Thursday, September 7, 2017

September fun events, Belize Hurricane stats, and other Belize news!


How often does a hurricane hit Belize/Placencia?

This has been a very stressful hurricane season for the Caribbean as we all know by now. It has led to a lot of panic throughout the region, and if you happen to be traveling to the Caribbean right now, you are probably not very happy about your timing. I wanted to take a look at Belize's hurricane history to find out your chances of being impacted during hurricane season here. Here's the highlights of my research....
  • Since 1930, there have been 16 Hurricanes
  • 8 were Major Hurricanes, that either made landfall in Belize or passed close enough to cause damage or loss of life.
  • 17 systems made landfall in Belize as Tropical Storms.
  • Average years between direct hurricane hits - 6.59
  • Average years between MAJOR hurricane hits - 24.16
  • Average years between being brushed or hit with a major storm - 2.84
  • Months when storms are most likely - September and October
Placencia itself was touched by Hurricane Earl in 2016, and was massively damaged by Hurricane Iris in 2001. There aren't too many reports of major hits in the 100 years before this - minor to moderate damage in the 1940's and once in the 1960's. So if you look at a specific village - the chances of that specific village getting hit are still pretty low - so, statistically - I would not plan your vacation around it!!
Photo by Cecil Johnson - HERE are more pics from Hurricane Iris in 2001, when 95% of the village was damaged... 

On to more uplifting topics.....

September Fun Times!

If you are here in September you are in luck! The two weeks leading up to Belize Independence Day on the 21st are one big party! You will find a lot of parades, music, and festivals during this time. Here are three things you can have fun with in Placencia in the coming weeks....

9/9 and 9/10 - Fishing Tournament - see HERE (always fun to watch down at the pier!)
9/10 - St George's Caye Day - See HERE for more info
9/21 - Belize Independence Day - See HERE for more info....
Image from prweb.com of a past Placencia Belize Independence Day

And finally.....here are the latest news articles about Belize, in case you missed them!

  • ATM Cave tour was ranked as one of the most terrifying (thrilling?) things to do in the world.....
  • The Fort Worth Star Telegram thinks Belize is an amazing tropical getaway with something for everyone....
  • Although this one sends a mixed message, apparently environmentalists are impressed/surprised at the health of the reef in Belize, despite the massive growth....
  • Forbes thinks that Belize is worth looking at as an international investment....
  • Hoffman's Houston thinks you'll have a pretty good time here in Belize...
  • And so does The Spokesman Review....
And I'll finish with my top five favorite photos I found this week on Instagram, from Placencia vacationers!
 @everydaycayes (ranguana caye)
@infiniteroadmaps (Tradewinds near the pier)
@mb_outside (Barefoot Bar)
@niki_spaniol (Laughingbird Caye)
@3fatlabs



Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Top 10 reasons travelers choose Belize, over all the other tropical places they can go!

This list is based on the feedback we've received from guests over the years. We always ask during a guest's stay, why did you pick Belize? We love the answers so much, we wanted to share them. Most people only have a certain amount of vacation time and it is precious, so we hope this helps you decide on your place this year!!

1.) The number one reason is ......Belize is one of the few unspoiled, authentic places left, that are still considered accessible to travelers. There are plenty of rustic places in the world, but many are quite difficult to get to, and few people want to spend a full day or two of their precious vacation time getting to the place. You can get to Belize in a half day or less of travel, and the minute you step on the land, you can feel the difference. It is just different enough to be a challenge, but friendly and small enough that you feel like an expert by the time you leave.
Rustic fun at Yoli's in Placencia
What do I mean by unspoiled and authentic? There are only a couple chains of hotels in the whole country on Ambergris Caye and Belize City, no where else - everything else is run like a small mom and pop place or boutique hotel. Many restaurants and tour groups are run by families, and the overall experience is the small town, personal feel people seem to pine for, that barely exists in most of the US tourist places.

2.) Natural beauty - If you check out a map, you will be intrigued to see how much coastline Belize has, and then just try to count how many islands (cayes) Belize has! Not to mention the jungle inland, the mountains, waterfalls, reef (see below), and the charming little villages that you will see as you ride through the country. You drive past farms that look straight out of the 1950's, tropical foliage that has every color of the rainbow, tropical plants and palm trees, and it is the least population dense place in the western Hemisphere, which means you never feel crowded! This is not even mentioning the tropical birds, the amazing sea views, beaches, mangroves....
Silk Caye
3.) World-class fishing - While this is not an area of expertise for me, what I do know is that a great deal of Belize tourism is for fishermen. If you do a quick google search for Belize fishing, you can get pretty amazed by the stories and pictures you will see. Our tiny village of Placencia is well known for its fishing, and people come here for world-class fishing, with a ton of local fishermen who run amazing guided fishing trips.
Fishermen at Placencia Pier
4.) 2nd biggest reef in the world - Belize is well known for having the 2nd biggest barrier reef in the world, and then there's the Blue Hole. This fact alone makes it one of the top places in the world for snorkeling and diving. The number of excursions you can take for these adventures is practically endless, and divers repeat their trips here again and again.
Ranguana Caye
5.) Combining an island/jungle adventure - many guests say that they love how they can spend half their trip in the jungle, and half on the beach. Belize has a history of attracting adventurous spirits who want to have challenging excursions while they are here. The caving is also a factor as caves like the ATM cave tour are considered some of the best in the world. Then, after the adventures, guests can also go relax on amazing beaches with just a tiny commute in the middle.
Placencia Beach
6.) English speaking, US money accepted, and you can drink the water (in Placencia) - I combined these because these are all often repeated. While not any one of these is enough to place a country on top - when you combine all three, what happens is guests feel comfortable here, and find that it takes some of the stress of traveling out of the equation. In places similar to Belize - you have to come prepared with SOME bits of other languages (every tried checking out of a store where you don't speak the language? You have no idea what you owe and you have to get a pen to have them write it, then have the correct local currency!) When you compare travel to other places to these comforts - and experience waking up thirsty in a place where you just ran out of bottled water (or make the awful mistake of drinking it!!), or having bad exchange rates, or not finding someone speaking enough English to help you - you certainly appreciate these comforts.
The perfect beach bars
7.) Short easy flight - more flights are opening up every year to Belize. We get a lot of Floridians and Texans because they have a super cheap, easy flight and can be here in about 2 hours!! Even from the Northern US with a connection, you can leave the US at 6am and land in Belize City by 10 or 11am. While people love exotic tiki places - compare this to getting to Tahiti or even Hawaii!
Exotic-looking main street
8.) Wanting an alternative to the all inclusive gig - when you have visited places on a cruise ship or an all inclusive hotel - it can feel a whole lot like being anywhere in the US, even if you are somewhere exotic. Everything is catered to be comfortable to the North American traveler, and while this is sometimes perfect for what you are looking for, other times, you can feel like you already can predict the whole vacation before you even leave. I can promise you....Belize will NOT be that experience :)
Placencia's famous sidewalk
9.) Diving with whale sharks - although many places near us are places you can see or even swim with whale sharks, many places do not allow you to scuba dive with them. This sets Belize apart as this is one of the world-class diving experiences that you can do this, and people come from all over the world for this dive.

10.) Repeat guests - read our reviews, people often say they don't like returning to a place again and again, but they come back to Belize - a lot. There is something about the warmth of a small village, where people get to know your name, and you can call a beach dog your own after a few days, where you are still treated as a special guest (not one of a million!) that make Belize feel like you stumbled on a secret!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Top 10 ways to stay fit on your vacation to Placencia, Belize! (Yoga, Gym, Crossfit, and more!)

We get this question from guests pretty often (and if you just want to lay on the beach, there are PLENTY of people doing that and nothing more.) Here's what we learned from our past guests about their favorite ways of staying fit while they are in Placencia...

1.) Bike riding - Placencia is a 16-mile peninsula, with one road all the way to the "top"- this is a GREAT ride, very interesting for people and sight seeing. There are plenty of places to stop on the way up and get water, have lunch, jump in a pool/the sea. Most people will stop when they get to the "Placencia Hotel," this is north of Maya Beach in the "Plantation" area of the peninsula. If your hotel doesn't offer free bikes (many do) you can rent from a place in town.

2.) Kayaking - this is recommend first thing in the morning as it is much calmer in the morning, and gets more rough throughout the day. You can paddle over to Placencia Caye and snorkel, or go along the coast up past Turtle Inn and be nosy! There are a handful of places in town to rent these, and a few hotels that offer these complimentary.

3.) Paddle boarding - kind of the same as above, but you have to stand (obvi) and be a little more coordinated. Side note, you can do all these things complimentary at CBC!

4.) Yoga - there is GREAT yoga in this village. Placencia "runs" on Facebook - and how awesome is this - you can join THIS page to get the latest info on all the classes! Here's the latest as of this blog post...

ALL YOGA STUDIO SCHEDULES:

EUCALIPTO:
Mon 6:30am Vinyasa
Tues 7:00am Hatha
Wed 6:30am Vinyasa
Thurs 7:00am Hatha
Friday 7:00am Gentle Flow 4:00 kids yoga
********************************************************
PLACENCIA YOGA:
Monday:
6:00am - Ashtanga (half primary led class) with Aaron
9:00am - Basic Flow with Aaron

Tuesday:
9:00am - Vinyasa Flow with Brice
4:15pm - Sivananda with Jan
5:30pm - Ashtanga (half primary led class) with Aaron

Wednesday:
6:00am - Ashtanga (half primary led class) with Aaron
9:00am - Gentle Flow with Jarka

Thursday:
9:00am - Ashtanga (half primary led class) with Aaron
5:30pm - Vinyasa Flow with Jarka

Friday:
6:00am - Ashtanga (half primary led class) with Aaron
9:00am - Basic Flow with Aaron
********************************************************************
SECRET GARDEN:
No Yoga until August..classes to be announced
*********************************************************************
YOGA 4 LIFE with Pam Bernier Swanick
Tues 10:00am Wild Orchid
Wed 5:30pm Naia
Thurs 10:00am Wild Orchid
Saturday 10:00am Wild Orchid
actual class at Eucalipto...yogatrail.com
5.) Crossfit - There are two places to check out for Crossfit - schedules sometimes change, but you can walk to both places in the village and find out their schedules when you are here. First is Evolution Beach - see more below - and you can also check out the Placencia Gym above the ReMax office.  

6.) Zumba - Zumba is popular here - Monday Zumba fitness classes are at the community center at 4:15, and Zumba family on Friday nights at Tipsy Tuna at 7pm (starting in October).

7.) Outdoor Gym - Evolution Beach mentioned above can be reached at 608 1643, and you can walk there right by the cut through road by Sea Spray. They have personal training, boxing, weightlifting, and more. You can also check out Placencia Gym in the evenings. 

8.) Volleyball/basketball - There is a super nice volleyball court by Tipsy Tuna. There are often pick up games throughout the week with nice people, who will probably let you join if you ask :). You can also feel free to grab a ball and pepper there, it is a public park. There is a basketball court by the sports fields in the middle of town, and often you can find people playing pick up games there. 
tripadvisor.com
9.) Swimming - Another wonderful thing about Placencia, is that there are few things to worry about with regards to swimming in the sea. You are not going to run into rocks, there aren't that many sea creatures near the shore, the water is usually calm enough for a safe swim, and there are few boats or anything like that to worry about. Also I have yet to see a shark. 
matadornetwork.com
10.) Running/walking the beach or main street - kind of self explanatory - but note that most of the year, it is way too hot to enjoy this in the middle of the day, so running is recommended as early in the morning as you can. One great thing about Placencia is that all beaches are public, so you can walk, and walk, and walk, on the shore until you can't take anymore....and this is such a fun thing to do on vacation, you can just get right in the water when you get hot! The sand here is a workout to walk on, so your calves will feel it.  

***If all else fails, you can just pull up some videos on YouTube and find a spot on the beach!! Also - check out the Placencia Breeze local newspaper, which has listings for all the latest fitness in town :) 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dear Tropical Storm Franklin, what can I do if you make it rain on my vacation to Placencia, Belize?

Ugh there is a big tropical storm Franklin headed our way tonight.....which is always a good time to consider what you can do in the rain around here??? Also, what should you pack if it is calling for rain in the forecast when you are here?? Here you go!

Top 15 things to do in Placencia Village in the rain



1.) Jaguar Lanes in Maya Beach - this is indoor bowling fun! Great pizza too, you can get a cab up there. (pic from their facebook page)
2.) INDOOR DINNER - I'd take this opportunity to visit the new spa called Naia and eat at 1981, where they have a fully enclosed restaurant. It is super cute, and somehow Mayan Modern! (pic from their facebook page)
3.) Pickled Parrot - this is not right on the sea, so you aren't going to get the lashing wet sea breeze. This is a huge, dry palapa bar and everyone in there is always fun and cheerful. The crowd favorites are Thursday trivia, the meatloaf (great rain comfort food), and you can play with Mia and Ziggy, the awesome dogs that live there and will play fetch with you for hours (wait till you see Mia's piercing stare right through your soul.) (pic from their facebook page)
4.) Rent a car - right in the village you can rent a car from a couple places who will bring it right to you Barefoot Car Rental - this is a great opportunity to explore the 16 mile peninsula, and what is weird is you may find it sunny up in Maya Beach when it is raining in the village, and vice versa! Below are some ideas that may get you out of the rain in the village....(pic from their facebook page)
5.) Hiking at Bocawina

6.) "Secret" waterfalls (not that secret) and visit a bamboo forest...

7.) Hiking or an excursion at Cockscomb

8.) Go inland even farther - you can go to Ian Anderson's for the day, and do a cave tubing (about 2 hours, probably not at all the same weather there unless we are dealing with a monster storm)

9.) Head to San Ignacio for the day - this is a pretty drive, and from there you can do the ATM Cave Tour, Xunantunich, and many Cave Tours. We like Trip N Travel.

10.) Tipsy Tuna - put on your lil poncho and head out, because there is plenty of dry space and it is always fun to people watch. People will always be there! And Tipsy has an indoor part with a sandy floor and a pool table! (really hard to find a pic of this. From Pinterest.)
11.) Sit at ChaChi's and people watch - you can eat pizza and gelato right under a pretty substantial "tunnel" - and you are in the heart of main street with lots of good people watching. They have a bar under there too :)

12.) If all else fails - get food from Ian Anderson's new deli or EnE Chinese and watch TV - if you are prone to boredom in the rain, make sure you stay somewhere with cozy indoor space, good movie channels, and good wifi. You are probably tired anyway so use it as an excuse to Netflix and .....go to bed early - and now you can get up and watch the sunrise at 5am since you are so well rested! Actual pic from Hacienda veranda.
****Packing tips (pretty basic here) - it doesn't hurt to throw in a poncho and some water shoes. Check with your hotel if they provide umbrellas - we do! These can also be found pretty cheaply at the local stores. A long sleeve dry wicking shirt also helps. It also doesn't hurt to ask about the hotel's TV and wifi opportunities, and whether there is any outdoor covered space so you can still enjoy yourself and not get cabin fever (we do have all). Also - bring a couple ziplock bags for your phone and cameras, and a nylon or waterproof string bag. This should cover it!!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The BEST cheap eats in Placencia Village!! (with guest writer Dave)

My husband Dave offered to write a blog post today, as he was eating a street food burrito, that he said deserves its own blog post.... So, here it is, with some "editor's notes" at the bottom...
_________________________________________________________________________________
Much of travel surrounds eating. Meals out, new experiences, delicious exotic dishes - travel and food go together like rice and beans.

And while Placencia has a number of restaurants that I think can go toe to toe with any international travel destination’s finest dining options (Ricks, Rumfish, Maya Beach Bistro) wherever I am, I gravitate to the cheap eats. No doubt, my favorite part of travel. Below is a quick sampling of my favorite cheap eats, and how to do it like a local!

Breakfast burritos….

A can’t miss! Look, if you’re headed out on a tour, getting ready to spend the morning kayaking beautiful waters, or want a great, quick, cheap meal for the next leg of your journey, breakfast burritos are the best. Stop at any street stand by the police station and make your order. They prepare it right in front of you, fresh, tasty and cheap. Burritos are $5 BZD. They are prepared with a large homemade-in-front-of-you flour tortilla, and include eggs, ham, onions, and sometimes the following – coleslaw, peppers, chicken, and Marie Sharps. So delicious! You’ll need to approach the counter and order – don’t expect a menu or any chit-chat. The staff is at work and they’ll probably make 150 burritos that morning - so keep it brief. Just order a breakfast burrito, with everything – they’ll put it together for you, wrap it in foil, and you walk away with it. Cash only, USD is fine if you have it, and you can eat there.
 And here are two tips: 
1. Place your order and then walk to the small grocery store that is close and get a coconut water while you wait. It will take about 10 minutes to prepare your burrito. And tell the cook you’re going. They won’t respond, but be sure - they heard you. 
 2. Get a few extra. Keep them in your hotel room fridge - they reheat wonderfully! Perfect for a late night snack!
Here's my favorite place:
And here is the burrito that inspired this post...the breakfast one...

Chicken rice and beans ….

Every dining blog and article about Belize food talks about this dish. I won’t be another that goes on and on. But, Mim’s on the road is my favorite. It also happens to be right near our place. But really, they’re all great and all around $10 BZD. 
So, if you’re going to have lunch at a roadside stand that has this DELICIOUS dish, here are two tips: 1. Show up early. Lunch is served 11 to 1 and if you get there at 12:45, they’ll be out of everything you were hoping to have. Get there about 11:30 and you can ensure you’ll get your pick of what’s on the menu. 
 2. You can ask for extra chicken for a price. Staff will normally oblige and it’s worth it!
It will be some iteration of this...
Tamales….

This one is buyer beware. There are a number of vendors walking with 5 gallon buckets of fresh, hot, just made tamales - $3 BZD. When I first saw this three years ago, I couldn’t have been more excited. Daily hot tamales to my doorstep – what more could a boy want? Here’s what…………… Belizean tamales are cooked with all the classic ingredients – masa, corn husks, spices and seasonings – and the meat is chicken. Sounds delicious right? The problem is that the chicken is “bone-in” as-in – don’t bite directly into that sucker or you’ll lose a tooth! And even if you want to eat the chicken, you’ll need to dig out the bone with your hand as it’s packed inside the masa. So, buyer beware – tamales are cheap and tasty, but too much work for this guy!
Chabilmarvillas.com
These are my favs, and I hit them all (except the tamales) several times a week. But actually, I do sneak in a tamale in every now and then – only when I know no one is watching :)
_________________________________________________________________________________
Editor's Note - we have a lot of enthusiasm in this family; as he was writing I was shouting out other things that are cheap that he eats all the time, and it was exhausting for him, so I'll finish this. SO, to add a few more cheap eats that while he did not write, he does agree with...

-$.50usd plantain chips in the little baggies at all the grocery stores. These are awesome, just the right size that you don't feel cheated/pretty full, he eats them about once a day.
belizeadventure.com
-farmer's markets all through the village - go get a couple tomatoes, onion, lime, jalapeno, and cilantro, chop it all up, and get a bag of local tortilla chips at the grocery store. You can do this for like $6usd and have a ton of fresh salsa, and the chips here are all amazing.
belizeadventure.ca
cute farmer's markets everywhere
-coke out of a real glass bottle.....it just tastes different here, you have to try it...
alamy.com
-"Squash" - this is concentrated fruit juice sold at the grocery store, for some reason it is amazing and makes a TON of juice or rum punch 
belizeadventure.com
-quick, cheap meal - ground chicken, shredded cheese & taco seasoning from the grocery store (maybe plain yogurt or sour cream, block olives), plus lettuce, onion, green pepper, maybe an avocado and the above salsa...makes a spectacular taco salad that we eat at least once a week. 

-if you see someone walking around with a bin on their shoulder, stop them! Especially if it is Justin with his little bakery things or the Mayan lady with donuts, they are cheap and awesome.

These are enough tips to eat cheaply for a week and not get sick of it....and then for dinner, you can eat at Omar's, Dawn's, or Wende's, J-Dees,, the Galley, etc.....nice local sit down places, and get the special, you can eat dinner for about $5-8usd!


Friday, July 14, 2017

What low season? Belize breaks records, Lobsterfest, & the newest pics around the village!

No surprise to read THIS article - Belize has broken its overnight tourism records - smashed them in fact! In April the overnight percentage went up 24% compared to last year!!!!!

You can tell in the village, the energy and buzz is much higher than in past years during low season - mid July feels more like late November as far as the people. It is still NOT crowded - you can go into any restaurant and not have a wait, and you can have the beach to yourself most days, which is one of the draws of this village (paradise without overcrowding!). But, the amount of tourists in the village can be seen in far more filled up seats at the bars and restaurants.

The village recently enjoyed Lobsterfest, so lobster is back on the menus, yay! Here is a montage of village images from the last couple weeks - even if you are enjoying your own summer across North America, the exotic and rustic look of this place can make you want to come back...

Lobsterfest:
Gotta get a pic with the lobster.....
Get your face in this board....
CBC's own Carlos Vasquez won the Amateur Rum Punch Contest with his "famous" racecar rum punch!!!

Lobster pizza, lobster rolls, lobster omelettes, lobster bisque, lobster fritters.....
Here are some images on Main Street from the last week....
Love the Central American-style grocery stores....you never know what you will find!
Pretty painted fences down Main Street...
 Street art can be found throughout the village
 Charming, tranquil, exotic are some of the words that come to mind, everywhere you look

 Belizean "fast food" - love her burritos!

 Bicycles are a sight you will see everywhere throughout the village, always a pretty picture:)
 A visit to Pickled Parrot is a high point of a vacation here!
 The newest restaurant in the village - The Vineyard!
 And everyone's old favorite.....Rumfish :) (never get sick of seeing this in new pictures!)
 One of my favorite souvenir shops!
 More cute storefronts
 Reclaimed nautical signs :)
 Local favorite Dawn's grill
 Secret Garden is hidden behind this rustic wood building...
 Pretty shops tucked off to the side of Main Street

 Great Asian soup and stir fry here, with great people watching!
 Never get sick of these tropical colors!