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.

Breakfast in Belize – What Would You Like?

There’s something about the ocean that makes everything taste better. Perhaps it’s the salt air, the breezes coming across from the jungle, just the sheer vibrancy of life all around you. Rather than overwhelming your senses of smell and taste, Caribbean life seems to heighten them. It’s like your senses are reveling in the variety and depth that they are denied in the concrete and pollution-filled cities of the world.

Such sensory vibrancy means that every type of food is an enhanced experience, but this is only made better by the variety of locally grown and sustainably caught foods available in Belize.

Let’s start with fish! You can eat fresh fish every day and cooked every way. Grouper and snapper are the most common and you can get it blackened, fried or grilled. Fish caught that very afternoon, just off the coast is very different from that caught on a trawler and either flash frozen or flown to restaurants thousands of miles inland. Different types of fish have different textures and flavors, which become even more tantalizing when cooked or grilled over open flames in tropical air.

Apple Bananas growing in our back yard.

When they’re in season, lobster and conch add a sense of occasion. In North America and elsewhere, lobster is an expensive delicacy. And who goes to the supermarket to buy conch? But that’s one of the many great things about travel – anywhere in the world – experiencing tastes and foods that add to life’s variety.

Being part of the Central American tropics, a local favorite is stewed chicken, with rice and beans. Simple, healthy and filling. Fried plantain is a staple. Plantains look like big, wild bananas. But they are generally cooked before eating and taste more like a potato than a banana. They’re very good for you, too, loaded with potassium and cholesterol-burning fiber.

Fry Jacks are essential, although they won’t win any prizes in the healthy foods department. 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.

Huevos Rancheros is another breakfast favorite. Common in many areas of Latin and Central America, eggs with ranchero sauce, refried beans, flour tortillas, served with bacon or sausage provide great energy and sustenance whether your calendar shows “diving with whale sharks” or “log-in to the virtual meeting with head office back home.”

And how about “apple bananas”? Yet another type of banana, these are also less sweet that their Cavendish cousins (Cavendish is pretty much the only type of banana eaten in North America and Europe). They’re a little tangier to taste, and best of all, we have them growing in the back yard! Wherever you travel in the world, food is a primary concern, of course, but it’s always wonderful to expand your culinary horizons and try local delicacies right in the place they came from. Just another benefit of living and working in paradise. Come on down! See – and taste – for yourself!

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

How We Built Your/Our Private Paradise

There are few things more pleasurable in life than a private paradise. Especially given the cold spring that we Canadians suffered through this year (2019) and the never-ending troubles that seem to be the norm, both locally and internationally. It’s something that we all hope to find. In the back of our minds, we picture that place – somewhere we can retreat to in order to regroup, refresh, and confirm that there is still beauty in life and it is indeed attainable.

That’s what Bret and I set out to establish when we created Coastal Breezes on Ambergris Caye, an island just off the coast of Belize – the one Madonna sang about in “La Isla Bonita.”

For years now, we have been the owners and proprietors of a small collection of executive rental suites just outside of Toronto. These are fully furnished homes for business travelers or others who seek a tidy and convenient place to stay for periods usually longer than a month without the over-the top cost of hotels. We recognized early on that a large negative part of travel is the unknown. After spending hours in an airport and a car, the first thing you need is a place to rest, and the last thing you want is disappointment.

So over the years, we accumulated a few properties and made sure they were the type of place that we ourselves would feel happy staying in, from the very first moment of arrival all the way through a multi-week residence.

Approaching the island – photo taken by one of our guests

But we are also snowbirds. We craved the blue skies, the swaying palms and impossibly blue oceans of the Caribbean, and we started venturing south. We wanted to go a little further south than most of our compatriots, for whom the coast of Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, or the easily accessible islands of the Bahamas were convenient destinations.

We decided to visit Belize, a country that we had known growing up as British Honduras. Once we got there, we knew we had to come back, and so we did. And after a few return visits, we realized we had to do more than just stay on the beach as tourists. This was a place, we realized, that could become an extension of our executive homes business – a place where people could come fully confident of a pleasant stay with well-kept amenities and a personal, Canadian touch.

It’s a beautiful and historic place. Not just the island, but the whole country. The waters are a haven for snorkeling and diving, with the world-famous Barrier Reef just minutes away, and the intriguing Great Blue Hole – a marine sinkhole located inside an atoll. On land, there are Mayan ruins and enormous biodiversity, making everyday an adventure no matter which direction you head off in.

Being a small island, only accessible by plane, the pace of life is a little more relaxed as well. In fact the preferred method of transport is by golf cart which suits us fine.

Rush hour on Ambergris Caye

This blog series will seek to show off some of the most intriguing and compelling reasons why a vacation in Belize makes so much sense for Canadians, not least of which is just how easy it is to get here. From late October through to April, WestJet and Air Canada both fly direct to Belize City, and from there, it’s just a quick hop across to the island.

So I hope you will keep in touch. Follow us on social media (Twitter and Instagram), and join our quarterly mailing list here. Maybe it’s time for your great adventure to a personal paradise. Let us help you find your place in the warm tropical sun, welcomed by our friendly and attentive staff. We really are much closer than you might think.

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