Moving the Workweek onto the Beach – The Time Has Come

Since the 1970s, Richard Branson has been an icon of business success. Starting with a music magazine, he parlayed his charisma, creativity, and drive into many enormously successful ventures, including air travel, music retail, mobile communications and much more. His writings and lessons are staples of business lectures and classes around the world, and he has made great use of his rock-star looks and megawatt smile to distinguish himself from his competitors. He also has a hammock.

Sir Richard is famous for showing off his favorite office: a hammock slung between two palm trees.

Richard Branson’s hammock. Photo credit: simplyhammocks.co.uk

Flying in the face of conventional belief that corporate decisions must be made in the boardroom, Sir Richard has stated many times, his best work comes from being surrounded by the breezes and beauty of natural environments, much of these being in the Caribbean.

Most people, however, have been conditioned to believe in a separation of ideas: work happens at work – in glass towers, offices and cubicles, and that time away from these colorless spaces happens just once per year on an annual vacation. Many don’t even allow themselves that luxury and never take their time off. Time off, after all, connotes being removed from one’s job temporarily, and statistics show that’s too much of a disruption.

But a significant world event – one that is still happening – is teaching us something very different. Work can happen anywhere there is an internet connection, and that includes in traditional “vacation spaces.” The coronavirus continues to spread around the world, and employers, including many very large companies like Ford, are telling their workers to stay home if possible. The specter of contagion has forced companies to re-examine the validity of remote work, after two decades of dismissing it as secondary to being in the office.

For anyone whose job involves working on a computer and having meetings, the technology exists to make the commute to the office less necessary to productivity and in fact, remote work is already proving itself as superior from every perspective: use of time, work-life balance, employee retention, collaboration and overall productivity. Technologies like Cisco Webex, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack are empowering individuals with the capacity to meet, work and communicate with far greater clarity and convenience than ever before. Now that the coronavirus is making the prospect of in-person meetings less appealing the notion of remote work as a “thing” is poised to take hold.

Even after this coronavirus outbreak peaks and wanes, it is likely that the executives at many companies will sit up and take notice of the fact that remote work actually does work, and its savings in travel, office space, and time usage are tangible and significant.

Now, let’s bring these two concepts together. A vacation destination need not be thought of solely as that place to go to for a vacation. It can – and should be – thought of as part of life. Richard Branson has shown it can be done. A beachside hammock with a WiFi connection allows him as a CEO of Virgin to run his businesses from wherever he wants to be. So why not you?

Alongside my role as owner and manager of Coastal Breezes here on Ambergris Caye, I also own and manage executive suites in the Toronto area, and I am able to look after these, and my other businesses, from my very own hammock, on the beach.

…and this is my office.

This is how work is done now. Technology is slowly removing the need and obligation for people to always be in a specific place to get their work done. This allows many types of professionals to choose to work from home at least some of the time, and as an extension of that, could easily allow them to spend one or more work-weeks per year returning their emails from their own beach hammock.

Some may argue that the last thing they would want to do is to take their work and their email along with them on vacation. But I would argue back two things:

  1. Most people already do. The idea of shutting off for two weeks – as healthy as that appears – is not something most people are willing to do. If they are in a job that is based on communication and collaboration, they want to stay in the loop even when they’re away.
  2. More to the point, it helps to not call this a vacation. It can be a workweek, just done in a different location. A nicer, warmer, more vibrant location. It’s a change of scenery that does not force you to disconnect from the work at hand.

The health benefits of this beachfront workweek will seep into your soul regardless of how busy you wish to be. Seeing a sunrise or sunset over the water, watching pelicans, and smelling warm sand are powerful substitutes for traffic gridlock and crowded subways. Exercise doesn’t even feel like exercise when it comes disguised as a walk along the beach.

Our message here is not to diminish or exploit the tragedy of the coronavirus outbreak in any way, but to discover a silver lining: remote work is now coming into its own as a matter of necessity. With this comes the opportunity for the long sought-after quality of life that many people unwittingly forfeited to locate and hold onto a desk job. Now, quality of work and quality of life are poised to conjoin in a way that couldn’t even have existed a few years ago: the technology exists to make it happen and now the mindset is developing to make it legitimate.

So, locations like Debbie’s will always welcome vacation travelers, but as she says, “why wait that long?” Your emails and meetings can be done just as easily from the beach as from an office, and the view is so much better.

For more information about our beach house properties, please visit us at coastalbreezes.bz, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Save your Seat for LobsterFest this Summer

The wonderful thing about Belize, and our little corner of it here on Ambergris Caye is that there’s always something to look forward to. And right now, I’m thinking about the LobsterFest happening in the summer. As I write this, it’s early February, it’s 82°F/28°C and sunny out here, because, yes, it almost always is. It’s a perfect place to spend what is seen by most people in the northern latitudes as the bleakest month of the year. We have blue skies, blue oceans, golden sand, lush green foliage and of course the beautiful smiles and friendly disposition of its citizens.   

The cool thing is, though, these colors and smiles are the norm for us – the baseline. And things get even better from there. As therapeutic and wonderful as a February stay is for sun-starved Canadians and Americans, there’s always something else special going on. Belize is home to people who love to celebrate, eat, dance, sing, and enjoy life the way it was supposed to be enjoyed.

One of the many celebrations that should never be missed is Lobsterfest. It runs through July and August, and the whole country gets involved, with beach parties, restaurant parties, bar parties and fiestas everywhere, including San Pedro and Ambergris Caye, of course.

If you like lobster, you will love Belizean lobsters. Our waters are pristine and full of life, and lobsters are abundant in the summer months. They are a delicacy and a special event, mainly because of how delicious they are but also because they’re not something you generally want to prepare at home. And our lobsters aren’t flown in from halfway around the world like most North American restaurants have to do. They’re big, fresh and delicious, especially when eaten outside under the warm Belizean sky.

If you don’t like lobster, of course that’s not a problem. There is always a great selection of wonderful food and drink to satisfy all dietary choices. It’s a festival, after all, and even though lobster may be the main attraction, there’s something to please everyone.

If you have never tried lobster before, or if you’re unsure how to eat one, it’s a great experience to learn from the master chefs and servers, who are only too happy to see people enjoy this amazing dining experience for the first time.

Summer festivals in Belize are great because they capture the marvels of a Caribbean summer – the heat, the energy and the long sunlit days that ever so slowly give over to warm starlit nights.

It’s also off-peak season, which means you get more of the country to yourself. Most visitors schedule their vacations for the winter months, and this means the amenities and the pricing are even more advantageous during the summer. What’s not to love about that? So, I really hope you will join us in kicking off the summer in a delicious and memorable way by taking part in the world-famous Belizean tradition called Lobsterfest. It’s the kind of event you’ll treasure forever, no matter how many times you attend.

The Sky and the Ocean at Night

When people research Belize and our beautiful Ambergris Caye, the pictures they look at are taken in broad daylight, which makes sense, of course. Even in the winter months, these photos show off the vibrant colors of the beaches, the jungle, the sunsets, the blue skies and even bluer water. It’s a visual paradise, and one that our guests simply can’t get enough of. These are the colors of life!

But there’s another fascinating face to Belize for those who love to look up at night, and that’s the amazing starfield that stretches from horizon to horizon once the sun has completely vanished. Being so far away from the light pollution of large cities, the night sky in Belize is positively breathtaking. You don’t need an expensive telescope to take it in.  

The air is clear and still, which makes the starfield absolutely transcendent. One of my most cherished memories – which I get to re-live nightly – is that some stars have color to them. They are not uniform points of white light. The absolute blackness of the sky allows your eyes to perceive differences in tone, with a little bit of yellow, blue or even red faintly tinting their shine. The stars mesmerize us when are sitting out on the front porch after dark. 

The planets are easy to spot because they appear brighter than the stars, and they don’t twinkle (unless they’re close to the horizon). Bonus Trivia Fact No. 1:  Stars twinkle, and planets don’t. Why? Because of the refraction of light in the earth’s atmosphere. It has nothing to do with the stars themselves. Planets are close enough to the earth to usually not be affected by this.

An added bonus to planet watching is, the longer you stay here in Belize, the easier it is to watch them move across the sky. Every night, they will be in a slightly different place as they pursue their own orbits around the sun. Bonus Trivia Fact No. 2: The word planet comes from the Greek word for wanderer, since planets seem to wander across the fixed backdrop of the stars. 

One of the most wonderful things to see in the Belizean night sky is the Southern Cross. It’s easily recognizable, like Orion or the Big Dipper, but the best part about it is, this is a constellation that can only be seen in or near the southern hemisphere. Your friends back in North America can’t see it. It’s one of the benefits of travel! There are dozens of apps available for phones and iPads that will help you find planets and constellations and the whole experience of laying back in a beach chair and staring up at the sky while being caressed by warm breezes is not to be missed.

A full moon, as seen from our porch at Coastal Breezes, at night.

The Mayans Studied the Stars, Too

If starwatching is something you’re interested in, be aware you’re not the first. The Mayans, whose history stretches back thousands of years, and whose temples are treasured monuments that you can visit during your stay, studied the stars very closely. Inscriptions and writings show their careful attention to labeling and tracking planets and stars, which helped them predict seasons for agriculture, and also helped them navigate. It is great to be reminded that we people of the 20th and 21st centuries are not the only ones with science and math at our disposal. The Maya and many other peoples of centuries past were just as intelligent and creative as us, and they used the tools they had to do remarkable things.

The Ocean at Night

When you want to take a break from stargazing, there is something else that is extremely beautiful about night on Ambergris Caye, and that’s the ocean. During the day, its crystal blue waters speak about its vibrancy and the life inside. The night ocean does the same thing but in a different way. The black ocean of the night is huge. It looks huge and it feels huge. Yet the constant lapping of the waves reminds you that it is alive, a presence. You can feel its enormity and you can sense the creatures within – large and small, as they continue with their lives. The ocean at night is far from desolate, even though it is just one color: black. Perhaps it’s because physically, humans are 75% water. So many people feel compelled to get close to the water as often as they can. There’s something immensely soothing about its mass.

Every once in a while we see the cruise ships float by on the other side of the reef.  At night they are lit up like Christmas trees, and the way they seem to appear and then fade away is another special ocean experience. So together, the night sky and the night ocean deliver yet another amazing and transformational experience to visitors who come to Ambergris Caye, something that touches our busy souls and says, “take a moment and breathe in, with all of your senses, the timeless presence of sea and sky at night.” It’s truly a gift, and one that will remain one of my greatest memories. Hopefully yours, too.

For more information about our beach house properties, please visit us at coastalbreezes.bz, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Christmas and New Years in Belize (Join us!)

All around the world, the December holiday season is now in full swing. There are lots of ways people celebrate this time of year, including spiritual events, family get-togethers, or maybe just taking some time away from work and from the day-to-day. But you don’t have to have snow on the ground to enjoy everything that the Festive Season can bring.  Sand and sea can also bring out the best in peoples’ spirits and as you might expect, the rich history and wonderful food of Belize make a December or January holiday an extra special event.

Of course, there are the festivals that most North Americans are already familiar with. In Belize, Christmas comes with the kids dreaming of a visit from Santa Claus, and many people attend Mass. And the food at this time of year? It’s as hearty and satisfying as you would expect. There’s turkey and stuffing to be had, of course, but the locals also love to serve up rice and beans, tortillas, and chicken tamales, which are a traditional meal of the Mayan culture.

Belize is rich in history, and its citizens have roots that spread in all directions. Many are part of the Mayan culture that has existed here for thousands of years. Others trace their families back to Africa, or even further around the world. As a consequence the December season sees events and parades filling the streets that pay homage to peoples’ histories through caroling, live music and vibrant costume. Two events that should not be missed are the Maya Deer Dance, and the Garifuna Jankunu Dance.

The Holiday Season on Ambergris Caye

As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, there are always great restaurants and beachside pubs to visit right here on Ambergris Caye where you can enjoy a seasonal meal or just simply dig in to the great seafood and fare that’s available all year ‘round.

Some of the guests who stay with us over the Christmas/Holiday season are regulars – they come by once a year or every couple of years to soak in the sun and benefit from the restorative atmosphere of Ambergris Caye. Even in December, the sun is strong and hot. But it’s also great fun to welcome people who have never experienced Quanzaa or Christmas on the beach. It’s a wonderfully strange thing for them to – for the first time – walk along the water’s edge and sing carols while looking at tide pools and palm trees instead of snow. In fact, the snowbound Christmas of home seems like another world when surrounded by the rich blues and greens of the tropics.

And instead of battling the crowds at a Boxing Week sale in a shopping mall, there are oceans, park, jungles and historical places to explore.

New Year’s Eve

Of course, the tail end of the festive season is New Year’s Eve. People often remember where they were on New Year’s more than they do on Christmas Day. And this is definitely the case when the fireworks and singing happen in the warm air of a Caribbean midnight.

There are plenty of locations to ring in the new year in style on the Caye as well as in San Pedro or on the mainland. Maybe you will even be invited to partake in the Spanish tradition of “the twelve grapes,” in which you eat one grape for each chime of the New Year’s clock to bring luck for the new year.

It’s not too late to come down here for a Christmas or New Year’s getaway. Even if January or February fits your schedule better, we will always make sure your time is memorable and wonderful.

As for me, I will be hanging a stocking for Charlie, our canine property manager. I will attach it carefully to one of the palms leading down to the beach, since that’s his favorite place to be, and I think Santa knows that.

So hopefully we’ll see you here. We would love to celebrate the holidays with you. But if it has to be next December, that’s great too. You and your family will have a year of looking forward to a well-deserved break, and we will be right here, helping you do just that.

Happy Holidays – whatever form they take – from me, Bret, Charlie, Francisco and the whole Coastal Breezes team!

Deb and Charlie with a special Christmas message in the sand.

Forget “Someday!” Not Taking a Vacation Costs More

I know how the thought pattern goes: you look at the ads for a Caribbean paradise and you think, “Maybe someday. I just don’t have the time or the cash right now.” Well, I would like to suggest that not only is it less expensive than you might think to take a Caribbean vacation, neither is it a sunk cost. It is not money out the window. A vacation makes its money back in hidden, but very real ways.

The Money You Have to Spend

The immediate concern is the cost of the travel. And yes, if you’re coming here from Canada, the U.S., or Europe you will need to book a return flight. But the great thing about Belize in terms of travel is it is not really that far away. From Toronto, for example, it’s a three-and-a-half-hour flight. I know lots of people who spend that much time in their cars or on a train, commuting every single day.

Air travel costs money, but airlines routinely have sales. Advance bookings and travel apps can help lock in really good pricing opportunities, even for two people return. And so many of these flights are direct to Belize City, so it’s convenient and comfortable to even fly economy.

Our beach house rates, too, are very competitive, and if you follow this blog or our Instagram, you can see what you’re getting: clean, safe, private and comfortable, with a friendly staff who are more like family. We even pick you up from the San Pedro airport and drive you back there. Even as we’re talking money here, you can be assured you’re getting value for every dollar you spend.

The Time it Takes to “Take a Vacation”

Lots of folks shy away from vacations for reasons other than money. Many feel they can’t take the time off from work. They are too overloaded with deadlines. Or worse, they fear they will miss out on something, or even worse, they feel they may lose their value as an employee by disappearing for a week. Not to mention the stress of trying to get everything done before you leave, and then facing a pile of tasks when you return.

Well, firstly, we do have internet down here, so if relaxation for you means staying connected to the office by email – if you really can’t leave your work behind, there’s lots to be said for returning those emails from a hammock on the beach, like I do. Oh, and Richard Branson does too. (Just saying.)

But a week away from the office can be easily project managed to ensure there is no rush period before departure and no stress inducing backlog when you come back. Time management and productivity expert Steve Prentice has a collection of tips and tricks to make this work. They are available on his blog here or on his podcast here. As he says, “it all comes down to two words: planning and communication.” If you think of your vacation as having three parts: the lead-up, the vacation itself, and the follow-up, you will have something that starts reducing stress from the very moment you decide to book it – long before you even set foot on our beautiful beach.

After a short commute to the deck, I log back on to the rat race. Somehow, it’s not so bad…

The Lifetime Benefit of the Three-Part Vacation

This brings is to the most important word of all: stress. Stress kills. In the short-term it leads to digestive and sleep disorders, headaches and all types of physical, mental and emotional pain. It also takes a great toll on your immune system, which leads to additional short- and long-term problems in terms of fending off sickness and disease. 

One of Steve’s key points regarding the three-part vacation is the significant reduction in stress that essentially lasts a lifetime. Here’s how it works:

1. Choosing to go, and then booking the vacation. There is a thrill of anticipation and adventure that comes from choosing to take a vacation, and this quickly transforms into anticipation. These positive emotions release endorphins and other health-boosting hormones through nothing more than the anticipation of the vacation to come. Even if you are facing a really busy time at work right now, this becomes the light at the end of the tunnel. The best way to get through a stressful situation is to keep your eyes on the prize. Focus on that break or reward that will come after it. So, this means, the health-boosting effects of your vacation start right away. Even if the vacation is six months away, that’s six months of looking forward to a well-deserved break. This is Aspirin for the soul.

2. Taking the vacation itself. This is the next and most obvious part. Enjoying the vacation without problems or disappointments. This is your time to relax, recharge, and be taken care of. That’s why we feel it is so important that you know about the place you’re going even if you have never gone there before. And that’s why we take such care to show off our beach houses along with the sights of Ambergris Caye on this blog, our website and on Instagram. That’s why we also work really hard to take care of you. We know how valuable this time is for you.

3. The memory. Once a vacation is done and you’re back at work, the benefits are not over. In fact. they have only just begun. The memories of your vacation will last a lifetime. They will always be with you and you will also re-live them when you share stories and photos with your friends and family. A carefully project planned return to the workplace can successfully offset the shock of hitting the rat race at full speed. For example, Steve Prentice suggests you never book meetings for your first day back. That’s the day for easing back into the momentum.

Increasingly, companies are becoming more proactive in ensuring employees actually take their vacation days. As opposed to seeing vacations as “non-productive” time, many managers are recognizing that healthy, engaged employees do actually contribute more to a company’s success than tired, stressed-out people do. It’s part of the philosophy of work-life balance, or work-life integration, that is taking greater precedence in corporate management strategy. The long and the short of it is that a vacation is truly an investment, for you as well as your company (even if you’re self-employed). Your energy level, your capacity to focus, your ability to fight off illness like colds and flu, your sense of balance – all of these things contribute to your excellence as a professional. And that’s the hidden dividend: you will be more valuable and more successful by actually investing some of your time in rest and recreation. So, I ask you to seriously commit to taking a vacation at least once a year. By doing so, you will immediately start to dissolve that mountain of stress that you carry around with you and replace it with a vitality and energy that has its own tangible payback.

For more information about our beach house properties, please visit us at coastalbreezes.bz, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Planning for a Healthy Vacation in Belize

No one wants to think about illness when they plan for their dream vacation or their winter getaway. But having the knowledge in advance means you can relax and enjoy your time here even more. Although Ambergris Caye prides itself on its laid back, tropical vibe, it still has great medical care available.

If you need a doctor during your visit, there’s a good number of medical practitioners, many of whom were trained in the U.S., the U.K. or Mexico. Many of these will make house calls. On Ambergris Caye there is a PolyClinic that is open 24/7. This clinic can handle the types of injuries or illnesses that a visitor or citizen might encounter, including fractures and breaks. More serious cases get flown to one of the dozen or so major hospitals in Belize, most often to the emergency facilities in Belize City. And because Ambergris Caye is a paradise for divers and snorkelers, it also has a full hyperbaric chamber available for treatment of decompression illness (the bends).

There are plenty of great medical clinics and hospitals in Belize.

Prepare before you travel

As with any destination beyond your home borders, it is very important to ensure you receive the right inoculations and treatments before leaving, and in good time. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting up-to-date on your routine vaccines (measles, mumps, rubella) and to also take advance medication for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Note that some types of medications are in short supply – even in the U.S., or may require treatment time of many weeks or even months.

It is advisable to talk to your physician about your travel plans as soon as possible. It is also best to bring all the medications that you take as part of daily life along with you, since sometimes the pharmacies in any country that you visit may not have any in stock or may have medications that are different in strength or quality.

Note also that you should always check that the medications you carry are legal to keep in your possession while on vacation. A case in point is CBD oil. Laws are changing constantly. Many Caribbean countries have zero tolerance policies towards any form of “drug.” Also, your flight might get diverted to another country, even the U.S., where such substances are still illegal, either federally or locally.

Charlie, our canine head of security, asks, “Can I drink this?” Yes, It’s coconut milk. Great for everyone. But for travelers, being prepared before trying new things and new experiences in a new country is a smart idea.

At Coastal Breezes, We’re Watching Out for You Too

While we don’t have ambulance service on the island, there is a response service that can transport people as needed. We will provide guests with all the required information should it be needed.  We at Coastal Breezes are also trained in CPR and first aid and have a AED on site along with an Epipen – both which are a big deal on the island, since not a lot of people offer these items.

Be Careful!

Belize is a great and overall safe place to visit. But when people take vacations – anywhere in the world – they often willingly let go of those concerns for personal safety that they carry around with them at home. Maybe that’s part of the “vacation” mindset.

But it’s important to keep some sense of caution around you. Drinking water from a tap in many countries is not advisable, and this applies also to water that comes from washed salads or even ice cubes

Then there are the activities themselves. Scuba diving and snorkeling are wonderful experiences, but care must be taken to ensure clothing or equipment does not get snagged on coral – it’s also really bad for the coral. Insect repellent is a great idea for avoiding bug bites while hiking and exploring, and of course proper clothing and head coverings will keep sunburn at bay.

Belize is a beautiful place to visit, and offers great opportunities for sightseeing, outdoor activities or just relaxing. Being prepared health-wise is the type of planning that helps contribute to a vacation free of stress and unexpected health challenges. As nice as the Polyclinic is, we would rather you get to see scenes like this sunrise, taken from our front porch.

Sunrise at Coastal Breezes.

For more information about our beach house properties, please visit us at coastalbreezes.bz, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Music is Everywhere in Belize

Music is a natural expression of being human. Wherever there are people, there will be music, drawn together by a sense of community, guided by a rhythm which is always just an echo of our own human hearts. But although it may be universal, different types of music have emerged that represent the history and energies of the people in the area and Belize, of course is no exception.

Belizean music contains a rich blend of Central American, African and European styles and it delivers a warm and friendly energy. Depending were you come from, you might hear hints within the tunes of Zydeco, Creole, traditional African folk songs or Western rock and roll.

In addition to its cultural sources, music is also dependent on the types of instruments available. Belizean music is no exception. Brukdown music, for example, was created in the logging camps of the country’s interior. Its name comes from the Creole term for “breakdown,” referring to “broken down Calypso style.” is famous for having not just banjo, accordion a drums, but also the jawbone of a donkey, played by running a stick up and down the teeth.

The Garifuna people have their ancestral roots in Africa and were brought brought to Central America during the slave trade. Their music is now a staple of Belizean culture and depends heavily of drum patterns, using a call-and-answer pattern between drummers.

It’s a really wonderful experience to kick back and listen to a live band play. Whether the music is traditional or more modern, there’s nothing quite like enjoying great music while feeling a warm ocean breeze and hearing waves or surf in the distance. One of my favorite places is Fido’s Beach Bar, which has a stage area with occasional live music. They also have the best fish and chips in town, which is quite an achievement, given that food is an equally high priority as music on Belize and especially on Ambergris Caye.

Fido’s Beach Bar

Another great local spot is Bernie’s Back. They are big on karaoke, which means everyone gets involved. Everyone who wants to, that is. The Dive Bar gets consistently high ratings from visitors for their food as well as their entertainment. And once you get into San Pedro, there are many more to choose from. FaceBook is a good resource for scoping out places and reading reviews.

As might be expected, modern rock and pop music is in very good supply. We have even seen some famous faces including Kelly McGuire, and members of Steve Miller’s Band, who go by the name of “Abracadabra.”

Yes, the music is everywhere, and nothing shows the variety and vivaciousness of Belizean music and culture quite like a national party. Last Friday, September 20, 2019 was our 38th anniversary of independence and everyone was invited to celebrate.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until next year to enjoy a block party of live music on the beach. Whether it’s turtle shells, steel drums or bass guitars holding down the beat, there’s enough heat and energy to make any night a party.

For more information about our beach house properties, please visit us at coastalbreezes.bz, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Top 10 Reasons to Plan Your Snowbird Vacation with Us

There comes a time in late summer in North America where dusk starts noticeably sooner, the breeze seems a little cooler, and the sun no longer commands the highest part of the sky even at noon. How does it happen so soon? It’s like summer is stored in some sort of strong elastic pouch. It takes months to pry it open to let the warmth out, yet it snaps closed in a heartbeat.

Thankfully there are options. The entire Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea are available to sun-starved Canadians and Americans, and the short direct flights are quite affordable. Of course, you don’t need to wait until the darkest days of winter to get your fill of the blue oceans and bright sand. It’s available year ‘round and it’s beautiful year ‘round. That’s why Bret and I came to Belize in the first place. It’s why we set up a beach house business here, and it’s why we think you should come down and spend some time with us.

Welcome to Coastal Breezes!

If case you need more convincing, here’s our top-ten list: Top ten reasons to plan your snowbird vacation at Coastal Breezes in Belize:

1. The weather. Guaranteed to be hot and sunny.

Even though it does rain here, the rainy season is basically June to October, and even then, the rain showers are sporadic and short. You just don’t get those gloomy grey, rainy days. You will always experience beautiful warmth and brilliant sunlight whenever you come by.

Sunrise over our pier.

2. Non commercialized. No McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s or Walmart!

Belize has worked hard to keep itself pristine. Ambergris Caye, where we are located, is a perfect example of that. The buildings are solid and safe, but the businesses retain that great beach feel – lots of wood and bamboo, nothing garish, and certainly no fast food/fast coffee franchises. Great food, great drinks and great people.

Wayos one of the many wonderful places to grab a meal and a drink.

3. You get to drive around in a golf cart.

The pace of island life is matched by our mode of transport – golf carts. No big highways and high speeds. What’s the rush?

This is how we get around. Walking is great too!

4. Super friendly Belizean people.

The people of Belize are friendly, relaxed and interesting to talk to. It’s part of the culture and part of the environment. It’s truly an eye-opening moment to discover how nice we can be to each other when we strip away the stresses of North American life. Belizeans and are happy to talk to you and help you enjoy yourself.

Everybody’s welcome.

5. Charlie the super friendly Belizean dog.

Charlie is our canine property manager. He’s a rescue who has found his forever home with us. He’s very friendly, he knows everything there is to know about Coastal Breezes and is an expert on the topic of napping in the sun. He should teach classes on it!

6. Your own personal onsite caretaker to assist with questions about the local area.

We have a small number of beach houses which means you are always looked after with extra close attention. You’re not just one of hundreds or thousands like a big hotel or cruise ship. Francisco, our personal onsite caretaker takes care of more than just the facilities. He’s there to take care of our guest, providing helpful and interesting information about the area, and things to do.

Francisco makes sure everything is shipshape.

7. Secret Beach – have an adult beverage while sitting in the sea.

Secret beach is a secluded and beautiful beach located on the leeward side of the island which means calm shallow waters and beautiful sunsets. It has grown over the years but has still managed to maintain its rustic island charm. It’s a must see – a perfect destination for enjoying a tropical drink at picnic tables that are actually in the water. I have written about Secret Beach in a previous post here: https://blog.coastalbreezes.bz/2019/07/14/the-not-so-secret-beach/

Table service at Secret Beach. Photo courtesy of SanPedroScoop.

8. Fry Jacks – traditional Belizean cuisine.

Oh! Fry Jacks! OK, so they might not be as healthy as mangoes or “apple bananas,” but think of the endorphins! A signature dish of Belize life, Fry jacks are pieces of fried dough, made puffy by using plenty of baking powder. But they are so good as partners in both savory and sweet dishes. Check out my earlier blog on some of the great food you can enjoy here: https://blog.coastalbreezes.bz/2019/07/11/breakfast-in-belize-what-would-you-like/

Fry Jacks. Image courtesy of ImmaculateBites.com

9. Barrier reef and the Blue Hole.

Once you get out on the water, you have the largest coral reef in the world, right beneath you. A marvelous place to snorkel or dive, it’s an underwater marvel with fish and marine life all around, made even more beautiful by the bright blue waters.

A little further along is a wondrous site, the Great Blue Hole, basically a sinkhole in the ocean floor whose depth makes the water appear a darker shade of blue. It’s a must see for any diver and has attracted some of the world’s best known divers and marine scientists, like Jacques Cousteau. You can read more about the barrier reef and the Great Blue Hole here: https://blog.coastalbreezes.bz/2019/07/20/into-the-water/

The Great Blue Hole – one of the best photos, courtesy the US Geological Survey (USGS) that includes pleasure craft for scale.

10. Mayan Ruins archeological sites.

Once you have dried off and got back on land, there’s much more to see inland, including magnificent Mayan ruins. Belize is full of ancient history. People have been living here and traveling here for thousands of years, and the ruins bring it back with excitement and clarity.

Mayan ruins in Belize. Image courtesy Wikipedia..

So come on by!

Belize, and especially Ambergris Caye, where our Coastal Breezes beach houses are, are marvelously unspoiled, friendly and relaxing places, That’s why so many Snowbirds come back again and again. But if it’s your first time, and you’re wondering about the risk of visiting a place you know nothing about, just drop us a line! We’ll chat. We’ll get to know each other. So that when you come down you will feel like you are being greeted and hosted by friends. And that’s a great way to start a love affair with our beautiful island.

Into the Water

One of the most appealing features of Belize as a country is its many faces, the two most obvious being the seaward face and the inland jungle face. The Caribbean Sea is huge, beautiful, and filled with life and places to visit. Inland, there are jungles, wildlife sanctuaries, and fascinating historical sites built by the Maya.

In this post, I want to look outward to the ocean and next time we will venture off the island into the jungle. Belize is world-renowned for its aquatic beauty, and this makes it an irresistible place for snorkeling and scuba diving.

The Belize Barrier Reef

A series of coral reefs that run along the Belize coastline, the Barrier Reef has now been recognized as the largest coral reef in the world. It used to place second behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but that reef has since died back due to bleaching. Experts including Charles Darwin and the famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau (who also invented the SCUBA breathing apparatus) have mentioned its beauty and size, and today it provides a place for recreational divers, hundreds of types of fish, corals and other sea life, as well as for sustainable fishing activities.

The Belize Barrier Reef, photographed from the International Space Station in 2016. Public domain photo courtesy of astronaut Jeff Williams of NASA.

The reef provides endless opportunities for snorkeling, diving and photography, and it is easy and inexpensive to charter a boat or join an expedition.

One of the many local businesses ready to take you out for a dive.

The Great Blue Hole

No mention of diving adventures would be complete without the Great Blue Hole. This is a marine sinkhole that formed during ice age-related geological activities of four distinct eras: 153,000 years ago, 66,000 years ago, 60,000 years ago and 15,000 years ago. As the ocean levels gradually rose, the sinkhole filled up, and its limestone walls paired with its depth, make it a visually stunning ocean landmark, especially from the air.

The Great Blue Hole – one of the best photos, courtesy the US Geological Survey (USGS) that includes pleasure craft for scale.

Jacques Cousteau named it as one of his top ten favorite dive sites in the world, and many other dive and adventure organizations also have it high on their “must-see” lists.

Diving in its waters gives you an opportunity to get close to large and fascinating wildlife like the Midnight Parrotfish and the Caribbean reef shark. Lucky divers might also encounter elusive hammerhead sharks, although sightings of these are rare.

Of course, you don’t have to go far afield to enjoy the waters of Ambergris Caye. We’re surrounded by it. It’s warm, placid, especially on the west side of the island, and looks beautiful any time of the day or night. When you book a beach house from us, you can see this for yourself. The water is just steps away.

For more information about our beach house properties, please visit us at coastalbreezes.bz, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

The Not-So-Secret Beach

One of the most well-known attractions on Ambergris Caye is Secret Beach. And it’s far and away the island’s worst-kept secret. When Bret and I first arrived here in 2015 there was nothing at Secret Beach except for a single pier and a house. Located on the leeward side of the island this beach has pristine, clear blue waters, and in the last three years it has become a fast paced, and very popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

This is the bumpy road across the island to Secret Beach

It’s a bit of a hike from our main town of San Pedro – eight miles by golf cart over rough road – but it’s only three and a half miles from our beach house compound. Every day now, there’s a constant stream of golf carts heading to and from Secret Beach.  There’s lots of people and lots of alcohol!  Frankly, that’s what a lot of holidaymakers from North America and definitely Canada, want while they’re on vacation: no rules and a big party atmosphere. A great place to blow off all the tensions built up over a year.

Here’s the secret sign pointing the way to Secret Beach. Yes, it’s at an angle. It’s not the condition of the photographer.

Secret Beach basically closes down as soon as it gets dark, because there’s no electricity, only generators. But the tables are out in the water! It’s very shallow and calm, so you walk out quite far, or you can sit in the gentle lapping waves at your table and the wait staff will wade out to you with trays of drinks and food. You can also drink on the beach if you prefer to stay dry. It’s always busy so you’ll need to go early in order to get a table. In addition to the calm waters, its Western exposure means you’re almost guaranteed a spectacular sunset.

Table service at Secret Beach. Photo credit: SanPedroScoop.

The Secret Beach has all the touristy trappings: you can rent lounge chairs, jet skis, and motorized surf boards. You can get your hair braided, buy snow cones, and coconut water, you name it. It’s a big party, and yes, Bret and I have had fun just sitting back and watching people enjoy themselves.

Our location is definitely favorable to the Secret Beach because we are so much closer than a lot of other resorts. Many of our guests of all ages have asked for directions to the Secret Beach as soon as they arrive.   

You can read more about its history and present (and maybe future) over at SanPedroScoop. For the moment, I can’t say that it has built up to extraordinarily tacky proportions. The bars and restaurants still have the island feel – lots of wood and sand, not concrete or glass.

So it’s definitely worth checking out as an island hotspot. But my slant on it is that when you live here you just don’t go to the Secret Beach. There are many more secret and not-so-secret places to fall in love with.

For more information about our beach house properties, please visit us at coastalbreezes.bz, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.