As someone we met our first week in Belize said, “it’s ahhhhhll good!” We pretty much ate our way through Belize (drank a fair amount, too). Fish is good everywhere, and is so fresh it almost wiggles on your plate. Our favorite restaurants in San Pedro were definitely Chris and Jen’s place, Casa Picasso (which is a total must-do for anyone going to San Pedro – food is great, service is great, and Chris makes a really good, eclectic martini – try a ginger martini for a real taste treat!), Jambel Jerk (we ate at the “new” place in town across from the Lizard Lounge where they hold the Chicken Drop which is another must-do in San Pedro…), Sweet Basil (had lunch there, assume dinners would also be good). All the other places we tried were good except for El Caribbe (food was OK, but service, etc was not good considering price). Caye Caulker also has some nice places, and lots of reasonably priced food. Our favorite was Rasta Pasta (beware the curry – its hot!), Barefoot Caribbe, and Don Corleones (great Italian food from an honest-to-god Tuscan chef). Placencia has lots of small non-descript places with really good home style food, and the resorts up and down the peninsula all have restaurants. Turtle Inn (Coppola’s place) was very lovely and had incredibly well-trained waitstaff, but the food was only good (and for that price it should have been great), Rum Point food was quite good (had great lobster there, as well as some really good hamburgers) and we ate there a lot since we were staying there and getting really lazy by the end of the trip! We also had lunch at Coppola’s Cayo area resort, Blancaneaux. Food was good, and not too awfully pricey, and the resort is well worth visiting just to look around at the location.
Don’t miss the Chicken Drop on Wednesday nights at the Lizard Lounge. And be very aware that you will suffer rum drink (or Belikin) withdrawal when you come home!
Snorkeling everywhere was wonderful! Gin-clear warm water, tons of fish and coral, rays, sharks, lobsters, crabs – I could have done this every day! Even when it was choppy, it was still good. We snorkeled north of Rocky Point off Ambergris Caye, and went through Bacalar Chico (the cut between Ambergris and Mexico to get there – very interesting trip, and nobody else was snorkeling up there which was really nice. Also did Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley, and loved it. You really do want to go out with a reputable guide service, since there are strong currents and it can get kind of rough. My husband had some problems while snorkeling Hol Chan, and we were very glad we had a strong guide who was paying attention to the whole group. We also snorkeled off Placencia at Laughing Bird Caye – wonderful corals and fish (some of the brightest Parrot Fish we saw anywhere, and a couple of huge rays), and very uncrowded.
Cave tubing was really fun, but you have to do it when you are in a small group and when the cruisers aren’t around. Otherwise, you might as well just go to an amusement park that has a “wet” ride. When you’re alone or in a small group, its really neat to be floating silently through these dark caves with only your headlamp for light. We saw some great formations in the Crystal Cave (although you need to be able to clamber around on some pretty uneven slippery surfaces in some places), some bats (but most have found new homes since the caves have been invaded by the cruisers) and some lovely scenery. My husband even got to see some fire ants up close and personal on the hike to the caves…
Also in the Cayo area are ruins, gorgeous river pools and waterfalls (most reached by some of the most god-awful steps and/or hiking trails down the sides of mountains that you’ve ever seen!), lovely countryside and lots of birds. We went over to Tikal on a day trip from Crystal Paradise, and I highly recommend it. The day we went was overcast and we saw howler monkeys (really close up and roaring their little heads off), a couple groups of spider monkeys, lots of birds, some iguanas and a couple of little foxes. The ruins are pretty great also…The border crossing itself is worth the trip – biggest traffic jam of giant trucks I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing that they ever get it sorted out! Visit a Saturday “farmer’s market” in San Ignacio for a real feast for the eye; you can also get home-made tamales and grilled chicken and ribs there and you’ll see some fruits and veggies that you won’t find in your local supermarket!
Fishing – we fished four different days, twice out of Placencia and once each out of San Pedro and Caye Caulker. We were fishing only for bonefish, tarpon and permit. Anyone interested in hearing about that can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (just say “fishing report” in the subject line so I don’t assume its spam!) Thanks to all of you who recommended fishing guides – we used Severo, Piggy and Egbert Cabral, and would recommend them to anyone, although Severo and Egbert are definitely the better of the three.
Summary – We’ll be back, probably to stay in Placencia and Punta Gorda (which we didn’t see this trip), and do some really serious fishing (and snorkeling). If tourism doesn’t ruin Belize, and if the government spends a little more time and money on the people, the country’s infrastructure, and preserving the reef and the rain forest, instead of lining their own pockets and those of their friends, I think Belize could stay the best little country in Central America. It already has the nicest people.
I’ll try to post a few pictures if I can figure out how to do it. Thanks to everyone on these boards who helped us plan this trip. You guys were honest and accurate in all your descriptions, and it was a real bonus to have your insights as a resource! Thanks again, Sharon and Richard