Friday, December 28, 2018

A look at the Taste Belize Tour - Spice Farm, Mayan Hearth Cooking, and Ixcacao Chocolate experience!

Taste Belize Tours is an award-winning tour you can take from Placencia, Belize. We highly recommend it for those guests looking to experience an authentic way to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell all things Belize, from a tropical Spice Farm where you will taste and touch plants right off the stems, to interacting and eating a meal with a Mayan family, to visiting an authentic Mayan-family run chocolate kitchen. Lyra is a highly knowledgeable guide who has great passion for all things Belize, and is a wonderful resource throughout your tour - ask her your history questions and you are in for a great learning experience! You can also choose from a vast array of experiences that you can read about on her website HERE - we chose the Spice Farm, following by Mayan Hearth cooking, then the Ixcacao Chocolate experience.

The Spice Farm was breathtaking - pictures don't do it justice. You will feel like you just landed at a farm from 100 years ago - it is tranquil and you can smell dozens of different amazing scents as you walk around. You will get the history of how certain spices made it to Belize, how they are grown and harvested, how they are used, and much more. 
You know you are somewhere special when you start by walking through this arch!
We were astounded by the organized sections and care that is taken with each plant - the guide was so knowledgeable and passionate...
 This palm-fringed path is really long and takes you to the different sections - it was so peaceful, so serene - the landscaping is something you do not see everyday!
 Everywhere you look, small hand-painted signs, blooming flowers, tropical foliage...
This bridge overlooks a totally unique lily-pad filled pond - like something out of a historic novel - they even do weddings there! 

The Spice Farm was about an hour or so, and then we took a short drive to the Ketchi Mayan Family, the Cocs. The family is just wonderful - warm, welcoming, and they even have coconut drinks waiting for you! Everything they do is so sustainable - and most of their food is right from their gardens. We all agreed it was one of the most delicious and unique meals we have ever had. They cooked the chicken in huge palm fronds over a fire, while we make heart of palm, and they cooked up a root vegetable side, and we all learned how to make corn tortillas from scratch! It was so much fun and we got to learn a lot of history about Mayans and also their lifestyle today. They also served a unique hot cacao drink. 
The Coc Home as you pull up
Lovely drinks!
Wrapping the chicken up!
Hearth cooking
It was an unforgettable meal!
Finally, there was a bit of a drive to Ixcacao - there is such great and peaceful scenery as you drive through the Toledo district, it is a great way to see one of the least developed places in Belize. Ixcacao is rated as one of the best organic chocolate makers in Belize - and if you are a chocolate lover, this will be heaven for you. You get to taste chocolate in ALL its forms, from bean to bar - and taste test all their flavors! You will actually make chocolate the old-fashioned way, and get a wonderful rich history about Belize chocolate. Juan and Abelina are so charming and talented; this is a remarkable experience.
 You get to pull a cacao fruit right off the tree...
 Charming little kitchen!
You get to try ALL these!!

Lyra recommends that you book her tours in advance as she does book up, especially in high season. You can do that right from her website above. She is also doing tasting tours right in the village if you have less time, with coffee and other Belize foods, so for a quick 2 hour experience you can do it steps away as well!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Top 10 Things to do in Placencia Village, Belize!

Whether you are on a quick vacation or you live here full time, it is great to remind yourself of all the unusual and unique things that bring people back again and again to Placencia. It is a very special place - remote and exotic, yet you will feel right at home, warmly welcomed, in this artistic and funky little village....
Before you do ANYTHING else in the Village....
1.) Walk the "loop" of the village.
You can't get lost - follow the loop starting either on the main street or the sidewalk, takes about 30 minutes if you don't stop anywhere (but you will!) This loop allows you to see the whole village and get a feel for the tour booths, shops, restaurants, and bars that draw you in. As you are walking around, check out the local woodworking, have a coffee at Above Grounds (looks like a treehouse), stop and have a gelato at the famous Tutti Frutti, and have a look at all the farmer's market stands (we recommend purchasing some tomatoes, an onion, cilantro, a jalapeno, and a lime- mix these together with bit of salt and some tortilla chips from the grocery store - cheap and amazing). Walk by and see what is happening at Tipsy Tuna and Barefoot Bar; they advertise their activities on chalkboards throughout the village (and they are right next to each other, this is the heart of the village fun.) Try Brewed Awakenings for their excellent coffee, blended drinks, and seaweed shakes. ***Must Do's -- Stop and check out the pier - a lot of good bird/people/fisherman/dolphin watching here. ***Enjoy the shops and art galleries all throughout the village. Some SUPER talented artists in this village.

2.) Beach Time/Kayaks, paddleboarding…it is highly recommended that you set a day aside to just enjoy the beach. Some people get a hotel on the beach where they can lay out on cushioned loungers, and some hotels have kayaks and paddleboards for their guests. You can always hang out at Tipsy Tuna, Barefoot Bar, or Cozy Corner, where they have public loungers. Placencia is a GREAT place to do this early in the morning as the sun rises, on days where the water is glassy, this will be an unforgettable experience. Tranquilo is reopening and you can kayak over to get lunch, or kayak over to Placencia Caye and snorkel by the mangroves. Plenty of people see dolphins and manatees in this area. On your beach day you might consider some spa time or yoga - get a massage or spa service at Secret Garden, Ztouch, or Siriphon's. Do yoga at Eucalipto. Join the Placencia Yoga page for other places yoga is held - this is a big time yoga village :).

3.) Get up for the Sunrise....The sun rises at about 5:30am year round here - and you just HAVE to get up one morning and see it. Most of them are just remarkable, I can't think of a place I've ever been with better sunrises....

4.)Rent a golf cart for the day (or bike if you are hearty)... You can drive/ride it all the way up the peninsula (you are allowed to take it as far as the Placencia Hotel - after that, only cars). You can rent a golf cart at Captain Jak's or Barefoot Rentals right in the village. You can drive north through an authentic Garifuna village in Seine Bight (this is not set up for tourists, while it looks a bit rough, the locals are warm and friendly, and are very used to visitors - lunch at Vern's is one of the top rated places for local food.) Farther up, you will end up entering charming Maya Beach. Here you will find what looks like Florida from the 1940's. I highly recommend lunch or dinner at Mango's, Maya Bistro, Naia, or Belize Ocean Club. Park your cart, and walk around here on the beach - lots of little quiet beach bars. Most places let you walk around their facilities. Another worthwhile stop to sightsee is Singing Sands - very charming place for lunch. You can bowl at Jaguar Lanes, or check out the Placencia Hotel (this is where the casino is.)

5.) Rent a car for the day... (easy to do from the village - Barefoot Rentals is a good one), and either go to the Maya King waterfalls - this is a popular place to have lunch, swim, and picnic, just north of the peninsula. It is a relatively safe and easy drive. A bit farther away, but within an hour, there is amazing hiking at Bocawina (and ziplining.) A fun stop on the way home is Lost Reef, for a couple drinks and a swim. You can even check out a working Banana Farm, or do amazing hiking at Bocawina or Cockscomb if you are willing to drive a bit farther.
6.) Snorkel at Silk Caye/Laughingbird Caye - arguably the most popular excursion in this fishing village, you can do this tour with anything from a luxury catamaran group sail to a small local skiff, to one of these islands - great snorkeling with sharks, rays, turtles, fish etc. A catamaran (Nautical Adventures) is the most expensive option- it is very comfortable, you enjoy the journey/sail there, and there is champagne and a lobster lunch on the island :). You can also take a more casual local skiff and enjoy the small private group snorkel.
7.) Go to Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve - this is a hike through the rainforest, with a waterfall swim, natural lazy river tubing through the rainforest, and natural rock slides. You can do it all with Doyle at DTourz.

8.) Take a day trip to Ranguana Caye (a gorgeous private island). This is a calendar-worthy private island, you can kayak/snorkel/paddleboard right by the reef, you go for the day and it is all about relaxing and lounging around, gorgeous beaches, rustic, natural, like you are shipwrecked.
9.) Take a National Geographic-worthy boat trip to Monkey River, where you will find an untouched village and crazy wildlife. The village looks like it did decades ago, and you will think you are somewhere crazy exotic. You will also stand under trees with a monkey family up in them, and probably see crocodiles and manatees.

10.) Do the highly-rated Taste Belize tours for all things culture and food. You can learn about authentic hearth cooking with a Mayan or Garifuna Family, learn Garifuna drumming, go to an actual rainforest where cacao is grown - and make it yourself, tour an exotic spice farm, and more!

*** Runner Up - this isn't technically Placencia - but many people go to Cayo for a day trip if their vacation is based in Placencia. This is the "Wild West" of Belize and it is highly recommended to do the ATM Cave Tour or a half day Xunantunich Mayan ruins with the other half Cave Tubing.

I didn't even get to hit on ALL the many food options in Placencia - that is the next post :)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The latest news and images from Belize!!

It was a very exciting couple weeks in the news for Belize!! There was a ton of positive attention all over different media - it started with Lonely Planet placing Belize as #10 on their list of top ten places to go in the world, in 2019... For a tiny country this is a HUGE accomplishment!!! See HERE...

Then GQ, the knower of all things cool, proclaimed that BELIZE was the place to go - and to skip trendy, super-cool Tulum this year!! See HERE....

Then, the same week, Belize was announced the fastest-growing place in the Caribbean...
Caribbean Journal announced Belize is the fastest-growing Caribbean destination based on September's tourism results!! See HERE...

Belize and the Caribbean were labeled Zika-free - YAY! Read on HERE...

Tropic Air announced a new direct flight from Belize City to Mexico!! Using the puddle jumpers makes getting around neighboring countries super easy and quick - the customs at the small private airports are a breeze and you feel like a VIP :) See HERE!

In local exciting news - on the island of Ambergris Caye, Maya Island Air opened a swanky, new airport in San Pedro!!! It doesn't even look like Belize - super posh....check out the pics HERE!

And continuing with the poshness that seems to be developing around Belize (but verrrrry slowly!) the amazing new swanky store, Mirab's, in Belize City, opened up the first Ashley furniture in the country - Belize has VERY few chain stores - you can almost count them on one hand, int the whole country. So when a chain opens here, it is a mixture of - everyone feels upset because this goes against the grain - and also, relief that it makes it just a bit easier to live here and get things you'd like to have to live :) Check out the store HERE!

And nothing talks about Belize like the pictures you can take here - the country is a paradise for photographers. Here are some of our favorites over the last couple weeks - a walk through Placencia Village, getting pretty for high season!!

And some San Pedro favorites...

And finally a shot of the fabulous Mirab's :)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Best of Belize pictures from the last couple weeks....

With our PUR team now in two locations....and lots of enthusiastic picture taking.....we are gathering an absolute TON of amazing images in different parts of Belize. There are almost too many to organize but so many of them are can't miss -- here are our favorites from the last couple weeks!!

From the air over San Pedro...

From the islands near Placencia...

From Placencia Village...

From downtown San Pedro....

From CBC and PUR!