DFarmer Feb 07 Belize Trip Report

Feb 23rd, 2007, 02:10 PM
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DFarmer Feb 07 Belize Trip Report

Well this is going to be a long one!

Working on the pictures, which hopefully will get posted next week.

Belize Feb 2007 – Cayo and Ambergris

Just returned from a wonderful first trip to Belize (definitely not our last). Our stay was from Feb 6th to Feb 15th.

Thankfully I am a travel research addict! Chas (my husband) told me on Monday, Jan 29th that he would like to take a trip the next week and asked “Can you pull it together?” “Of course I can - what country would you like to visit?” Belize was the choice, so I whipped out my Belize folder, headed to the computer and started to work!

We stayed in San Ignacio in the Cayo area for the first five days at Cahal Pech Village. The final days were spent on Ambergris Caye at Caribbean Villas Hotel.

We were met at Belize International by William from CPV. Arranged through CPV - $85 + tax = $93.50 US. He had also picked up his niece and her baby in Belize City for a visit at his home. The baby was so cute with jet black curly hair. The five of us headed out to San Ignacio. But first, we need to stop and pick up our first Belikin Beer.! Now we are set. The time to San Ignacio passed surprisingly fast, I guess due to the constant conversation. Both William and his niece were very eager to answer my barrage of questions and even had the opportunity to point out a few things on their own. The ride was an easy ride on a very decent highway. San Ignacio city itself was a surprise. I simply was not expecting it to be as large as it is. We soon were climbing that hill to CPV that everyone talks about. Yep it is a tough one! William was extremely happy and helpful and made our ride interesting and pleasant.

At Cahal Pech Village Resort, we were met at reception by Maurice, who showed us a couple of cabanas and told us about the hotel. So we settled in the Tikal Cabana, which is closest to the restaurant, but set back a bit from the other cabanas, but directly below the hotel rooms.

The Cabanas have dark wooden walls, which makes them a bit dark. However the huge porch with a hammock and 2 comfy chairs is a good trade off. The bathroom was cheery, with new tiles. The water pressure was weak and unpredictable. The room was clean. The bed a bit uncomfortable. The Cabanas have air conditioning, which we used at night and worked fine. No coffee pot in the room, but coffee was ready at 6 AM, I should know – I was there waiting! Oddly there are TV’s in the room! Internet is available in the lobby.

Cahal Pech Village has what must be the largest pool in all of Belize. Seriously, they have the pool at the top of the hill, directly in front of the bar. And the new pool a few steps down, more in front of the dining area. And were just finishing up on an outdoor Jacuzzi.

My husband says that San Ignacio should be named “the city of 9 million dogs!”. Yes, you could hear the dogs barking at night. As you can guess the sounds simply travels up that hill. But again the AC drowned out the sound. Each morning we opened everything up, to catch the fresh air and the sound of the birds. The parrots were so pretty coming in each morning.

We ended up eating most of our meals at CPV, sometimes a full meal and sometimes just snacks. Most of the food was good, nothing was bad. The chips, dip and salsa was good for a snack, as well as the nachos. The scrambled eggs and spinach was very good. The fry jacks were good; try them with a little syrup or jelly. The Sambucca (sp) shrimp and the parmesan chicken were both good. Oh and the refried beans, I know they are beans, so what? These were so good, don’t know if it is because they use red beans or if it was just the spices, but I never thought I would say I liked refried beans! The pureed vegetable soup, I could do without. Grilled shrimp was a little overcooked. Hamburger was huge! We were never around at lunch time, which is why some afternoons we just ordered a bar snack.

We visited the Mayan Ruin - Cahal Pech on our own, just walk down the hill a bit. $5 US per person. And Xunantunich by cab. The cab driver stayed at the ruin while we toured and then took us back into town and showed us around. $30 for the ride + a tip + $5 US per person. I was pleased that we visited Cahal Pech first, as everyone has noted this is a much smaller ruin and was a good introduction. We did not have a guide, but did browse through the museum, where a guide was available to answer questions or to take you on a tour. We visited Xunantunich in the afternoon. I think when you read so many reports and guide books one feels you have a pretty good idea as to what to expect. However, there were several surprises. The distance to the ferry crossing was much further from San Ignacio than expected, certainly not in walking distance for us! The ferry was a short ride across the pretty river. The ride on to the entrance was much longer than I had expected and up a pretty steep hill. Once again we did not hire a guide. We visited the museum first and then set out to see the ruins. I must say that the first glimpse of that huge structure was a shock. You head around the bend and there it is towering above everything, awesome sight. Prior to our trip, I was a bit disappointed that I would not be able to see the view from the top. Due to my fear of heights, I knew there was no way I could climb the face of this Mayan Temple and then make it back down. To my delight, there were stairs with a handrail, around to the right side of the temple. Fabulous, I was able to pick my way up and the view was well worth it. Admittedly I didn’t hang out near the edge, or look down too often. But it was a relatively easy and comfortable climb, glad I did it.

We went to Barton Creek Cave with Bruce from CPV. Booking through CPV $55 + tax = $60.50US per person. I was debating on whether to take our good camera or a disposable; Bruce told me that in eleven years he had never turned a canoe over. I took our good camera, luckily we stayed upright and we have some awesome pictures, which I know I would not have with a disposable. The road to Barton Creek was rough to say it mildly. But it was interesting, as Bruce pointed out things along the way. We passed through lots of farm land. I did not realize how many orange groves were in Belize, just had never thought about it. I guess I was just expecting, bananas, sugar cane and pineapple. Workers were harvesting, interesting and really amazing when you think of the amount of work that people do around the world with little or no machinery. Barton Creek was a great surprise. It is so quiet, all you here is your guide very quietly talking and a trickle of water all around. We were lucky to be the only people in the cave! Very calm and soothing. Whereas I thought I would be claustrophobic and was a bit apprehensive about the adventure. Great day!

Then we hired Alvin from CPV for a day in the Mountain Pine Ridge area. Price through CPV $60 + tax = $66.US per person. Again a very rough, I mean rough road. But again lots of information and history and an interesting day. I was totally amazed at the devastation done to the pine forest, so sad. We visited the Frio Cave, so pretty and the water rushing through was again a very soothing sound. While in this cave you can see out both ends into the jungle. It was raining on one side and sunshine on the other – really cool sight. We headed up to the lookout point, which is where we discovered our tire was going low. (flat tires are very common!) So back down to the village to change a tire and off again. But it has started to rain, by the time we got back to Rio on the Pools it was pouring rain. So we headed to Five Sisters Lodge for lunch. Absolutely lovely place and fantastic food! Eating lunch with the falls beneath you, Priceless! After lunch we headed down to the falls. We couldn’t believe how much larger they were, I mean from up top they just look like water rolling over the rocks. But getting up close, they are much larger. Very nice place down here, with Palapas and hammocks, one could do some serious snoozing here! Back up the hill, Alvin and I walked – good gosh that hurt, I really am out of shape! My husband took the trolley back up the hill, which runs at certain times of the day. Well it has begun to rain again, so we headed back toward San Ignacio. Stopped along the way and purchased a few things at a local place that does slate carvings. We missed the pools and another waterfall, but all in all in was a very interesting day.

Note: We had decided against traveling to Caracol; due to the number of crimes against tourist over the past couple years. However, had we known of the changes, we possibly would have reconsidered. Now any visits to Caracol are by military escort only. So you have to check the times and be at the checkpoint and head out in a convoy. Actually the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest is also patrolled by the military.

Today is our anniversary – and unknowing to me, my husband has done a little planning with the help of Loranzo (sp) and the waitresses. There was a table reserved at dinner with beautiful tropical flowers. That was our table. We had dinner and enjoyed some wine. And then I received another bouquet of roses and tropical flowers in a very pretty vase, as well as a decorated chocolate cake! So we ate cake, shared cake, and visited with other travelers and drank too much wine!

Well we very much enjoyed our stay at Cahal Pech and our visit to this area. Prior to arriving at Cahal Pech Village, I wandered “just how good can a place be at this very reasonable price” $79 US per night. Very good, that is how good! The service was very attentive and friendly – not luxury and certainly not pushy or stuffy, just hardworking, eager to please, delightful people. Hopefully the prices stay reasonable, this is a good find. On our daily excursions, we did pass by many of the lodges that I had considered, in the end we were both pleased with our choice and would happily revisit this hotel.

Today we are off to Ambergris Caye. So William picks us up after breakfast. We are stopping by the Belize Zoo and Loranzo says he has not been there in a very long time. So he piles in with us and we all go to the zoo (it was kind of like having a son with us!). It was well worth the stop, actually just seeing that beautiful velvet looking Jaguar was worth the stop. Belize Zoo $8 US per person.

Next stop Belize City Municipal Airport, flying Tropic Air to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.
Tip: Caribbean Villas booked our domestic flight; their rate was less than the Tropic Air website published prices.

Well that was certainly a quick flight, even with a stop off at Caye Caulker. I think it took longer to load the plane than it did to get here!

We were met at Tropic Air by Xavier from Caribbean Villas. He loaded us up in a stretch golf cart and off we went to tour the town. Xavier was good to point out the directions of the one way streets, the street construction that was going on, pointed out a few restaurants, the bridge up north and lots of other goodies. Stopped us by the distributor to pick up drinks (Case of Belikin w/deposit $55.55 BZ or $27.78 US) and onto Caribbean Villas we go. Checked in and headed to our room.

Tip: This was passed on by Xavier, leave your bottles and case in your room, so that housekeeping can return them and get the deposit as part of the tip. You may want to check with your particular hotel to be sure that housekeeping will definitely get this. But at CV this is an accepted practice.

We were thrilled with Caribbean Villas, from the moment we drove onto the property. CV is covered with trees; therefore the temperature immediately goes down a few degrees all over the property. It is a very pretty property with tons of trees, birds and flowers. Lots of inviting places to walk or sit. Hammocks hung in the trees, chairs tucked away here and there, nice loungers on the beach. Little touches, such as signs that identify the trees and flowers. There is a People Perch, you can climb and see both sides of the island, as well as watch the birds in the trees or the sun set to the west. Also there is the dock, which has its own chairs and hammock.

Everyone from the grounds keeper to housekeeping to the front desk was always a delight to be around. Xavier was full of tips and information the entire time we were here, from local restaurant suggestions, to where the bands were playing, who to use for guides, where to purchase souvenirs, and even the history of the island and CV itself – such a wealth of information and a pleasure to visit with.

We had chosen to stay in the Deluxe Room, which was the $98 room. It was all we needed and quite comfortable and clean. Large bedroom, comfortable bed, small sofa, table and 2 chairs, very large bath, excellent water pressure, plenty of storage area, microwave, toaster, coffee pot and mini fridge and a few utensils and dishware. The porch out front had a small table and 2 chairs. There is a book in each room that gives details about CV itself and San Pedro, so you may want to check it out. Note: Beach Towels, Snorkel trip towels and Lounge Chair Pads are available at the office. Also the office has a book exchange.

Note: Most restaurants close on AC at 2 or 3 PM and do not reopen until 5 or 6PM – so try to plan your lunches prior to 2 PM.

It was about 3PM when we arrived at CV. Lilly called George’s to see if he was still open. George told us to come on and he would wait! So we walked up to George’s, where we were the only ones dining. George cooked us up something in a jiffy. Enjoyed both the food and company. Will be back.

So we have checked in, checked out the beach, we have water and beer, so we better get some more supplies. We head down to Marinas store, which is left out of CV driveway just a short distance. Picked up snacks, soft drinks, juice, coffee (Caye Coffee closes at 5PM), etc.

We rented a golf cart for the week, not necessary at all, but was nice to have.

I started each day with fresh coffee, sitting on the beach watching the sun rise. Glorious! We thought we would go to Lamanai and possibly a few other things; however in the end other than some snorkel trips and fishing, we simply spent our time wandering the beach and town or just hanging out on the beach in the chairs and hammocks, conversing with other travelers or doing nothing. We did take our cart all the way south and all the way north one day. Stopping along the way for meals and drinks or to watch the sky divers or shop or what ever.

Meals on AC: My ‘to eat at’ list was long; unfortunately we could only try a few – YET, another reason to revisit!

Sunset Grill – this is a fairly new place, only 6 weeks old at the time of our visit. They still have some kinks to work out, but our lobster was good, possibly just a bit overdone. Owner seemed quite friendly and anxious to make everything perfect.

Mango’s – DELICIOUS! I had the Cashew Encrusted Mahi Mahi and Chas had the Beef Tenderloin – both were perfect. Also, I had a Fresh Pineapple Mojito that was very refreshing and tasty. And Chas had Crown and Coke for the most reasonable price that we have ever seen while traveling!

Blue Water Grill – Again a very good meal – our most expensive meal. Chas had lobster which was to die for; I had a seafood pasta that was very good. Ordered a slice of Key Lime Pie that I had to take back to our room – ended up eating on it for 3 days!

Reef Restaurant – Ate here for lunch once and dinner once. We had some really good fried chicken here. We both had lobster one night – should have split our order as I was unable to eat it all. Reef is directly across the street from Caramba’s, it has good food and cheaper than Caramba’s. No floors, just sand under your feet and don’t expect everything to be matching!

Caramba’s – got here for lunch one day, just before closing. Maybe I was being rushed – but I just did not enjoy my meal here, like I had expected.

Tackle Box – Delicious Chicken Nacho’s, nice setting

BC’s – Went for Sunday Bar B Que – We ordered a plate with chicken and one with ribs – my favorite was the chicken. We planned to go here for lunch, however the day just kept on going. We ended up sitting at the bar nearly all day, met so many people, lots of good conversations!

Pedro’s Inn – Made it here on Sunday Night for the Boarders Poker Tourney. Met lots of interesting people from the AmbergrisCaye.com forum. Ordered Pizza to go, we took it back to the room, sat outside and enjoyed!

George’s – for another lunch and only once for breakfast – each meal was tasty and a pleasant memory.

Monkey Bite’s – breakfast once – I had the continental breakfast – bit into a very juicy pineapple and nearly choked myself – scared the waitress to death – OK I am a klutz and totally embarrassed, because now the owner or manager is checking on me! Oh Gosh they will never let me come back in here! Food was good, lunch menu looked good.

El Divino – Banana Beach – OK I am a minority – this was not a favorite. We went for breakfast. Maybe another trip we will try dinner. But the place felt stuffy – like sitting in a library – everything was quiet in hushed tones, felt too formal for a beach area. Food was ok, coffee was horrible – must be US coffee!!


We snorkeled with Lil Alphonse – FABULOUS EXPERIENCE! Actually this was the all time best snorkeling experience that I have ever had. Actually I went twice with Alphonse to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley! Chas had decided to go fishing one day – so I just booked whatever Alphonse was doing that day! Truly he is the best snorkeling guide I have ever experienced! Not to mention that the water was beautiful clear and the fish, just beautiful and so many! These were wonderful days.

Chas fished with one of the Guerro (sp) Brothers, had a good half day, caught lots of fish and had lots of fun – can I tell you about the one that got away?????!!!

To sum it up: Actually Belize surprised me, admittedly I had tried to put it up against Costa Rica so many times, that I expected to be disappointed. I often read questions about comparing Costa Rica and Belize – they are nothing alike and very special in their own ways. I still love Costa Rica, but we will return to Belize. The main roads were in really good shape, the secondary roads of Belize are horrible! The local people of Belize were all so very nice and polite. This is truly a place where a smile goes a long ways and a polite “no thank you” is respected. San Pedro was a bit larger than I expected. Ambergris Caye was much longer than I expected. However, the location of Caribbean Villas was perfect. We had a perfect mix of relaxation and activities, met wonderful people and totally enjoyed our stay.

OK this has gotten far too long and I could go on forever - so

Can’t wait til the next trip – to someplace?

Donna and Chas
dfarmer is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 04:02 PM
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Belize has such a special place in my heart, it always pleases me when a new traveler enjoys their stay there. And you chose really different places and adventures than we chose - so many, varied options. Thanks for sharing!
hopefulist is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 04:29 PM
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Amazing trip report, dfarmer. I now have my own Belize folder! Thank you.
cmcfong is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 06:15 PM
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Thanks for the great trip report.

Now I have to get to Belize before the year is over.

Always wanted to go there but now that your trip made it all so interesting, I will just have to make it down there.

Thanks again.

Looking forward to some pictures when you get caught up on being home again.

Like you , I love Costa Rica but you just have to see some other places.

Percy is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 08:13 PM
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Ok here is the link to the pictures. Short on time, so the titles are not too fancy! You will be happy that I cut it down from over 500 pictures! Hope this works.


dfarmer is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 08:19 PM
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Hopeful - I always appreciate your comments for Belize travelers. Yes, we have only just scratched the surfact of this tiny little country, so much more to see.

CMC - Thanks - and always keep a few travel ideas tucked away - you just never know when one is needed!

Percy - Think I read you are on your way to South America! Have a wonderful time - as if I have to say that. Yes, my husband convinced me to try something new. Thank you for your comments.
dfarmer is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 09:15 PM
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What wonderful pictures and what a surprise to see so many places we had visited on our trip. We stayed at the Pine Ridge Lodge! Ambergris Caye looks wonderful, will definitely have to head over there next time. Placencia was okay but I think we would have enjoyed Ambergris more. Thank you for the detailed trip report. I will have to add it to my travel files.

Happy Anniversary to you and Chas.
Suzie2 is offline  
Feb 24th, 2007, 06:03 AM
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Thanks Sue! We decided not to go to Tikal this year, will save it for a Guatemala trip or possibly another split trip with Belize involved. However, if our timing would have been a day later, we would have certainly gone to Tikal to meet up with you. Can't believe how many times we have missed each other by a day or so.

As you know we debated hard between Placencia and Ambergris. Still want to visit Placencia, but I did enjoy Ambergris. I guess because of the small place we stayed, we felt as though we were in the jungle. The trees blocked any noise that could be happening on the street, but yet we were just a few minutes from everything.

Heading over to read your Guatemala report.
dfarmer is offline  
Feb 24th, 2007, 10:04 AM
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What a great report. Caribbean Villas is right next door to my condo, makes me homesick. I arrived in San Pedro the night after the poker tournament at Pedro's. Sorry to have missed meeting you. Jean
JeanH is offline  
Feb 25th, 2007, 04:08 AM
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Donna, thanks for a delightful report--particularly enjoyed reading your comments on Ambergris. CV sounds like a perfect stay, and your description of idle days just absorbing the area was oh-so-appealing! We'll have to get down there one of these days. Thanks for taking the time. I'm going to your photo site now.

Happy Belated Anniversary--certainly an evening in a special place that you won't forget!

How's the weather these days in your neck of the woods? Did you get to miss some of the cold stuff? Hope so!
shillmac is offline  
Feb 25th, 2007, 07:24 AM
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Donna, Great report snd pics! Belize has been on my To-do/To-see list for a while. Thanks for the great info. Toni
parrmt is offline  
Feb 25th, 2007, 10:02 AM
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Saw ALL the pictures and enjoyed them all.

I am glad you went to another place & gave such a great report and lovely pictures.

Yes I am off for South America will be doing Lima ,Cusco ,Michu Picchu and all points in the Sacred Valley.

Then off to Buenos Aires,Iguassu Falls, Rio de Janerio, San Paulo , the Amazon and then over to Santiago Chile for 4 days.

I have private tour guide at all the places.
It should be a great trip ,as the Amazon has every know Macaw there is!!

Take Care

Percy is offline  
Feb 26th, 2007, 05:57 AM
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Thanks everyone!!

Jean! So you were right next door most of our stay. It is a small world. So are you at Coral Bay? We met a couple that owned a condo at Coral Bay, were staying all winter. How wonderful that sounds! Bet we saw you on the dock or along the beach. Actually - you were the one that gave me some suggestions over a year ago. I remember vividly telling you that the "last thing I wanted to see on vacation was a cook stove". Well now after being there, maybe next trip I will consider a cook top! I have been waiting for you to say "I told you so!" At least for a few breakfast and lunches. Saving the dollars for delicious dinners. San Pedro really did have some good food!

Jill - Hey girl - Thanks - have a wonderful trip south! Well our weather! We did miss the horrible cold snap and a few snowy days, everyone is so jealous. Came home, brought some warm air and we got up to 70. But the weekend and today are chilled, but climbing back up to 60.

Percy - sounds like a wonderful trip. We have often looked at a similiar trip, but probably would have to be two trips for us! Looking forward to your thoughts when you return.

dfarmer is offline  
Feb 26th, 2007, 06:04 AM
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Most everyone that knows me from the Costa Rica forum, knows that I have always much enjoyed nearly deserted to deserted beaches. I think that one of the main things that I loved so much about Caribbean Villas, was that it was so small. Although they were totally booked, it seemed like we were the only people there so much of the time. I think it is due to the number of people that were out on excursions and the fact that CV has so many areas scattered about to read and relax.

Also CV has a wide enough waterfront that you are not cramped into a small space. Plus the fact that they kept so many trees, instead of bull dozing the place.

The most crowded it got was out on the dock where lots of people congragated to read or talk. Or to peer through their binoculars to watch the skydivers up north. There were around 100 sky divers on Ambergris at the time of our stay.

Yes, people walked the beach back and forth to town - both locals and tourists. However, everyone was so pleasant, non obtrusive. There were pleasant "Good Mornings" and there were times that we struck up conversations. But in all it was just simply pleasant. This place was like being at home - except that I do not have the Caribbean - nor do I have a housekeeper!!!

So it was convenient enough to stay very active - and small enough to feel remote.
dfarmer is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 05:48 AM
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Donna, Yes, we have a condo at Coral Bay. Havne't owned it very long, less than a year. Looking forward to spending the winters on Ambergris in a couple years. I was with my former college roommate this past trip, way too busy a trip. It was fun though. Fortunately, my husband and I are going down next month.

Anyway, I know how much you love Costa Rica (I like it too), and I'm glad you enjoyed your time in Belize.
JeanH is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 05:57 PM
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Thanks, Donna. 70's here today as well. I'm ready to see some green trees--besides the ones in CR that I'm looking so forward to!

But don't be asking Percy for his thoughts in general! Be specific!

Just teasing, Percy. We're all waiting with bated breath to hear what you have to say about SA. You've got a great trip planned. Have you packed yet?
shillmac is offline  
Feb 28th, 2007, 03:28 PM
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Wow! Deb, your trip sounds like it was just a pickle of fun! I really loved all of the beautiful pictures you posted. They made me feel like I was right there in Belize myself.

My husband and I are going to Belize soon and we were wondering if you have any advice for our trip. We are both in our 50s and would love to have a similar experience as your trip. The concern is, my husband Louis has some health issues and we don't want the trip to be too hard on his knees. Any suggestions for restaurants?

You seem like such a seasoned to trooper!

skysong999 is offline  

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