Belize is a beautiful country just south of Mexico, east of Guatemala and is bordered on the east by the Caribbean. Formerly British Honduras, Belize achieved independence in 1981. Belize City is not nearly as captivating as San Pedro but interesting nonetheless. If you ever get the chance - GO!

125 miles south of Cancun & Cozumel. Mainland is appx. the size of Massachusetts with over 200 barrier reef islands

onstitutional monarchy with two legislative houses
Chief of state:
British Monarch represented by a Governor-general
Head of government:
Prime Minister

Land use:
forested 92.1%; meadows & pastures 2.2%; agricultural & under permanent cultivation 3.6%; other 2.1%
Official Language:
Time Zone:
US Central Time
Passport Required:
Electrical current:
US 110v
Belize dollar ($2 BD = $1 USD)

Aerial view approaching Belize City

Aerial view approaching Belize City

Radisson Ft. George

Nap time at the Belize Zoo

Toucan at the Belize Zoo

Macaws at the Belize Zoo

Ferry over to Xunantunich




Foliage at the Radisson

Foliage at the Radisson

Aerial view approaching San Pedro

Front of Banyan Bay

Pool at Banyan Bay

View from balcony at Banyan Bay

Grounds at Banyan Bay

Dale 'working' on the beach at Banyan Bay

Local vendors carrying their wares past
Rico's at Banyan Bay

Beach scene at Banyan Bay

View from beach at Banyan Bay

View from beach of Banyan Bay

Refreshment stop at Cannibal's

Downtown San Pedro

Downtown San Pedro

Downtown San Pedro

Downtown San Pedro

Coca-Cola delivery truck in San Pedro

Our 'guides' Alex (left) & Stephen (right) & Dale

Pier at north end of island

South end of the island

North end of the island

North end of the island

Sunset on San Pedro

Local entrepreneurs!

Alberto preparing lunch

Keys to Alberto's secret recipe!

Nancy with her 'catch'

Heading home


FEB 16

Depart Oklahoma City for Belize, hour layover in Houston. Besides the obvious reasons (beach, sun, sand, etc.) one of the attractive incentives of this destination was the ease in which we could get there. Five hour total travel time - not bad. As we get closer to Belize, you can feel the hot sun on the plane window - definitely a good sign, especially since it was about 33 degrees when we left home.

We land in Belize City at 4:00 pm without any problems, turbulence or delays (yet). Customs / immigration took over an hour and it didn't seem like there were THAT many people in line. No rush here. Typical small tropical airport - hot, sticky and laid back. Only atypical thing: very clean bathrooms WITH toilet paper - another good sign. Oh, and another atypical item: no hustling, hassling porters grabbing your bags for a dollar tip for a 10 ft. haul. I like this place already.

Cab ride to hotel through Belize City is not too impressive, in fact kind of depressing. The city is pockmarked with the blemishes of age, poverty and run-down structures that have seen their better days. Our hotel, the Radisson Ft. George (about a 15 minute drive from the airport) is right on the water and definitely a welcome sight. First impression is a good one - elegant, old world styling and seemingly well run. Reception staff is friendly and efficient and the room is quite nice with a great view of the Caribbean, tile floors and deep mahogany wood trim and furnishings. Even though the hotel is older it has been well maintained and cracks and crevices are dust and dirt free.

We head over to the Princess Casino to spend the evening and try our luck. Casino experience was so-so - we weren't expecting Las Vegas and it's a good thing. However, while not a large opulent venue it was adequate and we enjoyed ourselves. We ordered some food and afterwards wished we hadn't - cold, overcooked and pretty much tasteless. Cab to and from the Princess highly recommended.

FEB 17
Full breakfast buffet included with our room reservation was very good and served in the informal dining room which overlooks the water. Typical breakfast buffet fare included bacon, sausage, eggs, potatoes, pancakes, french toast, cereal, fresh fruit, etc. We ate there both mornings, once early, once late and both times the food was fresh and hot.

Hired Llewellyn Martinez as our tour guide for the day through the Radisson Guest Services desk, first stop the Belize Zoo. Had heard that the drive to the zoo and surrounding areas was awesome, found it to be only moderately so. It wasn't bad, just nothing spectacular. Had also heard that the zoo was a don't-miss destination. Again, only moderately so. It was very well maintained and clean with a very typical rainforest/jungle setting but the animals were few and far between and looked painfully thin and underfed.

Left the zoo and continued on the Western Highway towards the Mayan ruin of Xunantunich, just past San Ignacio. We stopped for lunch in San Ignacio at a small restaurant called Martha's Guest House. Outstanding food, quaint and family-style atmosphere and again - exceptionally clean bathrooms (guess you can tell what my priorities are, huh?! I figure if the bathrooms that you CAN see are clean, then the other areas that you CAN'T see - like the kitchen - are going to be clean too. Neurotic, yes, but I've spent too many vacations with an up-close-and-personal relationship with Immodium AD.) Anyhoo...

Arrive at Xunantunich via the hand-cranked pulley ferry (nice change from the modernized, motorized, mechanized world we blindly exist in). As we walk up the hill to the ruins I again notice how clean and well maintained the grounds and surrounding areas are. We turn the corner on the gravel path and the impressive ruin of the ancient Mayan temple comes into sight. Wow. Painstakingly restored and meticulously maintained, it is definitely a site to see. Groundskeepers busily chop, weed, trim and care for the area. We climb to the top (don't know how high - but HIGH) and the view is spectacular. Only 11 miles from the Guatemala border, you can see for miles in all directions in spite of the overcast and slightly drizzly conditions. The misty weather creates an ethereal and almost surreal vision. Highlight of the Belize City part of the trip.

On the way back to the hotel our driver gives us an abbreviated tour of some of the historical sites such as Government House, the Anglican Church, the old cemetery (Seminary? Couldn't quite understand all of the commentary). Our car was having mechanical problems and kept sputtering, coughing and lurching so our attention was divided between the drivers comments and wondering if/when we would arrive back at the hotel! Alas, we finally made it back safe and sound.

Dinner that night at the Smoky Mermaid (across the street from the Radisson) drew mixed reviews. We had run into the owner the night before and were assured that even though lobster season had closed the day before (wouldn't you know it?) that they had a generous stock and it would be on the menu. Well, it wasn't - just ran out. Dale ordered the potato-crusted snapper, I ordered the blackened snapper and a salad. The salad had a great dressing (sweet and tangy honey mustard) but the lettuce was warm and not crisp at all. Dale's snapper was huge, delicious, crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. Mine was a fourth the size, scrawny, tough, overcooked and barely warm. They were out of our first two wine selections but I have to say the third was divine. All in all it was a fairly decent dining experience and the disappointing entree I had was more than made up for by the wonderful outdoor / patio setting and the friendly, attentive service. I would go back, but I would get the crusted snapper!

FEB 18
Took the morning flight over to San Pedro - about 15 minutes on a 13-seater plane (maybe 14-seater - small but not teensy). Still overcast and a little drizzly but a smooth and comfortable flight and an impressive aerial view of the coast, sea and cayes. As we taxied up the small runway I catch sight of golf cart after golf cart after golf cart with barefoot tourists and happy faces. Immediately I fall in love with this place. Good-bye mainland, good-bye shoes, hello island paradise!

Cab to our hotel - The Villas at Banyan Bay. We ended up absolutely loving the place but in all honesty I had mixed feelings when we first arrived. While clean, new, modern and 'islandy', the reception area was very sterile, austere and impersonal. It had high ceilings with lots of windows and seating areas but the first thing I noticed was a plethora of fake plants and trees, a new yet non-working fountain, and a general atmosphere of 'not-finished'. I don't know how long ago the renovations were completed but softly draped curtains accenting the windows and warm, human, finishing touches should be next on the agenda. As they escorted us to our condo all my apprehensions were allayed though. The grounds are beautiful, tropical, classy and lush and the pool is beautiful and inviting.

Our condo is right on the beach and is exceptional and being located on the second floor has a great private balcony / deck with table and chairs. One of the few privately owned condos, it's decorated in a Caribbean tropical / jungle / nautical style with dark mahogany floors and cabinetry, pastel paint, floral fabrics, tile and brass accents. Sounds like an odd combination but it worked. The master bedroom wasn't overly spacious but was adequate, master bath really nice size with separate shower and jacuzzi tub. The water pressure was abysmal in the shower but at least had a foot wash in the shower and one wall was glass bricks - a nice touch.

First stop after dropping off luggage: Rico's at Banyan Bay. We ended up eating several meals there and were mostly pleased with all. Right on the water, Rico's is a combination bar, restaurant, tiki-hut-lounge type place with indoor and outdoor seating and a friendly, happy attentive staff (especially Gilmore - he was our favorite). Separated from the condos by a 20' swath of sand, Rico's is surrounded by a redwood deck that wraps around the whole place and then winds down to the dive shop. Met and fell in love with a new (to me) tropical beverage - Panty Ripper (hate the name, love the drink). Consisting of pineapple juice and coconut rum it was great - very similar to a pina colada but not as cloying.

After imbibing, went down to the on-site dive shop and arranged a fishing trip with Eli. Very no-nonsense and straight forward yet friendly and helpful, she booked our activity in no time at all.

Decided to head into town to look around. The walk was fun and seemed much shorter than the 1 1/2 miles it was. Very rustic and at times somewhat primitive the residential structures we passed were interspersed with more recently constructed condos, time shares and hotels - most fronting the beach but none taller than two or three stories (can't build taller than a palm tree here - great idea, didn't come here to stare at Trump Tower). By the time we got to 'downtown' we had been passed by at least a couple dozen golf carts, a few small cars and several bicycles. Also quite a bit of pedestrian traffic. No horns honking, no cross words at close calls or near-misses. Just cordial, congenial people living, working, vacationing together in this great little place.

After walking and shopping a little, stopped at Cannibal's on the beach for a margarita. Cannibal's is another little tiki-hut bar among many on the beach but fabulous margaritas made from scratch. Walked back to the hotel via the beach as the sun was setting. (Have been to some tropical destinations where walking on the streets or beach after dark is not safe or advisable but here felt totally safe, sound and serene. Might have been the margaritas but really think this place is safer than most.)

Dinner at Rico's was very good, actually mine was great. Sat outside so of course the atmosphere was incredible (beach, sea, palm trees, gentle breeze - what's not to like?). I had grilled lobster (finally!) and it was superb. Dale had the seafood pasta (recommended by the waiter) and while the seafood was plentiful and tasty, the sauce was thin and runny and the pasta was just plain old overcooked spaghetti noodles. For dessert we had the flan and coconut pie which were great so all-in-all it was a good dining experience. After dinner took our coffee up to the room, sat on the balcony and listened to the waves crashing on the beach with a warm breeze convincing us this was heaven.

FEB 19
A little breezy but finally sunshine! Breakfast on the deck of Rico's was a real treat. We split the Eggs Benedict Royal and it was fabulous. The poached eggs were light and fluffy, the hollandaise was creamy and smooth and had a subtle hint of wine and it was all topped off with meaty chunks of lobster. The potato cake on the side was a little small (even for one) but was tasty and crispy with pieces of bacon and really all we needed.

Decide to rent a golf cart and spend the morning exploring, then head to the beach later. Before we leave the hotel, stop in the lobby to check email and drop a line to family back home. (Computer center with four or five computers - $6 US for 1/2 hour - not too bad). The ride into town is a lot of fun - bumpy, but fun.

As the sun gets hotter, the breeze from flying along the sand covered streets (no asphalt, no paving) is a welcome respite. Street vendors hawking their wares, children laughing and playing in the schoolyards, laundry waving in the tropical breeze makes us forget that just a few days ago we were mired in pressures, deadlines, responsibilities and 'real life'. Side note: while proud of their 'art', the street vendors don't hound you and hassle you to buy, buy, buy - nice change.

After wandering and shopping some more, stop again at Cannibal's (by accident actually, just ended up there!) After a couple more margaritas, head back to Banyan Bay.

Sun is high overhead and calling our name so we head to the beach and fry like bacon for an hour or so and love every minute. Banyan Bay bills itself as 'family-friendly' (maybe because of the nice pool?) so we were a little hesitant when we booked but as it turned out there were only a few kids and they were really well behaved and didn't intrude at all on our 'adult vacation'. I mention this now because as we were lying on the beach there were two little girls (maybe 3 & 5 years old) who were absolutely adorable in their matching swim suits and floppy sun hats building sand castles and playing in the surf. They were fun to watch and their youthful antics added to the whole beach atmosphere without disrupting it. I think this speaks to the fact that Banyan Bay clientele is in the 'in-between' realm where it's classy enough that the parents discipline their kids and keep them under control but not up into the hoity-toity range where the spoiled kids run amok. When you say weed out the 'rif-raf' they're on BOTH ends of the economic scale in my opinion...

A lively game of volley ball was starting up about 20' away but we were approaching the crispy stage so decided to leave the beach and go explore the island some more.

As we drive through town school was just letting out so children were swarming everywhere and they were so cute and polite, very tolerant of the tourist invaders who regularly overtake their island. Since we had decided to explore the north end of the island we head towards the ferry to cross the San Pedro River ('The Cut'). Before long we realize we have a tagalong 'skitching' a ride on his bicycle by hanging onto the back rail of the golf cart. We find out his name is Stephen and he has the cutest cherubic face with plump round cheeks, a huge smile and the most infectious happy laugh. You couldn't help but like him. His school uniform is a little disheveled but it is clean and his enthusiasm and friendliness capture our heart. He's 12 years old and he tells us his father is a tour guide and that he wants to be one too.

Game for adventure we ask him to be our tour guide and show us the north end of the island. Of course he's thrilled and off we go. When we get to the ferry, Stephen's friend Alex joins us and we proceeded northward. Alex is ten and much more quiet and reserved, observing and absorbing everything. The roads north of the cut are much bumpier and in pretty bad shape so we try to stick to the more traveled paths.

A mile or so past the ferry Stephen tells us proudly that his house is up ahead on the left and that his mother sells cold Coca-Cola if we're thirsty. Reluctantly Alex says that he lives next door to Stephen. We pull into the drive and even though I never drink non-diet soda I decide to get one (silly, I know - I'll drink multiple sugar-filled pineapple drinks but not soda). We visit with his mom for a while, drink our Coke and ask her if it's okay for Stephen to show us around the north end.

The house/store she operates is really nothing more than a tumble-down wood shack with no windows or modern conveniences except electricity but it's clean and the pop is ice cold. Her name is Lena and she's making Journey Cakes. A Journey Cake is like a cross between a bread roll and a biscuit and she pats them out without missing a beat as we visit. She tells us she makes them every day for her family and cooks them over a wood fire out back commenting that a gas oven just doesn't make them taste the same. I would venture to guess cooking them in a gas oven isn't an option for her though. I would really like to stay and watch her cook them but she still has a considerable amount of dough left to pat out and it's getting late.

Meanwhile at Alex's house next door, unbelievably loud music is blaring from speakers on the front porch. No glass in the windows, probably no running water, but a heavy-duty deluxe sound system.

Stephen and Alex leave their bikes, hop on the back of the golf cart and we head north. Past Journey's End, all the way up to Mata Chica we drive, laugh, talk and explore. At one point Stephen and Alex jump out and show us their palm tree climbing expertise. Most all of the hotel / resorts we pass are nice places (especially Mata Chica) but they're so far north that unless you take the water taxi to and from I don't know if I would recommend staying there.

On the way back we stop at Journey's End again to use the bathroom and get something to drink. Evidently not used to being welcomed at such a nice place, both boys climb proudly up on the bar stools, their happy faces beaming with excitement. Another cold Coke later we climb back into the golf cart. Evidently both boys are not accustomed to the sugar and/or caffeine content in pop because within minutes both are bouncing off the seats and giggling nonstop, their youthful exuberance fueled by the foreign substance. Needless to say we all had a good time. By the time we pull back into Stephen's yard the boys have somewhat settled down but still laughing and bouncing around.

Lena has finished cooking the Journey Cakes and carefully wraps three of them up for us to take with her. She won't accept payment for them but we give Stephen and Alex $10 for being such good 'guides'. More smiles.

As we pull out of the yard nibbling on the wonderful cakes the music from Alex's house is still blaring but has changed from a happy carefree Bob Marley type music to a foul and expletive-filled rendition of something not even resembling music.

We drive back to Banyan Bay, dinner again at Rico's and it was great. I have the snapper in a mustard lime sauce, Dale has the shrimp in a spicy Mayan sauce. Both are served with coconut rice which is fantastic - not sweet but more chewy, nutty and a perfect compliment to the entrees. Appetizer is the conch fritters with honey mustard dip and they are outstanding as well. Hot and crispy on the outside and steamy and moist on the inside with plenty of succulent chewy conch. No key lime pie left so we pass on dessert and go back to the condo for coffee on the balcony. A wonderful day and evening.

FEB 20
On the agenda for today: all day fishing trip and beach BBQ. Awake to clouds, wind and rain. Wouldn't you know it? We pack our supplies, food, beverages and sunscreen (eternal optimists) and head to the pier. Low and behold the sky starts to clear! Our guide for the day is Alberto and we start by heading to the far south end of the island to catch bait with a throw net. Takes awhile but we finally have enough for the day. We head to another spot and start fishing for snapper, grouper and other local fish. Not many bites and the fish we do catch are pretty small. Good thing we brought cheese and crackers along.

As the morning progresses we catch more fish - still small but at least they are fairly plentiful. We stop to dive for conch but no luck there. At about 1:00 we pull into a small deserted stretch of beach and Alberto starts preparing lunch while we gather firewood. He fillets the fish then slices and dices potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes.

I have to mention at this point that I was quite nervous because Alberto's never washed his hands between cutting bait up and filleting the fish and the cooking / preparation / cutting board is the same board he used to cut the bait up on and fillet the raw fish. Oh my. I'm the type that disinfects EVERYTHING (even the kids) before they're allowed in the kitchen. I was a good little tourist though and didn't say anything and there were no problems or digestive repercussions, if you know what I mean. Anyhoo...

All the fish and veggies plus hot sauce, spices and other assorted condiments went into the mixture, all was wrapped in foil and tossed on the make-shift grill over the fire. While it was cooking, Alberto mixed up some fresh cabbage with mayo, got out some flour tortillas and spread a nice little picnic setting with real plates and cloth napkins. When the food was cooked, Alberto showed us the procedure and even though (again) I had my doubts, I followed: take the flour tortilla, spread the slaw mixture, top with the fish and veggie mixture, roll up and eat. DELICIOUS!!! Can't wait to try this recipe at home - I WILL wash first though!

After our beach BBQ we packed up and came back to the hotel - great day, great food, great fun.

Not even hungry for dinner we knew we wanted to try a restaurant we had heard about - the Blue Water Grill. Being Friday night we should have known it would be packed and it was. Wasn't that big of a deal though, we had to wait about 30 min. for a table but the whole place was open, breezy and right on the water so we just had a glass of wine at the bar and watched all of the interesting people and enjoyed the scenery.

Dinner was definitely worth the wait (except for the salad). I had the mixed seafood grill, Dale had the snook (caught locally). First the bad news: The salad was supposed to be butter lettuce (my fav) with black-eyed pea, bleu cheese and caramelized walnut vinaigrette. Sounds interesting, right? Especially the infusion of black-eyed peas in the dressing - could this work? This I've got to see/taste. First of all, it wasn't butter lettuce, it was romaine (they could have told me - I still would have ordered it) and the black-eyed peas seemed like an afterthought dumped on top - too bad. Good news is that the bleu cheese was fresh and plentiful and the caramelized walnuts were great, along with the balance of the vinaigrette after scraping off the peas.

But the really good news: the entrees. Mine was a generous serving of shrimp, scallops and white fish with a ginger-tomato puree over garlic mashed potatoes. Plenty of seafood cooked tender and moist - delicious. The puree was a little overpowering though, but after scraping 3/4's of it off it was really good. The bed of mashed potatoes at first didn't seem to go with it but it was a good choice and added to the dish. Dale's entree was incredible. The snook was black bean crusted and pan seared over a bed of cabbage with a ginger-soy sauce and a side of caramelized bananas in a light curry sauce. Sounds pretty ambitious and overdone but it was prepared with a light and dexterous touch and was superb. After dinner we walked on the beach for a while then headed back to the room.

FEB 21
Unfortunately we have to leave today but not until 3:00pm. Breakfast at Rico's, we split the breakfast burritos (two large ones per order.) Great - full of scrambled eggs, sausage, onions, peppers and salsa. And except for a little too much lime, the Bloody Mary's were pretty good too. We go back to the condo to pack and sort through our trove of tourist essentials - shells, T-shirts, etc. and cram it all into our now too-small bags.

We go into town for one last time and pick up a few more trinkets and stop at Cannibal's for a good-bye margarita. This is the third time we've been there and each time there has been a different eclectic assortment of fellow visitors that makes for colorful conversation and experiences.

Since we have a little bit of time to kill, we drive further south on the island and stop at Victoria House. Beautiful place, beautiful setting, but a little more stuffy and staid than we prefer but still a great place.

Before we leave Banyan Bay we decide we should eat something so we go back to Rico's and have conch fritters and the conch ceviche. I'm sooooooo glad we did - the ceviche was out of this world. Just the right amount of lime and cilantro and light and flavorful. Excellent choice. Then it's on to the airport and the trip home. Hate to leave and definitely want to come back soon!

Belize City
Old, crowded, bedraggled yet still fairly interesting. Nice to see once, not dying to go back

Belize Countryside
Rainforest, jungle, scenic. Like Belize City, interesting but not dying to go back. Really enjoyed the ruins though.

San Pedro
Great place, great food, incredible people and a safe, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Of course the allure of the beach goes without saying and the fact that you weren't hassled, haggled, hustled or felt threatened made this place a wonderful destination. Want to go back SOON!

Belize City city
Radisson Ft. George hotel
Princess Casino activity
Smoky Mermaid restaurant
Llewellyn Martinez tour guide
Martha's Guest House restaurant
Belize Zoo activity
Xunantunich activity
San Pedro town
Banyan Bay hotel
Rico's restaurant
Banyan Bay Dive Shop service
Blue Water Grill restaurant
Cannibal's bar
Alberto tour guide

Radisson Ft. George
Villas at Banyan Bay


Experimented with this recipe and came up with this. Not AS good as Alberto's but not too far off. (I'm sure preparing and eating it on the beach in Belize makes it taste better!)

1/2 c. bbq sauce (we used Kraft, any will do)
1/4 c. real mayo
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. tabasco or hot pepper sauce (or less to taste)
2 tsp. Tony Chachares seasoning (or any cajun or red pepper seasoning salt)
1 tbsp olive oil (or butter)

In foil pouch or baking dish arrange about 2 lbs. fresh fish fillets, cover with sauce. Top with:

1/2 white onion, finely sliced
1/2 green pepper, finely sliced
1 small tomato, cubed

Cover with foil and grill or bake at 350 until sauce bubbles and fish is flaky and done (about 8-12 min) - don't overcook!

Wrap in flour tortilla with shredded fresh cabbage that has been mixed with real mayo (appx. 1-2 tbsp mayo per 1 cup of cabbage). Can also serve over rice.





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