Welcome to my epic novel! This is a little delayed because of some unexpected surprises when I got home, but better late than never! It may seem long, but as an AC virgin, I found it helpful when people provided the extra details.
My boyfriend Robbie and I were fortunate to be in AC from May 3-12. We had a great time and plan on returning sometime soon...we caught AC-itis like many of you have.
Banana Beach.....We stayed in an oceanfront room...number 6 to be exact. At first I was a bit concerned about being on the first floor, right by the walkway to the beach, but it ended up being a good thing...easy room access while relaxing on the beach or by the pool. The rooms were large and comfy. There are hairdryers in the bathrooms, so that may save you a little packing space. Having a kitchen was great. We went to Island Super Market and bought eggs, cheese, waffles and stuff so we could make breakfast and eat on our balcony every morning. It was so wonderful sitting there in the morning sun, watching the sea while we ate. We had brought along Kool-Aid, iced tea and some snacks from the US. Every couple of days we'd stop by LaPopular Bakery for cuban cake, cinnamon bread or whatever else looked good, so we were set. We really liked Banana Beach and would stay there again. The staff was fairly nice and the rooms were great.
Golf carts...We rented a golf cart through Moncho's for the entire week. I had emailed them ahead of time and they were kind enough to give me a discount. They were great about delivering it to the hotel and even bringing a newly charged one when we needed one. Everyone says it's a "nice walk" to town, but I honestly don't know how often we would have gotten out of the neighborhood without the cart...the sun was hot even though there was a breeze (actually, it was windier than Chicago usually gets), so that 1.5-2 mile walk was much more pleasant under the shade of the cart with the wind whipping in our faces. Just watch out for potholes and speed bumps!
Activities....The only planned activity we did was cave tubing. If you go to belize, you cannot miss this! We went with Becky and Laurie (Hi guys!!!) from the board and Elito and Kenton from Seaduced. We love Elito!!! He gave us alot of interesting information and really kept us entertained...we will definitely be contacting Seaduced for activities when we return to AC. Since there seem to be alot of questions about this, here's the lowdown on cave tubing...they picked us up at the BB dock around 7:30am. The boat ride took about 45 minutes. We took the river up to a little place where we went potty and got on the bus. The boat ride up the river was really beautiful. We got to see a dolphin, a blue heron and several large iguanas. They gave us fruit, homemade blueberry muffins and juice for breakfast. The bus ride to Jaguar Paw was about 45min. on the highway and then some dirt roads. Once we arrived, we had to walk up and down a hill to the resort. There were bathrooms and changing rooms there. One of the changing rooms was set aside for us to lock our stuff in. Everyone in the group had bathingsuits on and some wore t-shirts...Robbie ended up taking his off because it got so water-logged. I wore my bathingsuit with a pair of Columbia water shorts and Tevas and it was perfect. We forgot our bug repellent, but we didn't get a single bite. Some people seemed concerned about leaving their money behind in the changing room but nothing happened to it. We brought along waterproof safes for our money and hotel keys, just to play it safe. We got our tubes and we were on our way. We crossed the river and walked on a path through the jungle for about 40 min. It was a very easy hike. When we first got into the water with our tubes, it was a little chilly but felt good because we were hot from the walk. From there we floated through the caves with our headlamps on. Sometimes they would tell us to turn off our lamps so it would be pitch black...really cool! They gave us a couple of breaks between caves to rest or swim and then we'd move on. The rapids were fun...they mean it when they say "butt up!" When we arrived back at Jaguar Paw, we were allowed to dry off and change then go into the restaurant for lunch. The building was beautiful! The chicken with rice and coleslaw was good, especially after all of that work. There was a baby howler monkey outside the restaurant named Koko. When we came out after lunch, she was having a good time playing with some of the people from the group. She would hang from a vine by her tail, grab onto your hand and crawl onto your arm. She'd then begin chewing on you...I made sure we washed our hands afterward. Playing with KoKo was one of the coolest parts of the trip.
Then we were off to the Belize Zoo. The zoo was really awesome...if the animals were feeling social, we were literally a foot or less away from Jaguars and ocelots and all kinds of creatures. I highly suggest buying a bottle or two of water when you arrive to take along through the zoo...it get's hot and we were getting dehydrated. There's a water vending machine right inside the zoo. It takes $1BZE per bottle and it only takes the $1 coins. Elito had beverages on the bus but we couldn't bring them into the zoo.
The morning after cave tubing/zoo....my legs were SORE! (I do Tae-Bo frequently enough but apparently there are muscles it doesn't work!) I thought my arms and shoulders would be sore from paddling in my tube, but they felt fine. I really wanted to go snorkeling but I didn't know how long it would take for my legs to fully recover (Thursday night) and didn't want to risk being unable to climb a ladder into a boat...I don't think being towed at high speeds would be that enjoyable. Next time snorkeling is a fer sher.
Restaurants.....ahh, the yummy part! Caliente--excellente! Our favorite by far. We only got to eat dinner there but we LOVED it...I can still taste it now! The service was great (Jamal was the best!). The food was awesome (I had the special both nights--a grilled seafood combination of grouper, snapper, conch and shrimp to die for. Robbie had the coconut chicken curry.) If we had tried it earlier in the week, we probably would have eaten there almost every night. Jambel's was very good. Celi's was good, though we thought the portions were a bit small. Papi's was very good. The Reef was very good. Ambergris Delight was good. We ate there twice by accident but we were not disappointed...their pizza was actually good. Jerry's Crab Shack for pizza eally disappointed me. Robbie thought it was pretty good, though. Emerald 2, a tiny Chinese place behind Banana Beach, was an amazing find. I love Chinese food and get good stuff in Chicago, but their cashew shrimp was excellent and the eggrolls are homemade (I watched them put the filling in the wrapper). Everything was made fresh right in front of you. I wish they had been open for lunch! It was so good that Robbie, not a Chinese food fan, kept wanting to go back. Celi's Deli was good. Their rum cake is to die for! Rico's for lunch was good, but I thought over-priced. However, the setting was beautiful. Antojitos Santelmo had good cheap food and we would have gone back after our first visit if they hadn't screwed us on our change...our total was $13BZE, Robbie gave $20USD, he got $7BZE back--our $7.50USD meal cost $16.50, lesson learned! La Popular bakery had good stuff. One day we got pizza, ham and cheese rolls and chicken pies and ate lunch on the beach....very nice!
Groceries...yes many things were significantly more expensive on the island, but there were alot of things that cost about the same. The eggs were about the same as we pay in the US but the waffles were about $8US for a package of 16...still a better deal than eating out every morning.
Doggies...I think there are more dogs on AC than people. You have to be careful while driving your golf cart because sometimes they curl up on the edge of the road and kind of blend in to the ground...we came close to smushing those little guys couple of times. We ended up with a couple of special friends at BB. The first day, "Spazz" and "Scruffy" (our names for them) became our part-time foster dogs. Both very sweet... Spazz was a bit excited all the time, hence the name Spazz. We fed them our extra food, as alot of others probably did, too. Our favorite buddy was "Dingo." Dingo was really sweet and we fell in love with him. He's a medium brownish color on his back, white on his tummy and most of his face with occasional faint black markings all over, almost like tiger stripes. He wears a black collar. If anyone meets him, please take care of him, he's very gentle and a good companion...it was sad leaving him. We also met Becky's buddy Brandy...the friendliest German Shepard I've ever seen.
Clothing...everything they say is true--a couple of bathingsuits, a couple pairs of shorts, a few t-shirts and maybe a sundress or two. We took a small container of detergent and washed our undies and anything else that got dirty in the sink.
**Be careful when figuring change if paying with US dollars. We only had 1 problem worth $10 but better safe than sorry.
**If your hotel will change US money and traveler's checks for Belize dollars for no charge (like BB), it's a good move. Most everything is in Belize dollars and, even though the 2 to 1 conversion is pretty easy, it may be more difficult on a vacationated brain. You're there to relax, not take a math test!
**Ziplock bags are your friend. We used the 2.5 gallon bags for packing clothes like the spacebags on TV--saved alot of space--and they were useful if you're in a situation that you need to stow wet clothes. We also used smaller ones for food storage and bringing back seashells.
**Don't forget some sort of itch relief stuff. We had both Benadryl cream and aloe/lidocane gel. Between the couple of bug bites we got and itchy sun-related ailments, it would have been awful without them.
**When buying souveniers, shop around. Prices were the same in many shops, but not all. For example, a tank top I wanted cost $46BZE in all of the stores on Front Street, but I ended up finding the exact same tank on Middle Street for $32BZE. We ended up paying about half the price for woodcarvings from a guy on the beach than in the shops. If you have alot of things to buy, that difference can make or break you.
**If you have room in your luggage, take a cheap pair of speakers to plug into your walkman/CD player (Sony $19.99 at Target). It was nice to sit on the balcony and listen to music while watching the sun come up or sit out there at night smooching with your honey (very romantic!).
I can't think of anything else right now, although I'm sure there's more. It's probably time to shut up, anyway. Thanks to the board for helping me in my quest for the perfect vacation...I hope I can help someone else the way everyone helped me!