My husband and I have just got back from a three and a half week trip to Guatemala and Belize - the first two and half in Guatemala and the last week in Belize. The Corona Del Mar was our second stop in Belize after spending a couple of nights at Hidden Valley Inn in Mountain Pine Ridge (a nature reserve). We were there for four nights from 11-15th February 2009.
We flew from Belize City's municipal airport to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye via Caye Caulker with Tropicair - a quick and fun trip in a small plane with just 12 passenger seats and it was with great anticipation that we arrived at our little bit of 'Caribbean paradise' for a bit of beach and snorkelling for the last part of our holiday. Ambergris is dubbed 'La Isla Bonita' - and I wondered if it was the inspiration for Madonna's song of the same name which begins 'Last night I dreamt of San Pedro' - that's one for Google!
Having picked up a map at the municipal airport, we'd found our hotel on the map and decided it didn't look far from the airport, so we'd walk there. We collected our rucksacks and headed off down Coconut Drive. This was a mistake. It was boiling hot, our bags weighed a ton and it was a 15-minute walk away from the airport (which is near the centre of town), so we arrived in a sweaty mess! Definitely advise a taxi unless you have very little luggage or are a sucker for punishment! A taxi costs BZ$8-10.
Reception was friendly and laid back, welcoming us and congratulating us when we said it was our honeymoon. They said we looked a bit hot (no kidding!) and pointed us to the free rum and rum-free punches on the bar. Don't get too excited - it was refreshing but essentially bright orange tropical-flavoured squash.
We were given the key to our room - 205 - on the first floor, good size with a double bed, balcony looking out over their jetty 'Woody's Wharf' and the sea - nice view! The furniture was fine - pretty old fashioned, and not at all stylish (not even in a relaxed beach-shack kind of a way) for example, there was a hideous turquoise bed spread with pictures of dolphins on it, but all clean enough and comfortable enough. We had a large fridge (the first on our whole trip) with a very large bottle of drinking water in it (nice touch), a sink and large mirror with fierce flourescent lighting above it (great for make-up) and a bathroom with toilet and shower. Not a sexy bathroom, but fine, with plenty of clean white towels and free soap. And a resident colony of tiny ants, but you know, live and let live - they gave us no trouble even if they were a bit disconcerting! There was a decent-sized TV, but unfortunately no BBC Worldwide (despite what it said on the channel list) - all the TV is American or Spanish - you have to rely on CNN for news (give FOX a miss unless you want biased reporting!). I can heartily recommend the rodeo competitions for 10 mins entertainment though - that's something you don't get back home!
The main 'action' is in town, a 15-20min walk away. Walk along the seafront though - it's much nicer than the road and there's a wonderful sea breeze - the island's saving grace! When you get to the Blue Water Grill, you've got to the Seabreeze Hotel which is opposite the airport. We ate here a couple of times - once for dinner and once for lunch. It was fine - a tasty burger, black bean chilli soup and a small (and expensive - well, the whole Ambergris experience is expensive) mixed grill of lobster (it was the very end of the season), shrimp and snapper. We shared it because of the expense (BZ$60 - about £25) but it wasn't very filling so we both had 'Apple Crisp' (crumble) for dessert and it was delicious - beautifully cooked and very cinnamony. That helped! Don't bother with the house red wine though - expensive, served cold and just not good, even when it warmed up - just wait till you get back to the UK. From here and further into town are the nicest restaurants, all generally serving dinner from 6-9pm. We didn't ever book (although this meant we struggled on Valentine's Day!) and just wandered up the front and ate anywhere we liked the look of, overlooking the sea. You never get tired of that view!
We ate at Mexican restaurant Caliente a couple of times - a tasty Xochitl (‘sho-shay’) soup which could have been much spicier, quesadillas, a creamy coconut chicken curry and my husband had catch of the day - a whole snapper, scored and fried up, eyes, teeth and all! He loved it. Good Mojitos too - very limey which I like. This is also the location of the infamous 'chicken drop' on Wednesday nights. Don't miss it if you're in town as it's bizarre and hilarious. A pen is laid out with numbers on the floor. People pay to bet on a number then a chicken is dropped into the pen and the winner is the person with the number the chicken defecates on...Got to be seen to be believed! The atmosphere is awesome.
We also ate at Lily's which the guidebook said was best for seafood - it was fine but not great. We ate at Nautica, a restaurant hidden on the first floor above Fido's, which gave it a feel of exclusivity. The friendly American owner talked us through the menu and specials, and we had stone crab and lobster skewers - the stone crab was particularly amazing. In fact, even the free appetizer of cheesy garlic jack (fried tortilla) was really good, which we felt was encouraging! It wasn't cheap, but for the first time in Belize, it really felt worth it. I had a couple of glasses of Zinfandel rosé which was nice (but not cold enough - I asked for ice) and we shared a brownie for pudding. We asked for it without the espresso topping (why would you do that?!) and hot (as it would have been cold), and if we could have vanilla ice cream with it. As this was a deal breaker for us, they said yes, but we noticed they had to go out and get some! Now that's good service! We noticed someone else had the brownie and icecream too, so hopefully they will adopt this simple yet classic combo!!
The main attraction of Ambergris for us was the beach and the snorkelling. However, there is no real beach. If you want beach, you will be disappointed - as we and several others we spoke to were. There is a tiny bit of slender beach, the best bit was by Ramon's Village, so you can always go there, but its 20 metres wide at most. Yes, that is tiny. It shelves gently into the Caribbean sea which is perfect for paddling, swimming or general mucking about – and they’ve cleared away most of the sea grass. You can also swim off the jetty at Ramon's - a tiny bit has been sectioned off around the pier, which is (relatively) safe from boats and you can snorkel round here and look at the fishies under the pier. Better still is a trip with one of the many companies to Hol Chan Marine Park and Shark Ray alley, just off the coast. We went with Belize Diving Adventures (orange boat) who were the most friendly and helpful. The cost is the same everywhere - US$25 for a two-hour trip, plus US$10 marine park fee. This makes it about BZ$150 for two which makes it about £35 each. Yep, you can pay in Belize dollars or US dollars everywhere - I would advise taking more US dollars as you can't get US out of the ATMs and you'll need US$35 per person to leave the country as they won't let you pay departure tax in Belize dollars! The snorkelling trip was great - safe, a good guide, only four of us on it which was brilliant (which wouldn't happen with a large company) and we saw turtles, eagle rays, sting rays, nurse sharks, moray eels, snapper, grouper, barracuda, millions of other fish and coral. Definitely recommend it - snorkelling or diving is what people come here for. The Blue Hole is here too which will appeal if you’re a diver, but trips cost about US$200. Yikes.
So, back to the hotel. Breakfast was included. A loaf of wholemeal bread to toast, a large pot of spread, tasteless sweet jam, some fruit, some boiled eggs, some sweet brioche-type bread, coffee and rum-free punch/squash - absolutely fine! Not great - take it or leave it really, but I actually liked having plain wholemeal toast for breakfast - refreshingly simple after two weeks of eating out.
We bought some beer and food for the fridge and used the bottle opener on the bar downstairs to get into our bottles. The staff were totally cool about this. We drank on our balcony or on a sun lounger by the sea. When we left, checkout was quick and the guy at the desk was really helpful, ordering us a taxi and just generally being friendly.
There's really not a lot else to say about this place. The staff are friendly, the rooms are ok. It's a totally unremarkable hotel, and like the review by a fellow Brit, I can't work out why so many people (mostly Americans) have given this place such high ratings and rave reviews. As you wander along the shoreline, almost every single hotel looks more inviting than the Corona Del Mar! Great if you want somewhere reasonably priced, quiet and safe and don’t care about style – or mind about the 15min walk to the town centre.
Ambergris Caye is Costa del USA. Its attractions are the sunshine, wonderful sea breeze and maybe the snorkelling, but that's it - it's overpriced and very American and has little character or charm of its own - and no real beaches. After being initially disappointed, we got used to it and softened, learning to enjoy the lack of excitement and activity and appreciate the simple things like palm trees wafting in the breeze, sitting on Ramon's jetty drying off in the sun after a swim and watching the pelicans, but if I'd had more than 4 days there, I'd have gone mad with boredom - and gone bankrupt in the process.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Corona Del Mar Hotel & Apartments, your home away from home. A nice beautiful 15 minutes walk along the beach to town. Not too far from town but yet far enough from the hustle and bustle. Enjoy our free rum punch and fruit punch all day long. Once you are here, leave everything to us. We guarantee your vacation of a lifetime. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, TripOnline SA, Ebookers, HotelsClick and Cancelon so you can book your Corona del Mar Hotel & Apartments reservations with confidence. We help millions of travellers each month to find the perfect hotel for both holiday and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Corona Del Mar Hotel And Apartments
- Corona Del Mar San Pedro
- Corona Del Mar Hotel & Apartments Belize/San Pedro