I got back from Belize last Sunday, and I thought it might be a good idea to write a post about it. Plus, I took a ton of pictures and it would be a shame if no one else could see them.
So, the family vacation to Belize started on December 23rd. We had an early flight to Dallas-Forth Worth, a short layover, and then another leg to Belize City. We flew American, and the experience was nothing much to speak of. My wife had just been upgraded to Gold Status on American, so we got “above average” treatment when checking in and getting our tickets. Unfortunately, however, my wife also had a pretty bad bout of sickness just hours before we had to leave on our flight. We’re blaming it (sorta) on the Thai food we had just hours before, but I had it as well, and no symptoms, so it’s still all a mystery.
We tried to reschedule our flight to Belize at 3am in the morning before we were set to leave, but outgoing flights to our destination were packed to the brim. There was no way we would be able to make it to Belize within the week if we didn’t leave with our original flight. We rallied, made it to the airport with Rachel’s parents, and made it work.
On the outgoing flight from LAX to DFW, we were lucky enough to have been upgraded to First Class. We weren’t able to truly appreciate it (I was too worried about Rachel to be relaxed), but for Rachel, it was magnitudes better than having to sit in a normal coach seat while having food poisoning.
Once we made it to DFW, I loaded myself up with some Popeye’s chicken (I think I have that right), and felt a little disgusting afterwards. No worries, we’re going to Belize, and it’s a vacation!
Our flight to Belize was fairly non-eventful, other than we made it to Belize and it was a smooth ride. Rachel slept on my lap throughout the flight, but sadly still hadn’t started to feel better.
The view from the airport
Once we landed in Belize City, our trek was to continue on the unmaintained roads of the Belizian countryside, by way of van with manual transmission. The ride was about an hour and a half from the airport to our resort in the jungle. The most apparent thing while driving around this country is that it is very poor. Half-finished houses litter the roadside, broken down cars lie in almost every driveway, and there is practically no commercial activity (didn’t see one McDonald’s or Starbucks in the entire country).
The only restaurants I saw off the side of the road were shut down, with wooden planks covering the windows, or stands selling coke and other soft drinks. The apparent owners sat outside on plastic chairs waiting for a thirsty driver to come buy. There is also basically no commercial printing. People just spray-painted the names of their establishments on the walls, with letters of the same word painted in varying sizes.
One notable thing, however, was the number of places specializing in “tire repair”. Again, these were just people sitting in plastic chairs on the grass with a hand-written sign. Sometimes the sign just pointed down a dirt-filled driveway, the end of which there lay a pile of tires—ostensibly for cars and vans of all sizes. Really, this is not so much a surprise, as the roadways throughout the country look totally unmaintained.
Once we arrived at our resort, the Sleeping Giant Lodge, we were pretty much spent. Rachel and I went straight to our room. We had purchased some rice and a banana at DFW (it’s said that stuff is good for stomach problems), and not long after settling in, we saw a cute little gecko on our wall.
Us getting out of the vans
I went off to dinner while Rachel stayed in bed reading her Kindle.
Dinner was somewhat uneventful—I was mostly worrying about Rachel and everyone else was deciding what adventure they were going to go on the next day. I had pretty much decided that no matter what, Rachel and I would stay in, despite how fun everything seemed to be.
Two groups went out—one went horseback riding and the other went spelunking / waterfall jumping. I was told this was stuff they would never allow in the U.S., but everyone who went got amazing views of the caves of Belize. I wish I could write more about them, but alas. We did eat a fair amount at the lodge restaurant (there weren’t any other choices, really).
View from the restaurant
The next couple days went by quickly. A lot of staying indoors and reading, relaxing, and having quiet lunches while sipping fresh piña coladas. One thing to note was that the service at this place was just fantastic. Everyone took the effort to learn our names, which was actually really great. The towel-folding skills of the staff was quite incredible as well. Here’s a photo of some bunnies they made for us.
They made pretty good drinks too, and did I mention we had essentially an open bar for the entire duration of the stay there? Yeah…that was nice. Here’s a pina colada they made for me.
We might have also done some ziplining…
Before we left, we also visited a blue hole. If you’re ever in the Caribbean, you might want to check one of these things out. Kind of creepy, but also pretty cool.
On the way out of the blue hole, we noticed a pretty funny sign for a bizarrely-named tree. I had to take a photo for posterity.
The next day, we were off to the beach resort. The drive was pretty uneventful, and long. Here’s us getting in the vans, ready to go:
As with the rest of Belize, much of the countryside was again filled with abandoned / incomplete homes. It was overcast too, so it actually worked out to be a good day to drive.
Once we started getting closer to the beach, the landscape shifted from forest to more of a Florida Everglades feel. I grew up in Miami, so the sight was actually pretty familiar. As we were driving, our driving spotted a crocodile in the water to the left of the road. They hide themselves so well, it’s almost impossible to see them if you don’t have an eye for it.
The beach resort was exactly what you might imagine. Great view of the Gulf of Mexico, plenty of cabanas, tropical drinks, beautiful rooms, etc.
The entrance to the beach resort
We spent the first day at the beach getting acclimated and relaxing. I think Rachel and I immediately submerged ourselves in the hot tub. It was, after all, a grueling one and a half hour drive on a bumpy highway that got us here.
The funny thing about the hot tub was that there was no temperature control. As a result, it was either scalding at 110 degrees, or off. So we were relegated to leaving our feet in there for a handful of seconds until our bodies couldn’t take the heat any more, and then bear the cold as long as we could before putting them back in.
The bartender by the side of the pool was apparently the hot tub operator as well, so once we told him the problem, he promptly dismissed himself and pulled the plug on the jacuzzi. Because, you know, it only really is useful when it’s off.
Once it cooled down, it was quite nice, but it took a good 30 to 40 minutes for that to happen. You can see the hot tub in the photo below, just underneath the tree.
Dinner our first night was also pretty unique. There is a restaurant about a mile down the street from the Jaguar Beach Lodge called “Love on the Rocks.” Their schtick is an “ancient” cooking style whereby diners use heated stones to cook their food once it’s served. It’s kind of like Benihana, except you do it yourself, and it’s not Japanese.
Love on the Rocks
Love on the Rocks, after the meal
It was quite an experience, and I’d highly recommend it for anyone who has a chance to go there. One thing to beware though—the service is slow as molasses. Don’t go out to a meal unless you’re willing to spend more than two hours at the restaurant. I’m not sure if this is a Belize thing or what, but it happened at nearly every place we ate at.
The next day was fairly relaxing—after of course choosing to walk to the center of town in 90+ degree heat. We were sweating like none other by the time we arrived at our destination—a small restaurant called Iris, which was run by an ex-pat South African woman with a very special cuisine. I ordered shrimp curry burritos, and it was fantastic. As with our meal the night before, the service was extremely slow. It was quite good though!
We decided that walking back in the heat wasn’t going to happen, so we requested a pickup at the restaurant. Once we got back to the resort, we sat on the beach and I read “Game of Thrones: A Song of Fire and Ice” while Rachel read a romance novel. I normally don’t read book (my attention span needs improvement), but once I get in the zone, I fly through them. Here’s a panorama of the beach:
While I’ll avoid making this blog post a mini review of Game of Thrones, I will say that the book is fantastic, and even with the availability of Internet, I was sucked in. Highly recommended vacation / trip reading.
That night we hung out with the family and went to another restaurant, “Rob’s”, owned by the same people who run “Love on the Rocks.” The food was okand the view from our table of the beach was just amazing, but the service was again very slow.
The next day kind of blurred away, but we did a little reading again on the beach and ate at the resort restaurant for breakfast and lunch. I think we started packing to go back home towards the evening.
For dinner, we returned to Love on the Rocks. A bunch of the family wasn’t with us when we went for the first night, but the food was so good that I certainly didn’t mind going again. I ordered a Surf and Turf (steak and lobster), and it was fantastic. The meal ended up taking three hours, though, so by the end everyone was super anxious to leave.
The next day was our departure. Our bus to the airport was scheduled to leave at 10:30 or so, and by then we were all ready to go. The ride was 2 and a half hours, again through a pretty non-remarkable countryside. Our flight was straight to Miami, and then L.A. Here’s the restaurant we ate at the Belize Airport:
Conclusion—Belize was a great place to visit. There are, of course, some downsides to any place, but I had a great time and was able to really relax. It may have been the longest time I have ever gone without access to Internet, which was a blessing in many ways.
It’s rare I ever get a chance to ever truly disconnect, hang out with my wife with no distractions, and reflect upon things that I never really think about. For those reasons alone, our trip to Belize was one of the best I’ve ever gone on.
Thanks for reading, and may you all have a fantastic 2013. Do great things.