Just got back from rambling around Belize, a trip that included five days on Ambergris (at Banyan Bay, which was terrific).

Did get a chance to see some of the new places on the island. I'll post a more detailed report soon, but a few quick comments:

* The new three-bedroom units at Sunset Beach are going to be great for big families or groups.

* Portofino (at the site of the old Green Parrot) has great plans, and if they all turn out it will be quite a spot ... though I can't see how in the world they can possibly make their announced September opening.

* The controversial Fountain Blue turned out nicer than I expected. It just opened about a month ago, and the 21 rooms and suites are attractive and not a bad value at all.

* I really like what Gaz Cooper is doing with his new place, Playa Blanca. The four first-floor units were full when I was there. The "penthouse" is huge (and not cheap) but I imagine it has its place with dive groups and big families. The view from the rooftop is fantastic, too. When the pool and hot tubs are in, this will be a fine spot.

* Belizean Shores is still building -- it looks very nice. Captain Morgan's is still building, too -- is there really a market for all these condos?!

* Gary was kind enough to give me the cook's tour of the Basil Jones timeshare project. I'm not a fan of timeshares of any kind, but Gary seems to be trying hard in a difficult situation (sorry to hear that Tammy has gone back to Florida). The location is spectacular, though remote, and construction has in fact recommenced, but, again, it's hard to see that everything will be done by the October 1 announced opening date.

* Enjoyed my dinner at Caliente (it seems to be a new favorite of local folks), but for value and good simple eating we liked Carmen's accross from Woody's Wharf. Mango's was good, too. A lot of the old places are still great, though a couple seem to be slipping (maybe it's the time of year.) Rico's at Banyan Bay has a truly lovely setting, especially at night. Among the visitors I talked with, Papi's was getting the nod for the best good-value restaurant.

* The water being off on most of the island for three days was a pain (it started coming back on Thursday) but the places like Banyan Bay and Banana Beach were able to provide guests with some water from their wells.

* One wonders what is going on with Avalon (the old Casa Caribe, which was a problem property for a long time). Another timeshare company, another series of environmentally suspect plans, another big change to an island that seems to be in the throes of big changes.

* Can't believe all the new homes that are going up, north and south. Before long, San Pedro is going to be wall-to-wall houses and apartments!

--Lan Sluder
Belize First Magazine http://www.belizefirst.com

Lan Sluder/Belize First