A love affair with Belize…

You really can’t ask for a better, more detailed, more personal trip review than this. Maggie and Matt clearly LOVED their honeymoon in Belize 🙂

Our honeymoon was, in one word: amazing. We miss being in Belize every single day and we can’t wait to go back! I apologize for taking so very long to get this to you–to be honest, every time I start to write it, I get sad because we aren’t in Belize…

When we arrived in Belize on the 6th, a driver from Chaa Creek was outside the airport, waiting to pick us up. We discovered while on the plane, though, that the couple sitting behind us was also going to Chaa Creek! That was really nice, as we hit it off with them nicely, so sharing the van with them for the two hour drive to Chaa Creek was a fun experience. Our first stop, after not even three minutes driving, was at a local market so the guys could get some beers for the drive (apparently it’s totally OK for passengers to drink while the car is in motion! Very cool.) They brought back the local Belizean beer called “Belikin”, which we happily drank on our way to Chaa Creek. Just driving through the country was interesting… such beautiful terrain the whole way through.

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Upon arriving at Chaa Creek, we were greeted by the super friendly staff at the reception desk, with cool peppermint neck towels and sorel juice laid out for us. Sorel juice is made from a local pink flower that looks just like the hibiscus flower and it is delicious and refreshing! The peppermint towels were a wonderful relief from the humidity (although we were honestly never uncomfortable due to the weather–it was the perfect time to visit, rain showers from time to time, but still gorgeous, even then). We were led to our *BEAUTIFUL* room–complete with a thatched roof, beautiful stone floors, tall ceilings, beautiful decor and honeymoon flowers and towel decorations everywhere! We had TWO showers, one that was a completely private outdoor shower, and one indoor shower that was big enough to host a party in. It was heavenly. The bed was luxurious and all the decor was beautiful and handmade. I hate to describe it right now because it’s making me really want to go back! Our room also came with two hammocks that we would hang up on the front deck outside our room to read in whenever we had down time. It was perfection. Our first dinner was a delicious lobster tail (mine) and a perfectly cooked steak (Matt’s)–both with Belizean flavor and fresh, local side dishes. The food was perfection, each and every day. We were about ready to move in. After relaxing all afternoon and evening, we scheduled a couples massage at the spa (overlooking the jungle!) for the following morning, which was absolutely glorious, relaxing and heavenly all at once.

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After lunch, we took off for our first excursion, which was ziplining through the jungle at a place called Calico Jack’s. Our driver and tour guide was named Hugh, and he was so, so informative and friendly that the drive there ended up being just as wonderful as any other part of the trip! We loved Hugh! Ziplining through the rainforest was unbelievable… at first I was terrified (Matt went first and loved it) but after my first line, I was in love. It’s exhilarating, exciting and absolutely beautiful. The two guides who took us ziplining were very informative & friendly, and as we walked through the jungle from line to line, they would stop and show us such interesting things in the rainforest, ways to survive or interesting creatures (the ‘give and take’ tree was so cool!–if you touch the sharp needles on the bark, it poisons you, but cut the tree open and you’ll find the antidote in its sap!)

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The next morning, Hugh’s brother, Daren, took us on a tour of Xunantunich, a Mayan site about an hour away from Chaa Creek. It was a fascinating and very humbling experience. The history of the Mayans is so, so rich in Belize. Daren was more than willing to take pictures of us there–and the pictures he took turned out wonderfully! He eventually told us that photography is a big hobby of his and that he’d won a competition to have a photograph he took of a local bird be on the cover of Belize’s telephone book (we later got to SEE the photo/telephone book in real life at the next place we stayed! It was really awesome). That afternoon, Daren drove us to the second half of our day, which was canoeing through a dark and beautiful cave. There were bats flying waaay above us in the cave, which added to the spooky and ethereal feeling. Towards the end, when we were closer to the exit of the cave, Daren had us switch off our headlamps so we could experience what total blindness felt like–such a bizarre feeling… and then he guided us out of the rest of the cave in TOTAL darkness. It was such an amazing experience that we’ll never forget.

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The following day, we went to another Mayan village, called Cahal Pech, and Hugh was our tour guide again (to our excitement!). This one was just as fascinating as the previous day’s excursion to Xunantunich. We had originally planned to go to the huge, Indiana Jones-style cave excursion called ATM, but the rain in the afternoon had caused the risk of flash flooding, which isn’t worth the risk, for sure! The staff definitely felt bad that we had to change our plans, and they went above and beyond to make sure our day was still fun and well-planned. After we went to Cahal Pech, Hugh drove us into the Mennonite area of Belize, which was really interesting. It basically looked like Pennsylvania had been plopped down in the middle of the rainforest! We stopped at an ice cream shoppe that served homemade Mennonite ice cream and it was delicious (we’d recommend the coconut ice cream!). Hugh was so informative and excited to show us Belize that the feeling was infectious… we had such a great time with all of our guides, Hugh, Daren & Selwyn in particular.

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On our last day at Chaa Creek, we went for a horseback ride in the rainforest and finally heard some howler monkeys! It was unreal! They sound terrifying but they’re tiny monkeys who are only interested in making a big racket to scare away other howler monkey families (very territorial). We’d heard from so many other travelers that the howler monkeys would wake us up every morning before the sun was even up, but it never happened (apparently because it wasn’t mango season–so avoiding being woken up that early was just another reason why we’re happy we went in October!). Our guide, Selwyn, worked really hard to get us as close to the monkeys as possible so we could take videos and lots of pictures. We ended our horseback ride with views overlooking miles and miles of rainforest–it was breathtaking–and the perfect ending to our time at Chaa Creek (even though we would’ve preferred it to never end).

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This is such a short summary of all the amazing things we did in Chaa Creek–the waterfall infinity pool on site was beautiful and so much fun (I mostly summarized all the adventures we had, but we had lots of relaxing downtime by the pool and reading in our hammocks–glorious!), the food was delicious (the morning fryjacks are our favorite–we’re still missing those!–we even saved the dinner menus they slipped under our doors each night so we can remember how good the food was!), the property and our room was utter perfection and the staff was wonderful–so friendly, happy, kind & personable. Hugh even came by the local airport we were flying out of to get to the next leg of our trip after we’d left Chaa Creek (on his day OFF!) to give us a DVD he had told us about from which he learned so much about the Mayan ruins he guided us through. We were so blown away by that. Shenny, Hugh, Daren, Saul, Rose were some of the most amazing people we met through Chaa Creek! All the dining staff, too, were truly a pleasure to be around. All of the locals we met outside of Chaa Creek were wonderful as well–happy, friendly and so welcoming. We unfortunately can’t remember everyone’s names from Chaa Creek, but everyone was equally friendly and always happy to help us everywhere we went. We truly felt we made friends there. We can’t WAIT to go back!!

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The small ten passenger plane that took us from the mainland of Belize to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye was really fun and provided beautiful views the entire ride. We arrived at the local airport on San Pedro and were quickly picked up in a roomy golfcart by a Ramon’s Village employee who was extremely friendly and enthusiastic. After relaxing in our room for a while and exploring the beach/walking along the beach, we decided to grab dinner at Caroline’s Cookin’, a local restaurant that was about a 3 minute walk from our room. I’d read reviews on Yelp that all informed me that Caroline’s was the place to go. Boy were they right! It was absolutely delicious. We had made reservations earlier in the day (which we came to find out were totally unnecessary as it was the slow season) and when we came back for dinner, Caroline cooked our meal herself and chatted us up throughout dinner. Matt ordered the jerk conch (conch was in season so we had a LOT of it and it was all delicious!) and I ordered the curried shrimp… we both had a few rum punches (one of which Caroline gave us for free) and it was all heavenly. We were the only customers (reflection of the season not the service & food!) so we got lots of attention.

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Almost every day that we were in San Pedro, we relaxed in thatch-covered hammocks on the beach, reading our books and refilling our drinks whenever a staff member came by. It was the most heavenly paradise. That was our absolute favorite part about staying on the beach–just relaxing together in our hammocks! Even when it rained one day, we stayed where we were, because we were completely sheltered and it was still warm. It was wonderful. Although we’d thought about going out on a snorkeling trip, we were having such a wonderful time relaxing together on the beach each day that we never wanted to move a muscle! (Plus, snorkeling trips there can get expensive and we weren’t interested in spending extra money–something to do next time!)

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The only day we really explored away from Ramon’s was our last day–we wanted to get some souvenirs for our family, so we walked around some of the touristy shops and bought gifts that were cheaper than the gifts offered in Ramon’s gift shop. We also found a fantastic chocolate shop that made really delicious treats–we had chocolate confections for dessert one night and also bought a few bars to bring back as gifts. Another excellent restaurant we went to was Elvi’s Kitchen. The food was absolutely delicious, the staff was friendly and accommodating, and the floors were made of sand! It was a really fun experience. Elvi’s Kitchen was a lot farther of a walk from Ramon’s Village than we’d realized, so by the time we left dinner it was very dark and I was really grateful to have my tall, muscled and imposing husband by my side. San Pedro is most definitely more developed in all areas than Chaa Creek and the surrounding town of San Ignacio, and it was never clearer than when we were out at night. We were just about the only people not traveling by golf cart (we were on foot) so I’m sure if we’d been in a golf cart I’d have felt safer, but we couldn’t justify renting it for just one dinner–it’s really not necessary during the day at all (unless you want to explore the undeveloped regions of the Caye).

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On our second to last night there, we decided to order a pizza to be delivered to our room! We missed pizza (even though the Belizean food was delicious) and it made for a fun night in together. On our last night, we had dinner at the restaurant at Ramon’s Village. Although it wasn’t the best meal we had, it was still really good. The breakfasts we had at Ramon’s Village were all delicious, too, and they all came with fryjacks! Being out on the hammocks on the beach during lunch was awesome–we ordered right from a waiter and ate while sitting in our hammocks! Since we’ve gotten back home, our first purchase as a married couple was a two-person hammock! We miss those relaxing days!!

We never wanted our honeymoon to end, it was so amazing. You’ve made us life-long Belize travelers… we can’t wait to get back as soon as we can! THANK YOU SO MUCH, Ann!!!

– Maggie and Matt


Beautiful Belize

I almost hate to share this trip report for fear of letting too many people know about my “secret” destination. The one that pleases honeymooners, families, SCUBA divers, nature-lovers, and just about anyone looking for a laid-back, relaxing place to unwind on the beach. But, what the heck! Even if I keep sending clients to lovely little Ambergris Caye (Belize) it’s unlikely to spoil the casual, barefoot ambiance of this great little barrier island.  So here goes:

Annie –

I think you did a great job planning, per usual.  The information was plentiful ahead of time, and the process (not including the air transport part, which was in no way your fault) was fine and easy.  The park and fly was a good plan and the Hampton Inn was a very nice place to spend the night before our flight, as well as the day of our first flight out of Boston.  Everyone there was very nice and very helpful, and the process there was smooth.  We ate in their pub that night and it was sufficient.  The continental breakfast was huge and they had fruit and coffee out the whole time we were there.

The travel to and from Belize, had it gone off without a hitch on the side of Continental, would have been perfect.  The flights were long, but the Maya Island Air aspect was terrific, and the airport assistance in both Boston after the first morning cancellation and Belize City was great.  Everyone really tried to keep us on track to getting to our final destination.  The flight out from the island was great, and no one should feel worried about flying Maya Air.  Their pilots were awesome, and everyone at the airport was very helpful in both directions. 

As far as Ambergris Caye — Wow!  Where do I begin??  This, for us, was the perfect destination.  If you are the type who likes to spend time shopping, this is not the trip for you.  It is not a “cruise ship port” type of place.  The island is very mellow.  The people were very friendly and extremely knowledgeable of their history and culture, and did not mind sharing that information with us.   The beaches were great, and the water sports left NOTHING to be desired.  Everything was in walking distance, both along the beach as well as by the roads.  We did both.  Grocery stores were plentiful and we were able to easily find an ATM when we needed it.  Taxis were plentiful as well if you so desired one.  It was like no place WE had been before, and we felt very comfortable and relaxed there.

The Caribbean Villas were great!!  The room (actually an apartment) we were given was huge and clean, and the staff was wonderful.  Anything we asked them, they could answer and they helped so much when planning our excursions.  The companies they do business with were fantastic.  The only negatives were that there were tiny ants that would show up if we left any food out of the refrigerator, and the water pressure in the showers was like a whisper.  But the property was lush and beautiful, and there was always an empty beach chair, or a spot at the beach bar for a drink.  The continental breakfast was very good, and there is something to be said for drinking your morning coffee on the beach, with a yummy cinnamon roll and delicious fresh fruit.  I would definitely go back again.  I met the owners on the 3rd day, and they were so nice and hospitable. 

Choosing the best excursion is impossible.  We loved all that we did.  The diving and snorkeling was done through Belize Diving Adventures and was arranged by us walking into their little shop on the beach and asking to go.  They fitted the whole family with the equipment needed and the price was great!  The dive masters were excellent.  Glenn and Sam did 3 dives while there, and I snorkeled.  The personal attention from the people in this company was unreal!  The day I went out with them, there were 2 dive masters and just 4 passengers — the 3 of us and one other man.  The three of them went to the reef while I snorkeled with the dive master.  Since I had never done it before, he was very patient with me.  The reef is incredible, and Hol Chan park was teeming with life.  Such a super excursion.

The other excursion we did was the Lamanai Ruins.  We could have done the small plane ride to the mainland, but we chose to go with Seaduced By Belize.  We started with a one hour speedboat ride to the mainland.  The whole time, the guide explained what we were seeing, and gave us a history lesson of the islands and cayes.  A delicious breakfast of native food was served during the ride.  Once on the mainland, we took a one hour bus ride to the river where, again, we were given a lot of history and also told about the things we passed and current info about the area.  Then we took a slow lazy river ride to Lamanai.  The riverboat captain knew that river like the back of his hand, and would stop to show us crocs, plant life, bats, and monkeys.  We even had a monkey climb into our boat.  A super lesson of life along that river.  Once to the site of the ruins, we were given a picnic lunch, again of local fare which was outrageously good, and then we hiked in to the ruins.  Our river boat captain was also our guide to the ruins, and he was very friendly and informative.  The hike was easy.  There was also a museum filled with Mayan artifacts, and we were able to spend time there before we saw the actual temples and such.  After the tour, we were given Belikans and rum punch for the ride back, on the river boat, the bus ride, AND the high speed ride back the San Pedro.

I thought it was fascinating.  One thing that stood out to me was the respect and love the people of Belize have for the reef, and for nature in general.  It gave us the chance to slow down and see how completely different their culture and lifestyle is from ours.  It was a wonderful experience.

Here are my tips for others considering a trip to Ambergris Caye:

  • If you can rent a golf cart for the week, it would be worth it.  We did it for one night, but wished we had gotten one for the week.  It’s all anyone drives there on the island, other than bikes and taxi cabs.
  • Eat at Fido’s and Elvi’s Kitchen.  Those were wonderful restaurants that had standard American fare, as well as Belizian choices, which we always chose.  The stewed chicken with rice and beans was to die for!  I even bought spices so I could make it here.  In LOVE with that dish!!
  • Don’t bother with any dressy clothes or anything like that.  It is completely laid back, and shoes don’t even have to be an option.  Flip Flops are the shoe of choice there. 
  • Don’t feed the stray dogs.  There are plenty and they are all friendly.  In San Pedro, none look like they are starving.  Just pet em or let em alone.

Just to reiterate, this was a FANTASTIC vacation for us.  The place we want to go next – back to Ambergris Caye.  Thanks for suggesting this vacation.  It was more than words can express.

–          Cara

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)