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First-timer to Belize -- what to expect in December?

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Jul 13th, 2012, 02:35 PM
  #1
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First-timer to Belize -- what to expect in December?

Hi, all!

I'm considering December for my first trip to Belize (it would also be my first trip to Latin America, actually). While I have yet to put down a deposit, I am strongly considering an itinerary offered by REI / Island Expeditions that presents a few mainland activities followed by a trip to Glover's Reef for sea-kayaking and snorkeling.

Has anyone else done similar activities at that time of year? Most reviews I've seen for this trip have been from March/April, but December works a lot better for my timetable. Any thoughts on potential pros or cons?

I'm also about 99% sure I'd like to tack on a trip to the ATM cave (probably with Pacz?)either before or after the Glover's Reef portion of the trip. I've read that there may be issues getting there in the rainy season; does anyone know whether going in December will give me a good chance of avoiding those issues?

Any tips, suggestions, encouragements or warnings are welcome!
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Jul 14th, 2012, 03:32 AM
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1.Recife
2.Porto Alegre
3.Belem

are best town for visit in brazil
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Jul 14th, 2012, 05:56 AM
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Could be, but the OP asked about Belize.....
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Jul 14th, 2012, 11:17 AM
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We have not been in December, but we really loved Belize. We did a combo of the San Ignacio/Cayo area and Ambergris - fun to do both jungle activities and beach time.
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Jul 16th, 2012, 11:31 AM
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Thanks, volcanogirl!

Looks like there aren't a huge number of people (here, anyway) who have been to Belize in December, but it's good to hear from someone who thoroughly enjoyed time there.

What were your favorite things about the place? Were there any particular "don't miss" activities or sites? I certainly have an itinerary in mind, but it's by no means a done deal. The ATM cave is high on my list of wants, but I haven't committed to anything yet.
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Jul 16th, 2012, 04:03 PM
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Belize is just beautiful. It's pretty easy to go over to Guatemala to see the ruins in Tikal for the day if that interests you. Most people do it, and we thought it was amazing. We also enjoyed canoeing at Barton Creek cave; if you're doing ATM, this would be redundant though. We did snorkeling at Hol Chan, and it's the best we've ever done - sea turtles, huge rays, colorful tropical fish, nurse sharks, and more. We also found the food to be really good, much better for the most part than we've found in Costa Rica. Also a big plus that everyone speaks English.
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Jul 16th, 2012, 06:15 PM
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I've been to Belize in December, but, it's been several years.

The weather was fine, certainly not as hot as summer, but, we could certainly swim.
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Jul 17th, 2012, 08:46 AM
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Ah, brilliant -- thanks JeanH! I'm actually not a fan of sticky-hot weather, in general, so what you're describing sounds like it should do quite nicely. Were you on the mainland or did you visit some of the Cayes?

volcanogirl, how highly do you rate Tikal? I'm really torn on it because I'm trying to keep the costs from this trip from getting out of control; I actually focused on this part of the world this year because I've done African safaris for the past two years, and I thought this would be a less extravagant splurge. Tikal does sound like something I want to see, but I've also been told that diving off Glover's Reef is world class, so I'm weighing Tikal against paying for scuba certification and doing dives. Also, if I opt for Tikal, do you think it's a good day trip or would you overnight in the area to try to get in an early morning visit?

So many things to consider ...
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Jul 17th, 2012, 10:01 AM
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We only went to Tikal for the day and that was plenty for us. The ruins are impressive, and we were able to climb several of them, great views too. Some are excavated and some are still covered with jungly vines. We saw some neat wildlife there, like spider monkeys, aracaris, and oscillated turkeys. If you have any interest in ruins, it's worth seeing. PACZ is a nice tour group if you need one. Jean has a place on Ambergris, so she's a good source of info. if you're interested in that area.
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Jul 17th, 2012, 05:08 PM
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Thanks again, volcanogirl.

I think I'm going to take a closer look at Tikal and send out a few inquiries with Pacz and Roxy (I know I've seen that name recommended a lot as a tour guide for Tikal) before I make up my mind. I need to get a better feel for how long transfers will take and how much I should budget, too.

Still leaning toward the Glover's Reef itinerary for the bulk of my trip, but I definitely have more to think about (and now I know I can ask JeanH for tips if I turn my sights to Ambergris - yay).

Oh, for a windfall that would let me do it all!
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 02:57 AM
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If you want a lovely off-shore resirt that we think trupmps Glovers reef by far and isonly slightly more expensive before Dec. 15, they tend to all go up from Dec. 15-Jan.10 and then again in Feb.-April. You might want to consider Turneffe Reef Resort. We have been there 3 times in 5 years. They offer 4 and 7 day packages in beach front cabins or in the main house. They have snorkeling (1.5 hrs. each outing) twice a day, use of kayaks and hobies and 3 excellent meals for about $1600/person for 7 days. There is a dive package that some take advantage of and many take the fishing packing going for bone, permit and tarpon fish. We take the resort package and pay to fish ($90 guide, boat and equipment) for one day. They also offer outings to the ruins for I think $75/person and because they are the closest to the Blue Hole they go once a week on Tuesdays and are there generally before the crowds. We would not go back so often if it was not so good and reasonably priced. You may get a discout using my name or maybe not because we will be going back for a fourth time next March.
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 06:31 AM
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I hear you, Windowless. It's hard to choose!

Stan, do people snorkel at the Blue Hole, or is it only for diving? We've seen it from the air, and it looks amazing.
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 05:18 AM
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People do snorkel at the Blue Hole. I've never been, too long a boat ride from Ambergris for me, but, I've heard good things.
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 08:02 AM
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The Placencia Peninsula has much to offer and is centrally located. Beach, snorkel, dive, zip-line, ruins, Jaguar Reserve, river tubing, etc. Here are accommodations that are very suitable... The Maine Stay
http://www.vrbo.com/55689
https://sites.google.com/a/mainestaybelize.com/www/home
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 10:18 AM
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Thanks, Jean - do you know how long the boat ride is?
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 10:56 AM
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It's at least two hours, and sometimes can be pretty rough. About a 12 hour day.
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 12:54 PM
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Thanks for chiming in, everyone!

Stan, what do you prefer about Turneffe over Glover's? I'm leaning pretty far in the direction of Glover's, but I'd still be interested in hearing what you find at Turneffe that trumps it. Accommodations, environment, etc.?

JeanH, I've looked at Ambergris and continue to hear great things about it. The one downside (such as it is) is that it's also rumored to be one of the more crowded/touristy cayes. I know you mentioned that you haven't been there in December lately, but was that a particular issue when you were? Again, still leaning toward Glover's (the itinerary, relative privacy and experience of the operators are a draw for a newbie like me), but I haven't finalized plans.

I doubt I'll have time to see Placencia on this trip, Drew, but I will keep it on my list for possible return destinations. The Jaguar reserve, in particular, sounds wonderful.

And oooh, the thought of snorkeling at the Blue Hole is a very tempting one ... not sure whether it would be realistic to try to fit it into this trip, but more food for thought (and maybe for a return trip).

I might post another topic separately on this, but what could any of you suggest for the best ways to transfer between Belize City, San Ignacio and Flores/Tikal on the Guatemala side? I'm still seriously considering the trip to Tikal and possibly Yaxha, but I've been having a hard time finding much info on transfer pricing for the Belize to Guatemala portion. It's particularly disheartening because I think I'm traveling alone, and I've been seeing prices like $200US in each direction -- which doesn't sound realistic.

I don't want to rush myself too much and I know I'm already trying to fit a lot of sights into not a whole lot of time. If the Guatemala or any other parts of my tentative plans fall through, I'll reconsider Placencia, etc. -- I think zip-lining and such would be fun to try!
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 02:03 PM
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The lodges on Turneffe offer the BH dive or snorkel on Tuesdays. Glovers and Turneffe are both atolls; we have 3 in Belize and 4 in our hemisphere and offer the best marine environments in our area. Glover is a bit more remote and hass had less human pressure, but both are exquisite. Tikal is the most impressive site in the Mayan empire and I love both Ya Xha and Topoxte, a site close by on an island on the lagoon. You could base in the San Ignacio area for more Mayan sites, caves with artifacts, zip lines and a day trip to Tikal that'll cost you less than a dedicated trip to Tikal on your own
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 03:07 PM
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If you're looking for that get away from it all feeling, I probably wouldn't go to Ambergris. When you head into town, there are a lot of golf carts, etc. We stayed south of town, and that area was really relaxing. For Tikal, we stayed in the San Ignacio area and took PACZ tours over for the day; one person in our group was using them just for the transfer service and didn't do the tour with us. You could check with them for prices.
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 07:17 PM
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I saw that, Katie -- some of the individual trips I've priced out are so much more expensive than the package tours, it's hard to believe it!

If I can get the transfers to work, I do want to make it to both Yaxha and Tikal; but that's still a pretty big "if" just now. Buses in Belize get high marks for reliability and budget cost, but if I'm traveling solo, that makes keeping an eye on baggage a bit tougher than otherwise. And Belize-Guatemala gets much more questionable reviews.

I'm still reaching out to some of the private shuttle operators I've seen listed here and in the TripAdvisor forums, so we'll see what they quote me. PACZ may be an option, but I was hoping to stay in Flores or Tikal overnight in order to avoid some of the crowds and to take in Yaxha.

At any rate, I'll be in San Ignacio for at least one night in order to visit ATM, if all goes according to plan.

volcanogirl, you're right that I'm prioritizing remoteness; that was probably the biggest reason I looked first to Glover's and sites that were somewhat less traveled. I don't need to have total solitude, but I work in DC -- very busy and a high volume of people, so vacation to me says look for a locale that's totally opposite.

I love you Fodorites for these tips!
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