I had the best of intentions to put my annual travel habit on hold this winter to focus on my businesses and save money, but when my husband said, “Hey, do you want to travel to somewhere sunny and warm this winter?” before I knew what I was saying, “Absolutely! Where should we go? How about Belize?” popped out of my mouth.
He had never traveled internationally before and I decided this was the year to do some research – my Journey For Purpose business partner has been saying for years that we should lead kayak trips in Belize, so this was the year to make it happen! Maria used to own a sailboat and charter private trips in Belize, and I’d heard it was an incredibly beautiful and friendly place to travel.
My husband, Will, planned most of the trip since he loves to plan and I love having a break from planning. However, I set up the first two days so I could check out a couple kayak companies in Placencia, an area Maria said had the least wind and best kayaking options. From there we went to stay in the rainforest along the Belize River for two days, and for our last five days we stayed on Caye Caulker.
One of the best decisions we made (besides going to Belize), is to hire Shana and Kenny of Tropical Excursion Tours rather than renting a car. They manage the rainforest AirBnB where we stayed and when we set up the rental online, they offered to drive us around. I hemmed and hawed, but finally decided I’d prefer to connect with locals so we could learn about things we’d never find on our own.
I’m so glad I listened to my gut! They were amazing. They picked us up at the airport, took us to a local fresh market, bakery and meat store in Belize City, then to a locals grocery store in Belmopan -we love cooking, so we wanted fresh produce, local spices and other supplies. They then dropped us off three hours away at our AirBnB rental on the Placencia peninsula.
We went to Placencia specifically to find a kayak company I could partner with for my women’s kayak trips, which meant we had to go kayaking, of course! First, we went for a dip in the pool at our rental, with the ocean, pelicans and sandy beach right in front of us. The water was chilly near where we stayed, hence the pool (which was delicious!).
Our rental provided bikes, which a lot of Belize places seem to do, and so we rode the 7 miles on the little paved road into Placencia. It’s a tiny little town with a great boardwalk, sandy beaches, live music, shops…and the PERFECT KAYAK COMPANY! Once I found them, Kayak Belize turned out to be everything I dreamed of – professional, experienced, quality gear, knowledgeable, friendly, and…the owner also has an organic farm! (In case you were wondering, I’m a huge fan of organic).
We went on a paddle in search of a snorkel spot, but the wind picked up and evening was coming on, so we opted to head back. We were treated with views of beautiful sunbeams on our way.
Shana and Kenny picked us up the next day and drove us to our next AirBnB rental, the Howler House in Burrell Boom. As they drove, they shared about Belizean history, culture, education and the farms we passed by. They made us laugh, stopped at a sustainable shrimp farm, and laughed at our awe as they told us about how cashews grow and are harvested (look it up some time – seriously).
They delivered us with our bags to the door of the Howler House, showed us around inside, ensured we knew how to reach them and the home owner, and assured us they were just a phone call away.
And thank goodness they were, because I got such bad stomach pains that night that Will, my EMT/firefighter husband, called them to ask about what we should do. As I lay rocking in bed between bouts of diarrhea, they found a doctor to be on call and offered to take me to a hospital.
We decided to see how things went as I was pretty sure it was food poisoning, and lo and behold, about an hour later SHAZAM! All pains were gone and I had no more diarrhea. And they didn’t come back one little bit for the rest of the trip! It’s still a mystery. I’ve never had such a short bout of food poisoning. We joked about how a scorpion was nesting in my belly and would come out like the creature in the Alien movies…that was only a little bit funny to me…
Besides seeing a real live, nasty little scorpion on the porch and then the alien in my stomach, Burrell Boom was like a pleasant dream. Howler monkey families – complete with itty bitty baby monkeys on mama’s back – nestled and browsed and jumped through the trees right in front of the house. Giant orange and green iguanas lazed in the sun just beneath them.
One sunny day we went canoeing on the Belize River, which flowed lazily in front of our house, and Shana and Kenny came to take us to dinner at the Friends of Friends restaurant they manage in nearby Ladyville one night.
Kenny and Shana also arranged for us to go on a river tour to the Lamanai ruins one day, which was absolutely gorgeous.
Our local tour guide, Carlos, had been a naturalist guide in Belize for over 20 years and his boat driving skills were amazing.
The winding river, the baby crocodiles, the ancient ruins, the birds and breeze and beauty…it all seems like a dream now. The bottle of cashew wine we drank afterwards may have helped with the fuzziness…
I can’t leave Burrell Boom without saying something about the fried chicken at Miss Carol’s! Miss Carol is known by the whole town, not just for her fried chicken, but for her hoppin’ bar next door and her incredible generosity. She lived in Los Angeles for many years, but returned home to nurse her mother and live a happy life. She seems to be doing just that!
We were disheartened to find her gate locked, but when we went to the nearby store, everyone there said, “Oh no, she’s there! Just holler her name and she’ll open the gate!” So we did, and out she came. We learned we needed to call ahead if were were to come for fried chicken early as we did for lunch, so she made us a burger and fries, and she sat and talked with us through our lunch. What a treat she is! We made sure to call ahead on our last day to take Kenny out for fried chicken before he took us to the ferry for the last section of our trip – Caye Caulker.
We could’ve been perfectly happy if we’d stayed the entire time on dreamy Caye Caulker, but since I’m a kayaking and canoeing fiend, Placencia and Burrell Boom were big deals for me.
Caye Caulker was phenomenal. We stayed at the Hummingbird House AirBnB, which had a pool (which I used more than I’d planned!) and bikes and was just far enough from town to be quiet, but close enough to be able to pop in for a meal or a tour.
On our second night we went on a night diving tour with French Angel tours, which was breathtaking. We got to hold a puffer fish, watched an octopus scavenge across the reef just below us and a couple of us had a HUGE sting ray swim RIGHT underneath us – after gasping at it’s beauty, I couldn’t help but think of Steve Irwin. I held in my belly as the stinger passed by…
The next day we went on a full day snorkeling tour that took us to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, with lunch on Ambergris Caye. It was another incredible tour, with three kinds of sea turtles, nurse sharks, manta rays, so many colorful fish, and, to top it off, on the last stop we were treated to a manatee floating around with a smile, like a giant bluish Barney.
It was windy and rainy some of the trip, but it always cleared up quickly. With the rain came rainbows, sunbeams and time to sit and read or cook a good meal.
On our last day, we went stand up paddleboarding for a short bit. I nearly fell off my board in the beginning when a small manta ray shot away from right next to me, then, on my way in – my last adventure on our last day – a sea turtle popped it’s tiny head up for a breath of air right in front of the tip of my board. I almost cried…and nearly fell off my board again!
Also on our last day, I awoke just in time to ride my bike to the east side of the island to watch the sunrise. It was an absolute jaw dropper of a sunrise! And I was lucky enough to run into a happy local lobster fisherman celebrating his first free morning after lobster season with three friends from Scotland. As I rode my bike away after chatting, they yelled after me in their mixed Belize and Scottish accents, “You should tell your husband if he loves you, he’ll come with you to Guatemala with us!”
It was hard not to turn around…
More photos, just for fun…