Belize, November 2019


BELIZE, DAY 1: TRAVEL, HANNAH'S, MAYA MOUNTAIN LODGE

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Belize has been on our travel wish list for some time, and in 2019 we finally got the change to go!  We decided to split our time in Belize, spending the first part of the trip inland exploring the jungles and Mayan ruins, then spend the remainder of the trip in the beautiful waters on Belize's coast.

We had a pretty easy flight down.  Leaving from Atlanta, it's a short 2 hour flight to Miami, followed by another 2 hour flight from Miami to Belize.  We left Thursday morning and were in Belize City by lunchtime. 

From Belize City, we had a 2 hour bus ride to the town of San Ignacio, in western Belize close to the Guatemalan border.  We arrived at the Mayan Mountain Lodge mid-afternoon and our first order of business was to relax.  The kids alternated between the pool and the hammocks most of the afternoon as we explored the grounds of the lodge. 

For dinner, we took a short taxi ride into town and ate at Hannah's, a popular local spot.  The food, especially the pork tacos, was delicious and the whole meal for a family of 5 only set us back $26!

The first day was a success - mostly a travel day but we got settled at the Lodge, explored the town of San Ignacio, and had a great meal.  Day 2 would take us into Guatemala to visit the Mayan Ruins at Tikal - see that trip in the next update!

BELIZE DAY 2: TIKAL

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We kicked off Friday with a big cultural breakfast at the lodge.  I had the Mayan, Susan had the Creole, and the kids all went with the pancakes.  The lodge had some of the best food we had on the trip!  Once our bellies were full, we loaded up in the van with our guide for the 2 hour trip to Tikal,  an ancient Mayan citadel in the rainforests of northern Guatemala.

The drive to Tikal was interesting.  We stopped at the Guatemalan border, crossed over on foot, then switched vehicles as a Guatemalan guide would take us the remainder of the way.   The ruins at Tikal were impressive, containing 12 major pyramids built between 600 and 900 AD.  So impressive, it served as the home for many scenes in the Star Wars movies. (Colt was very impressed by this!) 

Exploring the Tikal grounds involved a good deal of hiking, which the kids mostly handled well.  We ate lunch on site as part of our tour package before making the drive back to Belize.  Once back at the lodge, we spent some time relaxing at the lodge grounds before having dinner at Erva's, which was well recommended.  Our experience was not good, however, they were out of a number of menu items, food was average, and service was sub-par. 

Tikal was a great day trip and one that I and hopefully the kids will remember for a very long time!  Check out the pics!

BELIZE DAY 3: NOCH CHE'EN CAVES

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On Saturday, we woke up and had another fantastic breakfast at the Mayan Mountain Lodge.  Really, I can't say enough about how fresh and delicious their breakfast offerings were!  Susan and I had the Mayan and Mestizo dishes this morning and the kids had a bowl of yogurt with granola and fresh fruit.  After breakfast, we packed up and said goodbye to the Mayan Lodge and set out for the Nohoch Che'en Caves to do some tubing.

The cave tubing was amazing and one of the highlights of the trip.  We had a relaxing yet adventurous float down the Caves Branch River, floating through a series of caves.  The kids (and us too!) loved the adventure and hopefully created some life-long memories. 

After tubing, we grabbed a quick bite to eat along the road back to Belize City and from there ferried over to the island of Ambergris Caye.  The jungle portion of the trip was over and we'd spend the rest of the trip in/on the water. 

BELIZE DAY 4: SECRET BEACH

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On Sunday we planned to have a laid back day on Ambergris Caye.  We started the day off with a visit to Secret Beach, which despite the name is the most popular beach on the island.  It's lined with beachfront restaurants and bars.  We setup shop at Pirate's and had some frozen drinks and did some light snorkeling.  It wasn't a great snorkeling spot, but we did spot a large barracuda as soon as we got in the water. 

We opted not to eat at the beach, instead heading a little inland to The Truck Stop, a popular spot with an assortment of food truck style options.  Susan and I had Octopus/pork-belly and Tex-Mex tacos while the kids went with the safer option of cheese pizza. 

We spent the remainder of the day just chilling out around the pool and relaxing before our first scuba dive on Monday.


BELIZE DAY 5: HOL CHAN MARINE RESERVE

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Monday was the day we started training for in October.  Belize Dive Pro Center picked us up at our dock at 8am for our snorkel/dive combo adventure.  After checking in at the dive shop and getting our gear, we took the boat out to Hol Chan Marine Park, a marine reserve covering approximately 18 kmĀ² of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest.  Colt and I had an AMAZING dive, while Susan and the girls snorkeled.  Each of had a guide, and experienced the best snorkeling/dive that we've done.  We saw schools of eagle rays, nurse sharks, sea turtles, and countless species of fish. 

After our dive, we took the boat over to what's known as Shark Ray Alley, a popular spot known for its largely harmless nurse sharks and rays.  Local fishermen used to come to the spot to clean their catches, filling the waters with morsels that were perfect for the bottom feeding nurse sharks and rays.  Swimming with these creatures was an incredible experience! 

After our dive, we stopped at the Palapa Bar in San Pedro for lunch.  Colt and I started a tradition of burgers after diving during our certification training, and we continued it at the Palapa Bar with burgers for lunch.  They have a sweet waterfront spot with a swimming area - where that day a lionfish decided to hang out.  We did not get in the water there since they are venomous, but it was neat to see one up close.  Lionfish are an invasive species of fish and not good at all for the reef, so hopefully this one was harvested soon after. 

After lunch we did some grocery shopping while we were in town, then headed back to spend the rest of the afternoon at the villa.  We'd spend the rest of the day lounging sea side and watching movies once the sun went down.  What. A. Day.


BELIZE DAY 6: MANATEES, GOFF'S CAYE AND CAYE CAULKER

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We set out on a manatee watching tour, an all-day venture which would take us to Swallow Caye, a hot-spot for viewing the manatee up close, a snorkeling stop at Goff's Caye for a BBQ lunch and some snorkeling, and a stop at Caye Caulker.  The kids even did a little tarpon feeding - just ask Sadie about it!  All in all it was a fun day on the water - we enjoyed the stop at Goff's Caye but Caye Caulker is the only one of these spots we would do again.  We finished the day off with dinner at The Dive Bar, a well recommended spot but not one we could recommend.  Food was good but the service was not.  Still it was a great day in Belize (as they all tend to be!).  Just check out the pics!

BELIZE DAY 7: SAN PEDRO

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We winded down a fun-packed week with a  relaxing day on Ambergris Caye.  After a stroll through the town of San Pedro, we had a delicious brunch at Estel's By the Sea.  We'd spend the rest of the day visiting shops around town and not really doing anything of note - a perfect end to our trip!  On Thursday morning, we ferried back over to Belize City to catch our flight back home.  What an unBELIZABLE vacation it was!

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