This was our first trip to San Pedro, where we stayed at Banana Beach for 12 great days. We flew Continental from Minneapolis to Houston to Belize City, arriving about 4:30. Cleared customs, and caught our Tropic Air flight at 5:00. The short flight was beautiful, with the sun just starting to go down. We landed on AC 20 min later, and got a cab to the hotel. We stayed at one of BB’s ocean front suites on the third floor. Great room with a nice sized patio overlooking the water. We were exhausted after a long day of travel, so just went down to the hotel restaurant El Divino, where I was introduced to Belikin. I got the chicken parmesan, and Darica (Icky) got the fettuccini. Both were very good. After dinner, we found the small grocery across the street, and picked up some Belikins and soft drinks for the room. Sat on the porch for a bit and called it a night.
Tuesday Dec 30
Awoke to a bright, breezy day. Caught our first free breakfast at BB. They give you vouchers for a free continental, or US$5 off any other breakfast or lunch. The continental is scrambled eggs, pastries, fresh fruit, and coffee. The breakfast was always good, and we would take advantage most days there. After breakfast, we walked the beach to Ramon’s and cut across to the Bowen warehouse to place an order. Got cases of Belikin, water, and soft drinks. This was delivered to our room later in the day, and is definitely the cheap way to go. Continued walking into town to take it all in, and do some shopping. Caught a cab back to BB, hit the beach for a while, and then tried the pool. Very nice. We set up a trip to Shark Ray/Hol Chan tomorrow for snorkeling/diving. Dinner tonight was at Fido’s where I had lobster, and Icky got the fish and chips. Meals were both great. We loved Fido’s, and would return several times during the trip. After dinner, we walked the beach home, stopping for drinks at BC’s and Ramon’s Purple Parrot. Is this paradise or what??
Wed Dec 31
I just got PADI certified this fall, but Icky prefers to snorkel. For this combination, Hol Chan/Shark Ray is the perfect destination since divers and snorkelers can go together. We hit Shark Ray Alley first, where everybody snorkels since it is so shallow. I figured we would see a few sharks and rays, but I had no idea….They were everywhere. This was truly amazing. I got to touch a ray, as a guide was holding it. Do not go home without a trip here, and don’t be afraid to get in the water. Next it was off to Hol Chan, where the divers and snorkelers split off. This would be my first real dive, not counting the open water dives I did in a Minnesota lake this fall. The dive was about 30’ and was absolutely beautiful. Next it was back to the hotel to get cleaned up for New Years Eve. We walked the beach to the Blue Water Grill to try our luck with no reservation. The tables were all reserved, but we got a great spot at the bar, and enjoyed great service despite how busy they were. I got the Red Snapper in a spicy curry sauce (outstanding), Icky had the margarita pizza and we split a piece of key lime pie. We were very impressed with Blue Water Grill. We headed down to Ramon’s at around 9:30, and got a table on the beach when it started to sprinkle. They had put up about 3 bigtop style shelters for the party, so we took refuge under one of those and watched it come down while we listened to an awesome band (From Corazol, I think). Tons of people showed up as the night when on--tourists, locals, kids, dogs…you name it. It was a great party, what a fun way to ring in the new year. We were promised fireworks at midnight, which consisted of someone lighting off about 3 bottle rockets!! Too funny. Walked the beach home and called it a night.
Thurs Jan 1, 2004!
Awoke to clear skies (much clearer than my head) at around 8:00. Caught the BB breakfast and rented our first golf cart. We got it right from the travel shop at the hotel, Monkey Business. Drove through town for a bit, and then found the hand ferry. What the heck, let’s go see the north side! The road north of the cut was in pretty rough shape compared to the south, and it seemed to get worse the farther north we went. Lots of standing water and mud. We originally planned to go as far as Journey’s End, but eventually gave up. We did stop at Capt. Morgan’s to take a look around. It was a very nice place, with thatch huts everywhere. College bowl games were on today, and there was a pretty good crowd watching on the bar’s big screen TV. On the way back we stopped at the Palapa bar, and loved this place. It was pretty slow (early afternoon) and we had fun talking to a super nice bartender and some guy from Connecticut. Then it was back on the cart, and we continued on our way. By now the wind had died down and we saw our first mosquitoes. This would be the first of only two times we were really bothered by any bugs, so can’t really complain there. Any time there was a breeze, they are nowhere to be found. Back in town we stopped for lunch at Cannibal’s for a cheeseburger and chicken wrap, both very good. Heavy rain for all of 15 min during the drive home, but then it was over. Got cleaned up after some porch time, and decided we’d try Elvi’s for dinner tonight. Unfortunately they were packed, and had a 30 min wait for a table, so it was on to “Plan B”, Jambel’s Jerk. Having spent a lot of time in Negril, I was anxious to try Jambel’s. The proprietor is from a small town near Montego Bay, and was a lot of fun to talk to. The food was awesome, I had the Jamaica Me Crazy Shrimp, and Icky got a cheese sandwich and big salad. After dinner, we stopped at the Palace Casino for a look, but didn’t try our luck. Mostly slot machines, and an empty blackjack table. Headed home, and watched the stars out on the porch. On a clear night, the sky is unbelievable here, don’t forget to look up once in a while…..
Fri Jan 2
Awoke around 7:30, and felt like diving. Most shops open around 8:00, but unfortunately today was too rough, and no one was going this morning…check back this afternoon. We used the BB vouchers for lunch today and had a fish sandwich (snapper) and chicken quesadilla. Starting to be convinced there is not a bad meal on this island. Checked on diving one more time, but still no luck. Decided to get a cart again and go exploring. Drove to north side of town and went to La Popular Bakery for some tasty treats for later. Then we decided to find Wet Willie’s to use our Green Guide coupons for a free rum punch. This was a little shady, as we showed the bartender the coupons when we ordered, but he failed to tell us until after we finished the drinks that they were only good for ladies night on Wednesdays. The fine print wins again… Oh well, that would be the last nickel we spent there. Took a look at the Blue Tang, (where we almost stayed), nice looking place on the north side of town. Drove through town for a while and found a cool little rum and cigar store on middle street, where I picked up a couple cigars. Then it was back to the hotel for some beach time. Tonight we caught a cab from BB to town for the evening. The cab driver had his wife along, and she was quite possibly the sweetest lady I have ever met. Driver was pretty quiet, but the wife talked to us non-stop the whole way about living in San Pedro, etc. She even invited us to their home for her son’s 5th birthday party. We then walked around town for a while, and stopped into Coconet Internet Bar, (mostly to meet Charlie, but wouldn’t you know Peter was there as well…) Had the pleasure of meeting them both, and enjoyed a cold belikin while checking emails. We talked with Peter about fishing with Capt. Bicho, and he mentioned one of his guests, Brad, was looking for someone to share the cost with. We set up a trip for the three of us to fish a full day Sunday. That night we went to see the Punta Boys at Sharkey’s, and ended up having dinner there. This was the only mediocre meal we had on the island, but hey, they had a good band… Then walked up to Fido’s for a bit, and then wouldn’t you know we see our favorite cab driving couple to take us home…
Sat Jan 3
Breakfast at El Divino’s, and then a swim in the pool while waiting for the travel shop to inform us that the sea was too rough for diving again today. Went into town in search of the SAGA humane society, to deliver some supplies we brought down. Today would be a slow, relaxing day. Had some appetizers at Rico’s, the restaurant at Banyan Bay. It was a very nice place, right on the water. Conch Fritters, Tortilla Soup, and Chicken Caesar Salad. All were good, but I can’t say enough about the Tortilla Soup. We have an early night so we can get up for fishing tomorrow.
Sun Jan 4
We met Brad (our fishing buddy) outside BB, and were picked up by Capt. Bicho and son promptly at 7:30. This was an awesome day. We first headed south to some mangrove shallows where Bicho would find a school of sardines and throw a net on them. After we had a good stock of these little guys in the live well, we headed out to the reef. I had heard about how willing Bicho is to move the boat if they’re not biting, but we never had that problem. We had a blast! You would get a bite on practically every cast, so it was just a matter of if you could set the hook (about 50% of the time for us). Mostly Reds and Yellow Tail Snapper, with a couple of triggerfish and needlefish in the mix. We did the full day trip, and the schedule was whatever we wanted it to be. After more than filling a 5 gal pail with fish, we decided to snorkel at coral garden. Bicho & Jr. cleaned all the fish while we snorkeled for a while, and then it was off to Hol Chan for another snorkel. Junior used the last of the sardines to feed some sharks and rays for us. By now it was like 2:00 and we were all hungry, so we went in for lunch, stopping at Bicho's traps for some lobsters. Got a fire going, and watched the cook prepare his specialty. This was quite possibly the best meal we had our whole trip—fish, lobster, coleslaw, potatoes, tortillas…ahhh. We sent Brad back to Pedro’s Inn with all the filets, and made plans to head out there for dinner. By the time we got there, Pedro’s capable staff had BBQ’d the fish, and gave us a hero’s welcome. Nobody left hungry…
Mon Jan 5
Set up a two tank dive this morning with Amigos Del Mar, booked via Monkey Business at BB. Icky was left to fend for herself as I got picked up at 9:00, and went to tackle box canyon for dive #1, and then tres cocos for #2. Had a blast, got to see a sea turtle, which was the highlight of the day for me. That afternoon we got a cart and went into town. Stopped at Coconet to see Peter, and boast about the fishing yesterday. Tonight we had dinner at Jade Garden, I got broiled shrimp and Icky got chicken chow mein. Again had a great meal.
Tues Jan 6
Today we headed out to Caye Caulker. Caught the 9:30 boat for the 25 min ride out. Our first stop was at Rasta Pasta for some breakfast. Cool vibe at this place. As if San Pedro wasn’t relaxed enough, this place was even more so. We walked the island, stopping here and there, when all of a sudden a Minnesota license plate catches my eye up on someone’s balcony. Turns out we are at Chocolate’s, and Chocolate’s wife is a native Minnesotan. Had a nice visit with her, and continued on to the split and the Lazy Lizard. This was a truly beautiful swimming spot, and we cursed ourselves for not bringing proper swimming attire. We caught the 1:00 back to SP, and headed back to BB for a dip in the pool. Tonight we walked the beach to town and had our second encounter with mosquitoes. It had been fairly breezy every day until today, and we were soon glad we carried some DEET spray. Dinner tonight was at the Stained Glass Pub; this was a neat little spot on the north side of town.
Wed Jan 7
Cloudy start to the day, with heavy rain from 8:30-9:00. Had breakfast at BB this morning, we are getting attached to the staff here—really nice folk. Most of the early afternoon was rainy, so we had a relaxing day around the hotel. Cleared up late afternoon and we got some beach time before heading to Elvi’s for dinner. Elvi’s had a neat setting, but the food was so-so. My lobster was dry and overdone, but Icky’s shrimp were quite good. After dinner, we met up with Peter at Fido’s for Category X (Barefoot Skinny’s band). A good time was had by all.
Thurs Jan 8
Starting to face the fact that this is our last full day on the island. After breakfast, we got a cart and headed south to check out Victoria House. This was a beautiful property. Drove around for a while and eventually found a neat little spot along the beach north of town with a kids park. We did the last of our souvenir shopping and got sandwiches from Celi’s deli for a picnic lunch at our new beach spot. Reality is quietly starting to set in as the day goes on… The plan was to try dinner at Victoria House tonight, and when we arrived at 7:00 they probably had about 3 out of 30 tables full, but told us there was no seating without reservations….whatever…. Back on the cart and into town to try this little place across from Fido’s called “Senior Lobster” This was the smartest decision we ever made. They had the sweetest lady who BBQ’d to order, and we enjoyed an outstanding meal for an extremely reasonable price. Grilled shrimp and BBQ chicken. Wished we found this our first night instead of our last…. After dinner, we crossed the street to Fido’s to see the Punta Boys. After seeing them a couple of times this trip, we picked up their CD to take home. Tonight was probably our latest night yet, as we think of things to do “next time”…
Fri Jan 9
Awoke about 7:00 and had our last breakfast at El Divino’s. Bags get packed and it is now unavoidable…we are going home. We checked out, and BB got us a taxi to the airstrip. This time our plane stopped at Caye Caulker for a few passengers and then off to BZE. Had plenty of time as we waited for our flight, so finally got to meet Jet and have a hot dog at his bar. Checked out the duty free at the airport, and I was quite impressed. You must be leaving the country at this point, but the prices were incredible. Absolute vodka 750ml for US$5, and American smokes for $9/carton. Our connecting flight was an adventure as we spent almost an hour in line for customs at Houston. Gladly we made the connecting flight by seconds, and we were on our way home...
Photos from the trip can be seen here: http://www.hundreddollarharmony.com/belize1/index.html
And underwater photos are here: http://www.hundreddollarharmony.com/scuba/index.html