I have been drawn to visit Belize for at least 5 years. When Southwest created a direct flight to Belize from Houston, it made the dream more of a reality. I had absolutely no knowledge of the island. My podiatrist’s assistant told me about her homeland, which increased my desire to visit more. I finally made the dream a reality MLK Weekend 2017.
I began purchasing parts of my trip in pieces. I was able to attend the Eyes For You fundraising gala and was the highest bidder for a 3 night stay in Belize. I was happy to support a great cause while beginning preparation of my trek to Central America. The second portion was purchased with a Southwest Voucher due to suffering through a 3 hour flight with no air conditioning. I caught a Southwest sale where I had to debate between Art Basel Miami, a visit to Atlanta or Belize for about the same price. Belize won.
When I went to reserve my hotel, I quickly learned that there were layers to this journey. Somehow, I missed that the stay was on an island (caye, pronounced key) which was a distance from Belize City. My flight was landing after the last run of the water taxi so I had to purchase a local domestic flight (which was near the price of my southwest ticket).
I arrived in Belize City seamlessly on Southwest yet started to panic because I did not write down my connecting flight number. I also did not have a plan on what would happen if my Southwest flight was delayed and I couldn’t make the connection. Thankfully, I found my flight on Maya Air after the desk agent from Tropic Air verified I was not flying with them.
I have flown in a Cessna before so a small plane does not scare me very much. Yet, flying over water in a Cessna is another ball game. I recall my connecting flights out of Puerto Rico on American Airlines to the Caribbean, but never did I take a similar journey on an airline that I had never heard. I had to calm my nerves and use the time to take in the scenery. The view from the plane was just the beginning of views I would have from Ambergris Caye.
I landed at night, which I later discovered is new for Belizian pilots. I did research that my hotel was across the street from the airport. I waited on my bag and walked around the corner to the hotel. I observed immediately that golf carts are the major mode of transportation and they are frequently buzzing through the streets.
I arrived at the Sunbreeze Hotel tired and very hungry. The first thing I learned was the hotel restaurant would be closed for dinner for two nights and as they were having a fundraiser for Oceana (an organization that protects the reef). Through clinched teeth, I tried to comprehend no food and was not excited to have to explore to go somewhere else. Yet, two great things came out of it. I registered for the event for Saturday night and I explored eating outside of the hotel.
I made it to the local spot of El Fugaon. They had live music that night (which I have learned is rare). I had a wonderful waiter that was very “Americanized”. He and I chatted about the NBA and I had to learn from him that the Rockets were having a great year (I should be ashamed that I didn’t know that). I saw conch fritters on the menu but ventured to try grilled conch. What was best about the meal was the pepper sauce I requested on the side. It was phenomenal. The meal was great but I wanted it to have a bit more heat (temperature). I enjoyed my margarita which was the freshest mango margarita I have ever had.
I spent a bit of time trying to disconnect from social media and texting and was successful for 24 hours. Unfortunately, wifi was available so it made it hard to break the habit. I spent Saturday relaxing and despite being told Belize is a party mecca, I found exactly what I was looking for, peace. I wandered through the town of San Pedro and found it interesting how quickly I could “blend” like a local. I also saw the difference in price gauging. The conch fritters at El Fugon were $10BZ. I went by a Jerk Place off the beach and they were $24BZ. The currency is about 1:2 for the American dollar, but I could not bring myself to spend that much more. I knew I would eat well that night and ended up just snacking until I got to dinner.
Dinner started at the Blue Fish Grill with cocktails prior to the kickoff. We had italian spritz’s curated by Talia Baiocchi who is releasing a book on spritz recipes. The spritz was a great kick off to a wonderful night. Many of the attendees were immigrants who are now living in Belize (either permanently or occasionally). Some guests, flew back just for the event. I was very happy I decided to attend. It was a great way for me to learn about Belize from their lens.
In addition, the owners from Blue Fish Grill have Houston roots. They had 4 featured chefs per night, and Saturday included a chef from Houston’s Tasting Room and Anejo, Alberto Gutierrez. His dish was a black fin tuna crude, sopressatta-panzanella, flor de jamica, balsamic vinegar and spicy cashew butter. The spicy cashew butter was to die for. In addition to the wonderful meals prepared by Amy Knox (Wild Mango’s), Missy Robbins (Lilia) and Chris Aycock (Blue Water Grill), we had wonderful wine pairings. My favorite take away from the wine were the 2014 Puligny Montrachet and the 2014 Chassagne-Montrachet. I will be looking for those stateside.
The dessert was featured by the Belize Chocolate Company which I stopped by earlier in the day to sign up for a chocolate class. We had a 70% Kakaw Belizean chocolate truffle, wangla square, and and cashew gianduja, all very decadent. All of this food was great preparation for the journey I would have Sunday.
On Sunday, I ran for a quick breakfast at the Blue Water Grill and had one of the best pancakes I have had in a long time. I typically don’t like pancakes outside of the states but these hit the spot. I then went to the Amergeiss Dive Shop to begin my snorkel excursion. I immediately recalled my experience snorkeling in the great barrier reef. Yet, the sharks were a little hungry that day. There is something about being in the ocean that you are forced to acknowledge God’s majesty.
My experience in Belize was well worth the 5 year wait. I am confident I will be back soon to explore more. I am very grateful that I was able to explore, meet new people, but find a bit of home once I arrived. I highly recommend a visit to Belize. I have to go back and explore Belize City (especially the caves).