Portofino Resort- Now with a new BEACH BAR!!
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#66070 - 04/07/03 10:26 PM Trip Report 3/29 to 4/6 (Nothing but the truth)
PalmLovinCouple Offline
Trip Report – Ambergris Caye, Belize – 3/29/03 to 4/6/03

Sat. 3/29
I am posting this trip report under the name “Palm Lovin Couple” as I am usually on this message board as “Seeking Tarpon”. My real name is Scott, and my wife Tracie. Our friends Kelley & Greg (New England Girl) were traveling with us. Our other friends Jody & Billy (Lizzard) were already there waiting for us to join them. This report is intended to hopefully help others in their future vacations to AC. I'm not one to paint a pretty picture if it's ugly, this report will be told straight up & honest. Please don't be offended by what I write, I just tell it how I see it. If you disagree, no problem mon!!

We were up at 3am to catch our 4am ride to Logan. We usually allow 2 hours for ticket counter lines & security, but went in 3 hours early due to a report from some family members that had very long delays with security at Logan. Of course since we arrived so early, we breezed right through the ticket counter & security, and had to wait 2 hours for our flight – oh well, better safe than sorry. All flights were on time, and quite uneventful. The best part of the flights was of course the puddle-jumper from BZE to Ambergris Caye. The water colors were beautiful, and we couldn't wait to land. I got to sit up front with the pilot, and really enjoyed the 15 minute flight.

We finally arrived at AC, and were greeted by George from Banyan Bay. It was quite hot out, and we were first greeted with that rush of hot air when you step off the plane, I have always enjoyed that about going on vacation! Our friends Kelley & Greg had to meet their wedding coordinator to finalize plans for their wedding on Wednesday. We told them that we'd catch up with them later, and went off with George to Banyan Bay. George picked us up in a long 8 seat golf cart, and it looked like something out of Disney. He was very friendly, and full of information. We arrived at Banyan Bay, and checked in. Again, the staff very friendly. We had rented a beach front unit for our stay. The condo was beautiful, and the view of the ocean was fantastic. They had the air conditioning already running, so as soon as we set foot into our condo, it was very cool. The unit itself was very large, and tastefully decorated. It had vaulted ceilings of mahogany, nicely furnished, along with a deep 2-person jacuzzi in the master. We were very happy that we chose this resort.

Our first order of business was to drop our bags, put on our suits, and go enjoy a Belikin on the water. We walked down to Rico's, and sat by the water, and enjoyed our first ever taste of the ever so popular Belikin. They were playing Jimmy Buffet at Rico's, and being that we are big Buffet fans (Tracie a true parrot-head) it set a nice mood to start off our vacation right. I can't say that Belikin was the best beer I ever tasted, but it was pretty good. I'd compare it to Amstel Light. After a few beers, we decided to find a store so we could pick up some staples for the condo. We were told that the small store a block north from Banyan Bay would have everything we needed. We walked down to the store and were somewhat taken back. Now keep in mind that Tracie & I are pretty laid back, and consider ourselves open minded. We both giggled as we walked through this little store, and discovered that refrigeration wasn't a priority with certain food items, and to be honest, it was a tad scary. We grabbed some cereal, cold-cuts, etc, and headed back to the condo.

Our friends Billy & Jody called when we got back, and said they were on their way over. At this point, we thought they were staying up north at Playa Blanca, and would take a while to get to our place. Little did we know, that had switched resorts from PB, to Banana Beach due to many problems at Playa Blanca (See Lizards report). When they arrived at our condo, they told us all of the things they experienced since they arrived, and they had switched resorts due to many false promises. It's really too bad that there is bad business going on such as Gaz Cooper's place. We met several locals through-out our stay that would just shake their heads when they heard of Billy & Jody's experience with Gaz & Playa Blanca. One local bar owner even said “ Oh, Gaz got another one”. Sorry, but he should be shut down for that BS!! Anyway, we were glad that our friends made a resort change, and were making the best of the time they had left.

At this point, Kelley & Greg had also made their way over, and we all headed to town for drinks & dinner. We crammed all 6 of us on a 4 seater golf cart, and went into San Pedro. As we drove through town, I'm guessing our jaws were down near our ankles in sheer awe. The first time you drive into town, is a bit shocking. We were all probably thinking to ourselves, “what did we get ourselves into?”. Tracie & I have been to several other islands, and are no strangers to a little poverty. But our first impression was that this place was a dusty, trash filled dump!! Please don't get me wrong, we are not afraid of poverty, and don't offend very easily, but I'd be lying if I said we weren't a bit concerned with our destination choice. Since Billy & Jody had already been there 5 days, they were laughing at our reactions & facial expressions, which I'm sure were quite humorous. We parked the cart, and walked around a little bit, and decided to try Celi's. I think most of us ordered some type of grilled fish, and it was very good. I'm quite sure it was grouper, and it was fresh & tasty. The service was very slow & disorganized, but we just laughed, and chalked it up as “island time”. The food made up for the service woes. Dinner was pretty cheap, around $45US per couple. After dinner, we headed over to Fidos, and had a few beers while listening to Category 7. We didn't stay long as we were exhausted from traveling all day, and we headed back to the condo to crash. An interesting first day for sure…can't wait until tomorrow.

Sun 3/30
I was up early around 6:30. I'm usually not a late sleeper anyway, plus I was excited to experience this place called AC. Unfortunately the weather was not looking good at all. In fact it was in the low 60's, cloudy & windy, with on and off rain. Oh well, we'll try and make the best of it. We headed over to Banana Beach, met Billy & Jody & saw their place, very nice little pad. Greg & Kelley came over from where they were staying at Mata Rocks, and the six of us headed over to Rico's for breakfast. The food & service was very good, and quite reasonable at around $22US per couple.

Since the weather wasn't cooperating, we all decided to head into town, and explore a little bit, and also do a little shopping. We walked around a bit, went in & out of several stores, buying a few t-shirts. At this point, the shock we had felt the night before had worn off a bit, and we were starting to get used to down town. One thing that is very evident is the fact that everyone we talked to was so friendly & warm. The friendliness of the locals really helps one see past the “outer shell” of the town, which can have a very dirty feel at first impression. I guess physically it is dirty & dusty, but somehow its charm seems to grab you.

Around 11am, we all went into Fido's and had a few cocktails. Yah I know it's early, but its vacation, and drinking appears to be an Olympic sport on AC!! After a few drinks, we all headed over to BC's for their famous beach BBQ. At this point, the weather was just down right nasty. I noticed someone had questioned the validity of Jody's (Lizzard) report. Well, I here to back up that claim of possibly 50mph winds!! The folks at BC's had strung up some blue tarps to help combat the blowing wind, sand & rain. My drink had a coating of sand on the outside of the glass within minutes. Again, we just tried to make the best of it, and ordered our food. The food took a little while to come out, but it ended up being very good. Most of us had what they called the seafood combo, which consisted of shrimp & fish. The flavors were great, and we enjoyed our meals. It definitely would have helped to be eating this nice BBQ with some warm sunshine, but you can't do anything about ole' mother nature. After BC's we jumped in the ark( I mean golf cart), and battled the sand & wind & rain back to Banana Beach. We hung out for a little while, and then decided to head back to our condo at Banyan Bay. We spent a quiet afternoon inside with a few drinks, and a relaxing jacuzzi. We poured some shampoo in the jacuzzi, and created one hell of a bubble bath!! If you're going to stuck inside, this was the way to do it!!
A little while later, we talked with our friends, and decided to try Blue Water Grill for dinner. Jody had caught some sort of eye infection, and wanted to stay in, so her husband Billy met up with the four of us later. We were all dressed in long pants, sweatshirts, and even jackets. This was the first time in my life that I was actually cold in the Caribbean!! Everyone in the restaurant was dressed the same, just trying to stay warm. As far as food goes, we had mixed experiences. We ordered 3 appetizers including shrimp eggrolls, shrimp cakes, and conch ceviche. (sorry if I butchered the spelling). The apps were excellent. I didn't care much for the ceviche, but others liked it. For entrees, most of us ordered pizzas which were supposed to be very good. Well, let's just say that the pizzas were far from what we expected. They used a very strong, pungent cheese. It was so strong, that we questioned whether or not it had gone bad. Being that the apps were so good, I highly doubted that the cheese was bad, just not what we are used to. Tracie was the only person to (not) order pizza, and she had a shrimp dish that was quite tasty. I think over-all a good place, but I think we simply ordered the wrong thing!! It was a bit pricey at $80 per couple. We all went home after dinner, tired & full….hoping for the weather to get better for tomorrow…..yah right!!

Mon 3/31
Woke up early again, about 6am. Unfortunately, it was still windy & cool, but with a few clear spots on the horizon, we had hopes for some warmer weather. We just did our own breakfast in the condo, and got ready for an all day fishing/snorkeling/BBQ charter with Ramone. We headed down to meet our friends at Mata Rocks, and found out Jody's eye infection was in bad shape, and they were not going out that day with us. So the four of us were picked up at 8:30am from the dock. They had switched guides on us, as Ramone was unable to take us. We ended up going out with a guy named Bicho (pronounced: beach-oh) At first, I was a little leary about the resort switching guides on us. But, we decided to again, just go with the flow, and go have some fun. Bicho works with his son (also named Bicho). The two of them turned out to be great. We first traveled north of the cut to get some bait. After netting some sardines, we were off to some reefs. We instantly got into so fish. We caught some snapper, jacks, grunts & triggerfish. At first, just Greg & I did the fishing while the girls just hung out. We later went to a different area where all 4 of us fished, and everyone caught fish. At this point it was like 1pm, and Bicho took us to a remote beach area for lunch. He stopped at a resort that had been ¾'s finished, and then just abandoned. It was very strange. The units had everything from kitchen cabinets to toilets installed, but the wall that faced the ocean was missing & wide open. It looked like someone ran out of money before the resort was complete, or maybe someone took off with the money before finishing the job…..what a shame….this place would have been really nice, and the water in front was gorgeous. Bicho & his son prepared and awesome beach BBQ. They wrapped the fish in tin foil, along with many spices, lime, mayo, and whatever else he had. He also had some potatoes with onions wrapped in another foil package. We all were snorkeling out front while he cooked. It was ready after about a half hour, and it was amazing!! So fresh, so tasty….all while at a beautiful setting looking out at 12 shades of turquoise water….ahhhh – heaven!! The snorkeling out front was lame, just a couple small coral heads in shallow water, and the water was very cold, due to the unseasonable norther that had blew through and cooled everything down. We were supposed to snorkel Mexico Rocks, but we were just too cold to swim, and it was getting late after we ate anyway. Bicho stopped at the Palapa bar (again sorry for spelling). We all went up to have a drink, and enjoy the great view. After the drinks, we headed back, and were dropped off on the dock. We all went back to our own places to rest, and get ready for dinner.

We went to Rico's for dinner, and being that we ate the beach BBQ so late, we intended on having mostly apps & salads. Rico's did not disappoint. We had their conch fritters which were very good, and also tried their highly recommended tortilla soup which was fabulous. So after some apps, soups & salads, we were all very tired from a full day, and headed in for the night.

Fri 4/1
Up early again today, around 6:30, and woke to more clouds & wind. I know you can't control the weather, but we were starting to get frustrated at this point. We had simply tried to make the best of it, but our patience was wearing thin. We had a ½ day fishing charter planned with Ramone, who picked us up at 8:30. This was just the 3 guys today, as the girls were doing the spa thing today. Ramone drove all the way over to Caye Caulker to find bait. Not sure why we went so far for bait as so many fisherman seem to net bait right in front of our resort everyday. Anyway, we finally netted some sardines, and were off to catch some Barracuda. It started off slow, with no bites. After a little while, Ramone found the fish, and we all ended up catching some beauties. Nothing too giant, but a few cudas were pushing 15+ pounds. They fought well, and we had a lot of fun catching them. The down side was that for most of the morning, it was still cloudy and a bit on the chilly side….when is this stinking weather going to break anyway? We got back a little after lunchtime, and I decided to just hang out at the condo, make my own lunch, and take a nap. I was getting quite disgusted with the weather. I woke from my nap, and couldn't believe my eyes….SUN!!! Finally the weather looked as if it was going to cooperate a little. I headed out to the pool with Tracie & Jody mid afternoon, and soaked up the rays & had a poolside cocktail. I dipped my foot in the pool, and it was very cold. Nobody was swimming anywhere as the last few days had really cooled the water down in both the ocean & the pools….oh well, at least it was sunny. Billy had come by a little later, and took me to the supermarket. Wow! What a difference! Our only experience to buy food so far was that small store near the condo, but the supermarket was a breath of fresh air! It was clean, and had everything we needed to survive a few days. They actually put their eggs in the refrigerator!! The veggies & fruits were a bit tired, but we were able to buy some cold-cuts & cereal for some breakfasts & lunches in.

A bit later, we all decided to try Caliente's for dinner. Another great choice!! The waiter who was nicknamed by the girls "Casanova' was a treat. He was quite entertaining. He had recommended a Ginger Rum Shrimp, which a few of us tried, and it was excellent. Their conch fritters were also very good. I'm pretty sure all 6 of us enjoyed our food. I'd recommend this place in a heartbeat. After dinner, we wanted to go out and party a little bit, so we headed to Sharks bar where the Punta Boys were supposed to be playing, nope, there were 3 people in the place with no band. So we wend to the Purple Parrot at Ramones where there was also supposed to be a live band, and they were packing up, and had 5 people there. So after strike 2, we figured Fido's would be lively, so we headed back in town, only to find Fido's dead as well. Amazing, the night we all wanted to party, everywhere we went was a ghost town. No problem, we just sat and had a few drinks at Fidos anyway, and went home after.

Wed 4/2
Woke up early again, around 6:30. It was warm, sunny, along with a little calmer winds….now that's just what we needed!! I walked to beach, and to different piers doing some fishing. I had brought a couple rods down, and actually fished every morning off the pier at Banyan Bay, but for the first time it was actually warm, and I didn't freeze in shorts and a tank-top. I never did catch anything from shore or the piers all week, but I did try awfully hard. What was amazing, was that we had been there for 4 days, and I had been swimming a total of 5 minutes Monday, and froze my ass off. I usually live in the water while in the Caribbean, so this weather & the cold weather was a bummer for sure.

We met everyone at El Divino (Banana Beach) for breakfast. Had eggs benedict that were outstanding. Our waiter Sergio was the best yet. If you were to look up the word character in the dictionary, Sergio's picture would be there!! He kept us all amused & laughing. After breakfast, we all decided to take a walk on the beach. We ended up walking down to Victoria House, which was absolutely beautiful. By far, one of the nicest groomed resorts on the island. A few clouds had rolled in, so we all hung at Banana Beach for a little while. This was the day Kelley & Greg were getting married, and we were all hoping it wouldn't rain. The clouds were very dark in spots, and I'm sure Kelley was a bit nervous, but the wedding was in the late afternoon, and had plenty of time to clear up. Just as expected, the clouds did pass, and the afternoon was filled with sunshine. We headed back to Banyan Bay to hang at the pool, and soak up the sun some more before the wedding. The pool was still a bit chilly, but I got in the shallow end to cool off, the sun was quite hot at this point. We went in later to get ready for the wedding. We later met up with Kelley & Greg at Mata Rocks, where we waited for the taxi to take us to Caribbean Villas where the wedding was to take place on the beach. Both Kelley & Greg looked perfect, and it was to be a very special day on the beach. We all arrived at CV, and after a few pictures, we headed down to the beach for the ceremony. The weather was near perfect, the smiles on Kelley's & Greg's faces were priceless. The ceremony was beautiful, the setting was amazing, a truly wonderful experience. You gotta love barefoot weddings!! Tracie & I were very honored to be a part of their special day. After the ceremony, and many pictures, we all went back to change into more comfortable clothes. We headed to Victoria House for the celebration dinner. Of course the newlyweds were glowing. VH was yet another excellent choice. The food was great, and we all enjoyed celebrating our friends special day. We headed back to the condo after, hung out for a bit, and all called it quits somewhat early….very tired & full…what else is new? I said my goodbyes to Jody & Billy as they were headed home in the morning, and I wouldn't see them because I was headed out early on another fishing charter.

Thur 4/3
Woke up early as usual, had breakfast in the condo. Had a ½ day fishing charter with Luis Caliz for bonefish. Got a call from Banyan Bay at 6:30am to inform me that they were switching guides on me (again) and I was going out with Pedro (Pete) Graniel. I was little bothered by this, as it was the 2nd time that the guide I hired was switched on me. I had read from other fishing posts on the message board about Pete Graniel supposedly being a good guide, so I just went with the flow. He picked me up at the dock at 7am, and we were off to the flats to try for Bones. As soon as we got there, we saw tailing fish, and lots of them. It appeared as if this was going to be a good day. Unfortunately, the fish were extremely spooky, and casting anywhere within 20 feet of the fish scared them off instantly. The clouds had started to also roll in, making it very difficult to see the fish. We pulled off the flats, and ducked behind a mangrove island, and tried waiting for the bonefish to swim through this channel and we would cast to them as they came through. Still nothing doing. We decided to try for a Tarpon off the back side of the mangrove island. After a little while, I caught a Barracuda that was less than a foot long….not too impressive. A few minutes later, I hooked into a Tarpon which was probably in the 25 pound class, but being that I was using bonefish gear with 10# test, the fish broke me off instantly. We headed back after that, and the day was a bust for catching fish. Pete was a very nice guy and I enjoyed his company, but If the fishing gets slow, I like to move, and find the active fish. Pete seemed to want to stay and wait for the fish to come to us….I technique I don't agree with. Oh well….that's why they call it fishing and not catching.

After getting back to the condo, I ate a quick lunch, and got ready for our first snorkeling trip to Hol-Chan & Shark Ray Alley. Kelley & Greg had booked the boat through Mata Rocks. Our guide picked us up at MR at 2pm, and we were off to Hol-Chan. There were several other boats there, and after being on the island for 5 days, I was ready to snorkel. After all, that's one of the main reasons we chose AC in the first place. As soon as we arrived, our guide threw some bait into the water, and instantaneously a school of large horse-eyed jacks swarmed the boat eating up the bait very quickly. These fish were not small, probably 10-15 pounds on average, maybe a few even bigger. The guide had leaned over and splashed his fingers in the water, trying to get the attention of the jacks, so I followed suit by sticking my fingers in the water only to have a jack come up and bite my finger open. It was bleeding pretty good, but it wasn't a deep cut. We got it to stop bleeding, and were all in the water soon after. I actually was in first, and my wife went to throw me the disposable under-water camera, landing it in the water right in front of me. Well, the jacks thought it was food, and instantly attacked the camera, and slashing around right in front of me….freaky but amazing…no bites this time…just a little heart stoppage!! I must say, Hol-Chan was incredible. The size of the fish and marine life was beyond expectations. We had 3 huge Spotted Eagle Rays swim right in the area, and we just watched in total awe. There were fish of all sizes, shapes & colors. We swam across some shallow areas at first, and then over to where it dropped off into about 25-30 feet. The whole place was alive with sea-life. I saw several Barracuda, one of which was easily 5 feet long & thick…biggest I'd ever seen, and he swam within 10 feet of us….truly awesome fish. The visibility was pretty good, I'm guessing 50 feet, but
a bit silty. Maybe this was caused by either the strong currents, or the multiple divers along the bottom. I guess we have been spoiled by Grand Cayman where the visibility was 100+ feet. Either way it didn't matter, as the abundant sea-creatures were incredible.
We then swam over to where the coral was alive and well. There were a few areas where you had to swim over some shallow coral, and with the strong currents, it was without a doubt risky. I'm surprised the guide took us through there. I'm a very strong swimmer, and experienced snorkeler & diver, but felt unsafe in the currents at times. The total time at Hol-Chan was around an hour.

We then headed over to Shark-Ray Alley, I was skeptical whether or not we'd see much due to many negative reports on the message board saying that the sharks don't show up anymore. When we first got in the water, we had 5-6 rays come right to us, feeding on the chum/bait that our guide threw in the water. No sharks…(yet). Tracie & I had swam with the rays in Grand Cayman a few times, so this wasn't new to us, but Kelley & Greg had never experienced this, and we had fun watching them. We swam around a little bit, and had another huge Eagle Ray swim by us which was amazing, and then as I swam back towards the boat, I saw quite a commotion on the bottom near the boat. As I swam closer, I saw a huge nurse shark that was easily 10-11 feet in length, right under the boat. I got everyone elses attention and called them over to see this….a lot bigger than I expected!! There were also a couple other smaller sharks that swam onto the scene, which were closer to 4-6 feet in length. Our guide swam down, and grabbed one of the smaller sharks, and brought it to the surface where we could all touch & pet. The rays were also still around, and were not shy at all….we all had a chance to interact with the rays, and it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed our guide (David) who can swim like a fish. This guy could hold his breath, and swim down 15-20 feet with ease….he was incredible to watch. Over all, a fantastic experience at both sites, but Hol-Chan was a bit crowded for my tastes. We were dropped off back at Mata Rocks after snorkeling, and sat and had some cocktails around the pool.

We decided to drive the golf cart south to the pond where the crocs supposedly show up each night. We were told they usually show up around 5:30 or so. So off we went in search of crocs. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the crocs to show up. We hung out for a little while, and left after the no-show. We headed back to our condo to get ready for dinner at El Divino.

At El Divino, we chose to sit outside as we usually do everywhere. After about 5 minutes, it had started to rain, so we moved inside. We were lucky enough to have Sergio wait on us again. A message to El Divino: do whatever it takes to keep Sergio on your staff….he is the best. I don't think I've ever met a person who seems so genuinely happy. He literally walks through the dining room singing, and always seems to have a story to tell. He did a great impression of our friend Billy who left for home already….had us all cracking up. Sergio….you rock!! Dinner was excellent at El Divino. For some reason I'm drawing a blank on what we all ordered, and didn't write it down in my trip notes. Just trust me, El Divino at Banana Beach is not to be missed. We went home right after dinner, tired & full which is par for the course.

Fri 4/4
I actually slept in today (7:30) which in late for me. Maybe all those island doobies are starting to catch up with me!! LOL. After lounging around the condo for a bit, we walked down to Mata Rocks to meet up with Kelley & Greg. We hung on the beach for a little bit, and then decided we should book the rest of our charters for our last couple days. So we headed down to Banyan Bay pier, and booked one more fishing trip, one more snorkel charter, and a sunset cruise on a catamaran.

We decided to take the cart north, and experience the hand ferry, and explore the north a little bit. The hand ferry is pretty interesting. I know the island regulars don't want to hear this, but my guess is that it's only a matter of time before someone puts up the cash for a bridge. My guess is that a large resort will buy up some of the property up north that seems very abundant, and have a bridge built. Just a prediction…
We drove up to the Palapa Bar, and got out for a few pictures. The sun was hot, and we were all hungry, so we turned around, and stopped at Sweet Basils for lunch. This was a very nice setting, with great views of the water. They have a casual little place, with a somewhat funky atmosphere. The menu although simple, had enough choices to satisfy most. We all ordered salad type meals, and all were fine. Again simple food, but service was very friendly, and lunch was pretty good.

We headed back to our place to rest a little bit before our 2pm snorkel charter to Mexico Rocks & Tres Cocos. We booked with Bottom Time through Banyan Bay. They picked us up at 2pm, and we again, had the boat to ourselves, just like we did at Hol-Chan. Mexico Rocks was the first stop, and it was quite nice. The coral is in good shape, and there were some nice formations. The fish at first were mostly juvenile fish, being quite small. We were supposed to stay with our guide, but somehow Greg & I had drifted off, and ended up getting pretty close to the main reef. We didn't intend to part from the group, we just followed a couple fish, and ended up splitting away. What we found was some huge schools of fish, and some excellent coral heads. We saw some huge schools of jacks, and also some sort of grey reef fish (don't know the name) but they were large, around 8-10 pounds each. We also spotted some huge reef snapper which were probably in the 30+ pound class. The current where we got in the water was calm, but the area Greg & swam into by mistake seemed to be a lot stronger. The guide boat had come to get us out of there, and one of the guides said we were way too close to the reef and bad currents. We climbed back in the boat, and he carted us back to join the group. Visibility was better than Hol-Chan, maybe 60+ feet, a lot less silt stirred up. Overall a nice spot, just lacking in big fish compared to Hol-Chan.

Our next stop was Tres Cocos. This was a very shallow snorkel. Most was 3-5 feet deep. The Elk Horn coral was very nice here. Again, the fish were smaller, but it was a decent snorkel. I prefer deeper water, so this site wasn't on the top of my list for recommendations. I actually was the first one back on the boat due to boredom. I'm not trying to sound negative, it's just that Tres Cocos wasn't very interesting to me.

Back to the condo to get ready for a nice dinner at Capricorns. We had made reservations for just the two of us, as did Kelley & Greg. We both went on the same night, but we all agreed to a little "alone time'. The funny part was that when the water taxi came to pick us up at 7pm, There was Greg & Kelley….it was pretty funny. The ride north was really nice as the stars were out, and they were beautiful…..just tons of them. We were instantly greeted at Capricorns by one of the owners, Annabell. She was very warm, and practically treated us as family. We sat at separate tables from our friends, and just had a nice romantic dinner on our own. The food was fabulous. We had crab cakes for an appetizer, and both ordered the fresh Stone Crab Claws for our main course. It's served cold, with both melted butter and a garlic-dill sauce. This stuff was fantastic. So tender & fresh….melted in your mouth. By far one of the best meals we had. Just as many had said, it was a bit pricier here than most places on AC at $130US, but worth it to us. Our server although very friendly, was a bit absent minded, but the food was so good we didn't care. Kelley & Greg had sent a couple run punches to our table, but by the time they arrived, we were so full, we couldn't finish them. Thanks anyways guys….a very nice gesture. We finished a little bit before Kelley & Greg, so we just hung out on the beach & pier and waited for them to finish so we could all ride back together. Again, the stars were epic….so nice!! We all hung out at our place for a little while….had a few puffs…called it a night. Here's a surprise….tired and full again!!

Sat 4/5
Our last full day. Up early, around 6:30, getting ready to go out and do one more fishing trip. We had requested Bicho again, and he picked up Greg & I at 8am from the Banyan Bay pier. We headed south of the island, and went into the mangrove canals to get some bait. After netting up the sardines, we went to some small artificial reefs that had been placed in the water to attract fish. We immediately hooked up with some smaller reef fish. A few small snappers, and one jack that was maybe a couple pounds. We left there, and hit another artificial reef, and again hooked up instantly, but all small fish. I had told Bicho about my previous unsuccessful bonefish trip earlier in the week, and he said he could put us on some bones. We traveled up to the bay on the back side of San Pedro. Eventually we came upon a cloud of stirred up water. Bicho had informed us that this was a school of feeding bonefish. We used a small jig tipped with a small piece of hermit crab. Within seconds, I was battling my first bonefish. The two of us caught several bonefish, I'm guessing around 12-15. We lost more than we caught, as they seemed to shake the hook quite easily. These fish were small, about 1-2 pounds, but fought like hell. I was amazed at the strength of these fish. What a blast we had on light tackle.

One thing I didn't mention earlier about Bicho's son was the fact that he was deaf. Watching the two of them communicate was incredible. They used a series of gestures & signals that allowed them to have what looked like full conversations. This wasn't regular sign language, but just their own signals of communication. Bicho's son was also nothing short of inspiring. Although handicapped with a hearing impairment, he seemed to be so genuinely happy. Every time one of us hooked a fish, Bicho's son would become very excited, an in turn, got all of us going. I truly enjoyed my time spent with the two of them, and they are memories that I will not soon forget. Thankyou Bicho!!

They dropped us off back at the pier around 12:30, and I just hung and waited for the girls to get back. They had gone off to do some parasailing through Fido's dock. They got back soon after we did, and said they had a blast. I believe the name of the guy they went with is Tony, which they said was a real character, and a lot of fun.
We decided to go into town for lunch, and went to Elvis Kitchen. I ordered the special which was grilled snapper. What I didn't hear, (or the waiter forgot to mention), was the fact that the snapper was served whole. When he plopped that fish that had the head, fins, tail & scales in front of me, I thought to myself….yikes!! I tried to be a trooper and give this hideous looking thing a try. I picked a few chunks of meat from the carcass, and it actually was quite tasty. But after multiple mouthfuls of bones & scales, I was all done. Talk about ordering the wrong thing!! Kelley wasn't feeling well, and she gave me her lunch, which was snapper (filet) which was pretty good. I can't say my appetite was very big after trying to eat that scary thing on my plate. Over all, the food was okay, nothing to write home about.

We headed back to the condo after lunch to hang by the pool for the remainder of the afternoon. The sun was beaming, and we ended up hanging by the pool for a few hours. By the way, it had finally warmed up enough to swim!! I admit, I'm a cold water wimp, if it's not 80+ degrees….I don't go in. The pool at this point was perfect, too bad we were leaving in the morning.

We all met back on the BB pier for a sunset cruise on a catamaran. The boat was called “No Rush” and had a crew of 3 young guys. They all were very personable, and fun to talk with. No surprise there, as the people in general is what makes this island survive in my opinion…I'll elaborate later. The sunset was quite nice, and we all enjoyed the short sail. We were dropped back off on the dock at around 7ish. Headed from there into town for our last dinner. Decided to try Jambel Jerk pit as again, it was so highly recommended by this message board. The food was very spicy, but quite good. All of our lips were on fire from the jerk chicken. It was very cheap, and probably better suited for lunch, but we all enjoyed it. After dinner, we walked around downtown, and shopped a little bit. I ended up buying a couple more t-shirts. After walking off dinner a little bit, we headed to Fido's for our last drinks. Category 7 was playing again. The place was hoping, and the band sounded good. I'm a little disappointed that we never saw any live reggae, but I won't lose any sleep over it. After 3 or 4 beers, we headed back to the condo, tired and full….starting to see a pattern here?

Sun 4/6
Slept in later than usual today…8am which is very rare for me. Darn doobies!! Just had a quick breakfast in the condo, and relaxed a little bit before packing up to go home. I packed in about an hour, and was ready to get back to reality. We checked out of Banyan Bay at 10:30, and headed to Tropic Air for our 11am flight to BZE. Again, the short flight from AC to Belize City was wonderful, and the views of that turquoise water amazing. All our flights were on time for the most part, give or take 20 minutes. We arrived in Boston to cold weather, (30's) and snow predicted for the next day. It's Monday as I'm writing this report, and snowing…..God I'm sick of snow!!


Ambergris Caye is a unique place. It really has it's good & bad points in our honest opinion. The worst part for us is the physical appearance. Let's face reality folks, it's a dirty, wind driven dust bowl that's full of litter & garbage. It's really quite a shame that
such a beautiful place could become so trash ridden.
The beaches are okay, but we knew going in that the beaches are not the reason you go to AC. I guess we didn't expect so much trash everywhere.
The water gets very high marks. Once you get out in a boat, the water has magical shades of turquoise & blue. It really is beautiful. The colors around the island are something we won't soon forget.
Restaurants are pretty good. We had a few scary experiences, but for the most part, we had good luck with the recommendations from this board.
Our condo was wonderful. Banyan Bay was a great choice, and the accommodations were everything we expected. Staff was also very nice. I'd recommend it to anyone.
Fishing was good over all. The wind kept us from getting to a few spots, but 3 out of 4 charters were successful.
The weather was disappointing for sure. Those first few days kept us from doing several things. The wind was relentless, keeping the seas outside the reef too rough for my tastes. I love to dive, and never bothered to dive due to rough seas…that bummed me out.
The snorkeling was very nice, Hol-Chan definitely was the most impressive. The tough part about snorkeling is having to take a boat to enjoy it. We have been spoiled by other islands that have fabulous snorkeling from shore.
The very best part of AC is the people. By far, the friendliest in the Caribbean that we have experienced. We have seen poverty on other islands, and the people seemed to be more angry. Here on AC, they may be poor, but they are happy….HUGE difference. I'm guessing as I mentioned before, that the warmth & charm of the people on AC are what brings back so many people for return visits. If the people on AC weren't so nice & friendly, this place would be a whole different story.

Although we will enjoy many memories from our visit to AC, I honestly don't think we will return. As much as we loved to people, some of the negatives I mentioned above were simply things we choose to avoid. This island definitely is not for everyone. Again, we will cherish many great times that we experienced there, but just not our cup of tea. I want to personally thank the members of this message board for helping to plan this vacation. I hope this report brings back good memories for most, and helps others that haven't been yet.

With Warm Regards,
Scott & Tracie (PalmLovinCouple)

#66071 - 04/07/03 11:10 PM Re: Trip Report 3/29 to 4/6 (Nothing but the truth)
Chloe Offline
Thanks for sharing your trip with us. Good read.

You will remember even more good times/feelings on AC as the weeks pass. Maybe not your cup of tea, so you say, but I am guessing here, that you will return, cause you loved the water and the people. Reading your report I saw that you are a tad hooked.

You will be stressed one day, and you will remember fishing with Bicho and Bicho, and start to think, wow maybe I need to go visit them.

Your enemy was the WIND, that caused the dirt and trash. Cool weather is not pleasant either, but Mother Nature will have her way.
Dare To Deviate

#66072 - 04/07/03 11:17 PM Re: Trip Report 3/29 to 4/6 (Nothing but the truth)
KathyMLT Offline
It sounds like despite your setbacks you still had a great time. El Divino and Sergio really do rock don't they?
I'm sorry to read that you probably won't go back. I remember the first time I went to the Caribbean. It was to Jamaica and for some reason I was a bit shell shocked after leaving the area of the airport at Montego Bay. After my initial shock at some of the living conditions I found myself extremely interested in the culture, how the people dealt with everyday life and life in general. I don't like to use the word "poverty" as I find it degrading, but I find that the more extreme the living conditions the more I am extremely interested in the place. I guess I look at it a learning experience. It has definately made me much less materialistic (not that I was much in the first place) and much more aware of how much we take for granted. The people of AC are awesome and I find that they are indeed much richer than alot of people I know in love and happiness and friendliness.....things that money and things can't buy.
Unfortunately it sounds as though the weather wasn't really cooperative but as has been mentioned before it sounds like you still tried to make the best of it. Believe me, the weather is NOT always that bad.
Everyone has their own idea of the negative and positives and I for one appreciate that you told of the positives and explained why you felt the negatives were negative. Who knows, someday you may just change your mind and go back....

#66073 - 04/08/03 12:23 AM Re: Trip Report 3/29 to 4/6 (Nothing but the truth)
Mel S Offline
Maybe I'm Loco, but reading your journal, you looked like you really had a good time. You met some nice people, you caught some fish, you snorkeled in some cool spots. When you get your photos back, and you sit back and filter through all the thoughts of the trip, you may figure out your conclusion. Poverty is shocking, even worse when you think it is mostly in the barrios in the cities, or in the lonely farming areas of central america. When people are living in rough situations close to comfortable resorts, it does bother most people. Poverty is very common in Latin America and it is sad. Anyway, from a fisherman, to another fisherman, welcome back to the states and I hope you may go back to the Isla bonita again. now you know the real Belizean experience seperated from the Belizean experience that was in your mind. Have a nice Evening, Mel...
Mel Sinderman

#66074 - 04/08/03 11:33 AM Re: Trip Report 3/29 to 4/6 (Nothing but the truth)
PalmLovinCouple Offline
Thanks for the nice replies folks. I'm glad you didn't view my report as us having a bad time, because we didn't, we had a lot of fun. Yes, the weather was a pain in the arse, but we dealt with it.
As I said in my report, we are not put off by poverty. We have experienced this on other islands. I just cringe sometimes to see such a beautiful place have a serious problem with garbage. To be miles south or north of the island, and see hoards of garbage stuck in the mangroves, or the piles of trash along the northern beaches, is just plain sad.

One thing we've learned through our travels, is that you'll never find the perfect place. No matter where you are, there are usually a few downsides. I'm very glad that we experienced AC, and as I mentioned before, I will cherish many wonderful memories of our visit. I guess AC (not) being our ideal vacation spot is what makes us all different. And wouldn't it be a boring world if we all loved the same things?

Many thanks again to the board for the plethora of info we found here....

#66075 - 04/08/03 12:51 PM Re: Trip Report 3/29 to 4/6 (Nothing but the truth)
Gaz Cooper Offline
The trash is an unfortunate part of being the most easterly land fall and thought I might just mention that this is not the fault of Belize the island or the people.

As you experienced we have a constant breeze blowing which brings all the garbage from other Caribbean islands which lands on our doorstep.

If you look on a Map the end of the line is the Yucutan and Belize.

Its especially bad on Ambergris because of the barrier reef and little wave action to take the garbage back out so it gets dumped on our coastline.

its a constant work to keep the beachs clean and the island does its best to kep the beaches clean.

Just thought I would explain that


#66076 - 04/08/03 05:38 PM Re: Trip Report 3/29 to 4/6 (Nothing but the truth)
B_b_f_b Offline
I like your report. Very honest with your feelings. You write a bit like Elmore Leonard.

#66077 - 04/08/03 06:54 PM Re: Trip Report 3/29 to 4/6 (Nothing but the truth)
Windsor3 Offline
I enjoyed reading your report, and will share it with my husband. We are going in June, and it was helpful to read your restaurant reviews. I like your candid style.

#66078 - 04/08/03 07:58 PM Re: Trip Report 3/29 to 4/6 (Nothing but the truth)
Marie Offline
I'm so glad you liked it as well as you did. It has so many fine qualities. You were very kind.

For future travelers..Re the debre, all right, am I hopelessly optimistic, or what? Of course, I see some minor debre, but please don't get worried about it, future travelers. On our first trip, my husband saw it as messy, but grew to love it as much as I do. Quirky, that's what I think of it as. Belize is sweet, not fancy.

#66079 - 04/09/03 10:03 AM Re: Trip Report 3/29 to 4/6 (Nothing but the truth)
Seaislegal Offline
Good report! Sorry the weather sucked for you guys, but at least it seemed you made the best of it. Of course, a bad day in the tropics is still better than a good day at work!!!

After reading your reviews I am definitely looking forwards to checking out El Divino. We are staying at Banana Beach again having loved the place last year and saw their new addition being completed. We went to Ricos a few times last year because BB didn't have a restaurant at that time. We also really enjoyed the Squirrels nest bar and LOVED Caliente!!!

Yes, Ambergris does have its poor portion but in comparison to other carribean islands I have been to it is nothing. Just more condensed in the little central section of the island versus spread out over a large island like say St Thomas or Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Bahamas for instance. Plus unlike most of those islands AC is relatively safe and the people are really nice and do not harrass you. Heck, I had some guy in Jamaica grab my arm and practically drag me into his store and people bugging me every second to buy this, give them that... and thats the reason for so many all-inclusives on so many islands these days, because it is not safe to go outside of them and the poverty is so abject. I want to experience the island I go to, so the all-inclusive prisons are not my thing!!

Yep, AC gets a bit dusty and dirty but thats because it is flat, not mountainous and jungle like, and the streets are sand based and at the time of year you went through mid-may, the winds blow. My black shoes came home grey last year but I didn't care, the whole character of the island with its packed sand streets and golf carts is one of the reasons I fell in love with the place and its what I have been looking for for years..! My own "margaritaville" so to speak. cool

I'd rather have the street dust and the little town anyday versus an over glitzed Island with high rises, casinos, thousands of offloaded cruise ship passengers and Mc Donalds on every corner where all the money goes offshore and the locals are left to harrassing the tourists for hair braids (yuk..!) or selling drugs!

Hopefully you will choose to give the island another chance as sunny weather definitely helps provide a different perspective on things. Or else you may want to try somewhere like the BVI or Barbados if you want more upscale digs and a more lush environment with paved streets that are good to explore and not over run with tacky tourist places or crime. They have become somewhat commercialized, but not to the extent of St Thomas or elsewhere. AC is great for most of us on the boards, but not for all.. and for that I am glad anyway as I go there versus St Thomas for a reason!! I do not want to hear someone say "would you like fries with that" on my vacation!!! wink

Andrea in Atlanta
AC bound in 23 days!
Andrea in Atlanta

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