Out of Office: Susie’s Sunny Holiday in Belize

November 12, 2014 by

Caribbean, South & Central America

Viator’s team of travel insiders is obsessed with finding the best things to do everywhere we travel. From traditional tours to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, everywhere from Australia to Zimbabwe, we spend our time scouring the globe for the best tours and activities around the world.

Whether traveling for work or pleasure (or both!) our staff members are always on the go and we want to share their experiences with you! In this new series, Out of Office, we’ll bring you their stories, highlighting the best things to do and see in destinations around the world, as experienced by a real Viator Insider.

Susie in Belize

Susie in Belize

The Traveler: Susie Conley, Supervising Video Producer

What’s your role at Viator? I manage Viator’s in-house video team and produce content for our YouTube channel, which features some of Viator’s most popular, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The trip: Ambergris Caye, Belize, for 6 days in August, 2014

Why did you choose this destination? What appealed to you about the place?

As far as travel personalities, I’m usually the culture-seeking type. But by the end of the summer my husband and I were itching to trade the San Francisco fog for some warm water and sunshine. I knew next to nothing about Belize other than the fact that so many travelers rave about how special it is. It also intrigued me that the country was both Central American and Caribbean.

What did you do on the trip?

Boats and the ocean

Boats and the ocean

When we arrived in Belize City we took one of the prop planes to Ambergris Caye instead of taking the longer ferry ride. I’m so glad we did, because this was one of the most memorable parts of our trip. The flight was 15 minutes, and with sunset approaching, the views of the islands and Caribbean Sea below us were just spectacular.

Since we stayed in a remote area of the island, our hotel was our home base from which we took daily trips into San Pedro for activities. From town we were able to join trips to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve to snorkel and snuba dive. We found great food in town, including ice cream that melts faster than you could eat.

We spent one day wandering Caye Caulker, and were very glad we did. Both islands have a relaxed vibe, but Caye Caulker makes it more official with their “Go Slow” motto posted on signs all over the island. We discovered a quaint restaurant called Glenda which has delicious cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We walked the length of the island in a few hours and stopped at one of the ocean-front restaurants for a late lunch before heading back to Ambergris Caye.

In the mornings we either took a short hike or we kayaked to the Belize Barrier Reef to snorkel, just 10 minutes off shore from our hotel. We also made plenty of time throughout the trip to play cards, read our books in hammocks, and watch the night sky for shooting stars.

What was the best experience?

Snuba fun

Snuba fun

Snuba diving was unforgettable. I really enjoyed the freedom of staying underwater to get up close to the beautiful reef colors, plants and creatures.  I’ve been craving another snuba experience ever since.

Did you take any Viator tours?

Ready to snorkel

Ready to snorkel

We took the Snuba Adventure Tour early in our trip and were blown away. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve was a spectacular sight. The guides were a lot of fun, and they gave us a tutorial in shallow water so we could acclimate and practice our hand signals. We dove 14-20 feet deep and saw eel, nurse sharks, trumptfish, balloon fish and so many more.

We couldn’t get enough snorkeling and also took the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley Snorkel Tour. Shark Ray Alley was jaw-dropping! They throw chum in the water which attracts large groups of nurse sharks and stingrays. The animals are focused on the chum giving you a chance to observe from nearby. Sharks and stingrays were swimming past us in all directions and so closely – it was a rush!

Which attraction did you enjoy the most, and why?

Hol Chan Marine Reserve is easy to access and fantastic for snorkeling. The marine life is diverse and Shark Ray Alley is a really unique thing to see if you have the opportunity.

What surprised you the most about the destination?

Picture perfect scenery

Picture perfect scenery

The scenery was so perfect, I could have sworn we had been transported into a Bud Light commercial. But I also didn’t expect how friendly and welcoming local Belizians would be. Many of those we met grew up on the island or not far away. They all had such great stories (a surprisingly dark sense of humor!) and treated us like old friends instead of tourists.

What sight, activity, or experience would you tell people they should not skip?

Make sure to snorkel, SCUBA, or Snuba somewhere along the Belize Barrier Reef. It’s the second largest coral system after the Great Barrier Reef. One activity we missed on this trip was the Night Snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Many travelers consider it their favorite experience in Belize because a completely new world of glowing creatures comes out at night – including moray, lobsters, and octopus.

What was the best thing you ate or drank?

Belizean lobster

Belizean lobster

I got a MASSIVE shrimp burrito and my husband got a MASSIVE lobster burrito at a place called Pupuseria in San Pedro. We discovered through TripAdvisor. It lived up to the hype and was probably the most memorable thing we ate. The fruit smoothies – especially the pineapple – were also off the charts! There are so many opportunities to eat lobster in Belize, we indulged quite a bit.

What are your top three recommendations to any visitor?

Delicious burritos in Belize

Delicious burritos in Belize

  • Carve out time to relax. We read and napped in hammocks, did yoga, wandered aimlessly, and got a massage out on a quite boat dock. The time we put into rejuvenation stayed with us for weeks after we returned home.
  • Get in the water. The reef is the highlight of staying on Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker but there are so many water activities to choose from including sailing, kayaking, fishing,
  • Take a day trip to mainland Belize. This was another item on our list that we didn’t get to, but will be certain not to miss it on our next visit. Some of the activities we heard great things about were zip lining and visiting the Mayan ruins.

What’s the best Insider Tip you can offer future visitors to this destination? 

Colorful boats in Belize

Colorful boats in Belize

Ambergris Caye can be expensive because everything gets shipped onto the island. We saved money by buying groceries at the market in San Pedro and cooking at our hotel suite kitchen. For $80 we covered a few days of meals and saved quite a lot that way.

Another great tip is to seek out the Chicken Drop at Wahoo’s Lounge if you are there on a Thursday. Try to get there by 6pm to beat the line. You bet money on one of the numbers on the large bingo board on the floor, and then cheer and yell for a chicken to poop on your number. Can you Belize that?!

Where are you off to next?

In October I traveled to Taiwan for a video shoot. I’ll have to share that story next time.

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