La Isla Bonita – Ambergris Caye, Belize

Travel Recommendations: Ambergris Caye, Belize

Length of Stay

During our travels to Belize, we stayed on Ambergris Caye for a week. It was the perfect amount of time to explore the island, go SCUBA diving, and visit the mainland.

Transportation

All the resorts and hotels have bikes or golf carts to rent to get around. I would recommend either depending on your budget. At the resort we stayed at, Belizean Shores, they charged $5 USD for renting a bike all day and way more for a golf cart. We decided to bike most of the time.

Lodging

Most of the places on the island are condos on a resort. You can rent through VRBO, AirBnB, or through a site like Hotels.com. If renting through VRBO or AirBnB you may get bikes or a golf car included in your stay.

Clothing

Being on the Caribbean it’s tropical and sometimes the weather can change. Bring clothing you’ll be comfortable in  humid weather. Also bring a rain jacket. Sometimes the rain comes and it pours.

Local Cuisine

I would recommend having anything to do with seafood. Being on the ocean, you can’t get any fresher. Try lionfish! You should also give their local soups a try, conch soup and chilmole soup.

Tipping Protocol

Standard tipping is between 10 to 15%.

Best Time to Visit

Mid-November to mid-April.

Currency

Belize takes US dollars! Makes it easy so you don’t need to exchange before traveling there but the shops will give you Belizean dollars back. The Belizean dollar is tied to the U.S. dollar, 2 Belizean dollars  equals 1 U.S. dollar.

Things to See/Do

  • Mayan ruins, we visited Lamanai through Seaduced by Belize.
  • SCUBA diving or snorkeling, we completed three dives, one at Hol Chan Marine Reserve through Ambergris Divers and the other two at Coconut Canyon and The Office through Tuff e Nuff Tours.
  • “Secret Beach” which is not so secret and probably a tourist trap all the locals tell visitors.

Lessons Learned

  • Bring a light rain jacket: We really need to invest in light rain jackets, we were traveling during the dry season but they got unexpected heavy rains. Better to pack than be soaked and unhappy like a drenched cat.
  • Pack a light backpack for your more adventurous travels. I never took my purse when getting around the island and took my beach bag everywhere.
  • Dry bag for on the water sports. Being on the ocean you will get wet and so will your stuff. We didn’t have a dry bag to store our cell phones and towels. We used the dry area on the boat. It would have been nice to have our stuff all together.
  • Mesh bag for our SCUBA/snorkeling trips. We tried to carry all our fins, booties, and snorkels. It would have been great to have a mesh bag to carry all of our stuff.
  • Not really a lesson learned but a recommendation. Pack Cactus Juice sunblock. A friend suggested we use this sunblock because it is also a repellent against bugs which are attracted to me. The sunblock worked for my fair skin.

Let the Adventure Begin

From Phoenix, the flight to Belize City was pretty simple. However, no one wants to vacation in Belize City. From the airport our resort scheduled transportation to Ambergris Caye through Mayan Air on a prop plane. If you do this, go to the back of the line when waiting to board the plan. You might be chosen to ride as co-pilot like I did!

Copilot on the prop plane!

SCUBA Diving – Schedule Upon Arrival

I am a planner. I love to have tours all scheduled and paid for before getting to our destination. Prior to our trip I reached out to several dive shops to set up dives and none of them responded. The best thing to do is to go through your resort once you arrive or through one of the many dive shops throughout the island.

We remembered how to set up the tanks! Very important.

It had been more than two years since we dove, so we had to take a refresher course but we were able to do it in the ocean! We first went to Hol Chan Marine Reserve where we saw stingrays, brain coral, reef sharks, and a very friendly moray eel. The eel swam right by my mask then through the arms of a snorkeler.

Moray Eel – NOTE: This photo is not from the Belize reef but from the OdySea Aquarium

Our second and third dive was organized through our resort so we didn’t need to go far. The dive spots we just 5 minutes from the shore, so easy! We went below the surface about 90 feet saw a ton of parrot fish, lobster, and a friendly reef shark who followed us around. We thought we might see lionfish, but did not.

Lionfish – NOTE: This photo is not from the Belize reef but from the OdySea Aquarium

The Belize Barrier Reef is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System second largest reef on the planet running from Cancun, Mexico to Honduras.

Jungle Adventure

One of our tours took us to the mainland to see the Mayan Ruins of Lamanai. From our resort it took about 3 hours to get to the ruins. One hour on boat that was over the ocean and then a river. We are arrived in the village of Bomba.

Village of Bomba

From the Bomba, it was another hour drive to another place to pick up a boat. The road we were on is Central America’s equivalent to the United State’s Route 66. Our last boat ride was another hour. On this part of the trip we saw a baby crocodile, howler monkeys, anteater, bats, and tons of birds.

Baby crocodile, you can barely see it.
Bats on the tree.

Getting off the boat at the Lamanai Ruins, we heard this very loud sound. Not knowing what it was, we continued towards the ruins and it got louder and louder. Coming up over a little hill, we saw a tree shaking like crazy. Come to find out, it was howler monkeys making the sounds. Too distracted by the monkeys we turned around and see the Jaguar Temple. The area was occupied in the 16th Century, BC and was thought to be a vibrant city.

Face of a jaguar on the temple
Jaguar Temple
Jaguar face

Next was the Mask Temple which is estimated to been built in 200 BC. Since the temple have faces, it’s thought they are in honor of prominent people of the Mayans. Below the chin, is a crocodile snout which represents immortality.

Mask Temple
Mask Temple

One of the other temples is the High Temple which you can get a great view of the area when you climb to the top.

High Temple

On our way back it started raining. Not too hard but we were definitely getting wet. Before getting to the ocean waters, I saw a manatee flipping about in the water surrounded by mangroves (trees that live off of salt water). The waters were so choppy that the ponchos we purchased at Lamanai did not help to keep us dry with the buckets of ocean water being thrown on us.

Mangroves

Playing Tourist on the Island

Food

For the other part of our visit, we biked or rented a golf cart to get around the island. We tried some traditional Belizean foods like conch and chilmole soups, lionfish, and red snapper. Careful with the lionfish, they have tiny bones that I kept finding.

Conch Soup! Very tasty.
Chilmole Soup. Has a peppery taste to it, not spicy but peppery.
Traditional kitchen

Beach

One of the days we were told to check out Secret Beach but warned it wasn’t so secret. So why not check it out, we didn’t have anything else planned. We took a golf cart, thank goodness, because it was about 45 minutes. Secret Beach had a couple bars and a beach area to hang out. It was nice but the beer was WAY overpriced. We were offered some rum with a snake in the bottle! We did not try it and I was not tempted.

Secret Beach
Snake Rum – No Thank You

Local Spots or Maybe Tourist Traps

While there we checked out the Truck Stop which was a spot with shipping containers repurposed as walk up restaurants and a bar.

We hung out at Carlo & Ernie’s Runway Bar where you can watch the prop planes land and take off. We watched the sunset from Crocs Sunset Sports Bar.

Sunset from Crocs

Enjoyed blended pina coladas at the Paco’s Tiki Bar on the beach.

Sunrise from our resort

We Came, We Saw, We Selfied

Lamanai Ruins

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