After living here in Belize for a few years, many of our friends an family have visited and we are always looking for new places to explore. So when our friends from Illinois planned a return trip, we decided to explore the Cayo District. Only a few hours drive from crystal blue beaches of Placencia to the lush jungle, Maya ruins, and farmland of Cayo.
Headed from Placencia, our first stop was Maya Sky waterfalls, thru Belmopan an into San Ignacio. Lots of great pictures, beautiful mountains, narrow roads, even more narrow bridges at times, but the perfect way to see all this country has to offer.
Arriving late afternoon just in time to catch the end of the Saturday market, still giving them an idea of what a bustling market this is on an early Saturday morning. Keep in mind the drive is breathtaking thru the mountains and we were constantly stopping for photos, at taco stands, waterfalls, gift shops, chocolate tours…get the picture? Constantly in an out of the car. So, when we arrive at the market, we are close to exhaustion. Our friend….(she said I could not post this, sorry Laurie) gets out of the car with this mess of something all over her foot an leg. I swear it looked like “dog dodo”! When I finally stopped laughing and realized it was her melted chocolate bar….she is headed to the grass to wipe it off. If I could have stopped laughing, I would have yelled… “DO NOT go to the grass …..Belizean ants!” We cut our time short at the market an headed to the hotel.
A good friend should have given her that bit of advice earlier, but I seriously thought it was dog do!
Lesson for the day…….Belizean Chocolate melts very quickly!
Growing up in a small southern farming community; I’ve always loved the backroads and “out of the way” places. As I’ve traveled over the last few years, I’m realizing my most enjoyable days are spent exploring the “back roads”. I love finding the local spots that are many times overlooked by tourist; here for only a few short days.
After moving to the island of Ambergris Caye off the coast of Belize; you would think living on an island would provide that calm peaceful environment you envision of an island in the Caribbean. Of course, it does; the awesome colors of the ocean and breathtaking barrier reef are mesmerizing. The peacefulness can easily be found in the quiet morning walks on the beach, or the calm, serene stillness of the unbelievable sunsets.
As with every situation, there is always a balance, so the opposite is true as well. San Pedro has grown tremendously over the past few years and in turn shops, restaurants and beach bars have popped up to accommodate the influx of both tourists and expats. Elegant new homes, condo complexes, and beachside resorts are continually under construction. So whether you are looking for the peace and quiet or you want to experience the hustle and bustle of this colorful island, you will find that here on Ambergris Caye.
When tourists visit the island for a few days, most have an idea of which well-known bars, beaches, and restaurants they definitely want to try. With a limited amount of time, it’s often difficult to sample all this great little island has to offer.
My advice to allow at least one day and “take the back roads”. Explore the small mom and pop stands for the best local food you will find. Take time to shop the street vendors and local fruit stands. Visit backstreet on Tuesday mornings when the Mennonite farmers come from the mainland in boats filled with local produce. Visit Caye Coffee and observe their roasting process of the islands famous coffee. Enjoy a Saturday morning Farmers Market at Mahogany Bay down south, or the Truck Stop on the north side of the island.
Rent a golf cart, rent a bicycle or better yet, spend the day walking and truly explore the all the unique little “back road” experiences here on Ambergris Caye Belize.
On August 4th, 2016, Hurricane Earl landed a devastating blow to the island of Ambergris Caye. Thankfully there were no deaths or major injuries, but nearly every dock, dive shop and restaurant located over the water was damaged or completely destroyed. I had been in Placencia when Hurricane Earl hit. Having been on the southern peninsula, we were fortunate to have lost only one small dive shop and dock with virtually very little additional damage.
Arriving in San Pedro the following morning, here was the incredible reality the residents of San Pedro would be facing. These shots were taken from Banyan Bay area towards downtown.
Nearly a year later, as we walk these beaches, it’s amazing to see the transformation since the damage from Hurricane Earl. Docks have been rebuilt, beaches have been reclaimed with beautiful white sand and seawalls that protect the beaches from erosion. Ramon’s Resort has rebuilt their dive shop and beautiful walkway along the beach. Xanadu Resort has added palapas and extended their beach. At the time, it was very difficult to imaging this little island would recover after the extensive damage. Thanks to the unbelievable hard work of everyone involved…….here are a few shots of the morning walk……even better than before!
When you tell a friend your favorite place to go is “The Office”, you typically get some awkward stares. Yes, I live on an island in Belize and my favorite place to go is “The Office”.
Tucked away on the lagoon side, just a block or so behind the airport is a quaint little bar and restaurant on the edge of the water. A great place to catch the game, with drink specials every night. You can relax, meet some awesome people, listen to music, watch fishing boats leave for the day and catch some awesome sunsets. However, the best of all is the unbelievable food and coldest beer I have found on the island. Obviously, you will find bar food that goes great with a cold beer, but you can also get some unique items you wouldn’t expect at a local bar and grill.
Offering a wide variety of food from burgers, burritos, and pasta, to appetizers and Lobster dishes, you will not be disappointed. Having tried several items, my favorite are the wings and quesadillas! With Miss Sarita in the kitchen, you are guaranteed to get one of the best meals on the island. Her coconut pie reminds you of your childhood days at grandma’s house. Unbelievable!
With a recent new menu, daily lunch specials and free delivery, it’s always a great decision to go to “The Office!”
Hours: Bar: 11am- 12am
Closed on Tuesdays!
Tel: 226-4655 or 623-5018
Check them out on Facebook, Instagram and Trip Advisor!
I lost both parents several years ago to cancer, within a short few months, they were both gone. This loss created a painful empty space in my life. Yes, they say time heals all wounds and things will get easier. Well, it’s been 13 years and it doesn’t get easier, but I’ve learned to cherish their memory, learn from their advice and live a full and happy life.
Growing up in the farm country of rural Arkansas, we lived a simple life. Now that I’m older, I reflect on that simple country life and realize how fortunate we were. As kids, we played outside all day and even after dark. We weren’t consumed with video games. We went fishing…hunting ….and chased lightening bugs at night. On hot summer days, the garden hose was our sprinkler and an old tarp was our “slip an slide”. We bailed hay, chopped cotton and rode down the old dusty farm roads on the tail gate of my daddys Ford pickup. We were the luckiest kids in the world.
As most people from the south will agree, parents had favorite little sayings. My mom always referred to getting settled as “building your nest”. Whether we were cuddling on the couch watching TV, tucking us in at night, or searching for our own homes later in life. “Building your nest” was her way of saying, get settled, get comfortable and relax. Be happy with where you are and what you have. It’s taken me a long time to truly understand what she was trying to instill in us as children.
Being in Belize I’m seeing a reflection of my simple country life as a child. Although it’s a world away, the values and characteristics are so similar. Kids walk home from school, they play in the park, ride their bikes and walk to the store. They are happy with what they have and enjoy each day as it comes. I’m loving this opportunity to experience this simple, calm lifestyle and feel “settled.”
I hope my mom would be proud, I think I have finally “built my nest” in Belize!
There’s something about the cool ocean breeze, the sand in your toes and a long walk on the beach that put’s life into perspective. A “time-out” of sorts to reevaluate where you’ve been, where you’re going and to sincerely be thankful for these opportunities. Counting my blessings is a top priority at this stage in my life. I’m thankful for my children, my grandchildren and the love of my life who shares this journey.
When you reach this “third” stage in life there seems to be a shift in perspective. The days are calmer, the worries are fading and “passing the torch” of parenting and responsibility have slowly eased into the background. It isn’t until we observe our adult children dealing with the challenges and obstacles, just as we did at that stage, do we truly realize and appreciate this cycle called life. We can now enjoy our children as the strong, capable young adults they are becoming.
I’m realizing on the island, I count my blessings more and my worries less. I’m certain that whatever issue comes my way, it will pass. Be it a challenge or obstacle, “this too shall pass.” I watch more sunrises and sunsets. I ride my bike and take more walks. I try to see the good in people and understand that everyone is dealing with their own issues so a smile and a kind word can make a small difference in a strangers day.
I have found my peace near the ocean and I’m certain this is the place I was meant to be.
Thank You Belize!
We all seem to gravitate to those places that make us feel welcome and comfortable. So whether you’re traveling for a few days, snowbirding for a few months or you call this wonderful little island home; I think I have found that place. When you are in San Pedro and want great food, and relaxing atmosphere ….just follow the signs to this awesome little jewel…. “Brooklyn Brothers Bagel Shop”
Arriving today to see the recent completion of their new expansion was a great surprise. The new air-conditioned area with large windows, bar stools and counters were the perfect addition to this quaint island bagel shop.
Plenty of room to grab breakfast or lunch, relax with a book, or “people watch” as you enjoy some of the best bagels I have ever had. My 4lb Chihuahua “Floyd” typically goes most places with me and being an avid carb lover as well……this has quickly become his favorite breakfast stop!
I go there quite often, as the combination of bagels, an assortment of gourmet cream cheese spreads and a variety of drink options….you are guaranteed to find a favorite quite easily! Fresh fruit smoothies, coffee, lattes, juice, and sandwiches, easily make this place a perfect destination for breakfast or lunch.
One of my new favorites are the bags of bagel chips…..perfect for that late night…” I really want a snack……oh yes, I have bagel chips………thank you Jesus moments!” For the spicy lovers…..the spicy bagel chips are perfect with a cold Beliken Beer!
Brooklyn Brothers Bagel Shop is located just south of town in San Pedro in the old Sausage Factory building. Just next to the island famous Caye Coffee.
So glad both of these great businesses are in our neighborhood!
Five awesome Belize experiences to share with your grandkids
One of my favorite things about Belize is the lack of “cookie cutter” resorts. Belize is unique, less commercialized and more adventurous than the all-inclusive resorts you find with most vacation options. Yes, I have traveled with my grandkids to the carefree resorts with tons of food options, huge pools and daily activities for the kids. Granted, we have made lifelong memories on these trips, but I soon realized the experiences were the same. Eat, swim…repeat…
However, Belize seems to offer those moments where you slow down and realize why you choose to travel with your grandkids. You want them to experience the beauty of this unique little country and the kindness of the Belizean people. Experience their culture, sample their traditional foods and respect their challenge to protect the “second largest barrier reef in the world” and their little piece of paradise.
As I continue to explore Belize; I’m making a list of favorite things to do when traveling with grandkids!
This is an evening trip kids and adults of all ages will love. Get an up close experience of how this great organization is working to protect the crocodile on the island of Ambergris Caye and throughout the country of Belize. After having nurtured this baby croc back to health, my grandson was given the opportunity to release him back into the wild. What an awesome experience!
3.Snorkeling in Ambergris Caye
Belize offers some of the best snorkeling and diving options in the world. There are numerous tour operators who offer a combination of full day fishing, snorkeling, beach BBQ’s, sunset cruises and catamaran party boat trips. The choices are endless and it’s easy to find one to fit all ages and abilities.
4. Volunteering at SAGA Humane Society…..
What turned out to be a favorite was the trip to the local humane society. This group provides a priceless service to the community and the volunteers work tirelessly to assist in finding homes for these rescued animals. So when visiting, take the time to stop by SAGA. Volunteer to walk the dogs, assist at the center, provide a donation for much-needed supplies, or go that extra step and make plans to provide a forever home for one of them!
So add Belize to that Bucket List with your kids/grandkids! Rent a car and explore the ruins, take the water taxi to Caye Caulker, fly the “puddle-jumper” to Ambergris Caye. Visit the local schools and establish “pen-pals” with the students, swim with the sharks, walk the beaches and watch the sunsets……memories that will last a lifetime!
So last night, I’m driving the golf cart home to the south end of town, having been at a friend’s house north of the bridge. For those unfamiliar with the island, the north end and south end are basically determined by the toll bridge as you enter town.
Anyway, when leaving the north end, you cross the toll bridge into town. As I slow down, a mother and young son were standing beside the road. Mom has a large bundle near her feet and is obviously preparing to sell here handmade wares to tourist downtown. We make eye contact, I smile and she yells, “can we have a ride please?” Obviously, I’m headed across the bridge and with only one road; hard to say I’m not heading her way. Of course, jump in! The adorable young boy jumps in the front seat with me, while mom loads her huge bundle on the backseat. Yes, she’s headed downtown, just let me know when you want off. A few short minutes and I learn he’s five years old, will start to school this year and has a big sister. They are headed to work and he helps his mother. Oh, and he’s five years old now….he kept reminding me! I fell in love with this kid. We soon reach their stop, they jump off, he slaps a quick “high-five” and thanks me several times as I drive away.
As I drive thru town, I’m smiling, both inside and outside; realizing I truly love this island. Just as I slow down for a speed bump; I guess I was still smiling as I made eye contact with a young girl walking with a large bag of produce. I say Hi, she replies, “can I have a ride?” Of course, again, one road and we are both headed south. She tells me she’s headed home from the store for her mom and she’s nine years old. It’s getting dark and as I turn on my road, I did not want to let her out on the dark road to walk alone, so I said, show me where you live, I’ll take you home. She looked very surprised…”really?” Not far past my house, I drop her off…we are both smiling as I drive away!
Now, I’m headed home. One block before getting to my driveway, I see a young mom carrying a baby, two young boys following, all dressed up, I’m guessing for church. Thinking there is no church near my house, I realized she would have a very long walk with these small children. I slow down, yes, we make eye contact. I did not have the heart to tell her, sorry, I live across the street and I’m almost home. So I smiled, she smiled, I said hop in. Yes, they were headed to church, back in town! So, now I’m headed back into town. Another few minutes laughing with these beautiful children, I drop them off in front of their church. Thank you’s and smiles….I am now headed home. Seriously…..I drove straight home and did not make eye contact, as my heart was full and my gas tank was nearly empty!
Lesson in Belize!
Eye contact and a smile is well worth the time!
Caye Caulker is one of those places that it’s very difficult to explain. At least in terms of a description that would do this wonderful little island, it’s due justice. Visiting the island about a year ago, I’ll admit, it was a great trip and I truly enjoyed our time here. However, anyone who is familiar with the country of Belize has heard the descriptions of the three top places. San Pedro….Caye Caulker….and Placencia. Most will describe San Pedro as active, vibrant, lots of tourist and tons of things to do. Placencia is a quiet little fishing village in the southern part of the country, much slower, quiet and peaceful. I have heard many times that Caye Caulker is the “little sister” to San Pedro. The same awesome beach atmosphere, beach bars, and fishing, just on a smaller scale, much less developed and definitely less tourist. Their motto is “Go Slow” and it definitely is appropriate for this little piece of paradise.
The streets are sandy, the people are amazing and the feeling of family is everywhere. Children play in the parks, ride their bikes, play on the beach and the local soccer field is the highlight of the evening. A sense of small town from 3o years ago. Backpackers stroll the street, tourist lay in beach hammocks and music flows softly from the local beach bars. How can you not fall in love with this place? I did all over again!!
With it’s development and tourist attraction being a few years behind San Pedro, the prices reflect this reality. Food seems to be a little cheaper, hotels are less expensive and grocery prices are more reasonable. I wonder with the obvious influx of development and expansion, how fast will it grow? New development can be seen in the heart of the village, as well as rumors of a large resort being built across the infamous “split” on the north side of the island. This property seems to be selling quickly, as rumors of the resort lead people to believe this may be a good long-term investment.
Anyone who has visited Caye Caulker is familiar with “the split”. The awesome area between the developed southern part of the island and the northern undeveloped area. A great bar and restaurant with one of the most famous swimming areas in the country. Suffering substantial damage, new seawalls are in and covered palapas and seating areas for the beachside restaurant will soon be reopened.
As for places to eat……you will not go hungry! Tons of choices with street-side taco stands, fry jacks, chicken, beans and rice can be found on every street. Middle street has some great dine-in restaurants that are definitely worth trying. The Happy Lobster serves fresh seafood and daily fish specials at great prices. Aunties Take Out has some great lunch choices under $5 US. By early afternoon, the small stands as you head near the split are open with tons of choices……great coffee shops, donuts, ice-cream and sandwiches. There are also several beach restaurants along the water for lunch and dinner. Again…..you won’t go hungry, or break the travel budget!
When deciding to visit this little piece of paradise. you should be fine booking when you arrive. We found lots of vacancies, so it just depends on your budget, and the area of town you want to stay in. If you are staying at a hostel, there are several in town, and a great one Yumas, just as you exit the water taxi on Front street.
When exiting the water taxi, to your left you will find a great beach front hotel and restaurant: Popeyes Beach Resort. Very nice with great views, pool, AC and Wifi… and most importantly pet-friendly!
So, as you plan your trip to this great little island…..be prepared to “slow down”, relax and soak up all the kindness and charm this place has to offer!