We packed our bags and headed to Belize in December 2015 to ring in the New Year. We flew into Belize City and boarded a puddle jumper (small passenger plane) to get to the island of Ambergris Caye (also known as San Pedro) (or “La Isla Bonita” – according to Madonna). We stayed a few miles North of San Pedro at Coco Beach Resort and had a great time exploring the island of Ambergris Caye and fell in love with the mainland of Belize. Interesting Fact: English is the official language in Belize. Spanish is very common among the locals. But it’s the only country in Central America that uses English as their official language.
Our two year old ringing in the New Year of 2016
Belize is one of those great places where it’s not quite yet booming (think Cancun or Cabo) but it’s got the tourism to bring in some really nice accommodations, service, and amazing food. Like all of our adventures – we try to stay busy every day to explore where we’re at. It’s important to us to get a feel for the country and the culture that we visit. The last thing we want to do is lock ourselves in a resort and pass up all the adventurous opportunities (and good food) waiting for us “off the beaten path”. One of our favorite things in Belize was the golf cart rental. I know it’s kinda cheesy…but it was so fun to cart around the whole island for dinner, breakfast or to the grocery store.
Golf cart customers at the “Truck Stop”.
Now we love Belize – the people, the food, the country are all fabulous. The beach on the other hand…it definitely doesn’t win “best beach” in my book. When I think of “a beach” I think of laying out on the beach – kids playing in the sand – running in the water – building sand castles. We didn’t get that beach experience in Belize. The beach is nice – but it’s not THAT kind of beach. Part of their eco-system includes a ton of seaweed (Sargassum Seaweed) that comes all the way up to the beach. I’m not a biologist, oceanographer, meteorologist or anything of the sort – so I really don’t know the scientific explanation or situation of the Sargassum Seaweed in Belize. It may be a seasonal thing…I’m not sure. But I do know that I was not interested in putting my freshly pedicured toes in that beach water. We walked on the beach plenty but we pretty much kept to the pool (thankfully our resort had THE best pool on the island). Belize is supposed to have some AMAZING snorkeling, diving and fishing. So despite the beach and seaweed issues – Belize is definitely a fantastic spot all around.
The pool and beach at Coco Beach Resort
Some of our favorite family-friendly activities in Belize include:
- Exploring San Pedro – San Pedro is the cutest little beach town. So many little shops and cruising around on your golf cart makes it easy to pop in any shop you like.
- Boating in Belize – One of the best ways to see the island is hopping on a boat. It’s great to see the island from a different angle and the water is beautiful when you get out there.
- Back to the Mainland – There are so many excursions offered on the mainland (and it’s just a hop and a skip away) that include exploring the mountains, rivers and Mayan ruins of Belize.
- Mayan Ruins – We specifically went back to the mainland one day to visit the Mayan Ruin, Xunantunich. It was a loooooong day (especially with a two year old) but he did amazing (we were just pooped from trying to keep up with him) but it was SO worth it. It was hands down our favorite day in Belize.
Waiting for our flight back to the mainland for some Mayan Ruin exploring.
The hand cranked ferry to get across the Mopan River to get to Xunantunich
Xunantunich (which means “Stone Woman”) was a site to see. I didn’t expect to be so awestruck by the sheer magnitude of the site. If you hike all the way to the top you can see Guatemala (the Belize/Guatemala border is only few miles away from Xunantunich). And yes, we did hike all the way to the top of the temple. Honestly, I don’t know what we were thinking hiking all the way to the top – with our child. Now before I explain the horror in my mind, let me begin by saying that there were other small children going up as well. And it really didn’t seem like such a bad idea going UP. But as soon as we got up there and took our peek at the view of Guatemala for all of a hot second – all the parents with a small child up there grabbed their kid and slowly backed down the teeny tiny and slippery stone steps with steady legs and fear in their eyes. It’s hard to realize how high you really are until you stop climbing and look down. There are no railings and no medics on sight. My legs turned to jello as soon as we made it to the ground from the tension of making it out alive (I may be embellishing a bit. But as soon as we made it to safe ground – my mind ran through all the worst possible scenarios and I just wanted to slap myself for not being more responsible). It was a scary situation for a few minutes. But all was well and every kid around there was 100% fine. And – the experience was one of a kind. Maybe one day I’ll go again and climb back to the top and actually get a few minutes to enjoy the view. It’s breathtaking (I think – from the little bit that I remember anyway).
Keeping it real y’all. Diaper change on-the-go in Belize.
On our way back to Belize City we stopped for lunch and had some authentic Belizean food at a little outdoor restaurant (actually every restaurant in Belize is outdoor). We met some local kids and that made our kid happy. It was a win-win.
Puddle jumper back to San Pedro after hiking all day. Do we look tired?
Now the food in Belize was some of the best food I’ve ever had on vacation. We had great food every day and definitely had a few favorites:
- Elvi’s Kitchen – this is hands down our favorite spot in San Pedro. The atmosphere. The food. The service. It’s so authentic and yummy.You have to go by Elvi’s at least ONCE if you’re in San Pedro.
- Estel’s By The Sea – Great little breakfast spot on the beach right in the heart of San Pedro.
- The Truck Stop – Sounds delicious huh? No but really. This little touch of genius just located North of San Pedro is actually a twist on a food truck park. It’s old containers turned into restaurants (very Austin – and guess what? The genius who put this together is very much from Austin! No joke). One container is a bar, one is an ice cream shop, and the other two food – local Belizean food and Asian food. The ambiance of the place is just fun – they’ve got a fire pit, picnic tables and games to play. It’s a hot spot.
- Stella’s Smile – This is a great little outdoor spot also North of San Pedro. They host guest chefs every night from some of the best restaurants in town. So every night they feature something different and unique and it’s always fantastic. The wine list is great. And the weekend brunch with crepes and bottomless mimosas are a must.
And this my friend…this is child-dining success. Outside, picnic tables, live music, sand, toys AND good food (and a bar) – it’s every parent’s dream.
Belize is special place. We had an amazing time exploring the country and meeting all the happy people of Belize.
Walking down the streets of San Pedro