And in Belize, it’s both. – Unknown
In a few short days, I head to Houston to visit a sorority sister, Colleen, for the Houston Rodeo. And about this time last year, we visited the beautiful country of Belize. So naturally as I chat with her about what I’m packing and wearing, we start to laugh and giggle about that trip.
One snowy winters day in January of 2016, as I’m feeling the summertime blues and browsing travel deals online, I stumble upon something that sparked my interest. A five night/six days stay for $500 at the Belize Ocean Club in Placencia. That’s $250 a person to stay at a resort somewhere in Belize on the beach. I quickly texted Colleen and prayed she said yes and I started to purchase this deal. Once she was sold, that was the start of our beach getaway vacation.
First thing after you purchase a deal on any travel site is to ensure that the site will have space available during the time you wish to travel. Sometimes you get lucky with the exact dates you wanted. Others times, you play phone tag between your fellow traveler and the resort reservations hotline. But eventually with enough patience, dates are set and you’re able to book a flight. Belize, we will see you in March (2016)!
Now landing in Belize was interested. I was in a normal size plane that seats roughly 170 people. And the airstrip was the standard for any airport. But the airport was something out of a 1960s movie. They had to roll the stairs directly to the door and that’s how I descended from the plane. The airport was no bigger than the average small town strip mall. You basically went through customs and from there one of two choices. Exit and make your way to Belize City or re-enter security and make your way to a commercial flight on what they call a “puddle jumper”.
Originally I wasn’t sure how long customs would take or how much time I should consider for my local flight so I booked it two hours later. As I was checking in at the counter, the lady kindly informs me that they have a flight leaving in 5 minutes and I can make it. My initial thought was nah, that’s five minutes to get through security, get to the gate, walk outside, and board the plane. No, no, five minutes was really all I needed before I was up in the air and on my way to Placencia. Less than forty minutes later I was at their little hut of an airport wondering how to get ahold of my shuttle ride to the resort.
Luck would be on my side. The shuttle happened to be at the site waiting for a couple coming from the southern part of the country. It was less than a ten minute leisure ride before I was checking into the resort, enjoying a tropical drink on the house, and awaiting Colleen who was having the same airport and puddle jumper experience as me.
Upon Colleen’s arrival, we simple wandered the resort. Its two sided: one side faces the river and contains the bar, spa, and main lobby/restaurant area while the other faced the beach and had the beach bar, pool, hammocks and activities. We were able to score a room with a porch that lead directly to the beach. This resort also had bikes available to ride, at no costs to the patrons. So with the market being less than a mile away, we pedaled to pick up snacks and items for breakfast in order to save money on meals.
Once grocery shopping was complete, I couldn’t contain my excitement for the water. Along with bikes being free, the resort also offered free kayaks and paddle boards. Being that I’m a huge Disney fan, I thought lets play Lilo & Stitch and share a paddle board. One of us sits while the other paddles. So Colleen sits while I push the paddle board a few feet from the shoreline.
As I step up completely on the board, my face is set and ready for action, Colleen is smiling, my paddle is moving towards its first push of water, and for one split second, us and the entire resort believed we are about to pull this off. Nope! The board tips and we both tumble over screaming into about two feet of water. And we officially became those girls at the retreat. So for the rest of the afternoon, we took turns practice balance on the paddle board and not all at once.
Around dinnertime, we meet our wonderful resort concierge who sets us up at a nice Indian restaurant, called the Tiger Beach Club, down the road. The resort has shuttle service to and from downtown at certain times of the day. The rest of the time, you have to hail a cab. The restaurant was all open walls, so you feel the ocean breeze and hear the waves crashing as you dine. Little geckos were sitting up on the rafters and sidewalks too. And the naan is cooked right in the center of the restaurant for all to see. This was by far the best Indian food I’ve had thus far. Once we finished, the owner, an American, offered to drive us back to the resort. This is when we learned that he went to Mumbai, India to recruit his chef and that he only uses certain ingredients and nothing else. He gives us other recommendations to eat at, places to go in town, and things, to do for the next day.
Now out first full day at the resort is spent snorkeling an hour or so off the coast at the tiniest island. This island is tiny but does have a somewhat flushing toilet. It was listed as one of the places to go to the bathroom by Buzzfeed. Being that I was still new to the whole traveling thing, I didn’t think to get any sort of waterproof case for my iPhone. So unfortunately I have no pictures of this day. But I do have the memories. Our guide was very knowledgable about every sea creature known to the reef. We held sea urchins, sea slugs, seas cucumbers, and were able to see a variety of fish, including the pennant coral fish, also known as the long fin banner fish. After that we had a freshly prepared BBQ picnic on the little island where our guides were able to point out a barracuda in the shallows while we feasted.
The start of the afternoon was dolphin watching and swimming with stingrays, nurse sharks, and sea turtles. The conch divers throw any scraps of meat over the boat in the afternoon and these animals eat the leftovers. So it makes a great spot to swim over them and watch. This one sea turtle was not afraid to get close. Several times he would swim up close and directly below us. It was marvelous to see these majestic creatures up close.
That evening we decided to put on our best sun dress and head into town. Town is a few bars and shops along the beach. And the bars all have interesting names. Our first bar is called the Barefoot Beach Bar. It was another location that our concierge (the guy who recommended the Indian restaurant and helped us book tours and such) recommend.
The bartender personally came over to take our order. When we ordered drinks, he took my order and left before Colleen could order hers. Whats worse is that when he finally brought both our drinks, mine was loaded with alcohol while Colleen’s was practically a Shirley Temple. All plates were fish or Caribbean chicken related. It was the first time I ever had a quesadilla with fish instead of chicken. And boy was it a large tortilla.
After dinner, we were thinking or leaving and checking out another bar. Colleen excused herself to go to the bathroom when the bartender returned to talk to me. And two drinks appear with him. We didn’t order another round so I had to ask where they came from. He points to the other side of the bar and it’s our concierge. Bartender leaves, Colleen returns and she’s like what did I saw or do to get a round on the house. This is how she dubbed me the lucky item of the night. We take round two on the road and head to the next bar, Tipsy Tuna, where the concierge continues to get us rounds. A few later, we decide to head home. Taxis are easy to get in town. Just make sure they are marked with the local signs that indicate taxi cab for hire.
The third day is where Colleen and I separated for different morning activities. She went on a monkey river tour while I headed to the river side of the resort for my massage. For almost two hours, I was massaged into total relaxation with the only noise being the lapping of the water below. The spa was built over the river. So what do you do to continue the relaxing mode? Lounge at the pool. Colleen returns to find me acting like this is where I’m meant to live out the rest of my days. And before we know it, she is relaxing in one of the resorts hammocks, enjoying an afternoon nap.
When we felt more energized, it was time for more fun in the water. I was really catching on to the paddle boarding but Colleen preferred the kayak. It also gave her a chance to take some incredible photos on the water. We spent every second on the water until it was time to go to dinner. Our concierge had called in a reservation at the restaurant at the Maya Beach Resort next door. It was said to be the best in the area. And it was. We order drinks, fish appetizers, different fish based dishes, and desserts for an extremely good price. The exchange rate is 2 Belizean dollars to one American. And they take American dollars so there was no need for get local currency ahead of time.
The next day we got up real early to spend more time in the water. By lunch time we decided to check out the town. Mid afternoon in town was pretty active. Shops were open, the bars had activities, and of course there was local vendors walking around. We purchased a few souvenirs and heading the a bar called the Pickled Parrot. All the drinks had raunchy names and the bar was packed with visitors. And along the rafters were license plates. I found the New Mexican one of course.
We ventured on again and came across a small pizza parlor that sold conch fritters. Seeing as both of us had never tried them, we ordered a round. They were delicious. As we finished the fritters, a guy walks by carrying a machete and has a wheelbarrow full of coconuts. Colleen is stocked and buys two for us to enjoy. I’ve never had coconut water straight from the source so this was different. I didn’t really like the water, but the meat from the coconut was delicious. We enjoyed these right on the beach before heading back to the resort.
Once back, our concierge had already agreed to take us to the bowling alley. There we met up with our snorkeling guide. I have never seen a bowling alley so small. We learned that this alley was the only one in Belize. It had four lanes and you had to count the pins yourself after each turn. When we were ready, we picked teams. Colleen had the snorkeling guide and I had our concierge, and a rivalry of which no one saw coming was born. Me and the snorkeling guide were in it to win while Colleen and the concierge were there for the fun of it. Sadly my team lost but a small margin.
On our last full day in Belize, the weather was slightly less sunny. I spent most of the day relaxing on the beach, swimming, paddle boarding, and enjoying it. I also was able to see a local water fowl that in the water, looked like Nessie the Loch Ness monster. Weird way to swim. That evening we decided to check out the resorts pool bar. We met a ton of couples on their honeymoon but they were more than excited to meet people traveling just to travel. And we had a blast talking to all of them.
On the last morning in Belize, we rose with the sun to be on the water one last time. Soon it was time to get ready. With my last meal in Belize, I learned that I shared a cultural food item with them… sopapillas. But they call them fry jacks. It was wonderful to have this so far from home. We said goodbye to all our new friends and heading to catch our puddle jumper. Less than an hour later, we were back at the main airport waiting to catch the flight home. And before we knew it, we boarded and where flying back into DC.
Until the next adventure or the remembrance of one,