Belize or Panama for ten days in June/July

Old Feb 21st, 2010, 09:34 AM
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Belize or Panama for ten days in June/July

Hi,
We are looking to do a ten day trip using the july fourth holiday (or rather monday the 5th) in order to squeeze an extra vacation day out of my husband's work. Given the seasonal timing, flight distances, desire for beach/diving/warm weather, we were looking at belize or panama.

We are aware it is low season and the start of rainy season for both areas.

Belize: This was the first plan due the the quality of diving and number of cayes available for exploring. HOWEVER, we don't want an ALL diving trip and I started reading that the beaches were crummy. This pretty much killed it for me, so I read about other nice beach areas in Central America and was directed to Panama, specifically Bocas and San Blas.

Panama: I have considered this destination in the past. My impression is that you get a little culture/city/nightlife with panama city. Follow that with 2 or so days in San Blas for ultimate clear water/sugary beach, but uber bland accomodation. We don't mind some level of rusticity, but my husband won't be thrilled with a beach shack, and definitely not for more than a night or two. After San Blas, return through PC and head to Bocas for diving/beach. Can you get any jungle/zipline/rafting in the vicinity of Bocas?

Questions: Are the beaches really that bad in Belize? Are they much better in Panama that we should choos panama over Belize?
Is there anywhere decent to stay in San Blas? I understand diving is illegal, is there somewhere nearby there to go or would we have to wait until Bocas?
Nightlife: Ambergris Caye v. Bocas in low season...thoughts? We are newly married in our '30's and live in NYC, so we like to go out and not be completely isolated.

Any other opinions/thoughts or comments on things we haven't considered, would be appreciated. We just took a huge trip to southeast asia and have another next winter to southern africa, so we are trying to keep the costs/travel distances down a bit for this summer trip. I have been most everywhere in south america, the caribbean, mexico. Not interested in Guatemala, my sister said Honduras was expensive for what you get, and Nicaragua and el Salvador don't seem developed enough for the needs of this particular trip. Also looked at Columbia, but travel within the country and to the beaches on their internal flights was somewhat pricey as compared to panama.

Thank you in advance!
laurenanne is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2010, 09:34 AM
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Oh, and have been to costa rica already.
thanks!
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Old Feb 21st, 2010, 11:16 AM
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I can't inform you in regard to beaches - they don't mean much to me and I've been fine with the ones I've seen in Belize. What I can tell is that, in addition to some great diving and snorkeling, Belize is full to the brim with great inland activities including ancient Maya ruins, caves full of 1000 year old artifacts and sacrificial bones, gorgeous hiking, and fascinating cultures including Creole, Indian, Garifuna, and Mennonite.

We've loved everyplace we've stayed and everything we've done in Belize. The link below has our photos with blog and travelogue links on the main page of each collection. Hope you find just what you're looking for!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
hopefulist is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2010, 11:18 AM
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I also want to add that we've found summer to be a great time to visit Central America, including Belize. The rain there falls almost exclusively at night, cooling things down a bit. It has never gotten in the way of our fun. There is a slight risk of hurricanes which haven't gotten in our way, either (or us in their's!).
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Old Feb 21st, 2010, 02:17 PM
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hopefulist,
thank you for your reply. I will take a look at the pics. By the way, any specific reason you like traveling CA during summer? Is it less crowded/cheaper, or is there another reason why?
thanks!
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Old Feb 21st, 2010, 03:34 PM
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My husband and I are both teachers so that's when we can take off and spend more than a week - we prefer a month or so at a time. We've made 8 or 9 summer trips so far. When we retire (a few more years) we'll experiment with other times of the year and be able to attend date-specific festivals, like Semana Santa in Guatemala, Día de los Muertos in México, and Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize.

Everything is green and beautiful - some folks prefer to call it the "green" season instead of the "rainy" season. You'll see fewer travelers at that time and likely save some money because of it. Temperatures will be higher in Belize and lowland Panamá in the summer but likely cooler than April and May. Enjoy your decision making and keep us posted!
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Old Feb 21st, 2010, 04:02 PM
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First of all, I need to say that I'm in Belize for three months. It's our second home. Obviously, it's our favorite spot. We're on Ambergris Caye, a mile south of San Pedro town.

I wouldn't call the beaches 'crummy'. In front on my condo, the sand is white, soft the beautiful. The water is blue. However, the beach is narrow, and there is sea grass in the water. The diving (my husband dives, not me) is wonderful and the snorkeling is awesome.

Lots of fun beach bars, live music most nights. Good food. However, Belize is considered the most expensive destination in Central America. I haven't been to Honduras, so I can't compare.

We spent a couple weeks in Panama a few years ago. We really liked Panama City, our only other Central American city experience was San Jose, Costa Rica, and we far preferred Panama City. Good, reasonably priced food. Nice hotels. Large casinos (if you're into such things, we never went in them).

We then spent a couple of days in San Blas. We stayed at Dolphin Lodge, at the time one of the few places in San Blas that had indoor plumbing. The food was so-so, but the experience was wonderful. We did a little hiking, got a tour of the town on a nearby island and went to a deserted little island to snorkel. It was unlike any place I've been, loved chasing the lizard out of the sink every morning.

We also spent almost a week in Bocas. We stayed right in Bocas town. There are no good beaches right there. We took a day trip over to Isla Bastimentos, to Red Frog Beach. It was ok, but, had big waves and the water wasn't really pretty. We also had terrential rain while we were there (January).

I don't know how the beaches on the Pacific coast would compare, we never made it there. The canal was awesome, we also spent a couple nights at Canopy Tower, a birding lodge just outside of Panama City.

I guess if beaches are a top priority, I'd say it's kind of a 'wash'. Belize certainly doesn't have world class beaches, but I prefer them to the ones that I saw in Panama.
JeanH is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2010, 12:50 PM
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There are plenty of nice places out of the surfers Bocas Town.
Bastimentos Island offers beautiful lodges and miles of white sand beach. Snorkeling is great, mangrove snorkeling superb!!! But like anywhere else in the world if you happen to have a bad weather day or a bad guide to show you around, you will not enjoy it.
Beaches on the Pacific are mostly Salt and Pepper, but there are beautiful locations to choose from.
Whatever you choose, have a wonderful vacation!
Raul
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Old Apr 11th, 2010, 06:47 PM
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would love to know what you choose as we are in the same boat. Keep us posted
travelmom13 is offline  
Old Apr 18th, 2010, 05:58 AM
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I am curious also.
Enjoy your vacations
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 07:52 PM
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I have previously lived in San Pedro (Ambergris Caye) and I don't think the beaches were that bad at all

Nowhere that has world class reef's and diving is going to have incredible beaches, and San Pedro's beaches are not dirty or anything like that - there is just no huge waves. The beaches are very similar to Key West FL - crystal blue waters...but just calm waters and narrow beaches - great natural ocean breezes every night as well

San Pedro has a ton of activities beyond diving - you can easily do something different every single day - from zip-lining to sport fishing to the Mayan ruins to every other water activity imaginable

Everyone speaks perfect English (if that's a factor)

There is plenty of nightlife, even in low season - San Pedro is not just an international tourist destination, but it's also a major vacation destination for locals from Belize city

San Pedro is a small town with a unique feel to it - dirt roads and everybody drives around little golf carts - it's safe (there is a visible police presence) - you can eat the street vendors food without fear of getting sick - and, if for no other reason, Madonna made a song about the place. If you have traveled the word, I would say it's certainly worth a trip
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Old May 31st, 2010, 06:24 PM
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Hi,
We ended up deciding to go to Croatia in July! We are now considering Belize for September. How is the weather at that time?
Lauren
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Old Jun 1st, 2010, 05:21 AM
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I've been to Belize several times in September. Weather has always been good, although hot. On Ambergris, there was very little wind, so it was hotter than usual. Not much sea breeze to cool things off.

It is hurricane season, Belize doesn't get hit too often, but they are possible.

I've read that southern Belize is rainier than the north....
JeanH is offline  
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