With the new year promising a potential end to the pandemic thanks
to the distribution of vaccines now underway, it’s a good time to think once
again about a well-deserved break. In this blog series, I have talked about the
waters, with their wildlife and diving opportunities, the jungles, the beaches,
and the beautiful night skies. But one area I have not covered is underground.
Belize has one of the most extensive cave systems in the world, with about 300
of them available for exploration.
Many of them have great historical and cultural significance,
having been used by the Mayans as sacred sites that were seen as a passage to
the underworld and the homes of the gods.
Perhaps the most fascinating of these is the Black Hole Drop, which is located inland, in the Western Cayo District. It is a cave that is entered and exited from above, using climbing gear, and can only be done in the company of licensed guides. This is quite the adventure, basically descending through the jungle canopy and continuing down 500 feet into what looks like total darkness. This is an adventure that requires some skills in ladder climbing and hiking and is definitely one of the more adventurous cave excursions. The Barton Creek Cave is located in the same area as the Black Hole Drop, but it is accessed a little more easily, with the help of licensed guides and a canoe. According to BelizeHub, which has an excellent rundown of the 10 most fascinating caves in Belize, the Barton Creek Cave has chambers that will remind you of “cathedrals and wide roomy passages.” The cave was recently recognized as one of the nine most unusual and beautiful caves in the world.
One of the many reasons I fell in love with Belize is because its
citizens and government take the beauty of nature so seriously. The country is
dotted with amazing natural and human-made wonders – not just caves, but
wildlife sanctuaries, temples and ruins, and the amazing diving and
water-related activities. It’s a country that recognizes the value of tourism
and eco-tourism, which is such a wonderful proof of concept that people and
nature can co-exist more than we have done over the past 200 years in so many
places in the world.
Maybe that’s why oceanographer Jacques Cousteau spent so much
time here, and why film director Francis Ford Coppola set up two eco-reserves
As always, we look forward to welcoming guests to stay with us and to meet our wonderful canine ambassadors, Charlie and Mr. Bean. Travel can be done more safely and regularly now, and we have our Gold Standard, meaning we can provide safe hospitality that aligns with the standards established by the Belize Tourist Board and the Government of Belize. Even if you are considering visiting later in the year when things return to a new normal, there’s just so much to do here, I invite you to contact us so we can help guide you to some of the wonderful areas of interest and fascination.
We are proud to announce that we are now a Gold Standard facility in Belize. The Gold Standard was implemented by the Belize Tourism Board to ensure that visitors could be assured of a safe stay during the difficult times that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon the world. It consists of a 9-point program focused on health and safety standards that includes:
Having a Gold Standard manager appointed
to oversee compliance
Monitoring and reporting with temperature checks
and health monitoring
Practicing social distancing for workers and visitors
Enhanced cleaning and sanitization practices,
use of PPE for workers and face masks for everyone
Use of a rapid and clear response plan for suspected
COVID-19 cases including designated Isolation/Quarantine rooms
Clear and consistent communication protocols
Access to sanitizing stations across the
Online check-in/out, contactless payment
systems, and automated ordering/booking systems
Regular training of employees to manage existing
protocols and implement new ones as required
This means that travelers will be able to enjoy a well-deserved Belize
vacation with us, knowing their safety is the hotel’s top priority.
This has been a difficult year for everyone, and, as you likely already know, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of vaccines and vaccination programs. It will take a while for everyone to get their shot, of course, with front-line healthcare workers quite appropriately taking top priority. This means we all still need to take precautions. But it also means that safe travel is achievable. American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta already have regular flights to Goldson International Airport.
We have worked very hard these past few months to set up our facility
to meet the Gold Standard requirements. Now that the winter weather has settled
in across North America, it’s a great time to schedule some R&R with us.
We expect that 2021 will be a year of great release and relief
for people once the pandemic has been brought under control. Back in 1918, the
Spanish Flu gripped the world as a pandemic, and had many of the same problems,
including people refusing to wear masks. It is thought that much of the craziness
of the 1920s – such as Flappers, dancing and an explosion of new music was in
part a celebration of the conclusion of those dark times. Remember, the 1918 pandemic
essentially helped end the First World War, so there was much to celebrate.
So we are looking forward to a great year of reconciliation and
celebration in 2021. I think that once it is safe to do so, parties, festivals,
and events all over the world will be attended even more enthusiastically than
ever, simply out of the joy of being together.
That’s one reason why we are proud to have earned the Gold
Standard certification. It is our pledge to you to take every effort to ensure
the safety of our guests and employees, not only now, where the vaccination
program has only just started in North America and Europe, but always, through
the year to come, as we welcome our new normal.
There are many wonderful places to visit and experience in and
around Belize, as our previous blog posts have shown, and if there’s one thing
we have learned during the dark year of 2020, it is the preciousness of life, both
in terms of the people we share our lives with and also in the experiences we have.
So now it’s time to think about reconnecting with both of these wonderful
concepts, and we really want to be a part of that with you.
So stay safe, careful and patient, and hopefully we will meet you on our beach, under the magnificent Belizean sky sometime soon.
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
Sir Richard is famous for showing off his favorite office: a hammock slung between two palm trees.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.