Earlier this year we went to Belize for some much needed R&R.
I hadn’t been to Belize before but was intrigued because there’s a direct flight from Denver (yes, Southwest!) and the flights are essentially as short as a flight to the East Coast for us. Price wise, it allowed us to really get away and to another country, but they were really reasonable. We went in July which is the beginning of their rainy season, but we had sunshine almost everyday and the rain at night cooled it off. Pro tip: Be sure you pack your mosquito spray, that will be needed.
Besides the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Belize has the second longest reef in the world. Although we aren’t divers, we love the ocean and snorkeling so it was a huge plus.
Belize is an English speaking nation, as well. They’ll take US dollars most anywhere, but their currency is the Belize dollar (about $0.50 US = 1 Belize Dollars is the current exchange rate).
We decided on Ambergris Caye (pronounced “key”) which is one of the islands off the coast of mainland Belize. There’s just one town there, San Pedro which does have a small airport.
We flew into Belize City which has many flights on the mainland. Many tourists travel to the islands which are most commonly: Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker. You can take a cab from the airport to the ferry and ferry to the islands or you can take a small plane from Belize City to the islands. We took the ferry because it’s a bit cheaper, but next time we’ll take the small plane.
- Belize Express – Water Taxi – this is what we took – one way is $28 US. About 75 minutes. Can get cramped with seating options. Leaves about every hour.
- Water Jets
On the island of San Pedro there really aren’t any cars. Most everyone drives golf carts and they’re available for rental by many different providers. If you stay at a hotel they’ll likely be able to arrange for rental.
We stayed at Matachica, a small, remote, boutique resort and spa north of the hustle and bustle of San Pedro.
There are just 32 thatched casitas and then there’s the main lodge, restaurant/bar, pool, and spa. Instead of opting for a generic hotel room, the bungalows were private, spacious, and very serene. Some casitas were oceanfront but even the ‘further away’ ones, were probably just 200-300 feet from the beach.
Our casita had a spacious bathroom with double sinks, a front room with a couch, luscious king size bed with hanging canopy mosquito net, and front porch with hammock. They’re all named after fruit, ours was Dragonfruit.
Photos Courtesy: Matachica Resort
We researched a lot of hotels and resorts on the island. We tend to stray from large and all inclusive and we wanted something more intimate and special. It’s also kid free. Matachica really exceeded our expectations and I couldn’t recommend it more.
It was luxurious, peaceful, oceanfront, and everything was very personalized. Even when we arrived by boat, they had our favorite drinks waiting for us.
Besides the beauty, the service was perhaps the most impressive. Everyone knows you by name, they’re so committed to ensuring your stay is seamless, and there’s a lot of thought and care into the resort. Speaking to and become friends with so much of the staff, they also share it’s one of the best places to work on the island. We hugged them all one by one as we left, they made our stay so wonderful.
We loved how there were no clocks, wireless, or even television in the casitas. We truly unplugged and in the connected world we live in, a week free of technology was blissful. Don’t worry, the main lodge has wireless if you so require it.
The restaurant and bar, Mambo, made it easy for us to eat there a good amount of the time (breakfast was included in the price). Since you’re north of the island by a few miles, you would have to traverse a bit to eat which we certainly did, but again our M.O. was to relax and not have to do much of anything which was perfect. I must add, in some ways the food felt a little overpriced for what it was and it felt Americanized to me but I understand they’re catering to their audience. Overall, it was good and if you stick to the more Belizean dishes and fresh seafood, you’ll be good.
I’ll also add – order the coconut mojitos – they’re dangerous, as you’re laying on the beach they keep bringing them to you with seemingly perfect timing just as your drink runs out. Even if you don’t stay at the resort, you can go there for dinner and/or drinks which I recommend just to see it. Often their own boats will pick you up from your said resort to bring you.
We booked a couples massage one day and they also have many daily activities they can book for you. We went reef fishing, snorkeling and flats fly fishing (Belize is very well known for its fly fishing).
All the snapper we caught from reef fishing, was brought in right to the chef of the restaurant, and they cooked it for us. It was probably one of the best meals of the trip. Can’t beat the freshness.
The Food + Drinks:
Here were our favorite restaurants and bars on the island of Ambergris Caye.
El Fogon: This firewood style Belizean restaurant is in the town of San Pedro off a side street. It was one of our favorite meals of the trip. I ordered the coconut curry shrimp with coconut rice – they’re known for their stews like this that simmer all day in the hearth, so definitely order something akin. The whole snapper (below) had been grilled over an open fire and was incredibly fresh.
Estel’s Dine by the Sea: They serve breakfast all day in this cute beachfront house in San Pedro. Order the fry jacks and ask for a drizzle of honey – Belizean deep fried dough. The menu is written on a chalkboard and combines traditional Belizean breakfast alongside your standard omelets and french toast. I recommend the large breakfast burrito or the huevos picture below next to the fry jacks.
Rojo Beach Bar: This is near Matachica so it’s north of the island if you stay in San Pedro. We only had snacks here, but I loved the infinity pool, the dogs running around, the casual vibe, games, and ocean front bar. Great place to hang and have drinks and to get away from the bustle of San Pedro. Here’s a view of my giant rum punch off the side of the pool.
The Dive Bar: We only went here for late night eats but I think it’s a great ambiance for live music and to enjoy the open air bar.
Truck Stop: This felt pretty touristy to me, but it’s still a cool ambiance. They’re a shipping container food park and beer garden. There are different stations for food, dessert, and there’s a bar. We stopped by after dinner on our way home from San Pedro and enjoyed a movie out back over the water as they often host movie night. I love how the addresses are often as descriptive as: “1 mile north” in San Pedro (as in, The Truck Stop). They’re only open Wednesday through Sunday until 9 p.m.
Sun Deck: About a five minute walk north from Matachica, is a tiny hole in the wall beach shack. This will be the least touristy place you visit in Ambergris Caye. There are just a few plastic table and chairs inside, and picnic table seating on the deck. Don’t be daunted by it’s outward appearance. It’s a few steps from the water and it was some of the best jerk lobster we had the whole trip alongside some plantains and rice. The owners is so kind and I’m so glad we stopped in. If you want an adventure and try something off the beaten path, make a stop.
- We love the hot sauce that’s made in Belize – Marie Sharp’s. It will be everywhere you eat but we brought so much back with it. I personally love the Original Hot – it’s a carrot based blend and the perfect amount of spice and tinge of sweetness.
- Belikin Beer: We enjoyed the light, easy to drink Belizean beer, Belikin. Be sure to try it.
We would definitely go back to Belize. There was a lot of warmth in the people and there’s so much to do and see, not to mention their rich history and culture.
And no, none of this was sponsored. These are just genuine recommendations from places we really adored.