Belize Trip Report

Old Mar 22nd, 2008, 09:26 AM
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Belize Trip Report

Our family of four, which includes my two girls age 10 and 15, just returned from a 12 day trip to Belize. Here is my trip report.

We rented a Toyota Prada from Jabiru based on their lower prices. The car was older than we anticipated, however, the car was in good working order and we had no troubles with it on our journey (which included driving on a number of very bumpy roads.) When renting, you may want to ask ahead of time what year their cars are, and request one of the newer models.

CHAA CREEK: Our first stop was Chaa Creek near San Ignacio for four nights. The drive to Chaa Creek was very easy. We stayed in one of the treetop suites which was really lovely and well suited for a family of four. Our first adventure was to visit the butterfly farm and see butterflies and caterpillars at all stages of development - cool.

The next day we drove to Xunantunich which is very close to Chaa Creek and a very worthwhile trip. We enjoyed the crank wheel ferry ride across the river, as well as the ruins.

The next day we took the ATM tour with PACZ tours and Jamal was our guide. It was a great trip with one exception - the day we did the trip many other groups were booked and we had to do a lot of waiting around in the cave before the group in front of us moved on. My suggestion is to try to be one of the first groups to go through the cave in the morning so you don't spend so much time just standing and waiting in the cave. It is a very fun and different trip, but you should be reasonably fit, not claustrophobic, and ready for adventure. Both my girls enjoyed it a lot.

The next day we took two canoes from Chaa Creek up river to another resort for lunch - DuPloys. It was such a fun trip. There was no one else on the river but us. There were tons of birds and at one point cattle came running down the hill to get a drink at the river. We had to pull the canoes up some of the small rapids. Lunch at DuPloys was great and we also visited the Botanical Gardens while there. It was easy paddling on the river going downstream back to Chaa Creek.

We also did the night hike while at Chaa Creek and thought it was great. We saw more spiders than you can possibly imagine (including 5 tarantulas), a snake, a scorpion, some lizards, and some frogs and toads. My youngest daughter loved it.

In terms of meals, breakfast was included at Chaa Creek and was good. For many of our lunches and dinners, we found it cheaper to eat in town and it was easy for us to do since we had a car. Our favorite restaurant in town was Hanna's.

Overall, we loved Chaa Creek and the many active adventures we participated in.

JUNGLE LODGE (TIKAL): After four nights at Chaa Creek we headed to Tikal in Guatemala for an overnight stay at the Jungle Lodge. I booked a guide privately ahead of time to take us there and back since you can't take rental cars over the border. We left our car and much of our luggage at Chaa Creek. Our guide was Luis Godoy. His e-mail is [email protected] and his website is www.experiencebelize.com. I recommend his services highly. He was very, very knowledgeable and he totally took care of us from beginning to end.
Tikal was great. It was especially great to tour the park late in the day (we toured from 3pm to almost 6pm). There were very few people in the park and it was cooler and there was lots of active wildlife - we saw howler monkeys, spider monkeys, tons of birds and wild turkeys. It was great to climb to the top of the tallest ruins and just sit and listen to the sounds around you. Luis arranged for a guide to take us through the park (only guides from Guatemala can do the tours in the park). If I had to do anything differently, I think I would have skipped the guide in Tikal for our family. Although my husband and I enjoyed it, my kids found it a bit too much talking - they just wanted to walk and climb and learn tidbits of information along the way. Perhaps if you had a guide that made the tour more kid-friendly and more interesting for them, it would be more worthwhile. That was just my experience.

The Jungle Lodge itself was very basic, but it was great to stay right inside the park. The pool looked cleaner and better maintained at the Tikal Inn (at least while we were there).

ROBERTS GROVE: After Tikal, we picked up our car at Chaa Creek and headed down to Placencia to stay at Roberts Grove Inn for 3 nights. This was a long, but beautiful drive through the mountains. The first day we did the snorkeling trip with Roberts Grove out to one of the islands. Steven was our guide and was very good. We saw nurse sharks, sting rays and tons of different fish. We enjoyed the boat ride out to the island as well. The next day we just relaxed by the pool which was something we hadn't done much of since our trip started. We got a coconut from a nearby tree and played catch with a coconut in the pool which was fun.

In terms of meals, we ate our breakfasts at Robert Grove and tended to go into town for other meals. We like La Dolce Vita for dinner. We didn't like the Pickled Parrot (not for pizza anyway). We all loved Tutti Frutti for gelato.

We thought Roberts Grove was a very good resort. The only thing I would say is that Belize is not a great place for doing long walks along the beach. I found the sand somewhat rough and would wear sandals or water shoes when we wanted to walk for any distance. Some of the other parts of the beach beyond Roberts Grove were quite dirty and not well maintained.

BANYAN BAY VILLAS: After driving from Placencia to the International Airport, we dropped off our rental car and got on a flight to Ambergris to go and stay at Banyan Bay Villas for 3 nights. Although we liked Ambergris and my kids loved the golf carts to drive around town in, this was probably our least favorite place overall. The main thing we wanted to do while there was snorkel and because it was so windy the whole time we were there we could not go out (they said windy weather is very common in March). Because we had come from the mainland we didn't want to go back and do mainland tours. We spent much of our time at the pool, which is nice, but our family prefers more active adventures.

We thought Banyan Bay was very well suited for families. It was nice, but also showing its age a bit. There was next to no water pressure for taking a shower. Again, it is not a great place to take long walks along the beach (outside of the resort, lots of garbage and tons and I means tons of sea grass washed onto the shore.)

For meals, we ate breakfast in our room (we bought groceries nearby - the food is expensive - a box of cereal, for example, costs about $7 US). We ate most of our meals in town. Our best meal was at Carambas.

Final Thoughts:
- we always felt safe in Belize
- we loved that it was an English speaking country
- it was easy to have a car rental and drive around the country
- in comparison to Costa Rica, I think we all enjoyed Costa Rica more (more wildlife and I think more beautiful scenery overall)
- what we really liked about Belize is that other than perhaps Ambergris, it didn't seem too touristy or over developed and on the mainland there were lots of active adventures to take part in.

I'm happy to answer any questions.


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Old Mar 22nd, 2008, 10:04 AM
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Thanks for a very informative and detailed report! Belize is a place I've recently been looking into. So many places to visit.......

Glad you had a good time!! Would you return?
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Old Mar 22nd, 2008, 10:12 AM
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We really enjoyed our vacation in Belize, but no we would probably not return for two reasons. First, there are so many other places in the world we would like to see. Second, we really planned this trip to experience all parts of Belize which I think we did.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2008, 10:14 AM
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Thanks for taking the time to post! I really enjoyed reading about your trip; sounds like you have a fun family. Our family had a wonderful trip to Belize in 2003, almost totally different activities/budget level/lodging choices than yours. Goes to show there are options for everyone! Our photos with travelogue are below if any one is interested. Happy trails!

www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
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Old Mar 22nd, 2008, 11:00 AM
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Great trip report! We (kids 7 & 12) went 2 years ago and spent 12 nts. We did almost the same itinerary but did not make it to Palencia. It is really too bad the weather was not cooperative as the snorkeling / diving off Ambergris Caye is awesome.
Like you, we very much enjoyed our Belize trip but are looking forward to our next adventure (Costa Rica for 11 nts in in June).
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