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“This hotel is 'fine' at best (read this for a British point of view!)”

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Corona del Mar Hotel & Apartments
Ranked #4 of 21 San Pedro B&B and Inns
Reviewed 21 February 2009

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.

  • Stayed: February 2009, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank Discobunny
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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310 - 316 of 461 reviews

Reviewed 14 February 2009

Corona Del Mar is small and therefore very intimate. The staff at CDM absolutely guarantees my stay there next year.

Ernesto and Marlemi will handle your room booking and your multitude of questions with ease, they'll also happily call and reserve any number of excursions for you. Frank will bless you with his "I'm 110% GOOD" attitude and maybe fry you up some yummy plantains for breakfast! Addy and Mariam will keep your room clean with snowy white sheets and towels, and even chat for a few minutes when they have time. And finally, hotel security, that would be Gilbert, will chat with you about the weather, the island or what it's like where you live when he's making his rounds at night. Take the time to speak with Helen who owns the hotel when she's out with her dog Sunny....she's a lovely lady.

Now for the secondary stuff, (as far as I'm concerned)..... the hotel is well maintained, clean and very comfortable. I stayed in one of the lagoon facing rooms and was quite happy since the hotel is on the beach anyway. Every morning when the staff arrives they get the coffee brewing right away for breakfast at 7AM on the patio facing the ocean. Shortly thereafter they begin to bring out boiled eggs, fresh fruit, (watermelon, papaya, pineapple, oranges and delicious bananas from a tree on the premises) whole wheat bread for toast with jelly, peanut butter and margarine, along with cinnamon bread and bisquits. This is a great place to meet other people staying at the hotel.

Woody's Wharf, owned by Corona Del Mar is right in front of the hotel. There's a good sized deck at the end of the pier for sunning and swimming. Excursion companies will gladly pick you up right there for your trips. Many interesting local fisherman and guides have their boats docked here and it's fun to talk with them. The beach is clean, raked by Frank every morning and there are plenty of chairs and lounges, including a palapa to get out of the sun.

I happened to use Searious Adventures for my excursions. They do a super job, are very professional and provide a lot of education. Ernesto booked many hotel guests with the sailboat, Rum Punch, and when I spoke with these people they were delighted with their trips, so I would also recommend them.

The hotel is an easy 1/2 mile beach walk to town or you can walk the street side. Highly recommended dining is George's Kitchen on the street side of the hotel, it's convenient and tasty, served up by George and Maria. His grilled shrimp are fantastic. There's a pizza place next to George's called Pepperoni's that's quite good. In town I enjoyed eating at Elvi's Kitchen, Caliente, Jambel, and Wild Mango.

I love Ambergris Caye and can no longer imagine surviving the horrible winters without an escape here. Corona Del Mar has spoiled me...and no frilly, stuffy resort will do. I'll never stay anywhere else again!

  • Stayed: January 2009
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2  Thank RedHeadDo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 February 2009

Clean environment, convenient but not to close to the center of everything. Friendly family atmosphere.

  • Stayed: February 2009, travelled with friends
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2  Thank maruke57
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 February 2009

Corona Del Mar is the absolute Best! I would never stay anywhere else. If you are looking for a place to call home while you are on vacation this is the place to stay. The staff is wonderful! We had a couple of great dinners with them with the fresh fish we caught right out in front of the hotel on the beach. Couldn't of asked for a better dinner. They are soooo helpful at the front desk, anything you ask for they can do. Housekeeping was great, the room was always cleaned and they even did our laundry for us!! Frank is great at horseshoes except when we come to town! haha! The rooms are very cozy and have wonderful views of the ocean and sunrises. I have traveled to many places in the Carribean and this is by far my favorite place to vacation and of course my favorite hotel. This is our second year here and plan on returning next year again. You get free rum punch all day long!! Not far from town, it is a very nice walk down the beach. I felt very safe at the hotel and anywhere on the island. This is the place to stay.

  • Stayed: January 2009, travelled with friends
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1  Thank vacationgirl8
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 January 2009

We loved Cororna Del Mar!! Friendly staff, nice rooms, excellent view, good free breakfast, all in all a great overall expereince!

  • Stayed: January 2009, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank leosus25
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 January 2009

Excellent place to stay. Recomended by friend. Place was as good as stated by friend and even better. Staff @ hotel were wonderful and very pleasant. Staff were able to accomodate all of our needs and wants. Staff also had great suggestions for trips to do and also resturants to satisfy our hungers and such. Our experience in San Pedro was that much more rewarding after following suggestions from staff @ Corona del Mar. It is so nice to see a staff that are not only willing to fulfill your holiday needs but follow up to make sure that you enjoyed your stay and that you also enjoyed the suggestions that were made by the staff. But beware if your horseshoe skills are not up to par then Frank from the hotel staff is quite willing to teach you some finer points in horseshoes as well as a little leason in humility. Our crew can't wait until the day we return to enjoy Corona del Mar's hospitality again.
Rik Wedgwood and crew
Cochrane, Alberta, Canada.

Stayed: December 2008
3  Thank CochraneCrew
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 November 2008

My girlfriend and I just came home from the BEST vacation either of us has ever had. Our stay at Corona Del Mar was way above our expectations in every regard. The wonderful staff treated us like family and greeted us every day with an enthusiasm that is sorely lacking at other caribbean destinations. Our room was plenty big enough, very clean and the view was to die for. We could find no faults with the facilities, and the staff took care of our every need. We would highly recommend the Corona Del Mar to anyone who wants a very casual, laid back and tourist friendly hotel in Belize. Our sincere thanks to Ernesto and the wonderful ladies that operate this quaint little piece of paradise. We are already making plans to return this time next year..

Bill & Bonnie

  • Stayed: November 2008, travelled as a couple
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Thank billnmphs
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Corona del Mar Hotel & Apartments

Address: Coconut Drive, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Phone Number:
Region: Belize > Belize Cayes > Ambergris Caye > San Pedro
Amenities:
Business Centre with Internet Access Kitchenette Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 21 B&Bs / Inns in San Pedro
Price Range: £56 - £130 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:2.5 star — Corona del Mar Hotel & Apartments 2.5*
Number of rooms: 18
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 
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Also Known As:
Corona Del Mar Hotel And Apartments
Corona Del Mar San Pedro
Corona Del Mar Hotel & Apartments Belize/San Pedro

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