Belize has a lot to offer. Whether you want to trek into the interior to go cave tubing and climb Mayan temples or enjoy turquoise blue waters and all the sea life that lives beneath, you can do it all. On this particular trip we only explored the later. Given life circumstances and limited time, we just wanted to relax. Ambergris Caye (pronounced “key”) and Caye Caulker were great places to do just that but in talking with travelers from all over the world, I admit it makes us want to return to explore more.
To get to Ambergris Caye from Belize airport you can take a long taxi and ferry trip or you can take a 15 minute, 12 seater propeller plane to the island. I had never flown on an airplane so tiny. But it was fine and a fun way to see the beauty of the area from a birds eye view. There are two companies: Tropic and Maya Island Air. Once on the island you can take a taxi or rent a golf cart to get around (more fun!) or bicycle.
We stayed at a cute resort called Carribean Villas which had mixed reviews, but that grew on us the longer we stayed. Unfortunately the islands do not have any swimmable beaches, but we already knew that from research. However most people may find this disappointing so it’s important to mention. In order to enjoy that beautiful, turquoise water out there you need to go on a snorkeling tour. Our hotel had a dive shop that arranged tours and rented hobie cats, kayaks, golf carts, bikes as well as had a restaurant, pool and bar, so everything was super convenient. Everything tends to be pricy here, from hotels to water sports. But the average 2.5 hr snorkel tour is about $35. per person. It’s worth every penny. The coral reefs here are quite amazing and seeing them was one of the main purposes of our visit.
The reef to see in Ambergris seems to be Hol Chan marine reserve. It is beautiful however it is over run by tour boats and criss crossing groups of snorkelers and divers which made it less enjoyable. But here we saw beautiful, purple fan coral, brain coral, tube corals, chartreuse colored moray eels and giant sting rays. Enormous conch shells can be seen everywhere. We were happy to see a big, healthy coral reef as reefs as reefs are currently in trouble globally. Belize does a good job at conserving marine parks.
The snorkel trips also take you to an area called “shark ray alley” where the boats feed chum to attract giant nurse sharks and sting rays. Although nurse sharks look menacing, they are bottom feeders and are relatively safe to swim with, however you may not want to put your hand by their mouth as they are eating chum unless you want to get bitten. Sting rays – I don’t know. Both scare me! But whether you want to swim with sharks and sting rays voluntarily or not, you will swim with them regardless. They are everywhere it seems.
On another half day trip we went out to an area called “Mexico Rocks” which was much more enjoyable and we saw the same stuff except here we swam with everything including two very friendly sea turtles which was the highlight of our trip! There were also healthy corals, nurse sharks and rays, moray eels and schools of colorful fish. Wonderful. Highly recommend.
One night we decided to trek outside our hotel bar for food and we landed across the street at a place called “Garifuna Black and White restaurant and cultural entertainment.” The place is run by a friendly school teacher who really enjoys teaching kids and adults about the Garifuna people and their food, dance and music which consists of intense, rhythmic drumming and percussion. The night starts with a buffet and continues with interactive music and dance. Expect to not only eat your meal, but to work it off immediately after. Super fun and informative. Unforgettable night really. They let you jam out on the instruments with the band after dancing with them.
Of other interest in town is the Belize Chocolate cafe which serves hot and cold chocolate and coffee drinks. They also sell delicious, beautiful, artisanal chocolates. They have a patio in the back that overlooks the docks and dive shops on the tourist strip. They offer a chocolate making class during weekdays which I wish we would have taken, where they teach you about how chocolate is made from the roasted bean, hand ground.
Other than water sports off shore, and wandering the small town of San Pedro, only a few blocks long, there is only hanging around in a colorful, hand spun hammock. Bring lots of books to read. A great place to do nothing. If you feel like a short day trip, you can take a water taxi over to Caye Caulker, a half hour ride one way. See our next post about Caye Caulker where we spent a few days…