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San Pedro Ambergris Caye, Belize OR Grand Cayman

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Jan 4th, 2013, 07:32 AM
  #1
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San Pedro Ambergris Caye, Belize OR Grand Cayman

Help! I think I've *finally* narrowed my husbands and I's winter vacay to one of these two destinations: San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Belize and Grand Caymen, BWI. But I need some input from those of you who've been to either/both!!

The similarities I've found between the two:
-Similar flight cost and travel time (both are really long flights-I think Belize is slightly shorter)
-World class diving
-Warm, tropical environment

Grand Cayman
-Less inexpensive lodging options, thus, overall more expensive
-World famous "Seven Mile Beach"
-Rental car is a MUST
-Great food, but heard it's costly
-No idea about night life (we're not looking for crazy, but at least some options)
-Limited sight-seeing around the island (I could be wrong here??)
-USD conversion CID is 20% less

San Pedro/Belize:
-Not much for beach, or swimming off shore for that matter (so I've read)
-Lots of great food and a plethora of fun bars/restaurants to go (not sure about cost)
-USD to BZD is 2:1
-No rental car needed-golf carts are primary means of transportation on the island, or inexpensive cabs, or bicycles
-Several things to do on mainland Belize, but requires water taxi to/from (not sure about cost on this one)

Please! Could someone provide their personal opinion of each of these destinations, your experiences, facts about cost, things to do, etc. etc. I am having a hard time making a decision. I feel that Belize would be much less expensive, but is it worth the extra $$ for an experience in GC? I don't know. We are novice divers, but would like to do some diving, love culture, food, and being able to try adventurous things that are off-the-beaten-path or different.

Thanks!
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Jan 4th, 2013, 07:48 AM
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We loved Belize. We did a split between the San Ignacio area for jungle activities and Ambergris for water activities. We don't dive, but we snorkel and Hol Chan was amazing. We've snorkeled all over the world, and this is some of the best we've done - big sea turtles, rays, colorful fish, nurse sharks, etc. We stayed at Chaa Creek and Victoria House. VH has a beautiful soft white sand beach with palm tress, lounge chairs, hammocks, etc. Nice pool. Good restaurants/bar. There is sea grass in the water. Most snorkeling excursion are done via quick boat trip - took us about 10 minutes to get there. There are a lot of little restaurants and shops in town - a quick golf cart or bike ride in or a $5 taxi ride. From the jungle area we went over to Tikal to see the ruins and also went caving. It's a pretty user friendly country since the native tongue is English and things are measured in miles. We would definitely go back. We've stayed at several spots in the Carib. and I prefer Belize.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 09:35 AM
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You can't compare the two, as G Cayman is a smalll island with one of the highest per capita incomes in the Caribbean. Nice restaurants, shops, reef and beaches. Belize is a large country on the Caribbean in Cent America with the largest barrier reef in the hempsphere and mainland has jungle, Mayan sites, caves with artifacts, zip lines, rapelling, botanic gardens, butterfly farms and is friendly and has diverse English speaking cultures. You can base in one location on the beach and take day trips to the mainland or split your trip between the two areas and get a better feel for the mainland and all it has to offer.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 10:43 AM
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I am sure they are very different. Could those of you that have been to both places, please weigh in your pros/cons of each destination?
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Jan 4th, 2013, 10:46 AM
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Haven't been to GC, but Belize is one of my favorite destinations. What can I say, I fell in love with San Pedro as well...
We loved San Pedro and also spent some time on the more relaxed Caye Caulker. San Pedro diving and snorkeling were great - best snorkeling spot I've been to, where we really could see as much marine life as when diving. Even novice divers will be able to do a lot - they would even take you to the Blue Hole if you want (Although not my favorite type of dive, because you go very deep for a very short time and come back).
If you're looking for off the beaten track, maybe look at some other of the islands in belize as well.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 11:43 AM
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oli, how would snorkeling at the Blue Hole be?
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Jan 4th, 2013, 02:10 PM
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the two are very different so you cant really compare them.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 06:04 PM
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I can only comment about Grand Cayman. Great diving and snorkeling. Snorkeling from the beach. Many excellent dive operators. Not really long flights. Non-stop flights during the winter from northeast US (Boston, NYC, DC) and Toronto less than 4 hours. Lodging probably more expensive than Belize but very few substandard accommodations. Food not cheap, but there are many places you can a reasonably priced meal.Many condos available for rent , cuts cost of eating. Crime rate very low. rental car is good to have, but depending where you are you may not need one. Public buses available in Seven Mile Beach area.
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Jan 5th, 2013, 06:19 AM
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I think one of the reasons you're not getting many responses from people who have been to both islands is because they are so different. I love Ambergris, and have absolutely no desire to visit Grand Cayman. I suspect people who love Cayman have little interest in Belize.

I met some regular visitors to Grand Cayman here on Ambergris a few years ago. They were only here because of a hurricane on Cayman. They were somewhat uncomfortable here, I suspect being on Cayman is a lot more like being in the US.

I'm guessing you'll find more adventure in Belize. Take a day trip to the mainland for Mayan sites, cave tubing, cave exploring.
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Jan 5th, 2013, 07:29 AM
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We haven't been to Cayman, but we've been to the Bahamas, the BVIs, the USVIs, etc. and Belize just has so much more to offer with the ruins and adventure activities. I agree with Jean. Seems that most people who go to Belize want to go back. Belize sounds like your kinds of place since you said you're interested in adventure activities and things off the beaten path or different. These are two very different types of vacations, and it's just whichever type your personally prefer.
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Jan 5th, 2013, 09:03 AM
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I spent 2 weeks in Belize, a week on Ambergris Caye and a week inland. My experience on Grand Cayman is only a one day cruise stop, so it's much, much more limited. But like the others said, they are two very different experiences. GC felt much more Americanized. Large buildings, condos, hotels. Traffic and a modernized hustle and bustle. It's a beautiful island and we made a quick picture stop at seven mile beach. It's lovely. We snorkeled in GC and the water was great, saw a lot of marine life. I can't comment on the food, I don't remember where we had lunch - I'm sure there are fine restaurants.

As far as Ambergris Caye, I can't say one negative thing about my experience in Belize. The snorkeling was fantastic. I did a learn to scuba dive at Hole Chan and it was amazing. The week we spent in Ambergris Caye we were on the ocean every day - either snorkeling, the dive, or on a boat. We ate at some wonderful restaurants. We found the food to be reasonably priced. The crowds are people not cars. You do have the option of some jungle excursions and if you like that type of thing, it's quite an adventure. You don't have that in GC.

I would go back to Belize in a second. After spending a day in GC, I'm not sure that there's much other than the snorkeling/diving, that would draw me back, and I could do that in Belize.
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Jan 5th, 2013, 04:25 PM
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I really appreciate all of the feedback so far! =) I agree, I think we may like Belize a bit more...

With that said, I have a couple more questions to ask: we are planning a trip the 22nd-29th of March...as of now the flights are VERY expensive ($1,000 and up) for 7 and 10 hr flights from Mn. I've found some that are around $800, but they are 15hr flights! I realize this last week in March is a popular time to travel, but unfortunately our dates are not flexible. Any helpful hints/tips on how to get cheaper airfare/hotel???

Also, we've been to Tulum, Q.Roo before and visited the Mayan Ruins, as well as Sian Kaan Biosphere, and several cenotes... We like to mix it up and not do the same thing twice. What activities on the inland Belize do you HIGHLY recommend that are different than what we've already done? I've read about the cave tubing, but was it as fun as it's hyped up to be?

Thanks!
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Jan 5th, 2013, 05:52 PM
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Taking a quick look at Kayak.com, I found flights on American with good times for about $760.00.....IF you can manage to leave one day earlier.

That's on American Airlines.

Another option, although I wouldn't do it with just a week, is to fly into Cancun, then take the bus to Chetumal, followed by a water taxi to Ambergris. You lose two days to travel though, not a good plan with just a week.

I'm not the best person to advise on mainland Belize, most of my time is spent on Ambergris. That said, one of these times I want to go and visit the ATM cave. It looks awesome.

Some people seem to love cave tubing, some don't. It's definitely not a whitewater rafting kind of experience. I think how much fun it is depends in part on how much water is in the river at the time.
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Jan 5th, 2013, 07:07 PM
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We did canoeing at Barton Creek Cave with a guide; it was very cool. We saw some small artifacts and a human skull. ATM cave is more elaborate, and you climb/swim vs. canoeing. Tikal is definitely worth seeing, and we saw monkeys and other wildlife there. When you go snorkeling, definitely go to Hol Chan like mentioned above.

Pacz is a good tour company for going to Tikal if you need one.
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Jan 6th, 2013, 07:55 AM
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We didn't do the cave tubing. I don't know that the trip inland would be worth it to me for that activity. The ATM cave was an absolute highlight. Here is a link to my blog post for that day:

http://tripspicsandtales.blogspot.co...pelunking.html

I also have the rest of our Belize trip posted there as well if you want some more ideas.

Wherever your staying should have a list of inland excursions so you can make your decisions once you arrive. You may end up deciding to just stay on Ambergris Caye once you get there and focus on the island activities. I think Tikal is too far for a day trip from the island. If I remember a couple at our hotel were looking into an overnight trip, including a flight into Guatamala just to get there.
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Jan 6th, 2013, 08:51 AM
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kat, if you can do a split, that makes it a lot easier to do inland activities. Once we got to Ambergris we just wanted to relax and stay put.
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Jan 6th, 2013, 11:14 PM
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@volcanogirl - The blue hole is definitely special. it's huge and the stalactites are impressive. However, it's a loooong boat ride away (a couple of hours), and with the other dives (we did 3 that day) its very tiring. The hole itself was no more than 25 mins, because it's very deep. You go down to ~140-150 ft IIRC, so can't stay long..
There was very little marine life in there as well, but that's not the point of that particular dive.

All in all, I had much more fun on all of my other dives in Belize, where there was just so much color and diversity, and much closer to shore.

PS re Tikal I agree with ShellD it's likely too far away for a day trip from the cayes. It is magnificent though, huge and very impressive, esp. with how it sits inside the jungle. When you climb the big temple and are sitting there above the tree tops, and look around to see some others jutting out here and there it's a really magical feeling.
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Jan 7th, 2013, 09:49 AM
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Thanks, o! It sounds like we wouldn't see much there if we were just snorkeling. We always see it from the air when we fly to Costa Rica, and it looks really beautiful.
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Jan 7th, 2013, 03:36 PM
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*oops*
just realized you asked about snorkeling, not diving...
But I think you got the point.

I'm envious that you got to see it from the air - I feel it's one of those places that looks awesome from the air, and you don't get the same view when your'e in the water.
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Jan 7th, 2013, 07:31 PM
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Yes, it's amazing. We had to ask the flight attendant, "What is that?!" Maybe we'll take up diving some day so we can see it as it should be seen.
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