Thursday, May 9, 2019

What's newly opened and fun in Belize??? Placencia + Ambergris Caye

Belize is so small, and realistically, it changes pretty slowly all things considered - but it is amazing how many new little places crop up all the time. Thankfully, at this time, they are almost exclusively mom-and-pop places like the history of Belize has always had (I can only think of Losers and Hilton's Mahogany Bay as chains that have opened in the country recently - yes there is talk of more but it'll be a while.)

Because all the new stuff makes my head spin, I find it helpful to keep a record of new places as they open. Here are the new places in the last couple months in Placencia and Ambergris Caye! ***HERE is my last update from February 2019 - a couple places were mentioned in the this post that are here again, but they weren't quite open yet :)

Placencia:

Twisted Tea - a cute new place in the old Wallen's store - great, unique idea! From their Facebook page: "Hi peeps. We are a new Tea shop across from Basketball Court. Ice and hot Teas. Hard apple cider and Hobbs Beer. Open early Monday to Saturday. Try our Sparkling Cold Tea."
Potliquors - This new lagoon-beachfront bar is getting a lot of great reviews!! Worth a stop in the Maya Beach area. 
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Toucan Jacks - this is a new little beachfront bar at a new hotel in Placencia. I don't think outside guests can swim at the pool but they are having some cute get together events!
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Hobbs Brewing - One complaint in Belize is the lack of brewery beers - we still aren't sure how these guys did it, but it has been a HUGE hit, raves about their brews, and it has even been showing up in Ambergris Caye. Belize traditionally has only allowed Belikin beer, brewed in Belize, or Caricom beers (Caribbean). This is a first and a very welcome addition!
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Mademoiselle Bakery - Another welcome addition to the Placencia sidewalk and people are raving about it...Here is an example of the super unique offerings - from their Facebook page: "Time for something new! The Ultra Fresh Club Sandwich 😋 Made with Olive Bread, Cream Cheese, Spices, Fresh Herbs and Vegetables. $10BZ per slice."
Placencia Mini Golf - This is a new, super cute and fun looking offering for a fun afternoon up in Maya Beach!
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Rooftop bar at Miramar - great views, cozy seating, right in the heart of town!!
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Peggy's Cornbread Cafe - Nautical Inn - Yum! Southern food on the peninsula...
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Ambergris Caye:

New Clinic - Belize Medical Associates is opening this clinic with some advanced care on the island, and this is really huge news. It is nearing completion and will really change the safety dynamics for all the development north of the bridge!
Origins - Vegan - this place is already a hit :) Vegan food is still a bit hard to come by on the island, and this cafe is one of the first to exclusively cater to vegan! **HERE is a guide to vegan eating in Belize....
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Capricorn - this was a classic restaurant on the island, that closed down for a while and is having their grand opening party this Saturday!! Will probably become a destination north of the bridge...
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Diamond Lodge Pool Bar - this boutique hotel in the south of town recently opened its pool to the public, with happy hour specials - and you can swim there! Not all hotels allow outside guests in the pool so this is a welcome spot in the south :)
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Planed Road ALLLLL the way north to Rojo Beach Bar - I was personally shocked a few weeks ago when I went for a ride north. Apparently the road has been planed north very recently - and this is seriously changing the situation up there. Going up to Rojo used to be considered a serious haul - like you really had to want it, it was a destination. The road was really bad, pot-holed, jarring, and it took FOREVER because of how slow you had to drive around the holes. It would easily take over an hour to drive from north of the bridge to Rojo. NOW........you can get there in about 20 smooth, happy minutes - maybe less. There are NO jarring holes to worry about, it is pretty comfortable and now there is no excuse to go see the talking bird at Rojo :) 
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The Belikin Store - super cute and fun store now open right by the Tropic Air airport!! Great place for your house if you live here, or souvenirs if you have to leave :) In the past Belikin beer stuff was a little hard to find.
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***As always - if I missed anything new please let me know :) Will update again in a few months with more new stuff!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Eat like a local in San Pedro - Belize Food Tour is highly recommended!

When you are in San Pedro, there are a LOT of choices of places to eat - and a lot of them are tucked away or may not even have a clear sign out front, so you won't know what you are missing! I took the Belize Food Tour last week, the Savor Tour which is in the evening from 6-9pm. This was $72usd per person and was amazingly worth it!!

I was so impressed by the comprehensive number of stops, the generous amount of food (and beers/drinks!!) that were provided - it was WELL worth the time and money and everyone on our tour had a great time. You get a walking tour with lots of stops in the town, and you get to taste a wide array of unique, great local food - and you get a nice history of the town while you are at it. We were stuffed (and buzzed!) by the end and it was a highlight of a friend's visit while here.

Here is their website, very easy to book online: http://www.belizefoodtours.com/
Here they are on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/belizefoodtours/

Here are some pics I took of the night!
Starting out at Elvi's for amazing fish....
On to Lily's Treasure Chest for ceviche....

Fun history of the town as you walk....
Sticks approved of the Paletas (note, he is small and can hide in a bag but a few of the places were not places to bring dogs :) ) **good thing he doesn't know he is a dog


 Delicious Garnaches and Salbutes...this local place was so hidden I don't know the name of it!! We also had amazing Cashew juice here.

On to Briana's for more deliciousness

Then to Saul's Cigar House for AMAZING coconut shots - these were incredible!



Then the Pupuseria....for.....pupusas
And ended the night at Holiday House with some Flan! Stuffed!!!



Tuesday, April 23, 2019

An example of typical eating and grocery shopping habits while living in Belize!

I have had a lot of questions recently about exactly how expensive it is to shop in Belize - especially in San Pedro, because it is an island. There is no doubt that imported foods are very expensive in Belize - but as you figure out what is a good value and what you can live without, it becomes a lot more reasonable! You do have to change your cooking and eating habits somewhat in living here, and if you are only here for a short visit, and looking for some US foods, you might think it is very expensive. For a short visit, you don't have to commit to changes in your eating, for great value - just enjoy the vast array of amazing street food options and local foods that are very reasonably priced - chicken, rice and beans, and burritos and tacos of all sorts can be found for $5us or less. Most restaurants have great specials and/or a few local dishes on the menu that are much lower priced.

So yesterday I went to the farmer's market stand and got the following:

-1 head cabbage
-2 heads iceberg lettuce
-3 potatoes
-1 cucumber
-1 carrot
-4 purple onions
-9 habaneros
-1 bunch cilantro
-5 roma tomatoes
-3 green peppers
Total: $15usd
Then I stopped by Pollo Feliz where I bought 2 huge rotisserie chickens, which come with a huge stack of homemade corn tortillas and a bunch of homemade pico de gallo. This was $20usd.

With this, and some white vinegar, mayo, shredded cheese, milk, butter, and salad dressing that I had on hand, I was able to make several days of meals for two people. The first dinner was chicken with mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and dinner salad. I also made Belizean pickled onions (habaneros and onions boiled with white vinegar and then a touch of Splenda - put it on everything!) There were several lunches of chicken tacos with the pico, corn tortillas, and shredded cheese. You can also put chicken on a dinner salad with this combination. This is approximately enough for a few days of meals for most people. (I also boiled a dozen eggs which is a cheap breakfast.) With the eggs and other ingredients, the total for two people to eat for a few days was less than $50usd. And this is all whole, natural food that wasn't difficult to prepare, and you can eat this combination a LOT without getting tired of it!


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Quick guide to the most helpful links about visiting or living in Belize!

We get a lot of the same questions from people coming to Belize, either for a vacation or to check it out as a potential place to move. I find that I send the same links over and over, so I thought I'd put them all in one place!
What to Pack:
Basics
An even more comprehensive guide

The most comprehensive FAQ list you will find about questions you didn't know you had:
More geared to Placencia
More geared to Ambergris Caye
What to do/Where to Go:
Placencia
Ambergris Caye:
Daily Updates and Events - Live Feed
General Belize Nightlife Ideas
Ambergris Calendar of Events

The perfect itinerary for your first time to Belize:
Placencia
Ambergris Caye
Country-wide (basic) 

What it is like to drive in Belize
How to get your passport stamped if you are staying over 30 days:
Placencia
Ambergris Caye

How to get your pet into the country
Insider knowledge about managing the airports and travel throughout Belize

A very comprehensive Facebook group about what it is like to live in Belize
Great Facebook groups about living in Belize:
Placencia:
General What's Happening
Restaurant Happenings
Rentals - long term
Ambergris Caye
General Belize News:
Ambergris Caye:
San Pedro Sun
Ambergris Today
Placencia:
Placencia Breeze
Two great blogs to follow in Ambergris Caye:
https://tacogirl.com/
https://www.sanpedroscoop.com/





Saturday, March 9, 2019

Coming to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye or Placencia - but you are Vegan - Vegetarian - Low Carb? Here's where to go for special dietary needs!

I think that 8+ years ago, this blog would have been pretty unthinkable in places like Placencia, maybe not so much in Ambergris Caye, but definitely elsewhere in the country. There really are not things like Vegan, Vegetarian, or Low Carb in the local Belize culture...the national dish is chicken, rice, and beans, and tortillas/carbs with meat protein are everywhere. You couldn't even order a soup with these restrictions as the soups are all usually bone-broth based, and then additionally are served with rice, so not a win there for either party. Many guests tell us when they have tried to order vegan at some local spots it has not translated well (veggies may be cooked in butter, etc). It is no secret that the restaurant and food options have exploded in Belize, and there have been many North Americans who have moved to Belize to start businesses that have brought more of the North American diet trends down.

Side note - one of the side effects of living in Belize is becoming very accustomed to made-from-scratch food....it truly is "whole food" and not in like a gluten-free brownie kind of way. If you watch the locals cook, it truly is corn mashed by hand, boiling chicken for stock, and there are no shortcuts from the SYSCO truck. When I go back to the US, the food at chain restaurants definitely tastes different than Belize (....not in a good way.....it tastes kind of processed.) 

There are more options than ever for diet restrictions, and we will do our best to keep up with the new places coming. While you are probably already good at figuring out how order if you eat like this, these places are known to have specific menu options or are particularly easy and/or delicious to do straight from the menu...

Vegetarian/Vegan Options (you can at least find good options)
Placencia
Cha Chi's Vegan pasta - Facebook 

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Ambergris Caye
 Vegetarian Enchiladas at Iguana Juan's - Facebook
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Low-Carb Options 
**I do follow this diet myself so I know how hard it is here. I started a Pinterest page for living in Belize and eating Low Carb - you can follow it HERE. I only include ingredients that I know you can get here. While you technically CAN eat low carb anywhere, just order a grilled chicken breast or salad (salads are rare and not great here, and it can get boring!), these are places where I had a better/easier experience. You almost can't eat at most stands or BBQ places - the sauce is full of sugar :(. Soups are typically not low carb at all, either. Sugar is also added to a lot of stuff - even cole slaw.

Placencia
  • Wende's - Great fresh fish with good veg side options.
  • Cozy Corner - Another great local fish with good, substantial veg sides.
  • Rick's -  He has a vegan salad that I add chicken to  - it's outstanding! 
  • Merl's Cafe - They make actual low-carb treats like muffins!!! First time I have ever seen this in Belize.
  • Dolce Vita - They have awesome portions and you can do a veg or salad on the side, totally huge, great, filling.
  • Rumfish, De'tatch, or Secret Garden - These places are great for special protein options, and will let you sub veg for the side. 
  • Barefoot Bar or Tipsy Tuna - Dry rub wings, salad, or a burger with no bun - these places have amazing non-low carb bar food but you won't feel totally deprived :)
  • The Shak - Omelette with meat side - yum.
  • Rotisserie chicken from Sidewinders - Easy and predictable!
Merl's Cafe - Low Carb Blueberry Muffins - Facebook
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Ambergris Caye
  • Salads at Poco Loco's Food Court - Easy peasy
  • Iguana Juan's - Great burgers (no bun) and salads
  • Nook - They often have awesome veg sides or cauliflower substitutions, & Parker's Poppers
  • Hungry Grouper - I had a great experience with the protein and veg options for sides - generous portions/many options.
  • Elvi's - Elvi's salad with chicken
  • Warugama - Get the chicken skewer with a side of veg - amazing
  • Blue Water Grill - The tuna salad is to die for
  • PUR Taco Bar (shameless plug, this is our place!) - Low carb salad options listed on taco bar menu plus low carb soup option
Low Carb at Nook - Facebook
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***I plan to keep this as a live document so please reach out to me if I missed any good ones!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

It's getting hard to keep up with all the new stuff opening up in Belize!

With two locations in Belize now, San Pedro and Placencia, our team has really had our eyes opened to how much new stuff happens and/or opens each season. There are a lot of very smart/hardworking locals, or people who come to Belize, with good intentions. They see unmet needs, and many of them are successful in filling these. While we wish every great new place would stick around forever - and many great ones do - we will try to keep you updated, on the very best experiences you can have while you are here!!

So just in little Placencia - here's a taste of the already opened, or coming soon, new places to try. If you were here even last high season, you would have a ton of memorable new experiences...

Tranquilo - Tranquilo broke our hearts when it closed a couple years ago - it happens, but we all crossed our fingers that it would open again soon. YAY! It opened back up this month, better than ever! We are so thrilled that our guests get to experience taking a little boat over to Placencia Caye to watch the sunset - it is such a simple yet memorable and unique experience.
From their Facebook page...
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Placencia Beach Club - another heartbreaker was Fusion Beach - a super popular, Miami Beach-style club that was a go-to for an afternoon on your vacation here. The open air concept, modern feel, great infinity pool and location were all perfect. We were all worried as it sat vacant for the last year or so....until now! It is not open yet, but it looks like there are super committed and energetic new owners -who look like they are doing all the right things. We will definitely be there opening day to support you! Yay!

Little Wine Bar - Ah, not brand new - but for returning visitors who haven't been here in a while - this is a can't miss. Between Jana's warmth, artistic talent, and hospitality - & wine knowledge - & the coziness of this place - you'll find yourself there before dinner every night :).
From their Facebook page...
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Mon's Kitchen (Old Brenda's :( ) - A huge part of the Placencia experience for many visitors was seeing Brenda down at the pier. The village lost this legend this year, but her daughter Mon has picked up the torch and you can visit her in the same spot!!!
From their Facebook page...
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Mariposa Breezeway Beach Bar - Mariposa has quietly grown and grown over the last many years, with great owners Bruce and Sharon. They are adding some super fun things - & they allow outside visitors to use their pool. Recently, they added this Pool Bar to make it an even more appealing place to spend an afternoon!!!
From their Facebook page...
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Mango's in Maya Beach is currently closed - fingers crossed there is a new owner soon because this is a well-loved and very needed place!
From their Facebook page...
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Omar's Paint Night (and remodeling) - Omar's was super charming to look at before - at first I was sad to see the change, but now I have to admit - it looks even more amazing! This is a true Placencia staple. He also added "Wine and Paint" Nights to the Placencia activities and people are going nuts for it. You know all the patrons because of the identical artwork in everyone's homes now...
From their Facebook page...
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Mademoiselle French Bakery - plus Bistro seating outside Afrodite - if you have walked the Placencia sidewalk, picture the new line of Tipsy Shops, where Afrodite Cafe is  - arguably the new heart of the village. So recently, there is a new pergola, bistro seating, and a freakin' French bakery opening there!! It is an amazing change and the perfect use for that space. It is still a bit of a work in progress, but so close - if it were me I'd schedule a whole afternoon to just plop down right there and people watch. I'm not seeing the new bakery online yet but have seen some pics of the food - wow. Pics to come.

Placencia E-Bikes - this lil' village is just getting super trendy. Check out this new option for getting around - combine a bike and a golf cart and you get...E-Bike!
From their Facebook page...
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Pyramid House - Ok, also not brand spankin' new but a newer addition. There was so much moaning about the lack of wine bars in Placencia that two opened this year - and frankly, people don't know what to do with themselves. This one has amazing views and great reviews - a must do!
From their Facebook page...
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Hobbs Brew Pub - I think I can all say, we can't believe that we will be sipping a microbrew in Belize??? Can this really happen??? Just saw that this is to open in 2 weeks at the new Serenity Resort!!! I think there might be a wait list to get in....
From their Facebook page...
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Potliquors - This IS brand spankin' new up in Maya Beach. Super cute name (that's the local name for the beach dogs...with a twist.....) Lagoon front sunset beach bar, super Maya Beach location....super tranquil!

We hear that a new massage studio by the point, called Numada Holistic Massage and Spa, will be opening, along with an herbal cafe -- opening in the next couple of months.

In Ambergris Caye, (Placencia has about 1/3 the population for perspective)....there is ALWAYS a ton going on and changing....it makes your head spin. 

K's Diner - "South your Mouth" - This one, I DO happen to know the owner and she is totally sassy and so is this place. Perfect concept, perfect location - and it looks so adorable everyone is chomping at the bit to south their mouth. If you combine the tropics, plus 50's diner, plus southern food, which we all know is the best = we all win.
From their Facebook page - super charming!!!
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FIRST Ambergris Caye Half Marathon & 10K - When an island in Central America, in the Caribbean, organizes for a half marathon, this is  huge deal and something to be very proud of!!! Everyone is super excited for this coming April...

Sunset Lounge - this bar on top of Sancas' Plaza recently opened - just put it in your must do list. Everything about it is perfect - location, views, style, atmosphere, drinks. You do have do walk up several flights of stairs (and then back down, so don't get too sloppy). You can drop your kids off at Kidtopia in the same plaza, or stop for a workout beforehand at the gym in the floor beneath....orrrr.....just go straight to the bar.
From their Facebook page...
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French Kiss at Sunset (French) Restaurant - this adorable place also opened recently - there were so many cute photos I couldn't pick which one....but definitely put this on your list. French food plus totally creative atmosphere = you are not at your local Applebee's.
From their Facebook page...
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Losers - OK, so this place got a rough start being the first official "chain" bar on the island, this is the "Losers" out of Nashville. However - they did bring in a ton of new people who never would have checked out Belize, as they have their own following....and the place is pretty darn adorable. While you won't pry a lot of hands away from Palapa Bar and Wayo's, at least give it a shot, but, my one complaint - I personally got kicked out for bringing my dog in. Since I don't go many places without him, I have to watch from the shore for now. A lot of people are saying nice things though!
From their Facebook page...
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Aqua - New restaurant at Grand Caribe - word is the sushi is awesome. You can't beat the view and atmosphere!!
From their Facebook page...
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Bon Appetit - All you can eat meat? French Belizean Steakhouse? This is a brand new restaurant, and, as you can see, super unique....plus great views and atmosphere!
From their Facebook page...
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Authentic Ramen coming to the Poco Loco Food Court in Town - Ramen 501!! Super exciting!
From their Facebook page...
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Boogie's and Maxi's also reopened in the heart of San Pedro to major cheers :) Go to Maxi's for the excellent people watching and small plates....and check out Boogie's for their legendary meat pies!

Runner's Up to keep an eye on......word on the street is that there is a super cool-looking new Daiquiri Bar opening across from Truck Stop --along with a raw juice, iced juices, hot and cold herbal tea shop....and we also hear that the old Palapa Bar/Tiki Maya is being renovated into RumDog.....will keep you posted on these!! (Both north of the bridge.) There is a new ice cream and snack stand opening near Melt called Sandy Dawg. Also, Belikin Beer will be opening a new store right by the airport! More on all these new businesses in the near future!

In other hot news, Margaritaville is starting a new round of groans by opening in 2020 about 10 miles north of the bridge. They are taking over a previously unfinished site and turning into a Jimmy Buffet wonderland....like all huge new projects, it has a lot of eyes/thoughts on it, and everyone wants to see that it is done properly, eco-friendly, and with local support. No doubt we will all be hearing a lot about this, chains are slowly being introduced to the island and with that, comes worry about losing the vibe that brings people here again and again.

***This blog inspired our team at PUR to start a new Facebook Page called San Pedro Fun Finder - This Week's Events. It is a lot of work as it needs to be constantly updated with all the new events, old events, and new openings on the island - but worth it as right now, this is the only live feed you can go to to get the latest up-to-date information when you come to the island.

***As always, please let me know if I have left anyone off!