Tips and Tricks on Traveling to Belize
Hashtag 59 would like to welcome our newest contributor, Stacey K! She is a PADI certified Advance Open Water diver always in search of an adventure in or out of the water. A fundraiser by trade, Stacey is involved in her community, is always down for a glass of wine and has the most welcoming heart out of anyone I know! Stacey recently traveled to Belize over the holidays and is sharing her trip, along with some diving attractions for you!
La Isla Bonita
Madonna’s 1986 hit, “La Isla Bonita” was written about San Pedro, Belize on Ambergris Cay. I have been home for a week, but like the 80s pop icon, I am still dreaming of San Pedro.
What was once a sleepy fishing town has developed into a traveling destination. San Pedro has kept intact its original charm and island pace with direct access to the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. Tourism in Belize has increased exponentially over the past decade and growth and new development are evident. However, San Pedro does not have a resort feel and it is less than a block walk in most places to get off of the strip and find authentic Belizean cuisine. The country’s official language is English, but you will hear Spanish, Creole, and Garifuna (indigenous language). Official government cars and golf carts are the only vehicles permitted on the island. Ambergris Cay is 25 miles long and 1 mile in width which allows beautiful vistas for sunrise and sunset.
Once you arrive in Belize City, you have two options to get to Ambergris Cay. The first is a prop-style plane that holds 10 – 12 people. It is a 17-minute flight and they run every half hour to hour. It is easiest to book this leg of the flight once you land in Belize City through Tropic Air. Cost is $89 one way. You can also take the water taxi to San Pedro. The boats run every hour or so and cost $75 one-way. The ride is about two hours. Most hotels include a taxi ride from the San Pedro airport to the hotel. Cabs will be waiting to help load your luggage and take you to your final destination.
WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed at the Banana Beach Hotel. The accommodations are modest but had everything needed. A room with a balcony and partial ocean view are $105/night and that was during peak season. One of the biggest benefits was the attached pier where our diving outfit would pick us up directly. Divina was the onsite restaurant and known by the locals to have the best ceviche in town. I can vouch for that to be true! Banana Beach is 1.5 miles from town. Along the beach, it is an easy walk, but it is worth looking at accommodations closer to the town’s center or even north on the island. Although, south of the main center has more access to local cuisine and shops.
Plan to spend your Thursday night at Wahoo’s Lounge. Arrive by 6:00 pm to place your bets on the Chicken Drop. A chicken is placed on a board with 100 squares. Whichever square it does its business on, the lucky ticket holder of that number wins cash! It is hysterical live entertainment and worth witnessing.
My attraction to Belize was for the scuba diving and I was not disappointed. Divers, it lives up to the hype. I went through Island Divers for the local dives. They are an Authorized 5 Star PADI Dive Center with small boats going out daily. The owner, Rudy, and his son Rudy Jr. guide most of the dives and are true experts of the sea. The reef is a 5 – 10-minute boat ride off the shore. Nurse sharks hear the boats and follow the guides like they are pet dogs. Reef sharks keep their distance but were present on most dives. The coral was vibrant and the schools of fish were plenty. Conchs, lobsters, eels, and crabs were visible on almost every dive. Lionfish (an invasive species) are prevalent and it is legal for guides to spear them. Watching the nurse sharks feed on the speared lionfish was exhilarating. On one occasion, the sharks did not eat the speared lionfish, to which Rudy brought it to the surface, filleted it, added lime juice, onion salt and we feasted on the freshest ceviche I have ever had. Moments like these are why I travel!
Locals and travelers alike recommend Shark Alley. I did not go there, but the feedback I received from this location was that it was overcrowded. However, if you are snorkeler, it is a good opportunity to be up-close to large wildlife. For divers, you will have similar experiences along the reef underwater.
“Tropical the island breeze
All of nature wild and free
This is where I long to be
La isla bonita.”
Yes, Madonna, I could not agree more!
Have you been to Belize or have any questions?! Put your comments below!
And sign up in the footer with your email to be entered in our quarterly drawing.
Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Stacey and the Hashtag 59 Team