Your Permit to Relax

It’s hard to write about a beautiful tourist destination when people are not actually able to visit it, but the COVID-19 epidemic will not be permanent, at least to this degree of severity. Many countries around the world are identifying effective ways to “flatten the curve,” and it is my belief that common sense will prevail. People will learn how to live with some enhanced social distancing techniques and a new normality will emerge.

That’s why I feel it’s healthy to keep talking about our own little corner of paradise here at Ambergris Caye. Even before the craziness of 2020, it was common for people to take months or even a couple of years to decide to take a trip somewhere, after all, there’s a lot of planning to do. So, it’s my intention to keep talking about some of the many great reasons to come and visit us when you are ready to do so.

You’ve Heard of a Fishing Permit, but How About a Permit Fish?

If you like fishing, especially fly-fishing, we have plenty of new opportunities for you. Bonefish, tarpon, and permits are all catch-and-release ocean fish that people like to experience while they are here. Belize is very much focused on sustainability and harmony with nature, which is why catch-and-release and ecotourism are so important to us. In fact, you will need to obtain a license to go fishing for them. It’s the same on land, too. We are very careful with our jungles and the fauna that live there. In fact, Ambergris Caye hosts the world’s only Jaguar preserve, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary & Jaguar Preserve. A wonderful summary is available here.

This is what the fish called a permit looks like. Photo credit: FishingBooker.com

But back to the fish. A permit is a large fish, with a slender body and long fins. Along with bonefish and tarpon, they are all types of large game fish that look beautiful when posed for a photo, but of course, look their best when swimming around in the water, especially in the flats around Ambergris Caye. A great resource to learn more about fly-fishing for bonefish and permit is available at the Tres Pescados Fly Shop here. You can also charter a fishing expedition along with their knowledgeable guides.

Here is a picture of me with my “big” bonefish.

Night Fishing

Of course, not all fish are protected by catch-and-release. There are many types of sustainable fish varieties  that are available to catch and eat, with a number of excursion companies offering the cleaning and cooking services as part of their packages. There is nothing quite like going out on the water at night. It’s usually quite peaceful and breathtaking when the moon is full, and the ocean has a huge presence in the darkness, with many species of sea life coming close to the surface. It’s an experience not to be missed.

Moonlight…feels right – My photo of moonlight over the water at Ambergris Caye.

Another way of enjoying the ocean at night is to simply observe it from the shoreline. Many people find enormous peace and tranquility from simply walking along the beach, with just the moon and stars to light the way. Our waters are seldom turbulent, but at night they become very still, and this contributes to a truly transcendent experience. It’s amazing just how powerful your night vision and senses become when you let nature be your chaperone. As our canine assistant property manager, Mr. Bean knows very well, a few citizens of the waters might do the same thing, choosing to come up on the beach to see what’s going on.

Mr. Bean checking out a visitor.

Relaxation is Very Healthy

Whether you seek the excitement of catch-and-release fishing on the open water, or the serenity of moonlit walks – or both – it is important to remember just how healthy and restorative these types of activities are. People often think of a Caribbean vacation as being filled with busy sightseeing schedules, and there can be great fun in that, but similarly, the body and soul crave tranquility and balance. And as you have probably heard, human beings are 70% water, which partially explains why so many of us feel drawn to the ocean and gain peace from it.

You deserve a break from the trauma, sadness and change that we have all experienced, and even though it’s not over yet, the mere anticipation of a vacation can be a powerful sustainer of mental and physical health.

We would love to host you here at Coastal Breezes of course, but what’s more important is that you set your sights on a vacation somewhere, especially somewhere that has water and life all around it.

Stay safe!

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

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