I should start by saying that I had done almost no research on Belize prior to my arrival. Who had time? In fact, I just got around to booking my hotel while in Thailand a few weeks ago. I had no guidebook for this part of Central America but what little research I had done said that the best place to stay was on the island of Ambergris Caye, just off the coast of mainland Belize. Kind of ironic that I’ve never been to Central America before and on this trip I started (Costa Rica) and ended here.
Since there were no Starwoods or Hiltons on the tiny island of Ambergris Caye, I used the ever-reliable Trip Advisor website to evaluate my hotel possibilities. My only real necessity was a room right on the beach for as little money as possible – this being the end of the trip, I’m getting more frugal by the day. I narrowed down the options to 4 or 5 properties and e-mailed them all directly hoping to get a better deal than their website rates. I eventually decided on a hotel called, “The Tides.” It got a decent rating on trip advisor, it was right on the beach and at $57/night, the price was definitely right.
After a very useful one-night layover at home in Atlanta on the way back from Tahiti, I arrived in Belize City after only a 2 ½ hour flight. To get to Ambergris Caye, it was necessary to take a puddle jumper flight on Tropic Air, one of two domestic carriers. I have never been on a plane this small (12 seats) so I was a little nervous but it actually turned out to be a lot of fun. The flight was very smooth and the views of the turquoise water below were just beautiful.
My only complaint was that one of the other passengers had hopped into the co-pilot seat (apparently this is allowed and considered an extra passenger seat when the plane is full) and proceeded to talk the pilot’s ear off the entire 13-minute flight. I was of the opinion that the (only) pilot should be focusing on the flight and not on entertaining a chatty passenger. But whatever, we made it to the island in one piece.
When we landed at the tiny airstrip on the outskirts of San Pedro Town, I decided to try to find my hotel on foot. I knew it couldn’t be far based on the map I’d gotten at the airport in Belize City. It turned out to be pretty easy to find and only took me about 20 minutes to walk there. Calling San Pedro a town is a bit of a stretch, there are only 3 cobbled roads – the others are sand. The three “roads” run parallel through town and are called Front, Middle and Back Street. Front Street is basically the beach. It was interesting but at least it was next to impossible to get lost!
When I got to the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised. I did not have high expectations for $57/night. My room had a nice view of the beach and even came with a free cat…her name was “Junkfood.” (Poor thing, I don’t know who named her that.) But she was cute and hung out on the balcony on my floor almost all the time.
The Tides is a small, family run hotel and by day two I knew everyone there, employees and guests. It was the kind of place where everyone keeps their doors and windows open to the ocean breezes during the day and hangs out on the communal balcony with a cocktail in the evenings.
Ambergris Caye is known as one of the top diving spots in the world but since I’m not a diver, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would do with my 4 days there. (I briefly considered getting certified while I was there but then I remembered…I am afraid of sharks.) There are numerous fishing, diving and snorkeling trips departing daily to many of the outer islands OR there are the ubiquitous hammocks dotting the shoreline. After 5 weeks of time zone hopping, I chose the hammock. I guess this is as good a place as any to recover from jetlag.
I did take long walks every day to explore each end of the island and went out to dinner with my hotel-mates a few times, but mostly I just adopted the life of a beach bum for 4 days. If you haven’t done that in a while, I highly recommend it. Ambergris Caye is quite possibly the most laid-back place I’ve ever been. No one is on a schedule and the only traffic jams involve the islands’ numerous golf carts. Everyone seems to have a golf cart or a bicycle on this island and that’s all you need. There are a few cars but the golf carts are much more practical considering the narrow and sandy roads.
After 4 extremely relaxing days on the Caye, it was time for the Tropic Air flight back to Belize City for my final flight home. This time I decided I would try to get the co-pilot seat, if only to ensure that no one else caused any trouble up there. I did get the seat and it was a very cool experience to be in the cockpit of the plane. When our pilot, Philip, hopped in the plane just before take-off he greeted me with a cheerful, “Hello, co-pilot!” I replied with, “I assume the #1 rule is don’t touch anything?”
“Correct” he replied with a smile. No problem, Captain. It was another smooth flight and 15 minutes later I was in Belize City and waiting for my last flight home to Atlanta.
Another wonderful trip sadly coming to an end, but maybe I’m ready to be home for a while after all. Thanks again to all who followed along this year. Before you know it, it’s be time for “Round the World #5.”
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