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Trip Report - First trip to Belize

Elk Grove...
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Trip Report - First trip to Belize

My husband and I just returned from an incredible two week vacation in Belize. I received a lot of help on this forum, so I am posting a trip report hoping it might help someone else with their planning. I will start by saying that I love planning our vacations. It is fun for me. I am one of those obsessive folks who make a binder for each trip we take. (I know that SOME of you can relate to this!) This trip was a challenge for me, but in the end, our research paid off, as it resulted in an itinerary that perfectly suited us, and everything went smoothly. I found the following guide books informative and helpful: Lonely Planet Belize, Fodor’s Belize: with a Side Trip to Guatemala, and Insight Guide to Belize.

My husband and I are in our mid-fifties, and we love wildlife, SCUBA/snorkeling, and fishing, so it seemed that Belize would be a good fit for us. (And it was!)

I got a little wordy when writing this report, so I will break it into several posts.

Elk Grove...
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1. Re: Trip Report - First trip to Belize

We arrived at Belize International airport at about 6:30 AM on Saturday, July 5th. We had reservations at Isla Marisol on Glover’s Atoll for our first week. Despite being tired from our 14 hour, overnight journey, we decided to take full advantage of our first day by hiring a driver to transport us from Belize International Airport to Dangriga, where we would catch the boat to Glover’s Reef. Along the way, we stopped for breakfast, to visit the zoo and to see St. Herman’s Blue Hole. It was a great day, and we arrived at the Pelican Beach Hotel in Dangriga in time to have a nice lunch before taking the 36 mile boat ride to Isla Marisol.

We used Discounted Belize Shuttles and Tours for two different transfers, and we were very pleased with their service. Paul Lanza was prompt and professional with his email correspondence, the prices were reasonable, the vehicles in good condition with working A/C, and both drivers were great. I highly recommend this company (www.discountedbelizeshuttlesandtours.com/)

A note about the zoo…. I do not typically get too excited about zoos, but I kept reading about how nice the Belize Zoo is. We were very glad that we made the effort to visit the Belize Zoo. It is hard to describe it, but I think that most people who are interested in animals would enjoy spending an hour or two at this very special place. I was less enthused about the inland Blue Hole, but it was worthy of a quick look.

Elk Grove...
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2. Re: Trip Report - First trip to Belize

The week we spend at Isla Marisol Resort was a dream come true for us. I wrote a separate review of the resort (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g291964-d491724-r217132188-Isla_Marisol_Resort-Glovers_Reef_Atoll_Belize_Cayes.html#UR217132188 ) , but suffice it to say that we loved every minute of our week-long stay. We were the only guests at the resort that week, which meant we missed chatting with other guests over drinks and dinner, but it also meant we had the friendly, helpful staff to ourselves, which was great. We SCUBA dived, kayaked, snorkeled and fished (both from shore and from a boat). I will be dreaming of the coral reef there for a long time. My husband caught countless bonefish with his fly rod right in front of our cabana, which was about 6 feet from the water’s edge. We also caught fish with our spinning rods right off the boat dock at night (one of which was a 5 foot nurse shark!)

Elk Grove...
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3. Re: Trip Report - First trip to Belize

After our first week in paradise, we headed to San Ignacio. Our driver from Discounted Belize Shuttles and Tours was waiting for us when our boat arrived in Dangriga. He drove us to the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, where we would spend 3 nights. It is a very nice hotel right in town, and we were very happy with our choice to stay there. (http://www.sanignaciobelize.com/) Our room was very comfortable, and the service we received from the staff was excellent. We also enjoyed the onsite Iguana Project more than I expected we would. If you have an hour to spare while in the area, I recommend you check it out.

While in San Ignacio, we did the ATM Cave tour and an overnight tour to Tikal, both of which were booked through Maximum Adventure Tours. We were pleased with the pre-trip email communication, the prices and the tours themselves, and we would not hesitate to recommend Max. (http://www.sanignaciobelizetours.com/ )

I had agonized over the decision to go on a tour of the ATM cave. I knew that it would be difficult for me because I am out of shape and my vision is bad, but I was encouraged to try it, and I am glad I did. Make no mistake, it was indeed challenging for me, but it was do-able. The guide took good care of me, giving me a hand when needed. For most participants, this is an exciting, fun adventure. However, if you are not young and/or not in good condition, you should certainly do some research and watch a few YouTube videos so you can make an informed decision as to whether it is right for you. I offer the following tips knowing what I now know…. Take a snack, such as a granola bar, with you and eat it before you enter the cave. We had an early breakfast, and we didn’t eat lunch until we returned to the parking lot after the tour/hike. It was nearly 3:00 by then, and I was famished. Take a towel, dry clothes and flip flops to change into after you return to the parking lot. You will be very happy to remove those wet clothes and shoes before the drive back to your hotel!

Elk Grove...
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4. Re: Trip Report - First trip to Belize

The next day we departed at around noon for Tikal. Max picked us up at our hotel, helped us with the border crossing, and delivered us to the Tikal Inn, where he handed us over to a knowledgeable, local guide. We arrived around 3:30, which was just in time to check into our room before heading out for the “sunset tour.” After the afternoon tour, we enjoyed a swim in the pool and then a nice dinner. The Tikal Inn uses a generator to make electricity, and it is only on from 6:00 – 9:30 PM, so we retired early for the evening. This was not a problem as we were meeting our guide the next morning at 4:40 for the sunrise tour! The Tikal Inn is a very basic hotel, but fine for our one night, and we loved staying right in the park. The most pleasant surprise about the hotel was the food. It was really quite good.

Max delivered us safely back to the San Ignacio Resort Hotel the following afternoon. We spent one more night in San Ignacio enjoying our cool room, the beautiful grounds of the hotel and a nice dinner in town. The following morning we caught a 7:00 AM Tropic Air flight to San Pedro. This was my first flight on such a small airplane, and I was a bit nervous about it. It turned out to be a great experience from start to finish. The Tropic Air facilities were very comfortable, the staff friendly, the flight on time, and the scenery was spectacular

Elk Grove...
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5. Re: Trip Report - First trip to Belize

We spent our last three days in San Pedro where we stayed at the Cocotal Inn and Cabanas. We booked the beach cabana, and we couldn’t have been more pleased with our choice. Our room was beautiful with A/C that worked great, the onsite pool was delightful, and the staff provided excellent service. http://www.cocotalbelize.com/

Cocotal Inn is about 2.5 miles north of town, which suited us just fine, as we prefer a quieter setting. There are numerous good restaurants within easy walking and biking distance. Also, most of the tour companies and boat shuttles to some of the nicer, remote restaurants will pick you up right there at the Cocotal pier. The inn has bikes and kayaks that you can use free of charge. We took advantage of the bikes, but didn’t ever use the kayaks. The wind was howling the day we had planned to paddle out to the reef, so we decided to not to try it. Apparently if it is calm, it is an easy 20 minute paddle to the reef from there.

The only tour we did while on Ambergris Caye was a Searious Adventures catamaran sailing trip to Caye Caulker with a snorkeling stop at Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley. This was an excellent day! The boat was comfortable, and the crew was awesome. I will say that the snorkeling paled in comparison to Glover’s, but it was still fun. Shark Ray Alley was a little weird to me, but it was certainly something you don’t get to do every day. http://www.seariousadventures.com/

We had dinner at a nice restaurant called Aji Tapa Bar and Restaurant two times. http://ajitapabar.com/ In our experience, the beach setting is magical, the service good, but the food only average. Our meal the first night was not the best, but because it was a short walk from our hotel and such a beautiful place, we decided to give it another chance and order different items. I had read some fantastic reviews, so I was a little surprised by our experience, but then I heard it has recently changed hands. We ate our last meal at Matachica. They provided complimentary boat transport from our pier. It was an excellent meal in a beautiful setting… perfect for our last night in Belize.

Elk Grove...
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6. Re: Trip Report - First trip to Belize

In summary, we LOVED Belize! We have been on many vacations, and this was one of our best so far. We especially enjoyed our time at Glover’s Atoll. If you like snorkeling, diving and/or fishing, and you are happy with basic accommodations and food, the additional cost and effort to get to this very special destination is worthy of your consideration. We are already plotting our return…

Elk Grove...
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7. Re: Trip Report - First trip to Belize

One other thing I meant to mention.... Our flight home was a Delta flight that departed BZE at 9:20 on Saturday morning. Delta instructed us to arrive at the international airport at least 3 hours before our flight's departure time. Tropic Air had added a 6:00 AM flight from San Pedro to BZE just to accommodate folks on this flight, so we booked that. Our Tropic Air flight left San Pedro right on time, arriving at BZE by around 6:20. Upon arrival we learned that the Delta check-in counter wasn't yet open and the immigration officers don't even open their stations until 7:30 AM. We definitely should have slept an extra hour and taken the 7:00 AM flight from San Pedro. Maybe it is busier at BZE other days or later in the day, but that early on a Saturday morning, 2 hours would have been plenty!

Waterford...
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8. Re: Trip Report - First trip to Belize

Sounds like you had a great time! I enjoyed reading your posts. My husband and I are starting to plan our spring 2015 trip and I am thinking about Belize. Thanks for the info.

Kew Gardens, New...
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9. Re: Trip Report - First trip to Belize

My husband and I are leaving for Belize in 18 days, we have not planned anything yet. Thanks for your info, its extremely helpful. Share more if you can.

Kew Gardens, New...
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10. Re: Trip Report - First trip to Belize

We are in excellent shape and ready to travel hard!