We stayed on AC from 1-10 until 1-19 and had a great time. The weather was perfect. We a stayed at Ramons and enjoyed it. The service from the staff at Ramons was always friendly and helpful. This is not a 5-star US hotel but was very nice. The location is the best! Just south of town but close enough that you can walk anywhere in town. If you like to sunbathe they have one of the nicest stretches of beach around. The thatch-shaded hammocks are nice to kick back in and enjoy the sea breeze without baking in the sun. The pool is beautifully landscaped. The pier is also nice with a great seating area at the end of the dock. A great, romantic spot to enjoy at night with a glass of coconut rum with your loved one. We had a 'seaside' room that did have an adequate view of the ocean. Although the 'oceanfront' rooms were in front of us we could still sit on our small balcony and see the sunrise and moonrise perfectly. The 'garden' rooms are packed tightly together. I would definitely request an upstairs room to fully enjoy the charm of Ramons. The downstairs rooms seem dark and cave-like while the open ceilings and thatched roof make the upstairs rooms feel much more spacious. Since Keith there are no phones in the rooms but the front desk phone was available and the staff helped with arranging activities and making reservations. The bar at Ramons is very nice but more expensive than most.
Snorkeling was great. We made multiple trips to HolChan and Mexico Rocks/Tres Cocos. The coral and marine life were awesome. Shark -Ray alley was also a great experience. We went on our first trip with Amigo-Del-Mars and had a fine time. Our other 3 trips were with Alphonse and were even better. I can't say enough about Alphonse. He is the nicest guy you'll ever meet and made each outing a special experience. He pointed out and named dozens of different fish for us. At Shark-Ray alley he worked hard to make sure every one got to hold and play with the sharks and rays. The reef on its own is great to enjoy, but a super guide like Alphonse made the experience even better. (Note: the phone numbers on his web site are wrong).
We were glad that we brought our wet suits. The water was not cold but after an hour or two you can get chilly even with 79-81 degree water temps. Each day there was at least one person in our group without a wet suit who complained about being cold. When you get out to the reef you want to spend all your time enjoying the sights and don't want to get back in the boat early to warm up. A 3mm shortie will work fine.
We enjoyed the day trip to Lamanai. It is a long boat ride but was a fun time. Willie from Sea-rious adventures was fun, friendly and very knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna. We saw crocodiles, some amazing birds and iguanas, and howler monkeys. Amir was the guide on the riverboat and at the ruins and was also great. We bought some wood carvings at Bomba at much better prices than on AC especially if you were willing to barter with the merchants.(James the Rasta-man wants to make you a deal) The bus broke down on the way back to Bomba but this only added to the experience. There was plenty of beer and rum punch left on the bus so we took the half hour delay on the side of the "highway" in stride. It was a long day, but definitely a worthwhile experience. I would definitely recommend Willie and Sea-rious Adventures.
We were very impressed by how safe we felt in AC even roaming the streets at night. I felt much safer than I would in any major US city at night. Every local we encountered was extremely friendly. We had some great food (see dining guide) and a thoroughly good time. We will definitely be back someday.
Thanks again to all of the 'Message Boarders' who helped in my preparation for this trip. This board is a great resource and I hope I can help someone else by sharing my experience.