This may be a little long and I apologize for that, but there is actually a lot more that I would like to be able to say.
We have just recently returned from our second trip to paradise and although we did not think last year could be bettered it most definitely was.
It is difficult to know where to start. The Belikin, the people, the Belikin, the weather, the Belikin, the food, the Belikin, the location, the Belikin, the Hotel, the Belikin and the activities were all wonderful. In case I forgot to mention it the Belikin was GREAT!
We were able to go to Laminai, this trip, and it is well worth the effort. The guides both Carlos (from Sulya Tours) and Errol (on the New River) are great. It is obvious that they both care greatly for the land as well as the history of their country. They are informative, and knowledgeable without being overbearing or pretentious. The meal that was provided by Errol was outstanding, typical Belizian dishes, stewed chicken, beef, rice and beans, small lemon pies (homemade with fresh lemons!), fresh avocados, coleslaw, fresh pineapple and watermelon. Included for those who dared was plenty of hot sauce and an onion and habanero relish (yummy!) as well as soda, water, and Belikin.
Our stay at Mata Rocks was absolutely wonderful. The location, beach, and beach bar were just a good as we remembered from last year. As good as the facilities are they pale when compared to the people. Terry and Liz have a wonderful staff. The staff as a whole are a caring, helpful, friendly and conscientious group of people. In our opinion the shining light of this wonderful group is the Manager, Ana. All any guest has to do is ask her for anything and it will be done. Its not necessary to check and see if a request has been taken care of because it will have been. She does everything possible to make a guests stay a memorable one.
Don't misunderstand me, the rest of the staff is great in their own rights. The bartenders, Sharlyn and Elvis are fun to talk with and are most helpful (to say nothing of making some great drinks!). The grounds keepers ( Tony and Gustavo) are always busy keeping the facilities in good shape (Terry gets in here and gets his hands dirty also!) The cleaning staff (Nora and Mercedes) keep the rooms immaculate (not an easy task with a bunch of gringo tourist tracking sand and other things into the rooms!). Mercedes also prepares the Continental Breakfast each morning. This breakfast of fresh coffee, sweet rolls, toast and jam, FRESH orange juice and fresh fruit is a wonderful way to stark the morning. Liz and Terry are there most of the time and available and willing to help in anyway possible.
We were also luck enough to spend a couple of days on the Main land and were able to go the Belize Zoo as well as San Ignacio, the Mountain Pine Ridge area and the Rio Frio Caves. While In San Ignacio we went to the Ruins at Cahal Pech and while these may not be as large as the others we have seen (Altun Ha and Laminai) they were probably the most interesting. The system of tunnels, stairways and corridors that you can walk through are amazing. There is also extensive restoration going on that when finished will have the major temples connected by the tunnels as they were originally built.
Anyone who wants to stay in a small, friendly hotel, staffed by wonderful people that is not priced out of sight would be well served to stay at Mata Rocks. If you do decide to stay there say "hi" to everyone from Byron, Linda, Billie and Danny and tell them that we are already counting down the days till next year. Even if you decide to stay somewhere else in the local area drop by the Squirrels Nest Beach Bar and have a nice cold drink (the hot dogs and tuna sandwiches are good to!).
If you want a good, inexpensive meal the "fast" food Chinese take out that is just across the road is very good. Be aware that the servings are huge so it not necessarily a place to eat "lite". The fried chicken looks really good and we ae going to have some next year (others that ate there all said it was very good).
We went fishing again this year with Louis (Ana (who else) will set up the trip for you, either 1/2 or full day). We took the full day, which includes a shore lunch featuring whatever you have caught in the morning. This year the water was a little choppy so the fishing was not the greatest but we had a number of good-sized red snappers as well as some yellow tail. We also had a number of medium sized barracuda. Louis fixed these as well as some of the snapper and all the fish were wonderful. This teamed up with lobsters (bought fresh from a local diver while we were fishing), potatoes, and coleslaw as well as drinks made for a really good lunch. The afternoon was spent fishing and while not the most productive of days a good sample of snapper and more barracuda were caught. The littler fish were released while the larger ones were kept for friends.
We had lunch a Sweet Basil's one day and it was even better than last year. The selection is eclectic and everything that we have tried is cooked to perfection. Their wine list is as good as I've seen anywhere (US or Belize). Anyone who gets north of the cut should make sure that they plan to have lunch here.
The local street venders in down town San Pedro have really good food that is so inexpensive you won't believe it. While you're in town in the evening you should try and make sure to eat at these places.
You will be hard pressed to go wrong at almost any of the restaurants. Our favorites are Papi's, Jambel's Jerk, The Reef, Estelles's and BC's Sunday beach bar-b-que (arguably the best on the island) with our special bartender friend Carlo. Our selections are just that, ours, and as I said you would be hard pressed to make a "bad" selection.
We have been blessed to make some real friends on AC. It is so nice to really get to meet and mingle with local folks, not as a tourist but as friends. To visit friends in their homes, meet their families and talk with them about regular daily "things", which the average tourist just can not do is a wonderful experience.
I know that you should never "wish your life away" but to get back to paradise sooner, it would almost be worth it.
I've run on probably way to long but I can not end this without saying that we were able to see Barefoot both by himself and with Category 7 band. If you get the chance you really want to take in his show. Either at Fido's or Shark's Bar (Tuesday's). He still puts on a whale of a show.