Tuesday, July 29, 2014

7-Day Guide to the Best Vacation Ever, in Placencia, Belize!

I have been working on a Frommer's-like guide to Placencia, Belize, to give guests and friends when they come here. This list will always be subject to change :) It really helps when you go to a place you have never been, to get personal advice from someone who lives there. In Belize, you are not subject to hearing things like, "You really have to hit the new Margaritaville/outlet shopping/Applebee's/water park/etc"....everything is very authentic, no chains of any kind, which is why it is SUCH a special place. Here is my first draft!

7-Day Guide to the Best Vacation Ever, in Placencia, Belize!

Day One
-You'll likely arrive in the late afternoon, so get your stuff unpacked, and have a local coconut rum and coconut water--out of a real coconut you picked from a tree :) (at least, that is how our guests start out..I probably wouldn't take one off someone's tree)
-Walk the beautiful beach, wander the sidewalk a little
-Hit a grocery store and farmer's stand (walking distance from us) for coffee/water/fruit/booze.....if you are a beer drinker, ask Wallen's to deliver you 2 cases of beer for the week (if you have a fridge....it is $52 bz a case)
-Go for a casual dinner at either Tipsy Tuna or Barefoot Bar. At Barefoot, do yourself a favor and order a crazy coconut drink (coconut water, coconut rum, and lime), a pantyripper (the national drink-pineapple juice and coconut rum) or a margarita (theirs are REALLY strong and good.) Most people love Barefoot's smoked chicken nachos. At Tipsy, get a mojito, and if you order dinner at Tipsy, consider the vegetable burrito bowl-my personal favorite :) It is magical. These two places are a great start and give you a feel for the village--locals and tourists all hanging out together, local music, beach dogs running around everywhere, general happiness and a great atmosphere.
-If you are still hungry go to Tutti Fruitti, for the first of your 15 visits here on your trip  (best gelato ever.)
Stock Photo. Yours will look a lot sloppier.
 She seems nice. Drink Belikin. (or its sister Lighthouse Lager. These are about the only beers allowed to be sold in Belize.)
Barefoot....
 Tipsy.....you just really feel like you are somewhere.
Day Two
-If you are not too hungover, get yourself up and watch the sunrise. The sunrise is consistently around 5:30-5:45 the whole year (Belize does not do Daylight Savings.) Since we face the East, we get spectacular sunrises. If it looks cloudy, pull the blinds and get more sleep.
-Get up and have breakfast at Detatch, right on the beach. Then wander into town--if you still need it, get a coffee at Brewed Awakenings or Above Grounds (or both). Tour operators have offices all over town--if you haven't booked, wander around and see if any of the tour offerings look good. Make a decision and book SOMETHING (see recommendations below) for Days 3, 4, and 6. I would book either Silk/Laughingbird Caye for Day 3. Also go down and look at the pier, and enjoy the many souvenir shops all over town.
-If it were me--I would then pull out my Kindle, get a beach chair and totally relax. Most people wish they scheduled in more time for a lazy beach day. At our resort, we have beach chairs, tubes, floats, noodles, snorkel gear, hammocks, palapas, etc, and it is important to make a day really enjoying the water and beach.
-If you are a restless type, rent a kayak from Captain Jak's and take it out on the lagoon--you can stop at some of the little islands and even bring your lunch with you. You can also rent bikes or a golf cart and explore the peninsula. Or, get a massage in town.
-Go to a nice dinner in the evening! Some favorites are Rumfish, Secret Garden, La Dolce Vita, Mojo's, and Maya Beach Bistro.
Actual Placencia Sunrise.
 Detatch.
Day Three
-Spend the day snorkeling....the Silk/Laughingbird Caye tours usually leave from the pier....you get multiple guided snorkels, a lunch barbeque on the beach, the boat rides there and back, and a donation to the park (Laughingbird Caye is a national park.)
-If you have the energy, go to dinner at one of the above mentioned places :) If you want to do something quicker and more casual, go to Cozy Corner or one of the places on main street (Charo's, Omar's, etc)
Laughingbird Caye
Silk Caye
Day Four
I would book the Cockscomb tour on this day. Doyle Gardiner is a friend of ours, and an amazing tour guide. It is a truly unique and spectacular experience. The tour starts with a nature hike where you will taste and touch all kinds of weird things....you hike through a tropical forest....do jaguar watches....get on a tube and get a sweet hour long ride through the jungle....and, if you are up for it, you can swim in a waterfall and slide down rock formations. It is a very memorable day! You also get a great Belizean homemade lunch.


Day Five
I would schedule another low key day OR if you are determined to have an active vacation---some options--go to the fish co-op and have a beach barbeque, go on an early morning fishing excursion and cook the fish you caught, take a golf cart to Maya Beach and wander the fun to be had up there (Mango's, Maya Beach Bistro, Jaguar Lanes, stop and see Robert's Grove on the way back). Another shorter tour option is to hit the Monkey River tour on this day, as it is only a half day. This tour takes you through the rain forest and town of Monkey River, where you will likely see a LOT of wildlife and possibly have monkeys poop on you. Most people report great stories from this tour, in spite of this. Also, try to get to the Shak for breakfast and a seaweed shake. Go to Yoli's if it is a Friday night.
Maya Beach Bistro...
Monkey River...
Yes, Captain Obvious, this is The Shak
Yoli's
Day Six
You are getting down to the wire on having fun, so make the most of this day. This will depend on how adventurous you are. I would highly recommend you pick one important tour that also may be a drive. ATM cave tour, Blue Hole, Cave Tubing/Ziplining, Deep Sea Fishing, Whale watching/diving, Catamaran cruise, or a Mayan ruin are good choices. These will be tiring, full day tours, but WELL worth it.
ATM tour human sacrificial remains...you can't take cameras anymore because some jackass dropped his camera on a skull.
 Blue Hole
 You can swim with me. In Belize.
 Mayan Ruin. Not sure which one.
 Cave tubing.
Day Seven
Call Chris from Remax and schedule some visits to his listings, because by now you want to move here. Oh, wait, that was the end of OUR first trip here. For most rational people, you will probably either be leaving on this day or definitely need to schedule a low energy day. If you are lucky, and this is a Sunday, a MUST DO is to go to Belize Ocean Club for their pool party. This is not your college kid, pee in the pool, meathead kind of pool party. It is at a beautiful resort, right on the beach, clean, and all ages. They have food, and you can even paddleboard or kayak from their beach. It will make you extra depressed to leave Placencia.
Be careful or this could happen to you.
 Belize Ocean Club
I'd love feedback from other visitors or residents....I plan on making a formal copy (getting rid of the bad jokes) for guests.

In other Placencia news, we had the worst thunderstorm that I have ever been in last night. I thought our little casita was going to blow right off its hinges, but thanks to the swell construction, we are ok. It was actually AWESOME...if not for the chihuahua scared out of his mind, and the rain coming in through a few random cracks in the windows that we are chasing down, it would have been super. Everything was calm and beautiful this morning though...
Sign from the sidewalk
 He had to smell EVERY.SINGLE.PLANT. this morning before he would dare pee.
 Impressive palm fan in the back...wish I knew what it was called.
 The more you chop up the beach plants, the faster and better they grow! It is fun to chop up the plants and get a rise out of your spouse before you are really sure this is true.
 Not so calm last night, were you?
 Coconuts that couldn't hang on in the storm.
 Cutest face a dog can make.





Saturday, July 26, 2014

Learning valuable lessons about living in Belize :)

This past week was really productive...the patio is about done, the bamboo is up in the casita, and we are down to only a couple more cabinet doors that need done. I am dying to get to a point of not living in a construction zone again. Dave and I say this EVERY time we finish a house we are living in (ok that was hard/hell/something I never want to live through again) and then within 2 years we are starting it all over again. :) We have had literally NO space from each other this week :) and are learning to sit quietly at the end of the day, enjoying this view....


On Friday, we had to get our passport stamped again. I feel like we just did this with Shannon-this month has flown! We learned a valuable Belizean lesson in doing our stamping this time :)

We got up early, got Victor all settled in to work for the day, and took the earliest Hokey Pokey water taxi to Independence Village, where the Immigration office is. The tickets are $12 bz (if you are not a local--there is an unspoken discount given to locals)--then there is a $20 bz cab ride to the immigration office once you get off the water taxi. Once at Immigration, you have to wait in line and also wait for them to open. So, after having done all this (in the rain), you can imagine our surprise to hear that due to not having the receipt book in the office that day, we would be unable to get our passports stamped. And, our passport stamps expire tomorrow. And, the next water taxi ferry isn't for 2 more hours so we can sit and stew on that while we wait. And, we could come back Tuesday but yes we would be out of compliance of sorts.....but abstractly this should be ok. (So, while living in another country, it has been very important for me to be VERY CONCRETE with the rules....so this abstract concept of it will probably be ok shoots off my alarms). 

To break up the anxious momentum building here, let's take a look at the experience of taking the Hokey Pokey....it really is fun, if Epcot at Disney World had Belize as a country in it, this could be the featured ride:
 Pulling up to Independence/Mango Creek....
 Nice sentiment on the boat. (sic)
 Some of the scenery you will experience on the way from Placencia to Mango Creek...


OK so now back to our mood yesterday. So we are sitting at the water taxi station, rained on and kind of angry. Our options are, go back and get in the car and drive 2.5 hours round trip to Dangriga, where there is another Immigration Office. But, windows are being delivered today and there is no telling when they will get there and we need to be there. We could also trust the Immigration Office that he would honor our attempt to get the stamp within the time period, and stamp us Tuesday. We also heard that you have a 3 day window around your stamp (not trusting that yet!!!) and we could head to Dangriga on Monday. None of these are palatable choices. And, we have another 2 hours to sit there waiting!! We both felt like it was a big waste of the day and money to get there.

Then, as often happens in Belize....so often that it is becoming normal.....something good happened right after a worst case scenario occurrence. A lovely man with a boat asked if we wanted to go back to Placencia, avoiding the 2 hour wait, AND he only charged us the LOCALS price to get over to Placencia! it allowed us to have time to drive to Dangriga AND get the windows! Yay!!

So, we grabbed the dog and went for a road trip to Dangriga. I have had good experiences in this town every time I have gone. No lines at Immigration, it was quick and easy, and friendly people. We were home before noon!! And Sticks got to have a road trip out of it. Several hitchhikers got a ride into Placencia as well. The lesson learned today was, CALL government/business offices before you put out time, money, and effort into travel to get there, to be sure that whatever task you hoped to get done, can actually be done where you are going :)
Thank you Dangriga!
The rest of the day we felt like we were stealing time based on the low expectations we started with, so we got more done, and decided to relax and we were completely worn out from the week. Sticks appreciated our choice to stay in last night :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Caribbean Beach Cabanas is ready for guests! Belizean Bamboo Beach House!

It has been a huge week here! Almost all of the bamboo has gone up and the casita is looking really exotic and stunning! Pictures will tell it best.....but Caribbean Beach Cabanas are almost done with phase 1 and we are ready for guests!!! :) Here are some of the highlights from the last week!
Close up of the new bamboo porch....
 A couple beach morning pictures.....pre 6am!
 New sign on the beach...
 Beautiful sunrise!

View from farther back of the casita....
 Inside the casita....
View from the water...
Also this morning....Dave has a new admirer....a cute little black cat. I walked out and Dave was holding her....she seemed so sweet that I thought maybe we had a new pet on our hands. Then we tried to introduce her to Sticks and all hell broke loose. She tried to scratch him and he freaked out.

I mean haven't we ever seen a cartoon before??? Bad idea! Now the cat won't leave and Sticks is mad.
Victor and Dave are working on the last of the cabinet doors for the inside, some outdoor seating for the casita porch, and then building new beds for the cabanas!!

The weather has remained beautiful here! I am not sure this is typical rainy season but it is gorgeous and I would take this weather any season! :) 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sailing with Belize Sailing Charters....mentoring with Rotary!

We had a GREAT day yesterday! It was Madalyn and Tom's last day and the weather was perfect. Dave and I started the day at the Community Center, where Rotary and the local teachers had a great day, with the Seine Bight and Placencia scholarship students getting to know each other for the new school year. Dave and I met our two students and are very excited to assist with the mentoring program. Here are a few pictures of the morning event:



We then met up with Madalyn, Tom, Kate, Chris, Sonia, Hayley, and Gari and got on a beautiful 42 foot catamaran...it was an amazing boat and it was a highly recommended experience! We went with Michelle and Ed, and they took great care of us. It was such a memorable time; if a day of sailing, swimming, and snorkeling, is what you would be looking for in an excursion, Belize Sailing Charters is recommended. We got quite a workout at the snorkel stop as the current was pretty rough. Gari got a few mouthfuls of water and I kept stepping on things that were sharp... (note to wear flippers and not be a hero next time :) )

Here are a bunch of pictures of the day:
Rob from Belize Sailing Charters....highly recommended, he was a great guy to work with!
 Michelle and Ed :) 

  Team Cleveland :)
 Beautiful cabin of the catamaran

 Tom and Madalyn at the helm :)
  Gari and Hayley
 Madalyn looking pretty

 Tandem diving....always seems cool after a few beers
 Sweet jumps




Gari's sad face after inhaling too much sea water :( He was a trooper!

 Sonia looking like she belongs on a sailboat :)
Hayley and Gari right before sunset :)
 Great pic of Chris and Sonia....he is making a normal face for once!
So poor Sticks had to go to the dogsitters for the day....with all the excitement with moving and new guests he hasn't slept much. He was a tired pup this morning!
Today is Sunday and we relaxed most of the day....we were pretty worn out and needed a day off :) Saeed delivered the bamboo and it will be a looong work week this week....but at the end we will have a finished casita! Sadly we dropped Tom and Madalyn off and they are missed! Kate has till Tuesday and is going to try to go to Laughingbird Caye for one more snorkel :)