I just got back from Belize about 3 weeks ago. Here are my photos. They’re in the sets, “Hol Chan”, “Bacalar/Ambergris Fishing” and “Ambergris and San Pedro”.
Originally we were going to do 3 days at Black Rock Lodge but my boyfriend insisted on being somewhere that he’d get crackberry access so weswitched to 7 days at our resort on Ambergris. We stayed at the Blue Reef Island Resort because Mata Chica didn’t have bungalow we wanted availabe during our date. I highly recommend our hotel, as well as Mata Chica. It was expensive but worth it-we got a ginormous suite (I’ll try to update my Flickr with the remainder of the photographs) with a full service kitchen, living room, dining room, bedroom and big bathroom suite. It was located above the office so we got a good signal for the wireless internet access.
The only thing about many of the “luxury” resorts (Blue Reef, Portofino, Mata Chica) etc. is that they are very far north on the island and you’ll have to rely on your hotel to get you to San Pedro or other hotels if you don’t want to eat at the resort’s restaurant every night. Blue Reef, the one we stayed at, didn’t have a restaurant but they had an on-site cook and two menus that alternated every day. We ate there a couple of times (the night we got in, a couple of other times) and had breakfast there every day but there are better places to eat on the island.
Food is expensive-Here are the restaurants we tried
Blue Lotus at Brahma Blue: Indian food, great
Mambo’s at Mata Chica: modern fusion, great
Mama Caribe’s at Belize Legacy: Mexican/Caribbean, good
Wild Mango’s in San Pedro, not great even though the chef used to be the one who ran the restaurant at Victoria House
Elvi’s in San Pedro, island homecooking, great
Cave Tubing: A nice outing, but overall, meh. In retrospect, I’d have gone with Actun Tunichil Mukal (Crystal Cave) as a better land adventure. Do consider going with our guide-he’s an independent operator and a really great guy-his name was Vitalino Reyes. Independent tour operators like Vitalino seem to be increasingly edged out by big cruise ship tour guides. You can google for “Vitalino Reyes” and book through his website.
Reef Fishing: very nice outing, just keep in mind that you have to go early in the morning to get anything inside the reef as it has been overfished for too long. You’d have better luck with deep sea fishing. I don’t regret this excursion at all, as our guide was really nice-but keep in mind that you’ll get better deals if you organize your tours yourself than go through your resort. We booked the fishing and Hol Chan/Shark Ray Alley and they really ripped us off on the fishing. We could have hired our guy independently, cheaper, to take us Deep Sea fishing. His name is Bobby and you can ask around San Pedro. They were quoting some crazy insane price to take us cavetubing (our resort, I mean), like $700 American. I mean, WTF? I organized it with a personal tour guide (rather than in a group) that got the highest ratings on Tripadvisor for $300, flights back to the mainland inclusive, and we tipped him a $100 that went into his own pocket.
Hol Chan Marine/Shark Ray Alley: we snorkeled. Went through Costa Maya/Belize School of Diving and they did a good job and the prices were not ripoffs. I’ve read good things about L’il Alphonse as well.
We didn’t do any Belize ruins-I’ve already seen Chichenitza so Tikal was the only one that really interested me. Our resort discouraged us from doing it as a daytrip, which I regret. The flight to Flores probably isn’t even that long. I know that before we changed plans from Black Rock to Ambergris/Blue Reef, we were planning on going to Tikal from our resort. I’m pretty certain Chan Chich is downriver from Black Rock (they’re the ones with the butterfly farm, right?).
I felt like we had to tip every one in sight. We did-just keep that in mind for cash necessities.
One last thing about Belize beaches-they aren’t that great and the cayes are surrounded by ecologically necessary sea grass. You have to go really far out not to step on that mushy-clayey-seagrassy stuff. I felt the beaches in the Bacalar Chico were the nicest on the island and there is only one resort up there Tranquility Bay. It’s beautiful, just keep in mind you’re 30 minutes from San Pedro. They cooked our catch from the reef fishing excursion at the park adjacent to Tranquility Bay. Definitely the best beaches I saw on the island, with less seagrass.
If you have any other questions, shoot. I had a great time on our vacation. We wanted something reasonably close to California, a little different, my boyfriend wanted blue Caribbean waters but access to work, good range of activities/eco-tourism. Belize did not disappoint. Our other option was Costa Rica but it was a longer flight and I didn’t like the look of the beaches as much. It was a little more expensive than I had anticipated. It seems to be a popular destination this year though every one on the island was telling us the same sob story about the dropoff in tourism and we were there during the high season. I came back and 3 of my Facebook friends were on vacation there at the same time as us.
One last thing-I almost booked us into Brahma Blue but was worried about the mosquito situation (same everywhere on the island and was at a low since there were high winds when we were there) and not directly on the beach (it’s on the lee side of the island). I would probably still have stayed on the beach, as we did-but holy crap that is one luxurious resort and we stayed on one of the nicest ones on the island. They were running a special as they are only months old. It would actually have been cheaper and they have an amazing pool.