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Trip Report Trip Report- Belize in 8 days 1/2/10-1/9/10

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My husband, 21 year old son and 17 year old daughter just came back from Belize. Despite the weather we had a fabulous time. A few observations first: We were all impressed at how nice and smart the Belizian's were and while we had overcast -damp weather and no sun every day, it never interfered with our excursions- thankfully. So here is our daily itinerary:

Day 1-
We flew direct on Continental from Newark, NJ to Belize City. Thankfully I upgraded to first class because when we got to ther airport 1 1/2 hours earllier than the scheduled time to leave, because of the heightened security ,the Continental personnel said we should have been there 3 hours earlier, but with the Elite status we were whisked through pretty quickly. We arranged for Chaa Creek to pick us up at the airport to take us to their resort in San Inguacio. Joe Awe was our driver who was as nice as could be and certainly pointed out all the sites on our 2 hour drive and gave us a great education about Belize. Since we were going to get there around 3:00 in the afternoon we had Joe call in and arrange for massages for all of us. We were staying in the Treetop villas for 3 nights but it was unavaialble for the first night so we stayed in the Spa Villa on the first night. It was a 3 bedroom villa. Very nice and quite large. We ate dinner at Chaa Creek which was very good. Our accomodations only included continental breakfasts so we had to pay for dinners. They offer 4 course dinners which were very good. What we didn't learn till later is that you did not have to have all 4 courses. The food was reallly good though.We went to bed after dinner as we had an early start in the morning getting to the airport and tomorrow we were getting up early to go to Tikal.

Day 2
I had arranged prior to arriving in Belize the Tiakl excursion and the ATM tour with Pacz tours. As it turns out Chaa Creek uses Pacz tours as well and "belize it or not" the prices were not that different if I had booked through Chaa Creek directly when we arrived. We got up at 5:30, had breakfast and was picked up at 6:45. Our guide was Juice who was very informative. We got to the border of Guatemala, went through immigration and then we were driven 2 hours to Tikal. We toured Tikal and climbed 3 temples. It was all quite fascinating. At 3:00 we were taken to an outdoor restaurant for a very good chicken lunch. On our 2 hour trip back to the border, right before the border, we asked Juice to stop at a souvenir /art shop we had heard about- "Antigua". We bought a hand sewn wall hanging of the Mayan calender. As it turns out we saw several versions of it else where but it was the cheapest in Guatamala. We went back through immigration and driven back to Chaa Creek. We were taken to our new room, the Tree Top Villa, overlooking the Macal River. It was amazing. We were in #9 but for the record #10 is the better tree top villa to request. We were thinking about going to Belize last year but since the Tree Top Villa was not available my husband wanted to wait another year until it was available. It is a very special accomadation. We loved it. The kids took a hot bath in the oudtside hot tub and we all got dressed for dinner. Again we really enjoyed dinner. We signed up for an 8:00PM nature hike, which was really interesting. We saw birds, torantulas, possums, and other wild life. We went to the bar after for a drink and then back to the Tree House to get a good night sleep.

Day 3
We woke up, had breakfast and was picked up by Orlando of Pacz tours for our ATM excursion. After an 1 1/2 hour drive we arrived. Since I was quite nervous if I was going to be able to hike, swim, etc. I was behind Orlando the entire day and he literally held my hand the entire time!!! We hiked for about 45 minutes, 2 miles, walking through water and up and down muddy trails to the mouth of the cave. It was challenging at times but soooo fascinating. We stayed in the cave for about 3 hours and then headed back to the mouth of the cave to get out and hike back. We saw some amazing skelitons and relics. Truly fascinating. I question how long they will keep the cave open to the public??? It seems that at some point the authenticty might get comprimised. We had lunch, sandwiches and fruit when we got out of the cave and then took the 2 mile hike back to the van. When we got back to Chaa Creek we went to the internet to retrieve our e-mails since we got no reception anywhere on our blackberrys. Afer dinner we went to the bar and had lots of drinks, played some games with the other guests and headed back to the Tree House. At about 4:00AM my husband and I were woken by the howling monkeys. They really sound like dinosaurs in Jurasic Park!!!

Day 4
We woke up and were driven down the road to Chaa Creek's horse stables. We met the owner Mick. His story of how he and his wife came to purchase Chaa Creek was really very interesting. Having spoken to him for a while it became apparent why everyone who works at Chaa Creek is so nice and accomadating becuase they all love workng for Mick and his wife. As our driver Joe said, he was amazed at how Chaa Creek tolerated him for the past 10 years!!! They are all thankful to be employed there and it really shows, in every way. Our guide Robert guided us through the woods and it was a truly beautiful ride. When we got to the top we dismounted and Robert, who is studying archeology, showed us some very interesting artifacts that he has picked up while riding through the 365 acres that Chaa Creek owns. At the top was also a great view of the Kunantunich temples. Since my son used to ride hores often years ago he asked Robert to take him for a while to cantor, which Robert gladly did and my son loved it. My daughter uesd to ride too and used to love to clean and brush the horses so Robert had her stay on and said he would take her back in a while so she could meet us for lunch after she helped him clean the horses. We ate lunch and then went to the water and took canoes down the Macal River around 2 hours to the town of San Inguacio. While we were in our canoes there was another canoe with a guide and 2 women. The guide actually rode down the river with us and pointed out iguanas, bats, monkeys and other wildlife to us as well. We returned our vests and paddles to Eva's as instructed by Chaa Creek. We shopped around town for a while. It took all of 1/2 hour!!! We ate an early dinner at Hannah's which was a good local cheap Belizean restaurant. Chaa Creek picked us up there exactly at 6:00 as we had asked. Again we went to the bar , had some drinks and played some games with some of the other guests.

Day 5

We slept in a little and had breakfast. They actually had finished serving breakfast but accomodated us anyway. We took a 7 minute walk to the tent camp that Chaa Creek owns. I must say for relatively no money one can stay at the camp,public showers and toilets , but be in an upscale resort. While it is not for me it was a really beautiful camp site. At the bar we met a few of the young couples staying there and they all loved it. Apparently the home cooked meals up there are great!!!! We went back to the Tree House to finish packing and took some pictures of monkeys and iguanas that were in the trees right outside our villa. We were being picked up by Turtle Inn at 1:00 so we sat by the pool and read for an hour until our transportaion arrived. We were sad to leave Chaa Creek as we really felt at home there. I recommend it highly to anyone going to San Inguacio. Our driver, Theo, was an older gentleman who was the 3rd person in all of Belize licensed to be a tour guide and proud of it!! He was very knowledgable. We asked him if he could stop at the Orange gift shop on the way to Placnecia. He was happy to stop. It is quite large and we did buy a few things. I think their prices are a little higher than the other places we went to but they had a great selection.We had a 3 hour ride to Placnecia where we were scheuleded to take a boat for the last 20 minutes of the transport, although Turltle Inn appreantly never told Theo that, so he had to arrange for the boat on our way up to Placencia??? At one point Theo put the van in neutral and the van went in reverse, He called it the Hill of Mystery- a magnetic hill??? At the Hokey Pokey boat place we were picked up and taken to The Turtle Inn. We did see dolphins on our ride to the resort. We were taken to our 2 bedroom 2 Bath with 2 outdoor showers Sea Side Villa which was right on the beach. The women who took us was somewhat disinterested, she barely showed us around, which was a bit annoying as we were paying allot of money to stay at Coppola's property on the beach, Oh well??? The Villa was beautifull. We changed and took a taxi to town and had dinner at the Secret Garden. It was delocius.It is owned by a Canadian couple who really created a charming setting with very good food. After dinner we went across the street to the Placencia Ice Cream place, because Tutti Frutti was closed, which serves soy milk ice cream. It was actually pretty good. We got back to the resort and the kids went to the bar for drinks and we went back to sleep.

Day 6

We woke up early as we were going snorkeling at 8:15. We were told that the boat leaves from across the street at the Dive Shop at 8:15. By 9:00 we still hadn't left as there was another family of 3 that was going with us but they were scuba diving so the crew had to check the tanks, etc. Not sure why this wasn't all done before we got there. The manager Gary, when I went to complain, explained that they had to do a pick up before we were going out on our tour so he was sorry for the inconvenience??? We boated out for about 40 minutes to Hummingbird Key where we docked and left all our belongings. We put on our wet suits as it was a bit cold and headed into the water for our first snorkel out. with our guide Rico, a really nice guy. It was beautiful. When we got out after an hour of snorkeling we were pretty cold so we changed into dry clothes and had lunch on the picnic tables The kids and I were too cold to go for a second snorkel so my husband and Rico went out together. They actually said it was warmer and they saw a whole lot more than the first time in!!! The kids and I realxed and read. We headed back to Turte Inn at around 2:00. On the way back there were about 6 dolphins trying to race us and then started doing jumps in the air. My daughter got a pictue of 2 in the air making a circle. The guides were even impressed and actually gave us their e-mails to send them the picture!!!! We got back and quiickly changed as we arranged for masaages in town at the Secret Garden Day Spa by Lee Nyhus. She was really good. The kids went first and my husband and I walked through town and on the boardwalk, which is a tiny street with a few stores and locals selling their wares on the side of the walk. We bougfht a few things and then met the kids at the spa. They want back to the resort and my husband and I had our massages. When we got back we changed and had dinner at the resort's restaurant across the street, Auntie Lubbas. The menu never changes. It is a very simple restaurant and it is true Belizean food, rice and beans with different meats and fish, It was really good and of course Coppola wines offered!!! We came back to the resort for coffee and dessert at their Italian restaurant. We went back to the villla and played a game and went to sleep.

Day 7

It was a lazy kind of day so we slept in and had breakfast brought to the villa looking over the ocean. It was really relaxing. We literally lied around all day( the weather was drizzly and damp) read, went on the computer and just hung out. My husband and I took a walk around the property and saw Coppola's villa and Sophia's villa.The property is really charming. I am very glad we opted for a waterfront villa as the others have no view of the water. At about 1:00 we all had lunch and drinks at the outdoor pallazzo by the pool. It was a really good lunch. After lunch we went back to the villa to rest some more!!!!For dinner we took a taxi into town and had dinner at the French Connection. The food was good, not great, and very expensive. Don't know if I would recommend it????We walked to Tutti Frutti for gelatto after, which was quite good. We took a taxi back to see that they never made up our beds nor did they take the breakfast dishes away from the morning. I called to have them deal with it which they did right away.???

Day 8

We woke up and had breakfast and was scheduled to go fishing for a half a day. It was really raining out and the captain thought it might be rough out there and thought it was not a good idea to go. There were quite a few famlilies at breakfast that were getting ready to go home as it was Saturday and that is the only day that Continental offers a direct flight to Newark. We were scheduled to leave the next day, Sunday, with a stop over in Houston.The weather did not look promising for the rest of the day or tomorrow either. So I quickly went to the reception to get Continental on the line and was able to change our flights for $50 per person and we were able to get on the Tropic Air flight from Placencia to Belize City. We had 1/2 hour to pack and get picked up to go to the local airport. We got to the Belize City airport pretty early so we shopped some more and had an uneventful flight back home. My husband was just as happy as he likes to have a day after vacation to relax before we have to go back to work,

The vacation was amazing, in spite of not having any sun at all. As you can see I wasn't overly impressed with The Turtle Inn. In actuality my husband wanted to stay at the Victoria House in San Pedro but I opted for Turtle Inn in Plancencia because I was told the beaches were allot nicer. It appears that when an owner is at the property 100% of the time, like in Chaa Creek, rather than having a manager mange a property, the service one experiences is very different. I also found Belize very simlar to Costa Rica which we went to a few years ago and loved. All in all we loved Beize, loved the people, loved Chaa Creek and would pass on Turtle Inn (even though the sea front villa is amazing inside and the view amazing as well).

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