Is Belize the right destination for us?

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Jun 14th, 2009, 02:52 PM
  #1
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Is Belize the right destination for us?

After taking a year off of traveling (my husband and I spent the last year adopting our son and will now spend the rest of the year trying to pay for it) I'm ready to plan our trip for 2010, but am having trouble deciding where to go. We've been thinking about Belize for a while and I wanted to get feedback as to whether this is the right choice for us. Here is some history on our travel likes.

Our absolute favorite place is Costa Rica. We've gone twice, once in 2005 and then again in March of 2008. Shillmac's posts helped me a lot both times.

In 2005, my husband and I travelled alone and split our time between Arenal, Malpais and Montezuma. Arenal was a little touristy for us but my husband still talks about our quiet night at Ecotermales hot springs and the ziplining and waterfall rapelling were amazing. Montezuma was our least favorite location because it was a little too "laid" back if you follow me. We are not big partiers. We stayed at Ylang-Ylang resort on the beach and loved the remoteness of it, thought. We loved Malpais for what it was - a cozy beach town where we could chill and enjoy the beauty.

2008 - We returned with 10 friends to celebrate my husband's 30th birthday and to renew our wedding vows. We spent 2 nights at La Carolina Lodge and it is probably the best place we have ever stayed. Loved everything about that place. It is a small place in the jungles near the Nicaraguan border. Little to no electricity. homecooked food, on the river, horseback riding, hikes, etc. From there we went back to Malpais and we were disappointed with the development that had taken place. Our favorite restaurant ended up being bulldozed we were told the week after we left. We rented a private house that was amazing, though.

Other than CR, we haven't travelled a whole lot. Greece and Italy. In Greece we visited Folegandros and Santorini. Santorini was a bit touristy for our taste but the beauty and uniqueness of it more than made up for that. We loved Folegandros because of how quiet it was. We spent the days hiking across the island and finding our way to deserted beaches.

Italy was a bit different because my husband's buddy lives in Florence and he acted as our private tour guide. Overall we are the "off the beaten path" type folks. We prefer the unique and local over resort or elegant.

With all that said, we are thinking about Belize to celebrate my 30th birthday next year. We are not planning on taking our son and think that we prefer to stay in Central America rather than going to Europe. As of right now it looks like we can use our miles for really low amounts to fly into Belize City (which also is making me leans toward this location).

Budget is a huge consideration as we are trying to build our savings back up. We'd like to go for about a week. I've read a lot of the posts and I think the Macal Jungle River Camp looks right up our alley. Reminds me somewhat of the La Carolina set up. The other half of the trip I'm leaning towards AC or CC. It seems like getting some snorkeling time in while in Belize would be a must. Based on our background, what beach suggestions would you give me. VH, Portofino and the likes all look lovely but seem to be more than what we need. Would we be better suited for CC?

Am I totally off the mark and there is some other more perfect location I'm overlooking?

Thanks!
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Jun 14th, 2009, 04:49 PM
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We loved Macal River Jungle Camp - there are pictures of it and our travelogue are linked below. We chose Glover's for our blue water time in 2003 and will return there and visit Caye Caulker this summer along with several mainland stops. Check out www.belizefirst.com for lodging ratings (a free download) and for comparisons between the cayes.

Have a wonderful trip, whatever you decide, and be sure to tell us all about it!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

PS I'd be interested in hearing more about your adoption; we adopted a 4-year-old boy from Guatemala 20 years ago this summer.
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Jun 15th, 2009, 12:34 AM
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Hopefulist- I read your travelogue and looked at all the great pics. Glovers looks amazing and totally up our alley. The only thing bumming me out is that it looks like they cater to the 1 week stay. I'm afraid we won't have to time to stay a whole week and I see transport is pretty darn expensive there otherwise. I will definitely check out the website you posted. Thanks for all the great information you shared.

Another note is that we will be traveling with one other couple (same ages) who has the exact same travel tastes as us. She is in the travel industry so she may be able to help in some ways, too.

I can't post much about our adoption because it isn't finalized, but we are blessed to have the most beautiful baby boy - I'm a bit biased. We adopted domestically. We can't wait to start adventures with him but I think for this trip it will just be mommy and daddy time.

Thanks for tagging this with Belize. I couldn't figure out where to do that....
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Jun 15th, 2009, 04:41 AM
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Macal River Camp is lovely, set aside from the main lodge at Chaa Creek, but still accessible to the activities offered at both, lovely setting in the bush on the river, nice casitas and staff, very good choice and close to impressive Mayan sites, cave trips, waterfalls, river and horse trips, butterfly farm and cultures. For beach, there are places to stay for less $ on Ambergris than the inns you listed and you can also look at other beach areas including Placencia and Hopkins. Happy birthday.
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Jun 15th, 2009, 05:35 AM
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Yes, Glover's ceases to be a budget place if you head out or back midweek. It might still be worth it, though, and with 4 at least you'd be splitting the cost. Congratulations on your adoption, happy birthday, and keep us posted!
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Jun 15th, 2009, 06:34 AM
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I suspect if you found Arenal too touristy, that you might find Ambergris too touristy as well. Although if you stay a mile or so (or more) from town, it will be quiet.

I love Ambergris, so I'm biased. I like the white sand, the clear, blue water. The beaches aren't great, they're pretty narrow and there's sea grass in the water. There's some ok snorkeling off of some of the docks.

Caye Caulker is a fun little island. No beaches to speak of. Has more of a backpacker vibe than Ambergris. I enjoyed the time I spent there, but I'd get 'island fever' pretty quickly.

You should look at Placencia. Nice beaches, laid back, great little village. For me the biggest drawback is that it's 19 miles from the reef, long boat rides for snorkeling.

If you want to spend most of your time inland, you might also look at Tobacco Caye. Really tiny, you can walk around the entire island in about five minutes. Not very private, there are six or so small hotels, and that about fills it up. But, it's not very expensive, and it's right on the reef. We spent three nights, I think I would have been happy with two.
I think every hotel supplies meals, and there are a couple of beach bars. We met some wonderful people there.
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Jun 16th, 2009, 09:06 PM
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You might want to look at Turneffe Island Lodge for 5 nights. See if you can find out their scheduled snorkel trip to the Blue Hole, weather permitting, for that is the finest snorkling in Belize or Honduras based on 6 trips to different areas. It is laid back with good food and rooms have A/C. They fly you there from Belize City in the rate if you come for 4 orr more nights but if you travel all that way to get there you really need 6nights which gives you 5 full days. They are not by any means so you have to decide if their rates can fit your budget but for R&R, off the beah snorkeling and a chance to go to the Blue Hole it may be worth it. Personally you might be able after they quote a rate to ask for a 10% discount which will cover the government tax.
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Jun 18th, 2009, 02:55 AM
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Thanks for all the help so far. We have booked our flights for arrival and departure on Sundays - 1st week in March. We are still researching all the choices. For the jungle we seem to have it narrowed down to Ek'Tun, Macal River Jungle Camp and duplooys. I've seen very little on here about the two other than MRJC. We loved the look and sound of Ek'Tun but when we emailed the owner she is having some issues with illness so we aren't sure if that will be a possibility. I found one short post from 07 about comparing duplooys and Chaa Creek. Can anyone give us any further insight on the difference of the two. Obviously MRJC is more rustic and we would have to hike over to Chaa Creek. What would D offer that we wouldn't get elsewhere?

We have looked at Turneffe island. Mainly because the other couple we are going with are divers so that is a big consideration. We can get a 3 night stay there but prices start at $800/night. That seems really high, but I know it is a private island. Oh how I wish Glovers was easier to get to and had better reviews!

We are leaning towards CC right now.

Thanks all.
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Jun 18th, 2009, 05:43 AM
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Have you checked all the places on TripAdvisor.com ? You could also search on BelizeForum.com for more opinions. From what I saw, Chaa Creek was fancier and more refined looking than DuPlooys. While we loved MRJC, we wouldn't have considered Chaa Creek because it was a bit too fancy for our taste. It was nice having access to their facilities and tours, though, and the camp host offered us a ride any time we wanted to head over there. We also rode in on a supply truck once or twice to avoid the shuttle-to-town fee.

Another spendy place (but not $800/night) that's been getting some good reviews is ThatchCayeBelize.com . I've also looked into HuracanDiving.com but can't recommend either personally.

I wish Glover's was getting better reviews, too! In any event we're heading back out there in August, hoping for the same sort of Robinson Crusoe-in-paradise experience we had last time. Even with the high cost of the mid-week shuttle it would be less than $600 for 4 nights plus taxes, rentals, food. I'll post a travelogue after our trip.
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Jun 18th, 2009, 01:10 PM
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To throw another option into your San Ignacio jungle pot, we stayed at Black Rock Lodge (up the road from duPlooy's) and LOVED it. Very remote jungle feel, they run almost everything off of solar energy collected during the day, and communal meals are served at night. We really, really enjoyed it. Being in the travel industry, I'm always checking out hotels while on vacation so we stopped at Chaa Creek (where Macal River Camp is located) and were given a tour - it was nice, but we were very glad we stayed at Black Rock. BRL is cozy and intimate. Didn't get a chance to peek at duPlooy's but it was a bit more expensive than Black Rock.

Amanda
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Jun 18th, 2009, 02:22 PM
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Yes, I've searching Tripadvisor and the Belize Forums. This is getting tougher, not easier! Thatch Caye looks absolutely amazing and might be a great place for us since we have both snorkelers and divers. I'd be interested to here what you think of Glovers this time around. I will keep researching all these jungle ideas.

So is Macal not actually on Chaa Creek. Can we not walk to the resort from the camp?
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Jun 18th, 2009, 03:59 PM
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It's a jungly trail walk away - 15 minutes maybe? Easily done but they'll drive you over if you want. They don't allow cars to drive clear into MRJC - you really feel like you're out in the middle of nowhere. If you've read my reviews you know we saw motmots, toucans, aracaris, parrots, and iguanas from our bunks and hammocks - sweet! The camp host, Dolcio, is wonderful and the food, served in an open air palapa was delicious and varied. Before we sat down to eat Dolcio would light the kerosene lanterns along the trails and in the tent-cabins; by the time we finished dinner it would be dark (around 6:30 that close to the equator). Very well thought out and very comfortable in spite of no electricity and no private bathrooms.

We loved it, but we've loved every place we've stayed in Central America - can't wait to head back for an 8th visit next month!
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Jun 18th, 2009, 04:18 PM
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Thanks, Hopeful. The 15 minute walk isn't a big deal. I prefer it that way rather then being right there next to the resort. This combo might work pretty well. MRJC is cheaper than duplooys so we could save some money there and splurge more for our few island nights. I will post here if I come up with any more finds.
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