For the 2016 Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, 19, a life of frequent travel is an inevitable part of her newfound fame. A record-holder in the United States for having the most gold medals in women’s gymnastics at a single Olympics, Biles recently embarked on the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, a show touring 36 cities around the U.S., which features performances by members of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic gymnastics teams.
The world may beckon, but the athlete said that her favorite destination would always be Belize, a Central American nation, where she holds dual citizenship through her mother, Nellie Cayetano Biles.
The younger Biles spoke about her love for Belize while she was on her way to the airport in Los Angeles (she was in town to film the season premiere of “Ellen”) to head home to Houston for a few days before beginning her tour. Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Biles.
Q: You have referred to Belize as your second home. How often do you get to visit?
A: I go at least once a year with my family, mostly in the summer. We spend five days, sometimes a week.
Q: Where do you stay when you go?
A: My mom has a house on the mainland, but we like going to the islands so we always stay at a resort. Usually, we go to San Pedro (a town on the island of Ambergris Caye) and stay either at Victoria House or Ramon’s. The hotels are near each other, and the staff is super nice at both.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re there?
A: Belize, for me, is all about the beach. My family and I spend most of our days hanging out by the water, but I don’t like to lie out and relax. I go swimming, which I love because the water is so beautiful and so clear that you can see all the fish underneath.
Also, we are big on fishing trips and make sure to take at least one whenever we’re in Belize. My mom, two older brothers, my younger sister and I head out by 7 in the morning on a boat with a local fisherman, who takes us to the best fishing spots. It’s so much fun because we make teams and compete to see who can catch the biggest fish or the most fish. Usually, we catch snappers and groupers, and occasionally, we’ll get a barracuda.
Q: Do you eat the fish you catch?
A: Yes, I love fish! We take them back to the hotel and have the chefs cook them for us. I like mine grilled.
Q: Besides a lot of seafood, what’s the food in Belize like?
A: We eat a ton of rice and beans and also stewed chicken. For breakfast, we have fry jacks, which are fried pieces of dough that are so good. I put jam on top of mine.
Q: Belize has become a popular travel destination in the last few years. What do you think the appeal is?
A: It’s a destination that has something for everyone of all ages. The beach is a big attraction, and the scuba diving is fantastic. The Blue Hole is a famous scuba diving spot there. The country also has Mayan ruins if you like history, and the people there are very welcoming and want you to have a good time.
Q: Given your love for the beach, did you have any time to hit the beaches in Rio de Janeiro when you were there for the Olympics?
A: Yes. Out of the three weeks I spent there in Rio, I had two free days and spent them hanging out on Copacabana Beach. The water was clear like it is in Belize but a lot colder!
Q: You’ve been traveling much more frequently for your work in the last few months. What do you like and dislike most about being on the road?
A: I’m lucky in that I can sleep anywhere and at any time, but I don’t like living out of a suitcase. On the other hand, I do love seeing new places and meeting new people.
Q: What are your travel essentials?
A: I need a blanket or jacket to stay warm, and headphones are a must so that I can listen to music, watch TV and movies, and block out sound. Right now, I’m into the shows “Modern Family” and “One Tree Hill.” And the last movie I saw when I was flying was “Zootopia,” which I really liked.
By Shivani Vora - The New York Times