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Best Best in Belize for snorkeling & ruins?

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Apr 29th, 2010, 11:44 AM
  #1
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Best Best in Belize for snorkeling & ruins?

First--I know almost nothing about Belize except that it is supposed to have incredible snorkeling, which is the main reason my husband & I are considering it as the detination for our 20th anniversary trip (yay!). Few questions for the Belize experts:

1) where would be the best place in Belize for snorkeling right off the beach, or is the best snorkeling experienced taking the chartered trips that take you out? Is there a location where there is pretty good snorkeling from the beach but the trips are easily accessible? We just don't have the money to pay for the chartered trips every day for a week.

2) is there a location that meets the above and also is close to some kind of ruins?

3) is Belize relatively a safe place to visit considering the drug violence in Mexico?

4) is Feb. a good month to go? If not what month closest to Feb. is good?

Thanks to all responding!
chellyroo is offline  
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Apr 29th, 2010, 12:14 PM
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1) Belize isn't really known for beach snorkeling. There are some exceptions such as South Water or Tobacco cayes which are located on the reef. I've also heard that beach snorkeling is good from the atolls but haven't been to one myself. These locations don't tend to have a lot of other stuff to do other than dive, snorkel, kayak so it depends on what you're looking for. For some it's perfect, others may be bored.

More populated cayes like Caulker and Ambergris are a short boat ride to the reef. One resort cayes like Thatch and Coco Plum are also about a 10 min boat ride to the reef. As you head south, the reef gets farther away from the mainland.

2) While it's possible to visit mainland ruins on a long day trip from the cayes, it's better to split your time between the jungle and beach. Inland Belize has a lot to offer.

3) Yes

4) Feb is a great month, so is March.
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Apr 29th, 2010, 04:03 PM
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THanks! I did look at some info on Caulker and Ambergris: although we are not at all interested in any night life, it seemed to me that Caulker might be a little too rustic for us. We probably wouldn't be looking at staying at a resort, usually we book something through VRBO.com; maybe that's not an option here?
So what do the boat trips out to the snorkeling areas run? Are we talking a small $20 "ferry" type fee or $70/person pop for a "tour"?
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Apr 29th, 2010, 04:52 PM
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vrbo.com would probably work for Ambergris. Last time I checked there weren't a lot of listings for Caulker. We stayed at a condo at Seaside Villas and didn't find it rustic but in general Ambergris is higher end and has a lot more accommodations and everything else.

You could get a half day snorkel trip from Caulker for about $25pp with day trips running between $40-60pp. Maybe a bit more from Ambergris.

Altun Ha and Lamanai are two ruins that are day trip possibilities from Caulker/Ambergris. Between the two, I'd recommend Lamanai but again if you have time, I'd split your stay. How long of a trip are you planning?
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Apr 29th, 2010, 06:35 PM
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If you think Caulker looks too rustic, I wouldn't recommend going to Tobacco Caye. We enjoyed our three night stay there, but it is pretty rustic. South Water Caye might be a better option, although I've never been.

There are a couple of piers on Ambergris that have ok snorkeling. We've seen eels, lobsters, nurse sharks, sea hares, crabs, and lots of small reef fish off the docks.

A trip to the reef from Ambergris for a half day snorkel is about US$35.00. We did a trip to Caye Caulker by sail boat, along with two snorkel stops for US$65.00. A very pleasant way to spend a day.

I like Belize in February. It's warm and not terribly windy.
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Apr 30th, 2010, 04:47 PM
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Patty: our trip would be 7 days (leaving on the 7th day).

JeanH: those prices you quoted are per person?
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May 1st, 2010, 05:32 AM
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Yes, the prices are per person. Gas is extremely expensive in Belize, around US$5.00 a gallon.
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May 2nd, 2010, 06:23 AM
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Take a look at Roatan, Honduras for beach snorkeling. I've been looking into these places and have settled on Roatan in February. You can walk write in and be on the second largest reef in the world - don't need a ride out to it. Many say that the beach is one of the prettiest in the world.
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May 3rd, 2010, 11:18 AM
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6 nights is the minimum amount of time I'd consider splitting a stay but it may also feel rushed.

I thought of Roatan too but haven't been there myself. From what I understand, everything is also cheaper in Honduras. Not sure how easy it would be to access ruins from Roatan.

Good luck!
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May 3rd, 2010, 11:59 AM
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The beautiful ruins of Copán are on the far western edge of Honduras, about 3 hours by road from San Pedro Sula. It's possible to visit them as a day trip but the town is lovely and there are other interesting things to see and do (butterfly farm, exotic bird park, some great museums, interesting mountain villages, great hiking) in the area so it's a shame to race in to see the ruins and miss the rest. Other than searching for a private charter flight, you can't fly there.

Lots of photos and recommendations for Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala below. Happy trails!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
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May 4th, 2010, 10:39 AM
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Besides looking on VRBO for Ambergris Cay, you should also look into Cocotal Inn and Cabanas for a semi-independent way to go. It's a great little place 2.5 miles north of San Pedro - so out of the fray, but easy to get to and fro when you like. My husband and I rented one of their 2 "garden cabanas" and found it ideal--a romantic bungalow with all creature comforts, including a full kitchen. The setting is great; we loved being picked up and dropped off for boat excursions right at the property's pier. Beachfront is well kept and well-furnished - chairs, palapas, hammock, etc. There's also a pool and a central BBQ / honor bar / ice machine plus on-site assistance with arranging excursions, if you like. You can snorkel right from shore around the pier and also paddle a kayak out to the reef and tie up at a buoy. The kayaks are free, as are bikes to use for land-based sightseeing. It was also a great deal that round-trip transfers from the ferry or airstrip were free; a taxi driver picks you up, takes you into San Pedro for a grocery stop, then onward to the water taxi to Cocotal. For us it was the ideal mix of independence and staff support. Here is the website: http://www.cocotalbelize.com/ You can also google for reviews; mine is posted on tripadvisor, along with many others. Sorry if I sound like an ad, but I thought this place was quite the find.
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May 5th, 2010, 08:34 PM
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We had 7 days there and spent 4 on Ambergris cay and then 3 inland at San Ignacio. In San Ignacio we visited the jungle, waterfalls and took a birdwatching and cave tour. On another day we took day trip from San Ignacio into Guatemala to see Tikal, the best mayan ruins in all of central america in my oppinion. They are surrounded by jungle and also provide opportunities for spotting monkeys and other wildlife.
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May 6th, 2010, 07:46 PM
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I've looked at a few places and what we're coming up with is Turneffe Island Resort. Even tho I've been able to find several lodging choices that are, in themselves, cheaper, by the time we add in a trip to the Blue Hole (a must for us once we found out about it) and food, it's about the same. I think we've definitley decided on TIR> Thanks for all the input!
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May 7th, 2010, 10:25 AM
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Have a great trip!
Patty is offline  
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May 18th, 2010, 12:49 PM
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Note that the Blue HOle is more scuba, not snorkeling, destination.
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