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Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

houston. tx
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161 posts
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Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

Hello,

I am in the beginning stages of planning a short respite from Houston, TX to Belize. After days of research, I am still unclear as to where we should spend our time. Here is our situation: We normally take vacations to an area that spans a 4 week period (we are not tour folks, we are independent travelers).......for this trip we are limited to around 8-9 days and are considering travelling mid January - or early February. We want to go cave tubing, see the Mayan ruins (possibly Actun Tunichil Muknai – are open to other suggestions), see tons of wildlife and scenery, and whatever else is a must see. We do not scuba -- so I think our best option to see the blue hole (which is must see for me) is via helicopter............(I would appreciate suggestions as to who to hire).

My issue is trying to figure out where we should spend our time………..I’ve looked into options like The Phoenix Resort, Cayo Espanto, and other private islands…………….and am now totally confused . We are not on a limited budget and would appreciate any input offered.

We usually rent a vehicle and travel between destinations; however, this trip is stumping me. I suppose it’s because there are so many wonderful options.

Any advice that you can offer to narrow my scope/focus will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

jj

Saint James City...
Destination Expert
for San Pedro
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15,140 posts
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1. Re: Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

If you want any beach time at all, I'd split your trip. Spend some time at one of the jungle lodges around San Ignacio. Since you have a good budget, I'd look at Chaa Creek, although I'm certainly no expert on that part of the country.

Here's a link to the only helicopter service I know about:

http://www.astrumhelicopters.com/

If you want to go to Ambergris, perhaps you could combine your helicopter tour of the blue hole with a transfer to Ambergris.

Moab, Utah
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171 posts
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2. Re: Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

If you split your time between beach and jungle/ruins/wildlife, this is how it could break down:

Beach:

-Ambergris Caye (most popular island destination in Belize)

-Caye Caulker (another popular island, most popular with a younger crowd)

-Punta Gorda (not much beach but southern cayes accessible, very near jungle)

-Hopkins (wonderful lodging, but 20 miles from reef, also near jungle)

-Placencia (wonderful lodging, but 20 miles from reef, also near jungle)

-Turneffe Islands (most accessible atoll, has several resort options)

-Lighthouse Reef (has resort options + the Blue Hole)

-Glover's Reef (has several eco-resort options, the most remote part of Belize island life)

-Other islands with lodging but not as busy as Ambergris and Caye Caulker: Tobacco Caye, South Water Caye, Thatch Caye, Coco Plum Island

Jungle/ Mayan ruins/Wildlife:

Punta Gorda area

Placencia area

Hopkins area

Ian Anderson's Jungle Lodge

San Ignacio/Cayo area

Start with the jungle part... most of the activity options are the Cayo area, hands down. But that also requires a transfer 1/2way through if you wish to also visit an island or beach. Punta Gorda especially, but also Placencia and Hopkins have access to both beach and jungle. Ian Anderson's Jungle Lodge on the Hummingbird Highway has GREAT lodging options + great jungle, but again, it would require a transfer to switch over to the beach, but that might not bother you.

You also need to figure out which ruins you are most interested in. You can google Belize mayan ruins and start to narrow that down.

Most jungle lodges have great access to wildlife right from your cabana porch. Great birding is available all over the country, but Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is especially good.

When trying to figure out the beach, do you want island or coast? Big islands with many lodges and lots of nightlife and dining options or a single lodge, privately owned island that is harder to get to and more remote?

There is no way you are going to see all there is to see in 8-9 days, so all you need to do is at least pick one thing you absolutely must see, and that will give you a place to build your itinerary from. For example, you mentioned ATM cave. If that is a must do, you will want to stay in either the Cayo area or the Mountain Pine Ridge area. Since budget is not an issue, you might want luxury lodging, if so:

Mtn Pine Ridge:

Blancaneaux

Cayo:

Chaa Creek

Ka'ana Boutique Resort

So visit the websites of those 3 and decide how many days you want to spend there by figuring out which activities you want to do from there, then move on to the beach part. This is the technique I would use.

I know it's hard, but just remember, you'll have to come back and then you will know more about what you didn't get to this time!

Lucy

Union, New Jersey
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1 post
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3. Re: Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

Great suggestions!

I agree - spend a few days in one of the mountain resorts and then spend a few at the coastal areas. If you prefer a more upscale and well appointed resort with full amenities, and are thinking in the price range of Cayo Espanto, i suggest you contact and pre-arrange mountain time with a similarly well appointed resort in the mountain region near San Ignacio - that way you can arrange transport and transfers. Although rental cars make a nice way to see the country-side, the rental cars are sketchy and the roads have speed bumps every quarter mile or closer so you have to drive slow and be very very patient. Since i am not i prefer to spend my time at the resorts or sight seeing, and most tours can be arranged privately (again, if you are selecting a good resort, they will arrange the most well-trained and knowledgeable and reputable guides)

Although San Pedro is larger and busier amd attracts more tourism, it feels more like Tulum than Belize to me, and feels more city than coastal. There are hoards of tourists on golfcarts and it can get overcrowded. Of course Caya Espanto is a private island enclave and they can take ypu over to San Pedro for a day trip. San Pedro has nice places amd gritty places, like everywhere in Belize, and that is the charm. San Pedro is more Mezoamerican than Garufino

I prefer the town of Placencia for good Belizean vibe and the walking there is great. Turtle Inn and Roberts Grove are two of several better resorts Chabil Mar is also nice.

Hudson, Iowa
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202 posts
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4. Re: Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

Slickrock

Thanks for that list, I have been looking at things for months and still having trouble deciding, I think your list will help alot. Where do you think the best place to stay for spin cast fishing would be, we are on a medium budget.

Thanks

Moab, Utah
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171 posts
11 reviews
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5. Re: Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

I think the best fishing will be at one of Belize's Atolls: Turneffe Islands, Lighthouse Reef, or Glover's Reef. In the interest of full disclosure, we own one of the islands at Glovers.

The reason I suggest the atolls is because (1) the fishing is outstanding, and (2) fishing guides on the mainland of Belize are very expensive, not a 'medium' budget tour. If you stay at one of the atolls, you should be able to fish right off shore with no guide at all, which is what our guests do. Or if you buy a fishing package as many of the atoll resorts offer, you won't pay as much for the fishing because you are right there, no long boat ride to pay for.

So search on Trip Advisor for "Lighthouse Reef", "Turneffe Islands" and "Glover's Reef" to see all of the options. Once you have a list, you can then Google each place and go to their websites.

Other islands that undoubtedly have fishing right offshore are the "other islands" I listed earlier: Tobacco Caye, South Water Caye, Thatch Caye, Coco Plum Island.

The question is can you wade right in and fish without hiring a guide? I know you can at all of the islands at Glovers, but I am only assuming you can at Lighthouse and Turneffe. I have also been to Tobacco Caye and South Water Caye, and I do believe you can fish right there by those islands without having to hire a boat.

One final consideration. The atoll lodges are remote so I believe all of them have a minimum stay. No one can afford to run boats out to places like this on a daily basis, so that will definitely increase the budget; you won't be able to stay for only 2 nights. They likely have only a Saturday boat (7 nights on the island) or a Saturday and Wednesday boat like we do (3 or 4 nights on the island).

Lucy

houston. tx
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161 posts
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6. Re: Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

Really great information. I'll be back in touch soon -- after I've had a chance to check out some of these terrific suggestions. I'm sure I'll have additional questions then.

Thanks All,

jj

santa elena cayo...
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79 posts
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7. Re: Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

I would stay at Cayo Espanto which is a very unique high end Boutique resort and have the helicopter pick you up at the resort or at the air strip in San Pedro and then go to Mahogany Hall in the San Ignacio area. Mahogany Hall is another high end Boutique resort. This way you can see the Blue hole and the ruins and caves. Try and get a tour of the Crystal cave near the inland Blue hole it is really something to see. Have fun.

San Ignacio, Belize
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8. Re: Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

I'd look at Victoria House and Chaa Creek. Two of the nicest properties in Central America. They have a package deal together so that would take care of any transfer worries. http://www.chaacreek.com/packages/cayos/

Have a luxurious time!

houston. tx
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161 posts
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9. Re: Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

Hi Lucy,

Thanks so much for all your wonderful suggestions!! After reviewing them all this is where I’m stuck.

We live in Texas and have a condo on the beach in Galveston………so the lure of a waterfront holiday is not exactly what we are seeking this time around. Granted the color of the water in Belize far exceeds what we have -- we are not scuba divers, are in our 60’s, and the lure of the water simply is not there. Our interest lies totally in the jungle experience. The flora, fauna, and relaxation are our priorities this time aroud.

With that in mind, and based on your earlier response, I’ve narrowed down our options to: Ka’ana Boutique Resort, Blancaneaux Lodge, Chaa Creek, and Cave’s Branch Adventure Lodge.

If you were looking for the ultimate luxury jungle experience (with all creature comforts) which of these would you choose? Keeping in mind one of our ultimate priorities is air conditioning of some sort at night. To that end I was sorely disappointed to learn that Chaa Creek only offers a/c in only one accommodation that is way too big for the two of us.

I love the idea of the Ka’ana – however, from what I’ve been able gather on the internet it doesn’t appear to be surrounded by the jungle……………………..thoughts?

To further cloud confuse me………….I loved the look of the deluxe treehouse at Hamanasi; however, steps from the treehouse is the water……………not my idea of the “jungle”. …….thoughts?

Sadly, I’m still confused.

Any further help you wish to offer will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much!

Jodel

Davie, Florida
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11,187 posts
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10. Re: Too many options....Need advise on narrowing scope / focus

spend some time on you tube looking at your options