BelizeCentral AmericaSightseeing

3/6/10 – NYC to Belize

Belize has long been on my list of “places to go”. Its one of the best dive sites in the Caribbean, not to mention a country I’ve not yet visited. So when the opportunity came up to take a quick week vacation (because anything that’s not two weeks is definitely a “quick” vacation) – I took it with my boyfriend at the time, Mike.

Flight From Newark to Belize City
When you plan a vacation to a paradise location you really want to get there as soon and as quickly as possible, so we opted for a direct flight out of Newark at 9:10 in the morning. Apparently we weren’t alone. The flight was delayed flight due to Continental’s oversold status, so we waited while the crew pleaded for people to give up their seats for a $700 flight credit and a guaranteed first class ticket the next morning. Tempting, and if I’d planned two weeks off I would have taken them up on their offer. But with only one week and all hotels pre-paid… it’s just not worth it. I did feel bad, though, because apparently there were two people waiting for seats who had tickets on a very expensive cruise that departed that night. They did manage to get on board so we could make our way, 45 minutes late for departure. As we taxied down the runway I nodded off, heard the pilot say something on the speakers, but didn’t think much of it and so kept my headphones on and snoozed. When we pulled back to the gate (again) I sat up and asked the people next to me what was going on. “Mechanical problem,” they said. “But the pilot thinks it can be fixed quickly.” I guess we should have taken the $700 credit and next flight.

Diner decor inside Newark Airport
As luck would have it, though, the mechanical problem was fixed and despite our almost hour-late departure we managed to land in Belize City only 15 minutes later than scheduled.

Flight to Ambergris Caye
Though we were sure we’d miss our connecting flight to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, we made a 3PM flight after all. The flight was a 10 minute trip on a little puddle jumper that fit about 10 people.

Puddle Jumper Flight

Mike on flight

View of the reefs from the plane

We landed on tiny airstrip and were picked up by Ramon’s Village – the place where we would stay for the next three nights. Anxious to move into vacation mode, we changed, walked around beach, got dive arrangements settled, and settled in for pina coladas and snacks.

Pina Colada #1

At Ramon’s, and happy

Sunset over Ramon’s

The weather on Ambergris Caye was sunny but with a very strong wind. Though we didn’t know it at the time, we’d later learn that these are the “trade winds” and are common on the island.

Our seaside room was approximately 40 steps from the beach. Or – if you’re Mike and you so choose to access the beach by vaulting over the back deck via Dukes of Hazard grace – it’s only 30 steps. We know this. Mike counted them.

Dinner – El Patio in San Pedro
For dinner we walked into the town of San Pedro and ate at a cute little spot with sandy floor and candles, with a water fountain in the middle. Mike had the coconut snapper and I had the blackened grouper accompanied by Belikin Beers.

Belikin Beer (not my image)
Mike and I laughed because – in the few hours we’d been on Ambergris – everyone had been welcoming, kind, and considerate. Even our waiter at El Patio was our very best friend. “It makes me feel a suspicious,” said Mike. We’re such urbanites. We automatically think that – just because someone is being nice – we should have our eye out for the second guy who’s stealing our wallets. We’d come to discover, though, that this is just the vibe on the island. Tourism is their main source of income, so they’re genuinely happy to have us here and spending money. So we smoothly settled into the easy, welcomig routine of the island.

Where Deadheads Retire
Earlier in the day we met an older but very energetic man named Bruce (or was it Paul?) who spent 30 years in NYC but retired on Ambergris years ago. He told us that we should go to Wet Willy’s tonight for a “great jam session”. So after dinner we walked up the beach to the far north end to the bar – a building on the far end of long pier. We walked in to a jam session in progress with a band called All Cayed Up. The band members – drums, guitar, and keyboard – were all played by men averaging the age of 60. The bar was filled with people in their 50s and 60s, but these were just retirees. These were retired Deadheads rocking to the music. Four of them were up and dancing in the middle of the bar, exactly the way people danced at Grateful Dead concerts years ago. If you’ve never been to a Dead or a Phish show, this description won’t make any sense. But those of you who know… know. They clearly never lost their love of music (or of weed). But to their credit, “All Cayed Up” was great. The music was excellent and all the musicians were clearly talented and loved what they did. The sight to see was the bass player, a local Belizean boy of 16 years old who just received acceptance to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He was amazing. They gave him a long solo and the entire bar was enthralled.

The people watching was the best part. I wish I’d thought to bring my camera, because between the dancing and the number of less-than-sober 60 somethings, we had all the makings of a fun evening. We spent quite a while there enjoying the music and scene and then we walked back down the soft, sandy beach back to Ramon’s.