standards of most of the Caribbean, and if you want to get away from people most of North Ambergris (the 15 miles or so north of the river channel which divides the island)is undeveloped and you can walk for a long time on the beach and never see another person.

The beaches on Ambergris are, in my opinion, at least as good as those on the Placencia peninsula, and many people think they are better.

San Pedro has many, many more excellent restaurants than does Placencia (there are only four restaurants in Placencia that in my opinion are consistently good). The island has Belize's best selection of hotels in all price ranges, including some of the best upscale ones (though Placencia has two of the five-star beach resorts in Belize). On Ambergris, you're only 10 to 15 minutes away from some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean.

San Pedro is only a 20-minute hop by air from Belize City.

--Lan Sluder
LanSluder is offline  
Aug 5th, 2003, 10:40 AM
  #4  
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Lan/Katie---thanks for the quick reply. It looks like I was headed in the right direction. My short list had been Mata Chica, Victoria House, Hamanasi, Kanatanik or Roberts Grove. Any feedback on how you think these line up with what I'm looking for would be appreciated.

Thanks again....
lost is offline  
Aug 5th, 2003, 11:10 AM
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All five are good places. I'd add Turtle Inn in Placencia to the list (I stayed there in July) and also one of the condotels on Ambergris Caye -- probably Villas at Banyan Bay. I've stayed at all of them, a couple several times, except Mata Chica which I've visited a number of times, most recently about a month ago.

Quick reviews:

Robert's Grove: Well-run, good restaurant (s), always busy, very Americanized. Deluxe suites are the only way to go here.

Turtle Inn: Just reopened a few months ago, all new. Very exotic (most furnishings imported from Bali), fabulous pool, very good restaurant. Not air-conditioned. Two-bedroom villas fantastic.

Hamanasi: Well-run, okay restaurant, great pool, beach and treetop suites are the way to go here.

Kanantik: Pretty remote, pretty expensive, all-inclusive.

Victoria House: Beautiful grounds, great pool, accommodations vary from motel-like to older thatch casitas to deluxe villas.

Mata Chica: Beautiful beach location in fairly remote area. No pool. Restaurant pricey. Two-bedroom villas very nice.

Villas Banyan Bay: Two-bedroom, two-bath 1000 sq. ft. condo-style units. Very nice pool, one of best beaches on Ambergris.

If I had to pick one, on the basis of the hotel only, personally I'd probably pick from Robert's Grove (but only one of the deluxe suites), Turtle Inn and Banyan Bay -- which one would depend on what I was looking for at the time. But any of them would be great.

You might also look at my recent Rambles in Belize article at www.belizefirst.com

--Lan Sluder
LanSluder is offline  
Aug 5th, 2003, 03:56 PM
  #6  
 
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We're booking 5 nights at Chan Chich, too, but can't decide between the same time you'll be there, (maybe we'll see you!) and a week in January.
My husband is afraid that April will not be very lush, since it's the end of the dry season. But I don't know if January will be too overpowered with birding groups. Any input?
MarciaM is offline  
Aug 6th, 2003, 05:26 AM
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Either time, I wouldn't wait too long to book, because Chan Chich only has about a dozen cabanas and can be full on any given period in the high season (Christmas to Easter, roughly.) I've stayed there two or three times, once or twice in the summer and once I think in January or February. Both times were great, although it rained some on the summer trips and the trails were pretty mucky ... although that part of Belize doesn't usually get the heavy rains that southern Belize does.

--Lan Sluder
LanSluder is offline  
Aug 10th, 2003, 02:30 PM
  #8  
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I think that I've finally made a decision... 5 nights at Chan Chich followed by 3 nights at Victoria House--and then finish up with 5 nights at Roberts Grove

Any opinions?
lost is offline  
Aug 10th, 2003, 03:20 PM
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In July, I stayed at Victoria House 3 nights after 4 nights in the jungle at EkTun. The pool at Victoria House was heavenly. I was so intoxicated by looking over the pool into the water and by the constant breeze that I never wanted to move. But, it was a let down after coming from EkTun. And, Ambrigris felt like a totally different country than the Cayo area.

Like you, we had narrowed our beach options down to Roberts Grove (because it included water "toys") and Victoria House because we wanted more activity. In the end decided against RG, because it was at least a 2 hr boat ride out to the reef.

All in all, the jungle portion of the trip was a vacation like I never before experienced. In my next visit I would stay the entire time on the mainland.

Jackie is offline  
Aug 10th, 2003, 05:50 PM
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Both Victoria House and Robert's Grove are great places (I've stayed at both several times), but I would make these observations:

* If you want to relax, I'm not sure I'd stay at both Placencia and Ambergris Caye, as both are beach resort areas. They're different in many ways but essentially the same in many ways. Myself, I'd probably choose one or the other and save the hassle of packing up and traveling between the two. Travel time (packing, waiting, making connections, transfers) basically eats up a good part of a full day. But if you want to see more of the country, then splitting the beach time between the two areas could work, too.

* If you do decide to stay at both, I'd switch the number of days and stay in San Pedro longer, or at least the same number of days. There's more to do, more good restaurants, in San Pedro.

--Lan Sluder
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Aug 11th, 2003, 07:15 AM
  #11  
 
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The reef is 19 miles from the Placencia coastline and some islands used for snorkeling are a few miles closer. The boat ride for snorkel trips in Placencia usually takes about 45 minutes, more or less depending on seas and boat engines. But never two hours. So you may want to reconsider adding Placencia to your itinerary.
KatieValk is offline  
Aug 11th, 2003, 03:06 PM
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I just got back from Turtle Inn and that it was fabulous! We stayed the first half of our trip in Blancaneax in the Cayo district, and then like you, wanted a beach vacation (with snorkeling) for the second half. We were booked at Victoria House and when I got there I was sorely disappointed. My husband and I decided to try to change our plans right in the middle of the vacation. So, we left the very next day, and spent the rest of the trip at Turtle Inn. We thought it was fabulous--the accomodations were luxurious, the staff was extremely attentive, and the food outstanding. I don't know about the other resorts you are looking into, but if its between Victoria House and Turtle Inn---trust me, I was at both last week---Turtle Inn is SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER!! BTW: we went snorkeling at two different sites, and it only took us about 25-30 minutes to get there.
susan24 is offline  
Aug 12th, 2003, 06:57 AM
  #13  
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susan----why the disappointment with Victoria House?
lost is offline  
Aug 12th, 2003, 12:06 PM
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A few things caused my disappointment with Victoria House: (1) the accomodations were not appealing---they were blandly decorated and i thought the bathrooms were a bit depressing; (2) the pool was a bit small, which is not a problem, except that it was pretty full all the time; (3) the beach is not too nice; (4) the island itself did not have too much to offer, outside of diving; (5) the service staff was friendly, but i did not receive the attention i got at blancaneaux or turtle inn. basically, if i would have arrived at victoria house first on my trip to belize, i probably would have thought it was fine, but after spending a few nights at blancaneaux, i was hoping victoria house would be an equivalent type of resort but instead of in the jungle, on the beach. it was not! thus, while i still had four nights of my vacation left, i decided to switch. both my husband and i are very happy we did. there is no real comparison---turtle inn is signficantly better. maybe i was being a bit snooty (i hope not) when i switched hotels, it just seems that if you are spending all this money, victoria house should have been nicer. (btw: turtle inn was CHEAPER than victoria house) i hope this helps you---let me know if you want any more info!
susan24 is offline  
Aug 12th, 2003, 03:10 PM
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Not to disagree with Susan24, but having been to both Placencia and Ambergris Caye not one time but dozens of times, and having stayed at both Turtle Inn and Victoria House (I was last at both about a month ago), and I've also stayed at Blancaneaux several times, I have a somewhat different perspective than she does:

I like both Turtle Inn and Victoria House, and I like both San Pedro and Placencia, for different reasons.

* People should be aware that Victoria House has a variety of accommodations -- from motel-like rooms to thatch casitas to deluxe suites (both at the resort and at a private villa just south of there). Overall I like the two-bedroom seafront villas at Turtle Inn best, but the villas at Victoria House are terrific, too, and the cost is similar (Francis Ford Coppola's villa at Turtle Inn is really pricey, around Us$1000 a night in season, if I recall.)

* Susan's comment about Ambergris Caye not having as much to offer as Placencia doesn't strike a cord with me. Most visitors think the opposite. Ambergris Caye has six or eight times as many restaurants, far more activities (day trips all over central and northern Belize), more clubs, a tennis and fitness club, real shops, and all sorts of other things, has as good or better snorkeling at Shark Ray Alley/Hol Chan Marine Reserve (actually the diving off Placencia is better than that around the norhern cayes). Ambergris Caye is larger, 25 miles long whereas the entire Placencia peninsula is about 16 miles in length. I suspect that on Susan's short visit she did not get to see North Ambergris or much else of the island.

* I think Turtle Inn is terrific (though on a day without a breeze the unairconditioned units here would be VERY hot). Turtle Inn has had a lot of problems since it opened, but with the new manager and more attention to guest services it really is doing a good job now.

* I do agree the pool at Turtle Inn is terrific (I swam in it and also in the private pool at Francis Ford Coppola's villa), but the pool at Victoria House is also very nice, and only a year or two old. To me the beaches are similar, and if anything the one at Victoria House is a little better. Victoria House has a pier, with an area of sea grass cleared for swimming. Turtle Inn does not have a pier.

I can understand that if you're looking for an "exotic" type of place, and both Blancaneaux and Turtle Inn are exotic, in different ways, then the Coppola places would be the better way to go. Victoria House is more like a traditional British-style beach resort whereas Turtle Inn has much of its style and nearly all its furnishings imported from Indonesia.

If one were looking for more of an exotic experience on Ambergris, I'd suggest Portofino or perhaps Mata Chica (though neither has a pool.) And if you're looking for the ultimate in service in Belize, go for Cayo Espanto, which is Turtle Inn's level of service times two or three (the new manager at Turtle Inn formerly was at Cayo Espanto).

--Lan Sluder
LanSluder is offline  
Aug 13th, 2003, 06:48 AM
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quick question on Portofino and Mata Chica----are the beaches nice enough for swimming that the lack of a pool isn't that big of a deal?
lost is offline  
Aug 13th, 2003, 06:56 AM
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Yes, Portofino and Mata Chica have areas that are pretty good for swimming. The beaches at this part of North Ambergris are among the best on the entire island (though Belize beaches in general are not as classically perfect as those, say, in the Yucatan or in the main Caribbean where there is no barrier reef just offshore.)

--Lan Sluder
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Aug 13th, 2003, 08:48 AM
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Lan, We just reserved four nights at Blancaneaux followed by four nights at Victoria House. From this thread of messages, sounds like the Victoria House accomodations are a bit drab? We're staying in a Casita. Do you think we'll be disappointed by staying at Blancaneaux first? had to decide between Turtle Inn and Ambergris and decided on Ambergris because of all of the activities, restaurants, etc. We were swayed away from Portofino Resort because of its distance from town. Thoughts? Anything we should be doing differently?
LizS is offline  
Aug 13th, 2003, 09:14 AM
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No, I would not say VH accommodations are drab. True, the casitas at Victoria House aren't their top accommodations. They're older and over the years the owners have talked about replacing with casitas with something else, maybe condos.

My thoughts would be: If your specific room accommodations are really important to you (some people have the view that you're mostly in the hotel room when you're sleeping, so other things are more important) you may not be as happy in the casitas as elsewhere. VH's casitas are okay, but not nearly as nice as Turtle Inn's cabanas or seafront villas.

* However, I personally prefer San Pedro to Placencia. San Pedro is the # 1 destination in Belize, and I think there are good reasons for that.

* My personal favorite accommodations in San Pedro are the small condotels like Villas at Banyan Bay, Banana Beach and The Palms. They offer much more space, about the same amenities and service and lower prices than many of the full-service hotels.

--Lan Sluder
LanSluder is offline  
Aug 13th, 2003, 11:09 AM
  #20  
 
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My favorite rooms at VH are the beachfront casitas, because they are different. They now have a/c. And I gotta add that I've been booking VH for many years and I don't think I ever had a client complain about it. I think they have some of the best staff/mgmt in the country. But the ambiance thre is certainly different than that of Turtle Inn.
KatieValk is offline  

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