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  • Writer's pictureThe Killorans

4 Days in Belizean Paradise

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

Discovering new places across the world is the best thing about travel. Even planning a last-minute trip someplace can be quite exciting. December was coming up fast for us and we decided we wanted to celebrate Emily's 30th birthday someplace warm where we could do something unique and fun. We got scuba certified for a trip specifically to Australia so we could dive the Great Barrier Reef while it's somewhat in tact and hadn't gone diving anywhere since. So where has some great diving for our level of certification? How about the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world?! Low and behold, it rests just outside Central America near Belize.

Some fun facts about Belize that we found helpful during our trip:

  • The flight from DFW to Belize City was a direct flight, only 2 1/2 hours long! That's less time than it takes to get to California or New York from Texas!

  • Belize is a British Commonwealth (former British Honduras), so the primary language is English. We were expecting everyone to speak Spanish and were worried we hadn't brushed up enough before going. Turns out, we didn't need to.

  • A golf cart rental can be key not only to save you time but also to keep a nice breeze in your hair. If you're planning to stay a little ways out from the main hub of San Pedro, rent a golf cart.

  • Cash can be required at a lot of smaller restaurant stands but most larger establishments do take credit cards. You may want to take out Belizean dollars if you plan to shop around smaller stalls, but most everyone accepts USD too. FYI, the Belizean dollar to US dollar is $2 to $1.

  • If you're going for a dive trip, cold weather or rain can be a really great thing for clarity in the reef. It also stirs wildlife and everything is a bit more active in the colder temps.

There are several Cayes near Belize City that offer that tropical island feel. San Pedro is located on Ambergris Caye, just a 15 minute flight via Tropic Air or Maya Island Air from Belize City International Airport. Or you can venture to the harbor to take a ferry. For San Pedro, the main ferry is the San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi. Our hotel arranged travel for us via Tropic Air, which made our travel stress free. And the beauty of booking tickets with the local airlines is that they have flexible tickets, so if your international flight is delayed or you get held up in customs for too long and miss your flight time (this happens to everyone regularly and even happened to us), you can easily be booked on the next outgoing flight, which are extremely frequent. No stress.


All of the reviews and comments we read trying to sort out the best way for us to get out to the Cayes didn't really give us the guidance we were hoping for beforehand. Several people mentioned the flight route was dodgy, but in actuality, it was really quite fun! Yes, you will be flying on a smaller airplane, seating about 12 people max, as it does cost about $100+/person, which is more than the ferry tickets. But we found our experience was very enjoyable and worth the cost. As long as you understand the feeling of a smaller airplane, it is so easy. Plus it saves you over an hour of travel time versus traveling by water taxi.


Regardless of how you get there, once you arrive on the island, your mind is immediately put at ease. Now it's time to rest, relax and enjoy the beauty of San Pedro! You really can't go wrong with wherever you decide to stay, but we will share our experiences with you as a guide.


Golf Carts

Though not an absolute necessity, we found getting a golf cart to be a life and time saver. Plus, it was so fun to drive around! When we were planning our trip, we weren't sure how serious the golf cart rentals were until we got there. Though there are tons of various rental companies, we wound up selecting Dynamic Golf Cart Rentals, well, because they had some blingy rides! We had probably one of the fanciest golf carts on the island, equipped conveniently with bluetooth speakers so we could rock all vacation long to Bob Marley. We thoroughly enjoyed it and found the carts to be worth it to get to and from our hotel for diving, meals and exploring.

Though most resorts and hotels are conveniently located within walking distance of the airport and ferry terminal, we stayed at a wonderful resort about 2 miles from town. Hence the need for the golf cart, to be sure. Saved us a 30 minute walk to and from town.


Hotel Accommodation

We stayed 4 nights at the lovely Mahogany Bay Resort on the south end of Ambergris Caye. At first we were a little nervous not staying right in San Pedro, but we found so many wonderful benefits to staying with Mahogany Bay. You will want to rent a golf cart as it will help you out immensely with getting around not only the island, but the resort itself. The fact that the resort is fairly spread out makes for a more romantic and secluded setting for peace and quiet, which is nice because San Pedro can be very noisy. It's also a great resort for a couple or an entire family as you can rent various sized cabanas/houses to stay in.

A unique feature of the resort is that it is located along a canal, in lieu of the beach, which we were unsure how much we would enjoy this at first. But the great thing is that the hotel has its own private secluded beach that they will boat you out to throughout the day. The adventure itself is exciting and the beach is so wonderful, available and accessible only by those staying with Mahogany Bay. There's a bar, restaurant, outdoor games, paddle boards, kayaks, cabanas for rent and lounge seating all along a shallow bay. Just remember your bug spray and be wary of bees. When traveling to and from the beach, be sure to keep a look out - there were crocodiles and dolphins along our route.

Even though the resort is a couple of miles from the main hub of San Pedro, they do offer all sorts of various activities, restaurants and accommodations you won't find everywhere on the island. There's a chocolate shop, that hosts special classes to show you how the chocolate is made from the local cacao plants. You will also find little food stalls/stands that offer anything from tacos to hotdogs to empanadas (cash only). There's also a martini bar, sushi restaurant, spa (we had the best deep tissue massages ever there), aerial yoga facility, and daily evening activities. They also coordinate dive trips, boat adventures, fly fishing trips - you name it!


The Barrier Reef

Belize is home to a great portion of the second largest Barrier Reef in the world. Second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The best thing we learned coming to Belize was that the reef is SO CLOSE that it only takes 5-minutes via boat to get to some absolutely stunning dive sites. Whereas, at the Great Barrier Reef, it was a good hour and a half boat ride just to get to some of the preferred sites. Plus, the water is so warm in Central America that you could dive in wet suit or basically just you swim suit and still be perfectly comfortable in the water.

Beyond your resort stay on Ambergris Caye, there are numerous outdoor activities you can participate in based on your comfort and skill level. Since we decided to come to Belize to scuba dive at the Barrier Reef, we specifically looked to see which dive shops on the island were PADI 5-Star certified. As certified Open Water divers ourselves, it's important to us, based on our skill level, to be in great hands when we dive. This is where we found the Scuba School and Family Dive Center.


The thing that struck us the most with this dive shop was their responsiveness and diligence in getting us the information we needed to plan our trip in a timely manner. When we were browsing on PADI's website and TripAdvisor, there were a large number of dive shops, but only so many PADI 5-Star companies. We reached out to 3 different shops at the same time and Scuba School reached back out to us within half a day! Instead of just trying to sell the spots and add our names onto a list immediately, they were inquisitive on our diving history, certification level, and were keen on catering to our specific comfort levels to get us the best itinerary planned. Thus, we decided to book with Scuba School and Family Dive Center.


Travel Tip: Regardless of which companies you plan to book with, just remember to plan ahead and pay your deposit to reserve your spot for activities like scuba diving. Depending on the season, spots can book extremely fast and you might miss out on an amazing adventure.

We would highly recommend all levels of divers to book with this company. They were super friendly, really went above and beyond with giving us thorough briefings for the dive plans, took us to some amazing and unforgettable spots, and even gave us some of our favorite restaurant recommendations on the island after we left. We will definitely be back again!

The best part of diving, of course, is seeing and experiencing the reef in person. We saw all sorts of sealife. From urchins to giant sea turtles to large spotted eagle rays to nurse sharks feeding off the reef to massive reef sharks swimming in the distance. We even heard dolphins making noises during a dive, which was unbelievable to hear in the wild! And though we have invested in a GoPro Hero 5, which we love to have during our dives, the photos and video never really do our experience much justice. You'll just have to go and see it for yourself! You won't regret it!


One of the things we did not do that is a popular destination when coming to Belize is the Blue Hole. It's a very deep sinkhole (over 100') at Lighthouse Caye, approximately a 2 1/2 hour boat ride from San Pedro, that most crave to visit. Since we are not certified to that depth, and didn't care to spend the time or money to visit, we didn't adventure that way. We did hear you are likely to encounter various other types of larger sharks, including hammerheads, but we were extremely happy with the experience we had diving the reef.


Eating Like a Local...or Not.

Between all of the diving and beaching, you can't forget to eat! Food in Belize has its unique touch but there are also some really surprising restaurants you won't want to miss out on! If you've followed any of our blog posts before, you'll know very quickly that #thekillorans LOVE to eat and indulge in food everywhere we go. We're not afraid to try the local specialties or have something as random as French Food on a Caribbean island (which we did and it was fantastic). Give us a restaurant recommendation and we will be there to try it out!


But in all seriousness, here were our favorites we tried in San Pedro during our 4 days in Paradise. Unfortunately, 4 days was not enough time to try all of the places we wanted.


This place is so small and you hardly notice it as you zoom by on your golf cart, but the smell makes you turn your head immediately. This place came highly recommended by all of the locals (despite the number of tourists we saw there) but it definitely exceeded our expectations. If you're up for a place that will fix you a plate of whatever they are cooking up that day, go to Robin's. They specialize in Jamaican and Belizean food (hopefully you get to try their chicken), so be on the lookout!


The French Touch

French food in the Caribbean - who knew? We decided to give this place a try to celebrate a nice dinner for Emily's birthday night and french food has always a favorite. Let us tell you this place does not disappoint! From the escargot to the cheese pastries to the perfectly cooked flaky fish and giant pork chop finally ending with a sinful creme brulee. Positively sinful!



El Divino

Shrimp and Seafood Ceviche. Need we say more? This place came highly recommended by one of our dive masters. And let us tell you - it was so delicious. It doesn't look like much, and it isn't open to the beach, but the ceviche and chicken wings were to die for! But don't pass it - it's right across the street from Robin's Kitchen, so follow your nose.


Caramba Restaurant Bar

If you want a unique seafood experience, albeit a bit touristy, head on over to Caramba's! Here, you're greeted outside with a plethora of freshly caught seafood options on ice. Head on in, grab a seat, get the low-down, and head out to make your selections. Once you've decided what you want, your waiter will go through how you want each item cooked, then the chef prepares it all for you. It's absolutely delicious!

 

Reflection

Belize was an absolutely enjoyable country to visit. It's close to the US, easy to get to, easy to get around, had friendly people wherever you went, has an amazing barrier reef just minutes from the shore to dive and snorkel around, and offered a perfect beach setting for our little December Birthday/holiday getaway. We went together just the two of us, but could easily see ourselves coming back with family of all ages.


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