Trip Report June 16-23, 2007
Got an early start as Delta had bumped up our flight times. Left MSP at 06:30 and got to BZE before noon. No lines, and we basically took about 30 minutes to get off the plane, clear customs and immigration and get on Tropic flight. We hit the AC airport about quarter after 12. The cart from Banyan Bay didn't show so we took a taxi and they picked up the cost. Checked into our room and hit the pool to cool off. Didn't go as planned as the pool was, like, hot. Tried stepping into the ocean, and that was hot too. It took a few Belikins in the air conditioned room to cool off properly. This trip was with the usual suspects, myself and my lovely wife, her sister and her husband. 5th trip for all of us.
Once unpacked and cooled down, we headed into town to see what was going on. Front street was abuzz with activity, a lot of people down for Lobsterfest. Checked things out for a bit, then headed to El Patio for dinner. As always, the food was excellent and the drinks were refreshing. Our usual visits have always been in the Jan/Feb time frame, and it was amazing to see how many people were traveling with their kids. Not just the older ones, but toddlers and below. I guess that comes with the summer traveling crowd. Also evident was the increased amount of traffic.
Up the next morning and off to Estel's for breakfast. Fantastic fry jacks, as usual. Thank God some things don't change. Headed up north, over the bridge for a tour. A lot of changes just over the bridge. That new construction looked a bit sterile and didn't have enough island flavor to even begin to peak any of our interest. The flowers were in bloom and all of the houses on either side of the road were just oozing island charm. We only went as far as a little past the Palapa Bar and then headed back to do a bit of shopping and relaxing. Lunch at Rico's and a little pool time. We had planned dinner at the Reef, but it was closed, as was Elvi's. We ended up at Caliente's. The wife had lobster and I did the ginger rum shrimp. I like shrimp, tho not overly, but Caliente takes it to a much higher level with that dish. That plus the wife giving me one of her lobster tails made it perfect.
Monday we went reef fishing with Vince Dawson. We had been out with him before and always had a good time. We motored down to the mangroves off Caye Caulker where he netted sardines for bait. Did a little casting in the mangroves and only manage to catch a pelican. We'd cast and those birds would immediately dive for the bait. We would cast the sardines up close to the mangroves and they would immediately make a beeline for the boat, they didn't want to be anywhere near the mangroves. We headed out inside the reef and picked up some snappers and queen triggers. A fun half day on the water. Back to the resort and some Belikins and pool time. Dinner at The Reef. Best lobster for me this trip.
Headed in to Estel's for breakfast the next morning and they were closed (this was Tuesday, hope I don't get my days mixed up), so we ended up at Mickey's for breakfast. The fry jacks were not quite as good (my opinion) as Estel's, but I had a world class lobster omelet. MMMMmmmmm. That afternoon we made our visit to the library to pick up our library t-shirts (and made a donation, of course), then to SAGA to replenish our t-shirts supply and make a donation. They also had the Island Dog cartoon books, so I never did get a chance to look him up. We then motored south, making observations and just enjoying being on a golf cart with the sun on our heads and sand in our eyes. Did a little wandering and ended up at Elvi's for dinner.
Wednesday was breakfast at Rico's, and then a fishing/snorkeling/ barbecue day with Bobby Holiday. We had been out with him on our last trip and he is an easy guy to be around. It is so nice to have a guy like him that you can ask questions to about the island and the local goings on. This is how we prefer to learn things. We headed north, caught the sardines and then headed out towards the reef to fish. Again, lots of snapper and queen triggers. We then headed back to Mexico Rocks for snorkeling while Bobby gutted the fish, tossing the scraps over the side so we might have something interesting to look at while snorkeling. Those fish scraps brought in some big rays and barracuda and even a shark. I did not see the shark, but it was not a nurse shark. After we finished with this, he dropped us at Portofino so we could grab a drink while he was cooking down the beach. Very nice place, but it was obviously for people who liked to just spend a lot of time sitting on the beach. Bobby did the normal fish in foil, with spuds and fish ceviche. Probably one of our best meals this trip. How can these guys do such wonderful things with food on the beach? Later in the afternoon we did the chicken drop. The fair maiden dropped the chicken and he just stood there, no matter what anyone did. After a few poopless minutes, a hen was tossed in (under the assumption that the rooster would go) he had other ideas. Then he made a break for freedom, headed for the top of the fence and all the girlie tourists shrieked and backed away, creating an aisle for this big pooch who growled and came sailing in for the chicken. He was just a hair away from a chicken dinner. What a Belikin fueled hoot. My wife and I wandered down to the Blue Water Grill for dinner, and the in-laws did the bbq at the Holiday Hotel to listen to Will and Dale. When we went back for them, they had moved over to Cannibals to listen to Dennis Wolfe. We stuck around for awhile and a few more drinks. Listening to him makes Belikin taste even better.
Thursday was breakfast at Rico's. We had signed up with the dive shop, Bottom Time, for a 2 tank dive outside the reef. The first dive was tacklebox, which we had done before. Nice spur and groove, water was 86 degrees and we just took our time. Second dive was Esmerelda and the divemaster brought the chum. We were (myself and brother-in-law Denny) with 3 newly certified divers, a father, son and daughter. The kids were probably 18 or so, and they were having a ball. We had at least 10 nurse sharks with the biggest probably 8 feet, and a bunch of huge groupers in for the chow. We spent about 20 minutes there, with the newbies having a ball. We even had a 5 foot green moray join in. It is strange seeing all of these fish in a feeding frenzy with the divers right in the middle. The rest of the dive was slow and thoroughly enjoyable. Had some down time, dropped in at BC's for a beer and a bit more Dennis Wolfe and then on to The Sunset Grill for dinner.
Friday was our last full day. My bride and I pretty much just hang out while the in-laws did a little cart touring on their own. With an eye out to future trips, we did check a few other resorts to see what they could offer. Banyan Bay was nice, but a little far from anything, and more family oriented. We generally like to be within close walking distance. We checked out the Aquamarine, and it was ok, but nothing special in our opinion. We were, however, impressed by the rooms at the Sunbreeze. Granted, not as big and fancy as any of the other places we've stayed, but really nice and adequate for the price. We did make a stop at VH, and it was very impressive, but the guests were a bit overdressed and seemed to be more interested in sitting around the pool For dinner it was Rico's. Excellent food.
Restaurant stuff. We have noticed the prices going up for meals. In years past, we considered Elvi's to be nice but a bit pricey. Now it seems they haven't really boosted their prices, but are right in line with everyone else. Elvi's, good food. Blue water grill, good food. The Reef and El Patio, very good food. And the Sunset Grill was very good also. Estel's was very good, as it always has been. The new spot, Mickeys, would get a good also.
Best conch fritters would be a tossup between Caliente's and the Sunset Grill. Best lobster was definitely the Reef. We did not get a chance to get up to Papi's this trip, maybe next time.
A few other observations of interest. I chatted a few times with the timeshare folk at Banyan Bay, and they were very nice and not overbearing once I made it clear I wasn't in the market. No problem at all. I did find the Captain Morgans folk a bit pushy, so we did avoid them when we could. In chatting with the waiters we were exposed to, it seems many were from the mainland and a few Guatamalans. Regardless, the service provided were generally good. On our boat trip up north, it was obvious that there were a lot more homes on the beach than there were 5 years ago.