Since we briefly thought that Belize might be a good alternative for living out our island fantasy, we booked a trip there this past February. Of course, by the time that we got to Belize, we had already decided that making a home there would be too difficult so this trip was going to be all about vacation and nothing about real estate. (or so we thought – see previous post!)
We started our trip in Ambergris Caye, a peninsula northeast of Belize City. It was a short flight in a small airplane which flew very close to the water. There were many hotels and resorts to choose from on Ambergris Caye, but we had decided to stay in the main city of San Pedro. We were also trying to keep this trip on the cheap so instead of staying at one of the big resorts, we stayed in a small resort in the middle of town called The Tides. The Tides had twelve rooms and was right on the beach. They also had their own dive shop which was very convenient. The Tides was definitely not the Four Seasons – we had one washcloth, no box springs on the bed, very little light in the room, and it was next door to a school with screaming kids in the morning and band practice with drums in the evening. That being said, the general location was great. We were able to walk to the restaurants in town and never felt unsafe.
One day, we rented bikes and rode up the shoreline and saw some of the other nicer, larger resorts. To ride north of San Pedro, you have to cross a bridge where no cars are allowed. Most people use golf carts. While the accommodations were much nicer up north, I’m glad we chose to stay in town where everything was more accessible.
We stayed in San Pedro three full days. One of the days, we went scuba diving. This dive was probably the most interesting dive we had been on in terms of seeing wildlife. The boat took us out to Hol Chan Park, a national park in the middle of the ocean. As the boat pulled up, I began to see fins circling. “Don’t worry, they’re just nurse sharks,” our dive master said. Needless to say, that did not reassure me, but I did get in the water. Sure enough, the sharks stayed away from us. On our second dive, we went out further and deeper. The dive master had brought some “treats” and large grouper began to follow him like little puppies. They stayed with us throughout the dive. We also saw an enormous stingray which had a wingspan somewhere around 8 feet.
From San Pedro, we flew back to Belize City and drove 3.5 hours south to Placencia. We had planned to fly, but the airstrip was shut down to be repaved. This is just one of the examples of how Third World Belize still is. The drive through the countryside was absolutely beautiful. The land was lush and green, and I have never seen so many orange trees in my life. The drive was uneventful until we turned off the main road. Luckily, we had rented an SUV because nothing could have prepared me for this “road”. It was unpaved and had potholes the size of small canyons. Unfortunately, we had to travel twenty miles on this road to get to our guest house.
We stayed at the Maya Beach Hotel in the bottom floor of a guest house. The house was literally right on the beach, and we had our own pool that was shared with the couple on the top floor of the house. The house was perfect. I felt like we had the beach all to ourselves. The main hotel was next door and had some of the best food that I ate on the whole trip. (Everything that I ate in Belize was excellent, and that’s saying a lot because I am extremely picky).
To go into the main town of Placencia, we had to get back on the unpaved road and travel about ten miles. As a result, we only made 3 trips into town. On the way into town, you travel through a fishing village called Seine Bight. Throughout this area, the road was probably in the worst condition. It was also a little sketchy. People were sitting in the middle of the road, and just expected you to drive around them.
Placencia was also a little sketchy. To get to the beach from the main road, you basically had to walk through people’s backyards. None of the walkways to the beach had sidewalks or decks, and they were all unlit. At nighttime, it was a little unsettling. The town itself was cute, and had a little bit of a hippie vibe. Most of our time in town was spent trying to send faxes, but I think we saw a representative sample of the town.
On the evening of our anniversary, we drove almost all the way into town for dinner at Turtle Inn, a resort owned by Francis Ford Coppola. Turtle Inn (even at night) was stunning. The restaurant had a very South Pacific feel, and the waiters were wearing long sarongs. The grounds were beautifully landscaped, and if the restaurant bathrooms were any indication, the accommodations were incredible as well. Oh well, maybe on our next trip – after we win the lottery.