Thursday, November 20, 2014

Highest rated excursions by our guests...to do while you are in Placencia, Belize!

We have been enjoying having guests here --finally!!!--for the last few weeks. We are learning a lot about how to create the best vacation, and what excursions people are giving the highest ratings to. I have written blogs in the past about what to do for a 7 day trip, budget tips, and the great excursions like Cockscomb (our guests LOVED Cockscomb with Doyle Gardiner, they highly recommended him as a guide and a person!) Here are a few more that got high ratings from our guests:

1.) ATM Cave Tour. I have blogged about this tour in the past...and our guests said that the full day of driving, the high cost, and the exhaustion were totally worth it!! We found two highly rated guides that will drive you from Placencia to Cayo, where the ATM cave is. It takes about 3 hours....BUT...you also get to see a lot of the country that you would not see otherwise. If you are going to San Ignacio during your trip, just wait until you get there to do the tour. If you are only doing Placencia or the Cayes/Placencia, this is probably the #1 highest rated cave tour. From Placencia, you can contact these two to schedule it:

PACZ Tours (in San Ignacio but they pick you up here)
Ask for Bob-$225 US per person includes ride, tour, and lunch
824-0536

In the village-talk to Laura Godfrey at Trip N Travel-
$225 US
523-3205
660-7189
lgodfrey@btl.net
You can see this: 
2.) Monkey River Tour-Percy with Barebones Tours--has had Jack Hannah on his tour, and is said to be the highest rated Monkey River tour guide. You can check him out here...http://www.barebonestours.com/
Also, if you are doing this tour, here are some great tips from Trip Advisor from guests who were on it (must read if you want to keep monkey poop off you).
People not being pooped on yet. (I don't think that comes guaranteed with the package.)
3.) Snorkeling and Scuba Diving with Splash: everyone may have already heard this! But, the guests we have had come down for diving, consistently say that Splash is the best/cleanest/most professional diving group. You can see their diving tours here:
http://www.splashbelize.com/
Look how much fun they are having!
4.) Day sails and snorkeling--we got a good review for the Daytripper Catamaran Charters, they can be reached at:
666-3117
daytrippercatamaran@gmail.com
$75 US includes lunch and rum drinks
Not a crummy way to spend an afternoon.
5.) Robert's Grove Sunset Cruise--we recently went on this trip with our guests and it was awesome! For $20 US, you get two drinks, (sometimes snacks too), and you can purchase snacks or drinks from the bar onboard. It is a fun two decker boat, and you take a leisurely cruise through the lagoon. We saw tons of dolphins right by the boat and had a spectacular sunset! Highly recommended for a quick (4-7pm) excursion that is cheap. They also shuttle you from your place to Robert's Grove. You can see their schedule here:
http://www.robertsgrove.com/placencia-belize-blog/posts/articleid/76/the-placencia-princess
Pick your cruise based on how much you want to drink, and how much you can tolerate others drinking around you.
6.)Also, we heard the Tarpon Caye Fishing excursion was really good. We will be going on this ourselves mid December with some guests. For $300 US for a party of 4, you can go out for 5 hours, starting at 7:30 am, and you get to decide what kind of fishing you want to do! I can't wait! (I chose the package of fishing for something we might be able to catch and eat, but we will see. I better perfect putting a worm on a hook before I get too ambitious.) Here is more info:
https://fishingbooker.com/charters/view/365
Looks legit.
7.) And finally, for an even more ambitious excursion.....how about this one!!
http://www.glovers.com.bz/activities.html
Here, you will go out from Dangriga....to the outer cayes!! Here is a description, and you can even do your first scuba open water dive to get certified! We are going to be trying this in the future and will review.
Excellent diving on drop offs which start from 25 to 40 feet on east side and north end of Glovers Atoll, the east side is deep canyons and a drop off starting at 60 feet and descending to thousands of feet down into the Bartlett Trough. Spires from 10 feet to 100 feet on the southwest side of the reef and rich descending steps of 50 foot drops on the western side of Glovers Atoll. The reef is rich in Marine life and very beautiful from shore or only minutes from our dock, allowing for excellent diving and snorkeling.
Island of all of our collective dreams.
We are also going to be going to Tikal...
(this is a Mayan ruin, believe it or not.) 
...in early December with our friend Anna, from Cleveland, who will be in town. I will be sure to review this as well!! Poor Anna is going to be worn out on her trip....she is already scheduled to go to the ATM tour, Tikal, a wine tasting, Belize Ocean Club, help us volunteer at the Placencia Marathon, and maybe even snorkel....all in 5 days!! :)
If this is Anna at the airport on her way home, then I did my job.
OK on the flip side...it is not ALWAYS perfect here...we had beautiful weather for a few weeks....then a cold front came in 2 days ago. It has been rainy and cold (73 degrees.....I can imagine the eye rolls I am getting!)

RIGHT before the front came in....poor Dave ambitiously decided to help out by filling in some potholes on an access road by our place. As SOON as the delivery guy had dumped all the filler.....it started pouring (that was 2 days ago and it hasn't stopped!) The insane amount of work he put in is not showing.....yet.....but when it dries out I am sure he will feel like a hero! Till then....it is a bit of a sludgy mess :) HUGE THANKS to Dick and Sandy Beach....our newest neighbors on the peninsula....who saved the day by helping out with their bobcat!! Wait a minute, Dave isn't even helping in this picture, Dick is driving and Perfecto is...helping!
Not at all vacation-like. Not part of any excursion/sightseeing we will recommend.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Updated pictures of our renovation! (If you haven't booked already....you may when you see them!) :)

While we are still waiting on an actual professional to get some pictures of our place, I did my amateur best in the meantime :) We have been having a ball with our first guests, and everyone seems to be having a great time. We had Kris and Rick, honeymooning from Cleveland, and they did Cockscomb and ATM--loved both tours and highly recommend them. We also have Elaine and Martin from B.C., and they have been wonderful guests. They are here until Saturday, and they have done Cockscomb, Belize Ocean Club, we had a beach cookout last night, and they have kayaked and swam every day. The weather has been AMAZING! The beach has been perfect, so we are thrilled with the first couple weeks. Our guests may be going on a sunset cruise with Robert's Grove later today, and perhaps Monkey River.

We had a stop last week from Rebecca Coutant, who has the most read blog in San Pedro, called San Pedro Scoop. She came in to check out the latest developments in Placencia and included us in her blog post, which can be seen here.

I am very proud of living in Placencia and showing it off! We are booked pretty solidly through April at this point and hating to turn down guests whose dates are already filled. Maybe time to look at some extra cabanas next season!

Here are the latest pictures:
Finished Cabana exterior!
 View from North end of CBC from beach
 Close up of front of veranda
 View as you step onto veranda
Interior pictures of cabanas



 Two breakfast bars inside, one facing the Sea, the other facing the open kitchenette
Views of the back of the cabanas (the casita/where you check in)
 What you see facing backwards from the cabanas-towards back of property
 Side view of office/casita...where you will first check in (and get your complimentary drink!)
Front palapa for guests
 Beach chairs, beachfront--between cabanas and Sea
 View from Luna front veranda
 View from Sol front veranda
 Fun art as you enter from sidewalk
 Picture of sunset from front of cabana (sunrise is even better!)
 View from Sea


Friday, November 7, 2014

How to pick a place to stay in Belize-or any another country...

There is nothing better (vacation wise) than showing up at a hotel, the first day of vacation, and LOVING the place you are staying. I know I have picked the right one when I immediately picture myself having coffee on the porch, checking emails at the breakfast bar, having dinner on the patio, walking around the grounds, etc.
I have always been overwhelmed when I try to pick somewhere to stay in another country. I think most of us may stay where someone we know has recommended, and that is why Trip Advisor and such sites are great. But, they don't tell the whole story, and unfortunately, a lot of the "feedback" and reviews on a lot of sites are total bunk. Also, if you search for a hotel in a certain area, you might be looking at hotels in a 30 mile radius, which can have a huge impact on your experience.
Here is what I have found to be the most helpful way to narrow it down, without becoming information overloaded which will happen in about 15 minutes of googling a place to stay in a certain city.

1.) #1 consideration has to be budget of course. If you go to Trip Advisor, they are not a booking engine-and a LOT of very cool places will not show you prices. Only large places who can afford a booking engine will show their prices and a link to book, and this leaves out a lot of the really great and special places that really make a memorable vacation. (like booking at a Marriot vs. a super enchanting B&B.) Of course, check Trip Advisor and see what shows up in the city's lists. But don't forget to click on the B&B and the "specialty" units as that is where you find some gems, as opposed to just checking the hotel tab. I also recommend doing a quick search on VRBO or Air B&B. If you do just these three sites, you will have a feel for neighborhoods and prices, and some names will start to look familiar.

2.) VERY IMPORTANT. Decide how close to the action you want to be. I always pick a landmark right in town that I want to be able to walk to (a coffee shop, the heart of town, a certain restaurant, beach bar, etc.) DON'T just look for beachfront because for example in Placencia, "Placencia" is considered to be the WHOLE peninsula. The peninsula is 16 miles long plus a bunch of land on the way in, so your stay will be markedly different if all you looked at were budget and wanting to be on the beach. There are lovely resorts all the way up the peninsula, and many people want the isolated resort experience, and don't mind being far from the action. For me, I want to be able to walk everywhere if that is an option, and here, there are SO MANY awesome places to stay right in the village, where you can literally walk to EVERYTHING. If you are looking at your budget, remember that if you end up having to rent a car, bike, or golf cart, or get a cab every time you want to leave, staying far away for budget sake will annoy you.
3.) Look at the amenities. Do you need a pool? Do you need a pool if you are right on the beach? Do you need to be able to walk to bars to avoid a DUI? Will you be happy with just one walkable bar on site? Will you make use of things like cable, A/C, bikes, kayaks, wifi, free pickup, kitchenette, private veranda? Do the reviews show that the owner takes care of the unit/beach/property? Do you just want to dump your stuff or do you want an experience at the resort?
4.) Do look at the reviews but take them with a grain of salt. I would be more inclined to read the owner's response to bad reviews than the review itself. Some people are born complainers so their feedback isn't valid, and other great reviews may be the owner's friend. But DO look at the pictures people post on Trip Advisor, or google the place and click images to see some more "real life" shots. Some places look like total paradise and really this is just a good photographer. At this point, you are probably going back to a couple places because they just seem right to you. Probably ANY of those few that you have vetted out will make you happy.

How to pick the best place in Placencia, based on the complaints travelers have had (most people have a blast here of course, :), but no matter where you look, it is not going to be the right fit for everyone.***

-If the owners do not clean the beach--we have a lot of sea grass here and this requires commitment to cleaning daily. Be sure that the place you stay mentions this or the reviews note this. It truly makes a difference.
This...
Vs. This....
-Travelers thinking they were booking in the village, but the resort was actually up to 16 miles away.
-It is quiet and peaceful here-but there is not the first world activities like a movie theater, mall, mini golf, water park, golf, etc. There are plenty of restaurants, activities, and excursions, but staying at a place that makes you happy to just chill at is very important. Some places offer free use of snorkel gear, kayaks, bikes, etc and this makes a big difference in your experience.

-Assuming everywhere has things like A/C, cable, wifi, beach towels, beach chairs, etc. Make sure you check this if you need these :)
-The weather--no one can control this, you hope for hot and dry weather, so make sure you go with the odds and pick a time of year where you are likely to avoid what you hate (cold fronts/rain, etc).
-Figuring out the best mix between cheap and charming-so you can have money for excursions, but not picking solely on price, as you do get what you pay for :)

***Of course, if you are coming to Placencia, we highly recommend you check us out :). Walking distance to everything, but in a quiet, private spot. Kayaks, bikes, grills, cooler, snorkel gear, beach towels, games, kitchenette, floats, flashlights, beachfront, good wifi, cable, A/C, clean beach, GREAT hosts, coconut drink at check in......much more :)
                             (real image...)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

First pictures of the renovation!! Ready for high season :)

We are done with Sol! Our first "real" guest after the renovation comes tomorrow!

Here are the first pictures of the new resort. We are really proud of it, and have spent the last two months working harder than we ever have (after a total of 8 months of planning and working!). These pictures were taken this morning, and of course it rained so they are a rough draft, but I couldn't wait any longer :) The sidewalk will be stained terra cotta but that is one of the only big changes that will take place over the next few months.

These are in order from when you arrive at the Placencia Sidewalk. You can click for a larger view.

Standing on the sidewalk, looking at the property, the Sea beyond it.

 Our new miles sign at the sidewalk :) Suggestions for cities to add are welcome!

Halfway up the sidewalk, walking towards the Sea.
Standing right behind our house-the casita.

View from Sol of the casita
Sol!! New huge veranda, roof, repainted, new furniture, new window bars, windows, A/C, cable :) Has two lay out chairs, two sit up chairs, a bar with table and two stools.
 Farther away view of Sol.
Close up of hammock and sit up chairs.
 View from Sol's front veranda.
New kitchen...totally new peninsula, breakfast bar, stools, TV, lighting, all new utensils, dishes, blender, toaster, and much more...

 View of brand new custom bed, built ins...put your luggage right in the passageway under the bed! Plenty of storage...front drawers in the bed as well.

 New bamboo loveseat
 New breakfast bar overlooking the Sea
 New palapa, imagine having your coffee here in the morning!

Outdoor shower
 Close up of Casita

 Fun new art everywhere!