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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
The Holiday Season on Ambergris
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
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
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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/
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/
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/
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.
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.
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
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 reef provides endless opportunities for snorkeling, diving and photography, and it is easy and inexpensive to charter a boat or join an expedition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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!