Un-Belizeable: Honeymoon Adventures Part Three

22nd April 2015

If you’ve been following along, you’ve read a little bit of our Belize honeymoon adventures with caves, bugs and really cheap cocktails. You can read about the Belize Jungle here and Caye Caulker here. Next up is our last stop: Ambergris Caye.

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Ambergris Caye is known as one the popular, if not most popular, beach destinations within Belize. Slightly north of Caye Caulker, this island is considerably larger and technically makes its way up to connect to Mexico. To get there, we turned again to the handy-dandy water taxi, a short thirty minute boat ride away.

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When planning this leg of the trip, we found the number of resorts and options a bit more overwhelming. While there are some beautiful spots (checking this one out is a must) we once again opted for something with our own space and in a manageable price range. After some digging we came across Cocotal Cabanas. While the property was a bit further north, we were drawn to the adorable little cabanas and nice stretch of beach.

Little yellow home for the week

Little yellow home for the week

Similar to Caye Caulker, most resorts in Ambergris Caye offer bikes and kayaks. While we were about three miles north of town, we figured a thirty minute bike ride a few times a day would be great. If you prefer, smaller water taxis will take you from dock to dock in a matter of minutes.

More beach biking

More beach biking

While we had grand plans of bike rides daily, mother nature didn’t quite agree. Nearly as soon as we arrived to the island, rainy season decided to rear its ugly head. Living in Georgia, we’re no strangers to a good thunderstorm.

Sunrise calm before the storms

Sunrise calm before the storms

However, take a “good storm” multiple it by six and then increase the duration by infinity and that’s what we encountered in Ambergris Caye. There were some tears shed, but as I was reminded by P, this is OUR honeymoon and if we want to stay in bed all day and watch HBO and House Hunters (a real treat when you’re cableless), that’s perfectly OK. Crisis averted.

Thrilled for photos during breakfast at a yoga retreat center

Thrilled for photos during breakfast at a yoga retreat center

 

A very small friend at breakfast

A very small friend at breakfast

Between marathons of how many times one can see Maleficent, we did take shorter trips into town to explore. San Pedro is quite a bit bigger than Caye Caulker, though cars are still very limited. The road heading into town was still under construction when we visited (though we hear it should be done in 2015), meaning our bike rides were often more mountain bike style than beach cruiser. It made for great stories and fun maneuvering in-between rain storms.

I swore this said Elvis, though the food was delicious still

I swore this said Elvis, though the food was delicious

We found quite a few great little places to eat, hang out and just relax, but by far hearing of the day’s dive expeditions or stories of home from global travelers and locals alike was the best part.

The streets of San Pedro

The streets of San Pedro 

belize8By day three, the storms had subsided (for the most part) and we were more than thankful for some time outdoors. We quickly soaked up sun and more dock time.

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IMG_4314We were also finally able to check out Palapa Bar, and while we weren’t able to enjoy their famous inner tube and pulley system for ordering, we did catch a great sunset and see some spotted eagle rays from the deck.

Palapa Bar

Palapa Bar

This portion of our trip most certainly didn’t turn out as I had planned, but as God always reminds us, our plans aren’t always first. A little rain and a lot of time with just the two of us was just what we needed to recover and set our sights ahead towards married life awaiting us at home.

Dinner and drinks at Palapa

Dinner and drinks at Palapa

 

IMG_4321After 12 days away, we were quite ready to get back to our house and our sweet little animals. We’ll be forever grateful for our time in Belize and hope to make a trip back someday. Until then, we’re taking notes on world maps and charting our next #greatwhiteadventure. IMG_4356

In case you missed the recaps from the remainder of our trip,

Part One: Belize Jungle: Caves Branch

Part Two: Caye Caulker

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Un-Belizeable: Honeymoon Adventures Part Two

22nd April 2015

If you’re following along, we’re on to part two of P and I’s November honeymoon in Belize. To recap, part one included the jungle, quite a bit of caving and poolside nachos. We were pretty big fans of this little country the size of Massachusetts at this point, but had to keep going. Next up: Caye Caulker.

One last caving shot

One last caving shot

For parts two and three of our adventure, we headed to the beach, islands to be exact. While we went back and forth about staying on the southern mainland, which is also well traveled and known for its Belizian vibes, we couldn’t turn down the idea of island life. So back to Belize City we went.

While it’s an easy flight from mainland Belize over to any number of the islands off of the coast (including this one), we opted to take the more authentic cheaper route of going by water taxi. The water taxi will run you between $15-$20 USD, a steal which runs several times per day. They take care of loading your luggage and off you go.

The view from aboard the water taxi

The view from aboard the water taxi

Our first stop was Caye Caulker. We had heard Caye Caulker to be known for its backpacker tourists, amazingly cheap street food and laid back style of well, everything. On all of those fronts, Caye Caulker didn’t disappoint.

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Thanks to Trip Advisor stalking (which became our go-to for nearly every stop on this trip) we settled on four nights at Colina Cabanas. Owners Colin and Linda, originally from Canada, have made Belize home and built a little set of cabanas right along the coast of the southern end of the island. They couldn’t have been more gracious hosts, living on-site and available for anything from bike repair to restaurant recommendations.

The view from our deck at Colinda

The view from our deck at Colinda

When we took to booking both of our island stays we had a few simple requirements: transportation and water front access. Transportation on Caye Caulker is one of its most laid back elements, read there is little to none. The island is made up of three streets: front, middle and back street and cars, well you’ll be lucky to count them on one hand. Taxis do come in the form of golf carts, but the main mode of transportation here is biking. With a length of about a mile, biking from end to end is a fairly quick ride.

Mangrove tree tunnels and The Split

Mangrove tree tunnels and The Split

Once you reach the end of the island, you’ll find what’s known as The Split. This is basically a little swim, drink and sun spot at a break in the island caused by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. While the island technically continues past this point, there is no electricity – other than those producing it on their own as solar power.

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As far as coastline is concerned, Belize is beautiful, but not known for wide beaches in this part of the country, making a good dock, palapa, or The Split crucial. You’re more likely to dive off of the dock end and sleep in a hammock than lay on a sandy beach here. We did our fair share of both.

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We were more than surprised to find restaurants on the island to be numerous, delicious, quirky and CHEAP. We were both a little (read a tiny) disappointed to not be fans of lobster, as a freshly caught lobster grilled right on the street in front of you ran you about $5 USD.

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We didn’t indulge in any fresh crustaceans, but did find something even better in our eyes, a Georgia bar. Having a wedding during football season came with its difficulties, so we were thrilled when we found a little SEC bar to catch the majority of game day, including Georgia – Auburn. The 2/$5 BZD cocktails (equating to $1.25 USD each) were icing on the cake. Win-Win.

A terrible depiction of the Dawgs dominating behind our $1.25 cocktails.

A terrible depiction of the Dawgs dominating behind our $1.25 cocktails

Other than a lot of docking, beaching and eating, we also took a day of snorkeling from Caye Caulker. Too bad we weren’t the smartest and failed to pack the GoPro, resulting in no digital proof of that one. Belize is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef, meaning fish in the thousands less than a mile off shore. We ended up doing a half-day trip, which was really close enough for our tastes to a full day, including fruit, more rum and a tour guide for $40 USD each.

Lunch at the bar (pre-gametime) and the house rules

Lunch at the bar (pre-gametime) and the house rules

Once we finished swimming with the fishes, our guide took us on a tour around the island, going so far as to point out the underwater caves which are just starting to gain popularity with divers. We looked it up getting back to our hotel. No thanks.

While we loved the vibes and the many eating stops in Caye Caulker, there was one little demise: the no see ums. Ugh. Those dirty little jerks. I’ve had my fair share of no see um attacks in the Carolinas, however, this took it to an entirely new level. If you’ve never been bit by these little buggers (or you’re one of those miracle humans like P who aren’t bothered by their bites), they are basically little mosquitos that are nearly impossible to see and even harder to prevent.

Fun swings at dinner, though no bug escaping here

Fun swings at dinner, though no bug escaping here

Since no see ums are worst at night and sunrise and Caye Caulker didn’t really have in-door establishments (beyond hotels and maybe the grocery) there was no avoiding them. I left the island with around 100 painful bites and a lot of cortisone cream – which luckily I packed just in case. Add that with the leg gashes from part one of our trip and I was one ATTRACTIVE bride by this point. For better or for worse, right?

Departing the island

Departing the island

After four nights in Caye Caulker, we hit the water taxi and headed out towards our next and final stop, Ambergris Caye. Stay tuned for part three for that one. This is getting long.

Part One: The Belize Jungle; Caves Branch

Updated! Part Three: Ambergris Caye

Heading to the lunch stop

Un-Belizeable: Honeymoon Adventures Part One

19th April 2015

With wedding season around the corner (our first invite as a married couple arrived this week) and the fact that Atlanta seems to be channeling its best Portland, it seems like a good opportunity to go ahead and recap one of our best adventures yet: our Belize honeymoon. I wrote about the planning process way, way back. As we wrapped up and headed out, most of the major details stayed the same. The little details however, are always the best part.

After countless words of advice from friends, we opted not to leave the day following the wedding, saving that for rest and more celebration with friends and family. We left the next day, Monday, on an early flight direct from Atlanta to Belize City, a quick three hours.

We split our twelve day trip into two sections with three stops at four days each. As this could get a bit lengthy, I’ll be splitting this round up into three posts. To get started: the jungle.

  1. The Jungle: Caves Branch
  2. The Islands: Caye Caulker
  3. The Islands: Ambergris Caye

A recommendation from a friend and a phone call to the lodge lead us to Caves Branch and the idea of sleeping in a treehouse and daily adventure tours had us booking within minutes.

Arriving in Belize - the walk off plane arrival and entrance to the resort

Arriving in Belize – the walk off plane arrival and entrance to the resort

Upon landing, a guide from Caves Branch was waiting to pick us up at the airport and took us for the hour and half drive into the jungle. When we arrived at Caves Branch, we immediately felt at home. As we’re not ones for large resorts, choosing Belize relied heavily on the fact that we wanted to find small, locally owned places to stay, eat and explore for the duration of our trip. Caves Branch fit the bill perfectly.

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The entrance to our treehouse and outdoor shower

The view from the lodge and our indoor shower - with a live tree running through it.

The view from the lodge and our indoor shower – with a live tree running through it.

During our time with Caves Branch, there were anywhere from 15 – 25 guests total, low season, but also designed to feel quite intimate. Each night, the chef cooked a three course meal, served family style with the other guests. On several occasions, we were even graced with the presence of Ian Anderson, the resort’s owner for a meal. During dinner, a member of the staff would roam from table to table inquiring which adventure you would like to take for the following day. This proved fantastic, as we were able to chat with other guests about their day’s adventure and gauge what to do next.

Caves Branch

Caves Branch pool

On our first night, we signed up for cave tubing, which it turned out is exactly what it sounds like. Our trip took us on a rather exciting trailer ride through Cave Branch’s citrus farms (they own upwards of 60,000 acres (!!)), to a 15 minute or so hike and into the creek on tire tubes. Picture Shoot the Hooch with fewer people, clearer water and far more beautiful surroundings, we were hooked.

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The tractor ride to the creek

From there, we floated for the better half of the day, in and out of five different cave systems, some big, some small, stopping for a picnic lunch and some cliff jumping halfway.

Entering the first cave

Entering the first cave

Heading to the lunch stop

Heading to the lunch stop

Post cliff jumping

Pre cliff jumping

A quick walking break between caves

A quick walking break between caves

Final cave

Final cave

Blurry blue, blue waters

Blurry blue, blue waters

The literal light at the end of the tunnel

The literal light at the end of the tunnel

Each day’s adventure put us back to the lodge around 3:00, where we could spend afternoons by the pool with nachos and Cokes with real sugar or rum punches until dinner. Heaven.

Day two took us on our favorite adventure of the trip (and also darkest), cliff water-falling. While our GoPro footage turned out TERRIBLE from this adventure (who knew you can’t film in the dark and expect a headlamp to suffice), the trip itself was incredible.

To begin, we headed back into a different section of the jungle, where we hiked through the jungle for a half hour. From there, we went into a single cave system and then hiked for another an hour or so. During the cave hike, water ranged anywhere from a trickle beneath our feet to waist deep. Before heading to the falls portion of the hike, we stopped to have lunch inside of the cave, only supported by our head lamps.

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Pretend you can tell what’s happening here. As a hint: it’s lunch on a giant rock

As a result, the photos here are about as good as it gets. You’ll have to use your imagination for the rest. After lunch, we climbed a series of five waterfalls. One of the five required a clip in, the rest were free climbs. Once we reached the back of the cave, it was back the way we came, but jumping and swimming on our way out.

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One and only halfway decent photo from inside the caves – and without water up to our knees!

After our final difficult rock maneuvering, I somehow managed to face plant in the sand, though luckily I was at the back of the group and only Patrick noticed. I did leave Belize with a pretty nasty hand gash and leg cut. The photo here doesn’t do it its disgusting justice. Scars from your honeymoon: check.IMG_4223

Day three took us out of the water and back onto land for a Mayan ruins tour. While the Mayan ruins run throughout Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, Belize boasts a few amazing stops. We visited two Xuantunich and Cahal Pech. I won’t attempt to try to recount the history here, but we were quite in awe by both the stories and the surroundings.

A hand cranked ferry took us across the river and up to the ruins

A hand cranked ferry took us across the river and up to the ruins

The Mayan ruins are also known as a popular cruise ship stop, but our guide timed it just right and we basically had the place to ourselves, only seeing the tourist buses as we departed. Score.

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Before heading up

 

Us at the top. Please note, guardrails are not a thing in Belize

Us at the top. Please note, guardrails are not a thing in Belize

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View from the top

The second stop

The second stop

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Inside the ruins

Next stop: island life. Stay tuned for part two later this week. It does involve a lot of this…

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Updated! Find part two, Caye Caulker, here. If you’re really looking to jump ahead, find part three, Ambergris Caye, here.