Portofino Resort- Now with a new BEACH BAR!!
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#240236 - 06/09/07 05:03 PM May 25-June 3rd Trip Report
poopingturtle Offline
First of all I would like to thank everyone on this forum for all the help with our trip. To begin I would like to give a little background on what type of travellers we are. My wife and I are in our mid-30's, we travel a lot throughout the US(too much) for business and are just in the infant stages of our world travel. We treated both my parents to a trip since they rarely travel and thought Belize would be a wonderful cultural experience for them. We all love food and like to balance our vacations with a little activity and lots of relaxation.

Where we stayed: We stayed at White Sands Cove in a 2 bedroom ocean front condo while on Ambergris Caye for 7 nights and 2 nights at Chaa Creek in Cayo district. White Sands Cove was mostly what we expected(clean, quiet, great pool area, a good deal for the price). It is by no means 5 star accomodations but if you do your research you will get what you should be expecting. Brian the bartender is awesome, not only makes great drinks but is a really good guy who is a lot of fun to hang with at the bar.
The only problems we had with our stay were minor. A local Belizean lady with her 3 year old son stopped by and was showing us some of the bracelets as we sat by the pool one day. There were no other guests to be seen and they were not bothering us, we actually were enjoying there company. My wife and mom bought a bracelet and as this lady and her son were preparing to leave one of the owners came up and confronted her about approaching guests, and not to do this in the future. I completely understand this and do not have a problem with that policy. I was suprised that the owner proceeded to warn my wife not to talk to these people and was later heard talking to other guests about the incident,and the problem they had with guests accomadating locals selling their wares. It is not my duty as a guest to ignore locals and I did not feel it was appropriate. We enjoyed their company and there were no other guest around to bother. We got them a couple bottles of water and they were on their way. We also heard from one of the condo owners and they were reprommanded for tipping a couple of the local who had painted their condo too much. In my opinion, if you own the condo and want to reward the people who painted your condo for a job well done, you have the right to do whatever you want. We heard the owners of the resort complain several times of interactions they have had with locals and it seems it has jaded their opinion of them. This is a shame and something our group did not feel was appropriate. All in all, the place was nice and I would recommend the accomodations but when I go back I will be staying somewhere else.
Chaa Creek was awesome, the service was stellar and accomodations beautiful. My father broke his leg a week before the trip and they actually offered to put him in another room at no charge so he would not have to walk so far. The only gripe we had is that it was the worst meal we had on the trip(our only dinner at the resort). We decided to eat in San Ignacio for the rest of the trip.

We rented a golf cart for the week and were glad we did. The road north was a little rough, but much better than we had expected. We actually liked it and feel that any improvements to it would take away from the experience. We drove as far north as Portofino(stopping at nearly every bar along the way!) and made trips to town daily.

Food: The food was great everywhere we ate. No complaints. The prices were a little expensive but very comparable to what we pay in the US.
We ate at Jamel Jerk twice and loved it both times(spicy and yummy)
Blue Water Grill: ate lunch once...very good but very american menu. Dinner was more authentic and very good though not our favorite of the trip.
Caliente: Had appetizers once and ate dinner once. Very good both times.
Rojo's: Awesome, awesome awesome. Great food, great ambience...a truly memorable meal. The best ribs I have ever had. Spoke with chef in the open kitchen and he gave us some recommendations, but I do not think you could go wrong with anything on the menu. IN the top 10 meals we have had...and I would consider ourselves some pretty serious foodies. It is expensive but you get what you pay for.
Estels:Very good breakfast, fun place.
Fido's: No food, just Belekin's and lots of them. Really good place to grab a drink.
Capricorn: Had heard mixed reviews of this place and it was quite good. The only issue I had is that it is nearly as expensive as Rojo's and not on the same level....nothing is....believe me:)

I booked a fishing/snorkling/beach bbq day with Steve at Fishingsanpedro.com and he sent out Clifford as our guide. When our guide arrived at the dock he had us booked for a half day, no bbq, no snorkling. We spent the first hour going back to town to get equipment. We then spent 2 hours in search of bait. By the time we were fishing nearly half the day was over. We still caught lots of fish but felt much of the day had been wasted. We enjoyed snorkling and the beach bbq was really good but we all felt the day was bit of a disappointment.

We rented sea kayaks and snorkled at the reef which I would definitely recommend. Short paddle and lots of places to stop and see marine life.

On the mainland we went to the zoo(cool place) and did the ATM Cave. The ATM Cave was a highlight of the trip. Saw some Mayan ruins(Xunantunich) and enjoyed the grounds of Chaa Creek.

All in all we really liked Belize. We have been to Costa Rica and it is amazing how different the 2 countries are. If you are looking for either a place to relax and enjoy yourselves; or a place to experience an adventurous active vacation without cheesy resorts Belize will fit either bill. It may take us a while to get back as we have a lot of other places to see, but we really enjoyed our stay. I just hope the changes as development takes its toll are not too damaging. There is a lot of construction going on on AC and I would hate to come back and see see a paved road heading north to make travels easier.

If you have any questions fire away!

Thanks everyone!

#240288 - 06/10/07 05:28 PM Re: May 25-June 3rd Trip Report [Re: poopingturtle]
sweetjane Offline
totally agree, i was as surprised as you how different bz & cr are.

i was at xunantunich a week b4 you, but we stayed 5 days at duPlooy's, just up the dirt road from you. chaa creek has a bit too much manicured grass for my liking. i LOVE cayo!

first time i was on AC i was about your age. development? LOL you should have seen it then compared to now!!

glad you had a great trip!

#240294 - 06/10/07 08:14 PM Re: May 25-June 3rd Trip Report [Re: sweetjane]
seaexplore Offline
The owners of White Sands are from the US and have recently purchased the property and moved their family there (from my understanding when we met the owners in town at lunch one day). They seemed nice but we weren't on their property and we weren't buying stuff. I'm sure they have reasons for not wanting the local people selling their wares on their property but at the same time- they need to remember who was there first! Anyway- glad to hear you had a good time. We also ate at Capricorn and found the food good but VERY expensive.
do I have to get shots to go there? 8o)

#240321 - 06/11/07 12:21 PM Re: May 25-June 3rd Trip Report [Re: seaexplore]
purdygrl Offline
I am glad you enjoyed your trip. I am probably going to cause a lot of issues with this statement but I have been on both sides.
As owners if you let one person sell there wears in your place of buisness then we have to let everyone be able to sell in your establishment also by allowing it you are endorsing the vendors products or conduct. Some of vendors who walk the beach are very nice some are not. The people who get their children to sell braclets or necklaces to tourists on the most part are okay but I have noticed that some try to con the tourist one they over charge for their wears two they play dumb when giving your change. I have seen people walk out of buisness because of being "harrased" by kids or adults to purchase their goods. Most carvers and jewlery makers have a table or location that is theirs on the island so that if you feel like purchaseing some crafts you can, I have no issue with these crafts people and often buy their products. As for the no tipping that I don't understand because I am from the belief that a good job gets rewarded

#240322 - 06/11/07 12:26 PM Re: May 25-June 3rd Trip Report [Re: purdygrl]
rosalamport Offline
Sounds like over all you had a nice time. Thanks for sharing your experience.

#240348 - 06/11/07 04:11 PM Re: May 25-June 3rd Trip Report [Re: rosalamport]
travelqueen Offline
Great trip report! Glad Dad got along ok.

#240361 - 06/11/07 05:43 PM Re: May 25-June 3rd Trip Report [Re: travelqueen]
poopingturtle Offline
I also understand that as a business owner you may, or may not want these people on your premises. The problem I had was more about the way it was dealt with. I would not likely allow people to sell in this manner if I was a condo owner. My point is that it is their deal, not mine. If they want to tell the people to leave, go ahead...if that is your policy then it is your responsibility to police it, not the guests.

As mentioned previously, we had a wonderful trip and the owners are very nice....it just did not have the feeling that they had their heart in it. My wife and I have stayed many places where you could tell the people who owned/managed the place truely loved what they are doing. The owners are not land or hotel magnates and, in my experience, if it is not a labor of love it just does not work.

One other thing....we booked some of our activities before the trip through people recommended on this site and the people at White Sands seemed offended at our doing this. Whereas, at Chaa Creek we booked our excursions in town, as the same tour operators are used at a much lower cost and everyone we dealt with neither questioned why we would do this, or made us uncomfortable for using someone else. As I mentioned in my previous post, my wife and I travel a lot and get to stay at a lot of places, from 5 star to budget accomodations and what we have found is that the intangibles that make one place so much better than the rest were missing at White Sands.

Nuff said

#243755 - 07/28/07 09:42 AM Re: May 25-June 3rd Trip Report [Re: poopingturtle]
deobela Offline
I've been to White Sands Cove just for one day snorkelling with their dive shop. I've read that the dive staff was great an so it was. The experience was amazing and I've loved the dive staff, Tony and Luis are very aknowledge, professional and funny. Probably the best I tried in the island. But the relation with the owners was very cold and, I don't know, uncomfortable. I felt like I wasn't well accepted, maybe beacause I didn't stayed there and I could see that with their own guest were far more friendly. They made my one-day staying akward. I also assist to a very unpleasant incident. That same day, just after the snorkelling tour, they fired one of their tour guide, Luis (the best one I can say) because he was crossing the area reserved to the guests. Speaking with the workers they told me the owners don't let the dive staff enter the areas where the guests are, they must stay on the beach or on the dock and cross the property when necessary for work. I don't want to enter in their reasons, I only know that in their Country they could never fire people in this way. Don't think they respect local people and I'll never go back there, nor my friends.

#243768 - 07/28/07 01:09 PM Re: May 25-June 3rd Trip Report [Re: deobela]
elbert Offline
I’m sorry you had to listen to a disgruntled employee that had just been fired, but as you might suspect, his version could have a slant.
The owners didn’t fire this employee and could not have, because he was never employed by them. I fired him after lengthy discussions of his behavior and violating my rules of the dive shop, not the Hotel’s. There are no lines on the property that are restricted areas, only two rules, “Thou shalt not drink at the hotel’s bar as it looks bad for the Captain/Divemaster responsible for safety of guests” and “Thou shalt not enter the room of guests”. I think these are normal restrictions and this employee in question regularly violated both, and again after warnings and a probationary period so I fired him. My mistake was not having him removed from the property before he had time to spin his tale of woe.
The Belizean vendors at the pool are usually not Belizean but Guatemalan immigrants here for the purpose of preying on the Belizean tourist market, and their wares are also Guatemalan. The intention is to protect you. I’m very sorry if you misunderstood.
The Dive Shops Daily Blog

#244074 - 08/01/07 07:31 AM Re: May 25-June 3rd Trip Report [Re: elbert]
Ruth1 Offline
Sounds like the owners of this resort should hire a security guard for the grounds. So they can police vendors if needed.
But for the owners to constantly remind there guest not to speak to a vendor...that's ridiculous. You aren't doing anything wrong by speaking to them. It isn't the place of the guest to police this situation. It is the responsibly of the management of the resort.


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