I'm heading to Belize for my honeymoon. Maybe Placencia or maybe Ambergris Caye. I came across this post and thought I may share it with others who may be in the same boat as I.
Posted by meganr of Rhode Island, USA.
Recently got back from a 2 week honeymoon in Belize. Here are the details….
Monday August 7th. Arrived in San Pedro late afternoon under stormy skies. A quick call to Captain Morgan's from the airport and they sent one of their activities directors, Roger, to pick us up. He got us a cab to take our luggage the very short trip to the pier where Captain Morgan's docks their boat. We slipped on ponchos that Roger provided and settled in for a 10-minute boat ride up the coast. You can't reach Captain Morgan's by car - to get there from San Pedro you can either go by boat or you can take the hand pulled ferry and then continue up the dirt road by golf cart or by bike. We arrived windblown and wet from the storm, but happily accepted our welcome rum punch at the bar and then went to see our cabana. We were in Room #31, the honeymoon casita, which is the last one on Captain Morgan's beach. It had a nice king sized bed and a little sitting area, a minibar, a bathroom, an air conditioner (which helped but wasn't exactly cold), and a nice little front porch. The ceiling was the very high interior peak of the thatched roof, and we were only about 30 feet or so from the water. We were pretty tired from our day of travelling which had started at 3AM in Newport, Rhode Island, so we opted for a buffet dinner at Captain Morgan's and went to bed early.
Tuesday August 8th. The weather was windy and cloudy, so we hopped a boat into town. The Island Ferry runs on a set schedule, every two hours, but if Captain Morgan's has a boat going into town for something else, they'll take you in for free, and we lucked out and hitched a ride with a couple that was going to the airport. We walked the three main roads of San Pedro, poking our heads into the shops - found a cool one that sold batik island wear and got a shirt for Jim and a wrap skirt with matching top for me. Then we had lunch at Elvi's kitchen - the interior is nice, a little touristy, but comfortable. The floor is sand and there are live trees amidst some of the tables. The food was alright - nothing especially memorable except the jalapeno poppers, which were tasty, and the expensive rum cocktails ($6 to $8 US each). After lunch we stopped off for a drink at Fido's by the dock, then got the Island Ferry back to the hotel. The ferry costs $10 Belize ($5 US) per person one way. Since it only runs every 2 hours, you need to plan ahead but if you do, it's not much of a hassle. If you really need to get somewhere sooner you can charter a water taxi, which costs $40 Belize even if there's only one or two of you. After a nap, we took one of Captain Morgan's sea kayaks out to the reef and back, had a cocktail in the swimming pool, and got ready for dinner. The pool is in a very nice setting - right by the bar and with an ocean view - but the surface looks like it could use a bleaching and repainting. Due to confusion on our part, we missed the Island Ferry into town and ended up eating at Captain Morgan's again. The food these first two nights was good, but nothing to rave about - the salsa and chips that they provide as a standard appetizer was nice.
Wednesday August 9th. We got up and went for a run on the beach. Then we tried breakfast for the first time, which is probably the meal that Captain Morgan's does best. We each had two big yummy breakfast burritos, then we went to Patojo's Dive Shop for a resort course in scuba. This is the dive shop that Captain Morgan's uses for its guests who haven't been certified, and we heard from others that they are potentially the best shop on the island in terms of really taking care of you, knowing what they're doing, staying on top of things, etc. They picked us up right at the Captain Morgan's pier in a boat named "Megan" so that bode well for the day ahead !! We spent about 2 hours or so with John learning about the equipment and the three skills that we would need to perform, then headed out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve for our open water test. The weather got really bad - strong winds and pelting rain - but we managed to get it done and saw some cool fish and coral in the process. You can really see a lot at Hol Chan since fishing is prohibited there, and it's only a 30 foot dive so it was great as a starter. I panicked a little when I started getting low on air and was having trouble swimming against the current, but our dive master was great. He led me right back to the boat, then took us back to the hotel and sat at the bar with us for a Belikin. He even entertained us with a story about how the dive masters get male sea turtles to stay in one place for the snorkelers to see them - they massage their privates! After our dive course, we settled in for an afternoon of reading since the rain was pouring down. It stopped at 4:30, just in time for preparations to get underway for a beautiful simple wedding ceremony on the beach which we watched from our porch. After watching the barefoot bride and her groom say their vows by the ocean under a palm frond archway, we headed to the bar for a pre-dinner drink. Enrique served me a "dirty banana", his own personal creation. It was really good - similar to a banana daiquiri but with kahlua in it. We made the Island Ferry this night, and set out for San Pedro for dinner. We'd hoped to eat at Little Italy, which got good marks in the guide book, but it was gone. In its place was Duane's Surf & Turf, so we sat there on the balcony and had an okay meal - steak and seafood as the name suggests - overlooking the famous "Chicken Drop." We bought two squares, but didn't win - the rooster dropped his load elsewhere. After dinner we walked up to Fido's because we still had over an hour before the return boat would be leaving. Fido's is a popular bar and restaurant on the beach, right by the water taxi pier. It gets a lot of tourist traffic, and has live music some nights. We sat at the bar for a drink listening to a one-man band singing a lot of country music, though I was able to get him to do a whole string of Jimmy Buffett tunes when I asked. On the boatride home we saw lightning and by the time we were in the casita, the wind was whipping through the palms and the rain was pouring down. It stormed hard all night.
Thursday August 10th. Got up to go for a scuba dive, but the weather was bad and Jim's ear was hurting from yesterday's shallow dive, so we cancelled it. We took out some bikes from the hotel instead and rode into town. The bikes are old one-speed models with coaster brakes and the road is in poor shape - basically dirt but it was full of huge ruts and puddles and slimy mud from the rain. When we got close to town we paid $1 BZ each to get pulled across a narrow cut (maybe 30 feet ?) on a hand-pulled platform. Two guys stand on it with you and pull on a big rope to move the platform to the other side. It was pretty amusing. In town we walked south of the airstrip to see Ramon's Village - cute thatched cabanas, nice pool, some watersports equipment, but it's all built right on top of itself and town and the airstrip. Looks like it could get crowded in high season. As we walked back to town is started to rain (is this starting to sound familiar?) and we ducked inside and bought a glass bead necklace, then opted for lunch at Fido's because that's where we were when I started to POUR. After lunch we rode the bikes back to Captain Morgan's in a light drizzle on a road that was even worse than it had been just a few hours earlier. We ate dinner at the hotel that night - a shrimp pesto pasta that was delicious - our best meal on Ambergris. By then we were also getting hooked on Enrique's dirty bananas - too bad nobody else at the resort knows his secret recipe!
Friday August 11th. Woke to what looked like bad weather again and we were pretty sure our catamaran trip would be cancelled, but since they'd been cancelling trips all week, Friday didn't look so bad to Hustler Tours. The boat came to pick up at 8:30 AM. As we headed towards San Pedro, we spotted two dolphins. John stopped the boat so we could look, and then when he started it again, it ran out of gas ! He sent a message back to his dive shop via another boat passing by, but then we started to drift towards shore. The anchor wasn't holding us so he finally jumped in to pull the boat over to a pier. Once we got on our way again, we stopped to pick up a couple from Louisiana on their 20th wedding anniversary vacation and two sisters in law. We all got on the "Me Too" catamaran with our two guides and set off for Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Spectacular ! The snorkeling there is absolutely phenomenal. So many fish, so much coral, so colorful, such variety. After Hol Can we got back on the boat and headed for Caye Caulker. A storm caught us and we got absolutely drenched. I literally wrung out my shirt. Meanwhile, we were served very strong rum punch and therefore had to visit the port-a-potty a couple of times in the tossing waves. The storm let up just before we reached Caye Caulker, where we had a basic lunch at the Tropical Paradise, then strolled down the main road to look around. Back on the catamaran and over to Shark Ray Alley, where we snorkeled in about eight feet of water with tons of nurse sharks and huge manorays. We were able to pet them, too. Amazing. Then the catamaran took us back to the hotel, by which time is was 5:00 PM. We were too worn out to go back into town for dinner so we had a dirty banana at the bar and then got a take out pizza from next door (Essene's Way). It was okay - the crust was a little raw, still, I think. Things were not cheap on Ambergris. A medium pizza was $15 US and most fruity island drink are $6 or so.
Saturday August 12th. We got up and got ready to go on our first and only real dive. Having passed the resort course, we were able to dive as much as we wanted on our trip to Ambergris with that same dive shop. Given our limited days on the island and the weather, Saturday was our only opportunity. The sun was actually shining. The beach looked beautiful (it's scattered with hammocks in the trees and color beach chairs) and we snapped some photos before we left. We went with two other couples from Captain Morgan's - one from LA and one from Boulder. They were all certified, and we of course were not. I was a little apprehensive, but wanted to give it a try. Patojo's dive shop sent Martin and David to pick us all up. Before we crossed to the other side of the reef, we stopped to prepare all our gear because the huge swells outside the reef make it difficult to do much over there. We were warned about how big the swells would be and that we might get seasick, and were given instruction about what to do once we got in the water. The swells were really B-I-G but it wasn't as scary as I'd thought it might be. Martin had a perfect touch with the boat and took us right through it without too much bouncing around. Martin and David prepared all our gear for us (a relief for those of us who were beginners) and strapped it on for us so we really didn't have to think about much. Each of us fell backwards off the boat in turn, and then we went down. We followed Martin around under water for about 40 minutes at 70-80 feet depth. Saw fish, a nurse shark, and beautiful coral. Jim described diving as having the sensation that you're flying. As you get accustomed to it, you can control your ups and downs just by breathing and a little swimming, and you can come up and down around the peaks and valleys of the coral. Amazing ! Jim took a little more advantage of it than he was supposed to, and ran low on air a little early. He had to go up a few minutes ahead of the rest of us. David had been up in the boat the whole time, riding out the swells and following our bubbles so he was right there to pick Jim up. Martin signaled the rest of us that it was time to go up - I had been carefully breathing slowly to conserve air because I didn't like running out first on the day of our resort course, so I still had plenty left. We were to stop at 20 feet for a 3 minute safety stop - I couldn't stop! Martin saw me and pulled me back down. I tried to be still but whenever I kicked slightly to upright myself, I went up and he had to hold me down. Eventually, we got back in the boat and headed back into the calm waters inside the reef. I was feeling so accomplished and proud of myself; then I realized, we weren't done yet. We were going to do a second dive. We hung out just inside the reef for 40 minutes to relax and so all the equipment could be set up again; then we headed back into the swells. This time, one of the other women on the boat got seasick. I felt like I might as well, but I got under the water in time - down deep there are no swells and no seasickness. This time we dove an old shipwreck and again saw beautiful coral and fish. The best fish of the whole trip to Ambergris though, were the fish we saw snorkeling at Hol Chan. There is just such abundance and variety. I'm glad we did the dive, though - it was an experience. Patojo's Dive Shop did a great job of getting us ready and taking care of us. After the dive, we went back and hung out on the beach in the hammocks reading our books. Enrique wasn't around so we couldn't get a dirty banana, though. All afternoon I felt a little off - really tired and a little like I was still rocking on a boat. We caught the 5:00 ferry into town and walked south about 25 minutes to La Margarita. The food was okay, but the margaritas tasted like frozen limeade without any tequila. The rice and refried beans were good. After dinner we saw part of a church wedding in town, complete with a stray dog hanging out in the aisle. We took the 8:00 ferry home and were in bed by 9:00 PM, both of us just unconscious with exhaustion.
Sunday August 13th. Today we checked out and said goodbye to Blanca, one of the activities directors. The Captain Morgans boat took us to town and we flew Tropic Air to Belize International, and then on to the Belize Municipal shack. Ken Dart, from Ek'Tun picked us up there in his red Land Rover. Ek'Tun means black rock in Mayan. He drove us across the Western Highway towards San Ignacio. People stand on the side of the road seemingly in the middle of nowhere waiting for the bus - there are no designated bus stops, just wherever people wait. We stopped for half an hour at the Belize Zoo. A lot of animals were hiding in the shade (it was HOT) but we did see parrots, jaguars, howler monkeys, and peccaries. Back in the car and on to San Ignacio. We stopped at Eva's, a sort of central meeting place/restaurant, looking for the second couple staying at Ek'Tun and had a quick lunch while we waited. Eva's was buzzing with young people with huge backpacks, and had two computers with internet access. No sign of the other couple, so we drove around town until we found them (Chris & Steve, from Richmond Virginia). The road from San Ignacio was dirt, and we got further and further from civilization. Finally, we parked the Land Rover beside the Macal River and got in a little boat that was waiting for us, driven by two men who work for Ken. Ken was a very gracious host and tour guide for our entire trip from the airport to Ek'Tun, telling us how he and his wife Phyllis came to Belize 11 years ago and filling us in on lots of interesting details about the area. He showed us to our thatched roof cabana (they have only two, so there is an abundance of personalized attention) which is simply beautiful - puts Captain Morgan's to shame in comparison. The floors are slate, there are built-in crevices in the walls for books and artifacts, the bathroom has a beautiful tub, and there is a loft with more beds upstairs. We even have a little porch looking down at the river. There are a half dozen kerosene lamps throughout the room that are lit daily around 5:30PM. No electricity, but hot and cold running water. It is really a phenomenal setting. We were hot and stinky from our trip, so we headed straight for the new mineral pool. FANTASTIC. The most refreshing experience ever. Cool and clear and set amidst a lush tropical jungle. After a dip in the pool, we walked up the river, past banana trees and coffee beans, and put two innertubes in the water. We tubed down about 10 minutes, cruising pretty hard and fast through some small rapids. It was fun, so we ran back up the river to try it again. This time we both hit our butts on big rocks under the rapids - Jim got tossed out of his tube and I have a big old bruise. Enough of that - back to the mineral pool ! Chris & Steve were at the pool already. Steve & Jim climbed a big boulder and jumped into the water (Jim managed to convince me to try it a few days later). Dinner was at 7PM at Ken & Phyllis' house, which is a beautiful combination of a jungle feeling (the dining room is very open to the outdoors) with a sense of comfort and home-y-ness. They had some nice music playing and served us margaritas on the rocks (just right) and homemade just-fried tortilla chips with homemade guacamole from avocados grown on the property. It all tasted fresh and delicious. Dinner was pork tenderloin cooked to perfection (and I'm not usually a big meat eater) - tender and juicy, with black beans, green rice, and a fresh tortilla. Nicely spiced and absolutely delicious. The best meal we've had on our trip by far ! Dessert was a wonderful chocolate walnut crepe. I ate every bite. We talked over dinner about families, snorkeling, dogs, trips for tomorrow….it was like making new friends. Really amazing. As we walked back to the cabana by flashlight, Chris and Steve pointed out leaf cutter ants. They were carrying pieces of leaf across the path and you could see the swatch they'd already cut up the hill, about 6 inches wide and tens of feet long. Very impressive.
Monday August 14th. Up early and a quick dip in the mineral pool, then off to breakfast (a fruit plate, freshly squeezed juice, and french toast) at Ken and Phyllis'. After breakfast we went to meet the six puppies. My favorite was Emilio, one of the bigger ones with black and brown fur. They were roly poly little wrestlers, nipping at us with their needle teeth. Ken is under orders from Phyllis to give them away (they already have 3 dogs), but he's reluctant. It's so hard to part with a puppy ! After seeing the puppies, we dressed for the day - long hiking pants, hiking socks and boots, tshirts, hats, lots of bug spray, and a bandana. We packed up the camera and the day pack and met up with Phyllis, Ken, Chris, and Steve to go down the river in the little boat and pile into the Land Rover. Ken took us on a bumpy, muddy, occasionally slippery ride on a road that almost nobody else ever uses, and 90 minutes later we got out and walked to a rock shelter once used by the ancient Mayans. Nearby was a cave, also on the Ek'Tun property, and Jim, Ken & I spelunked through it. It took about ½ an hour and we saw small shards of Mayan pottery and stalactite and stalagmite formations. By the time we got to the end, Phyllis had come behind us to let us know that Cameron (and archaeology student) and a group of students had arrived to investigate the rock shelter. We hurried out and Jim, Ken, and Steve helped the students turn over a huge rock looking for carvngs, but found none. We left them to map the shelter and split up - Phyllis took Chris and Steve and the car to head off to Guatemala, and Ken took Jim and me to hike back to Ek'Tun. Parts of the jungle had been in a fire recently, making it difficult for Ken to find the path. We trudged around on thick mud and slippery rocks for about an hour before giving up and taking the more obvious but longer route back. Ken pointed out various types of trees, birds, and butterflies along the way and talked to us about his plans for the land (they are in the process of buying more to stop it from being developed). H wants to reintroduce hardwoods and plant corn and coffee beneath them. The trek was fairly moderate except for one long steep hill and the thick goopy mud trying to hold onto our feet. Our feet, unaccustomed to being in boots after a summer in sandals, got tired early. As we got closer to Ek'Tun was saw the entrance to another cave but didn't venture in, and we each ate a lime off the trees for sustenance. We'd had only a few cookies and some "Gu" since breakfast. We got back to Ek'Tun around 5PM- 3 hours after we set out on the hike, and just 5 minutes after Phyllis. They'd had trouble getting the Land Rover back out on that road and ended up not making it to Guatemala after all. We rushed off for a quick dip in the mineral pool and then a hot shower. Feeling refreshed and clean, we headed to dinner at 7PM. Dinner was chilled papaya soup, Vietnamese chicken, a delicious season rice, and carrots cooked just right. Dessert was a fantastic key lime pie.
Tuesday August 15th. We had Mexican scrambled eggs and a fruit plate for breakfast. Yummy. Then we packed a few things up in a dry bag and set off in Ken's canoe downstream toward San Ignacio. There were a few rapids along the way that gave us a challenge - one sent us up on the shore temporarily - but we never tipped the boat. We set out at 10AM and stopped at the Medicine Trail at 11:30. We spent an hour or so there looking at the most useful trees and plants in Belize, and learning what their functions are. Very interesting though we retained only a little of it. Back in the canoe for another hour and a half. My arms and lats were getting tired ! We pulled the boat out in San Ignacio at 2PM and headed to Martha's for pizza. Pretty good - better, I thought, then what we had in the Cayes. Then Ken picked us and the canoe up and took us to the ruins of Xunantunich. There was one main temple that we climbed and some of the uncovered glyphs were interesting to look at too, but mostly we're waiting to see Tikal. Dinner was beef with a horseradish sauce, and dessert was a crepe with pineapple and cream cheese. I've been cleaning my plate at every meal (unusual for me)!
Wednesday August 16th. Today was our biggest and best adventure of the trip. After breakfast, our guide Emilio picked us up. He took us to the Cave of the Stone Sepulcher. It was a long but very rewarding day - a 90 minute drive to the trail (part of it standing in the back of a 4x4 pickup truck, hanging onto the rollbar, slipping and sliding and tipping down a muddy rutted road), a 45 minute hike which was pretty flat but required 3 stream crossings (my boots stayed wet for days), and then 4 ½ hours in the cave itself. The cave was SUCH an amazing experience - highly recommended. It's wet cave, so you actually swim into the entrance and spend about half the time wading or swimming in crystal clear, cool water. Emilio talked to us about the cave geology and also took us up to higher ground within the cave, where we walked barefoot in the dry upper chambers and learned about the Mayan history and culture. We saw pottery shards, intact ports, tools, an altar, and human remains. The Mayans conducted many sacrifices in the caves, and also rituals that involved trapping spirits in the pots, then letting them escape either through a small "kill hole" or by smashing the pot (hence the shards). Not only was everything we learned interesting, but just spelunking through the huge wet cave was fascinating as well. Dinner was pork chops and a very fresh salad.
Thursday August 17th. Today we decided to keep things low key - no wet boots, no guides, no Land Rover rides. We started with omelettes and bacon for breakfast, and then took a ½ hour hike up to a cave on the Ek'Tun property. We explored it on our own for close to two hours - it was fun being on our own, but we probably missed a lot by not having anyone along to explain things. And of course after yesterday's extreme caving adventure, it just couldn't compare. We came back around 1 PM to spend some time in the pool, and then Jim managed to beat me at Gin Rummy as always. We had to pack up before dinner because we're leaving tomorrow (and there's not enough light from the kerosene lamps to pack at night). We went over for dinner early because we'd only had some snack mix for lunch and we'd asked Ken for some homemade chips and salsa. Fantastic. Banana salsa. Really yummy. Jim coached Ken on making a drink similar to a "dirty banana" which we dubbed a filthy monkey - it came pretty close….bananas, coconut milk, coconut rum, kahlua, and ice. Dinner was delicious again - an out of this world tomato and basil soup with breadsticks, an herb pasta, and a coconut banana dessert. We also got to sample the soon-to-be house wine, which is made not from grapes from seeds of a local plant. Light and fruity but with a dry finish. It was different - good different. After dinner we had a long philosophical discussion about Karma, free will, and predestiny, then a quick review of our Tikal plans for tomorrow.
Friday August 18th. This morning we composed a Dr. Seuss-esque poem about all of our Ek'Tun adventures and wrote it in the guest book. A delicious breakfast (the best yet) of huevos rancheros and then off to Lea's furniture in San Ignacio where we bought some exotic hardwood bowls and a beautiful rolling pin. We picked out some slate carvings by the river in Benque Viejo, and then Ken dropped us off at the Guatemalan border. He set us up with Rob, who together with Alex were our guardians and Spanish interpretors (they are a part of the Tikal extension trip which you can arrange through Ek'Tun). They got us a taxi to Tikal, showed us where to have lunch and set us up with an English speaking guide - Julio. We trekked through the ruins for 4 hours, hearing all about the ancient Mayan history and culture from Julio, who is Mayan himself. We learned about their reverence for the numbers 9,13, and 20 and climbed to the tops of two of the temples. As we walked along the jungle paths, we saw wildlife….howler monkeys, spider monkeys, toucans, wild turkeys, agouti, grey fox, and a snake. After our tour we had dinner at one of the three restaurants in the park, trying out our very minimal Spanish. Jim had a chicken dish, I had eggs, and we got 2 Gallos (beer) and huge bottled water all for $10 US. Then back to our room at the Jungle Lodge. It was very convenient and a good size, and I guess reasonably clean. It even had electricity during certain hours of the day. Unfortunately, the electricity shut off at night, and with it the fan. Small fruits - a little bigger than acorns - fell on our tin roof and sounded much louder than we would have expected. The howler monkeys were doing their thing as well, and we were awoken in the night by an incredibly loud snorer sleeping next door. There was no sound insulation at all - he could have been sleeping in our room with us. Jim threw books on the floor, shouted, and banged on the wall. Still he snored. Not much sleep to be had……
Saturday August 19th. Got up relatively early to go to the Tikal museums where we saw photos of the exploration and restoration as well as actual ceramic artifacts. Alex and Rob picked us up with a taxi at noon and took us to Flores where we checked into a room at the Hotel Peten. The hotel has a nice view of the lake and was painted in pretty deep blues and pastels - a Mediterranean feel. We had lunch with Alex at Tucan --Jim had a tasty bush animal of some kind and I had some beef tacos that didn't taste quite like beef. The margaritas were good and the terrace sat overlooking the lake. After lunch we set off on our own, crossing the bridge to Santa Elena. We didn't find anything to buy there but ran into two cute black and brown pups at a store we ducked into to escape a big thunderstorm. Back to Flores where we ran between shops in the downpour, and bargained in our very primitive Spanish for two masks, a shirt, and table runner, and wooden toucan. Dinner at Las Puertas was about $13 for a salad, two pasta dishes, and two beers. Pretty good though the service was sketchy.
Sunday August 20th. This morning we had breakfast at the hotel - getting a little sick of the fried plantains and refried beans that come with everything - then walked around town a little before going to the airport to catch our flight to Belize International. We arrived early for our afternoon flight to the US, and sat at Jet's Bar in the departure lounge enjoying rum punches, pringles, a sandwich, and a game of cards which we waited for our flight. Back home!! We hope to return to Belize some day, and if we do we will definitely return to Ek'Tun. Just a work in process as of now, but check out some photos at http://kucik.home.mindspring.com/honeymoon/honeymoonpics.html