bougainvillabelize

Subtitle

Belize and Placencia

Belize in General

Belize is a very safe and friendly country.  It is a third world country in many ways, however, and you need to take reasonable precautions.  The local currency is the Belize dollar, which is equal to 50 cents US.  Everyone takes US currency at the standard 1 US$ = 2 BZE$ rate.  You will almost certainly get your change in Belize dollars, though, so it is wise to break your larger denomination dollars early in your trip, so when you leave, you do not have extra Belize money left - you cannot change it back outside of the country!  VISA is well-accepted though occasionally you will find your charge is refused as there can be problems with the dialing machine and approval.  It is always good to have backup cash.  The country?s official language is English, though most people speak a combination of English, Spanish, Creole, or Garifuna.  You will have no trouble making yourself understood anywhere.  For more information on Belize you can go to http://www.belizenet.com/   The Belize area code is 501 so if you are calling from North America into Belize, you must use the same prefix code as would be used for Europe (ie 011-501-xxx-xxxx) and to call home from Belize you need to add the prefix 001 prior to your home area code.  If you are on Rogers system or any system that offers GSM service, you will be able to use your cell phone in Belize.  We have not tried to use 'smart-phone' technology, ie internet or e-mail yet.

Placencia Village

You really should make at least one trip down to Placencia Village during your stay at Bougainvilla, and in fact will likely make several trips.  Not only is it the best place for groceries and supplies, but it has many ?character? restaurants, and many small gift shops.  It is home to the world?s narrowest main street (Guinness Book of World Records!)  We have a map of Placencia Village at the house that gives you a general idea of where things are.  You are best to drive in all the way to the waterfront and park there (there is really only one road!).    In that vicinity are a few small hotels, and a nice little outdoor restaurant just off the public dock.  Right across from the waterfront from where you parked is a small store (Myrna?s) where they sell primarily Guatemalan crafts and fabrics.  From there you can turn east to find the start of the ?main street? (pedestrian only) and head back north on that for quite a long way.  There are a few small local restaurants and bars farther along the main street, and a few others off towards the beach.  There are also many gift and craft shops and tour agents and as well, Mayan women are usually sitting in the shade selling various crafts and souvenirs. We recommend a stop at the Barefoot Bar for a drink and / or lunch, seen off the main-street sidewalk, painted in bright colors - watch for the signs, right next to the Tipsy Tuna.  If you walk back up the road you drove down on you will pass Tutti Frutti ice cream shop, Rumfish Restaurant, Wendy?s restaurant, Dawn's Grill and Go, Omar's Creole Restaurant, and Wallen?s market.  If you turn towards the beach just before you get to Wallen?s you will follow a sand path to the Pickled Parrot (great place for lunch and drinks).  Just to the right of Wallen?s you will find the Secret Garden Restaurant (go through the gate, the entrance is not obvious). 

 

Weather in Belize 

The weather in Belize is great year round!  During the Dec-March time, rain is intermittent and short, though thunderstorms can be spectacular. 

Belize is typically hot and humid day and night year-round. Temperatures vary by only about 4°C between the coolest part of the year (December to March) and the hottest (May to September). The daily temperature range is around 10°C from the hottest part of the day to the coolest part of the night. In the uplands (Mountain Pine Ridge and the Maya Mountains) you can expect temperatures to fall by about 3°C for every 1000ft rise in altitude, making things noticeably more comfortable.

Belize has distinct wet and dry seasons. The wet season runs from mid-May to November in the south and from mid-June to November in the north. November to February is a transitional period, with the year?s coolest temperatures and a limited amount of rain. The true dry season is February to April. There?s quite a large difference in rainfall between the north of the country (around 1500mm or 60 inches a year) and the south (about 4000mm or 160 inches). In the north and center of the country there?s a dip in rainfall in August, between peaks in July and September.

The following is a chart outlining the monthly temperatures and rainfall, in Fahrenheit and inches.

 

 

MonthAverage Daily
High Temperature
Average Daily
Low Temperature
Average Monthly
Precipitation (inches)
January 79.6 69.94.54
February 80.571.12.45
March83.073.82.04
April85.076.03.19
May87.278.64.15
June86.678.88.82
July86.378.68.48
August86.478.36.81
September85.977.49.61
October84.375.39.66
November82.473.17.3
December80.370.76.57

 

BEACH AND SEA: THUMBNAIL SKETCHES OF THE CAYES AND COAST OF BELIZE         By Lan Sluder
I have copied the following from one of the Belize travel writers.   The original is at : http://www.belizeforum.com/belize/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=168622#Post168622  I would also recommend his internet books on all of Belize and what it has to offer, available at :  http://www.belize.com/   for lots of information and free webbook downloads.
 
 MAINLAND COAST – NORTH
Few Belize travelers, except some passing through from Mexico, pay much attention to Corozal District and its main population center, Corozal Town. The district has only about a dozen hotels with fewer than 250 total rooms; annual occupancy is low. That’s a shame, because this part of Northern Belize is one of the friendliest, safest, least expensive and most interesting areas of the entire country. The “Sugar Coast” is a place to slow down, relax and enjoy at least a few days of easy living by the beautiful turquoise waters of Corozal Bay and the Bay of Chetumal. True, there’s not a whole lot to see here, not a lot of tourist sites, few real beaches though nice swimming is yours in the bays and lagoons, and only a handful of memorable hotels or restaurants. But the climate is appealing, with less rain than almost anywhere else in Belize, fishing is excellent, and the sunny disposition of residents — Mestizos, Creoles, Maya, Chinese, East Indians and even North Americans — is infectious.

To really get away from things, head over to Sarteneja village or to the Copper Bank/Cerros area. These destinations are like Belize used to be in the 1970s or 80s.


MAINLAND COAST -- SOUTH

Placencia
Placencia boasts the finest beaches on the mainland, and it's an appealing seaside alternative to the bustle of Ambergris Caye. This peninsula in southern Belize has some 16 miles of beachfront along the Caribbean, a total population of around 3,000, mostly in two small villages, a backside lagoon where manatees are frequently seen, several dozen hotels and restaurants, and an increasing number of expatriates and foreign-owned homes.
In recent years, the Placencia peninsula has been undergoing a boom, a boom that was slowed only by Hurricane Iris in 2001, from which the area has now completely recovered, and by the global recession of 2008-2009. Building lots have been sold by the score to foreigners who think they'd someday like to live by the sea. The boom is likely to intensify when the peninsula road paving is completed, probably in 2011.

Hopkins
On the southern coast of Belize in Stann Creek District between Dangriga and Placencia, Hopkins today is what neighboring Placencia was like just a decade or so ago. Expatriates are moving to Hopkins, a friendly Garifuna village that got telephones only in the mid-1990s, and to real estate developments nearby. New small seaside hotels are going up in Hopkins and Sittee Point. Although at times the sandflies can eat you alive here, you can get in some excellent fishing and beach time, with day trips to the nearby Cockscomb jaguar reserve and boat trips to the reef. You'll love Hopkins if Placencia is too developed for you.

Punta Gorda
Don't expect to come to Punta Gorda, Toledo District, and lounge on the sand. The area doesn't have good beaches, except a few accessible only by boat: the coastal waters of the Gulf of Honduras are often muddy from silt deposited by numerous rivers flowing from the Maya Mountains. What can you expect? Exceptional fishing -- Toledo has one of the world's best permit fisheries -- and pristine cayes off the coast that are well worth exploring. The closest are the Snake Cayes; farther out are the Sapodilla Cayes, the largest of which is Hunting Caye. A horseshoe-shape bay at the caye's eastern end has beaches of white coral where turtles nest in late summer.
 
AMBERGRIS CAYE
Want a comfortable, shorts-and-sandals seaside vacation, at a moderate price? Just a bit off the beaten path but not too far, where the seafood is fresh and the beer is cold? Where the tap water won’t make you sick? An island with most of the modcons without the plastic tackiness, with decent diving, excellent snorkeling, beautiful water and pretty fair beaches? Where local folks are friendly and hablan English, though they may speak Spanish at home? A spot with dependably beautiful weather most of the Time? Then you’ll enjoy Ambergris Caye.

Though it’s developing fast, San Pedro, the only real town on Ambergris Caye, still remains mostly laidback and low-rise. Some of the streets have been paved with concrete cobble-stones, but the side streets are still sand, and away from the main part of town the dirt roads are more paths than roads. Golf carts are still the main form of transportation, albeit the number of cars on the island continues to rise, and in some areas of downtown the traffic is really bad. The air strip, despite being lengthened, is still a strip, not a port, and it’s literally next door to town.

No, this is not an undiscovered paradise. Yes, tourism is the number one industry in what was once a fishing village. Well over one-half of the 230,000 or so international travelers to Belize each year end up here. Commercial fishing is now so far back in second place that you can’t even see the hooks. This is not, however, the bloated tourism of Cancun, with millions of package tourists hitting the beach and sucking beer.

True, condos, houses and hotels have gone up right and left (though the real estate crunch and super recession in the USA has reduced condo construction on Ambergris Caye to a standstill.). North Ambergris, separated from the south by a river channel, and with a new bridge for golf carts, bikes and pedestrians spanning it, is starting to achieve critical mass, with electrical power even to once remote houses and hotels and rumors, or worse, of big resorts and casinos. Some even think eventually there will be a road and bridge from the Mexican side.

Still, most (not all) buildings on the island are no higher than a tall coco palm, or three stories. Hotels inexorably are getting more upmarket, with pools and aircon standard. Prices continue to go up, too, with the best suites in the best hotels going for the previously unthinkable US$400 a day, and higher.

But most hotels on Ambergris Caye are moderate by Caribbean standards. And a few rooms are available for US$25 or less.

This is not an island for backpackers looking for the cheapest deals by the sea. Neither is it for shoppers (though you can while away a few hours in San Pedro’s gift shops), golfers (though there’s a course on an island next door), gamblers (though there’s a casino), oenophiles (though there are wine shops now, several restaurants have decent if small wine lists, and one restaurant makes and sells passable wines from imported grape juice), gourmandizers (though several island restaurants will satisfy even sophisticated palates and many serve dependably delicious meals), or those panting after one of those all-inclusive hedoheat experiences made famous in Jamaica (though the first Temptation Island reality show was shot on Ambergris Caye).

Ambergris Caye is not for those seeking the ultimate beautiful beach, or totally unspoiled diving, nor is it for sophisticates who summer in the Hamptons and winter in St. Barts. Yet, for both visitors and residents, the island continues to become more cosmopolitan. Restaurants are getting better. Expats from all over the world now call San Pedro home. The island is by far the first choice of Americans, Canadians and Europeans for their pied de mer. A number of Belize’s most successful business people maintain vacation homes here.

In short, Ambergris Caye is at that very special point in the development of a tropical paradise. It is beyond boredom, a bit before mass discovery and slightly this side of just right.


CAYE CAULKER
Caye Caulker is Ambergris Caye’s “little sister” island – smaller, less developed and a cheaper date. Caulker, whose name derives from the Spanish word for coco plum, hicaco, has the kind of laidback, sandy-street, tropical-color, low-key Caribbean charm that travelers pay thousands to experience, but here they can have it for peanuts. Less than 10 miles, and about 30 minutes by boat, from San Pedro, Caye Caulker is definitely worth a day visit, and some people may decide they like Caulker as well, or better, than San Pedro.

We are often asked to compare the two islands. Here are some of the key comparisons:

• Caye Caulker is physically much smaller, under 5 miles long and half a mile wide at its widest point, roughly one-tenth the size of Ambergris Caye. Hurricane Hattie in 1961 divided the island in two parts. North of “the Split” it is mostly uninhabited mangrove, and much of this area is protected as a nature reserve. As on many islands, there are basically just three streets running down the island, Front, Middle and Back streets being the main ones, though there are few street signs and locals usually give directions just by saying “go down to yellow house and turn right.” Most of the 300 or so listings in the Caye Caulker section of the Belize telephone directory don’t even include a street name or address, just the person’s name and phone number.

• Nearly all of the population of 1,400 live in the village on the south end of the island. Caye Caulker has streets of hard packed sand far fewer cars than San Pedro, just a handful of emergency vehicles. Almost everybody gets around on foot or bike. As on Ambergris, a majority of local residents are Mestizos who originally came to the island from Mexico, and who until recently made their living by fishing, but the island also has Creoles, some of whom consider themselves Rastafarians, gringo expats and others.

• While it is gradually going more upmarket, Caye Caulker remains a budget island. In the 1960s and 1970s, the island was on the “backpacker trail,” a cheap place for longhaired visitors to relax, and smoke a little weed or sip a beer. Today, the most expensive hotel on Caulker goes for around US$160 a night, and most of the 40 or so hotels charge under US$75 double, with some as low as US$15.

Most older hotels, like the houses are on the island, are wooden clapboard, often painted in tropical colors, but more recently constructed hotels are of reinforced concrete. Rooms are usually small, often with a fan and simple furnishings and foam-mattress beds. Only five of the hotels on the island have a swimming pool. Newer ones offer cable TV and air-conditioning. The official view of the island, though, emphasizes Caulker’s new emphasis on middle-class tourism. Mo Miller, chair of the Caye Caulker Village Council marketing committee, says “Although Caye Caulker had been known for a backpacker’s paradise, it is now an up and coming upscale charming island with a fishing village ambiance. Except for the Euro tourists in August, the island usually accommodates middle-class tourists.”

• Caye Caulker has much the same mix of tourist-oriented businesses as San Pedro, but in most cases there are fewer of everything. The island has perhaps 20 simple restaurants, if you include those that operate out of somebody’s back window or side yard, a few casual bars, a handful of dive shops and tour guides, several pint-sized groceries, a few gift shops, two banks and several cybercafes.

• Beaches? Caulker has much less beachfront, and the beaches it has don’t compare with some of the better stretches of beach on Ambergris Caye. A beach reclamation project a few years ago did widen and improve the beach along the east side of the village (storms since have taken away and then given back sand). Swimming in the shallow water close to shore is mainly from piers and at “the Split.”

• The pipe water, or tap water, on Caulker is not as good as on Ambergris Caye, where it mostly comes from a treated municipal system. On Caulker, it often has a sulphur smell and comes from shallow wells that may be close to septic systems. We recommend you not drink it; use bottled water or rainwater instead. Good news: A reverse osmosis system will debut soon. Caye Caulker also has sandflies. Especially on calm days, they can be a real nuisance.


CAYE CHAPEL
Not since the days of British colonialism has Belize had a real 18-hole golf course. But for traveling golfers, a course opened in 1999 on Caye Chapel, a privately owned 265-acre island. It's a beautiful par-72 course, playing to more than 7,000 yards, flat but long, with four par-5 holes. Challenges include brisk prevailing winds and an occasional crocodile. This is Belize's best course (a smaller 9-hole public course is near Belmopan at Roaring River Golf Club). If you're not staying at the Caye Chapel Island Resort, which grants guests full access, you can still play for around BZ$400 per person, including clubs and cart rental. Having failed to sell the whole island (the asking price was north of US$70 million), Caye Chapel’s owner now is trying to sell off the island, piece by piece, starting with the big island villas. The future of the golf course and the island is unclear.


CAYO ESPANTO
Espanto means fright in Spanish, but there's nothing to be frightened of on this tiny island 3 miles west of Ambergris Caye, except possibly the wallop in your wallet if you stay here. Cayo Espanto is all there is on this four-acre island. You can walk all around the caye in less time than it takes to drink a cold mojito, which on this private island will be provided by your own private butler.


ST. GEORGE’S CAYE
Just a stone's throw from Belize City, this small caye is steeped in history. The state of Belize had its origins here, as St. George's Caye held the original British settlement's first capital. In 1798 the island was the site of a decisive battle with the Spanish. Islanders had only one sloop, while the Spanish had 31 ships. As the story goes, their knowledge of the sea helped them to defeat the invaders in two hours. Getting to St. George's Caye couldn't be easier, as the boat trip from Belize City takes little more than 20 minutes. Affluent Belize City residents weekend in their private cottages here.


TOBACCO CAYE
About 10 miles east of Dangriga, Tobacco Caye is a tiny 5-acre coral island. It is getting more attention these days because it offers snorkeling off the shore. As so often happens in Belize, though, rates have shot up at some of the hotels here. There’s no scheduled water taxi service, but you can hook a boat at Dangriga to take you out – US$20 or less per person one-way.


SOUTHWATER CAYE
Southwater Caye, about 15 acres in size, is one of the most beautiful small islands off Belize. The south end of the caye, where Pelican Beach’s cottages are located, has a nice little beach and snorkeling right off the shore.


COCOPLUM CAYE
On Cocoplum Caye, it all comes down to this: Relax in a hammock on the veranda of your private cottage, sip a cold drink, and gaze at the Caribbean. This 16-acre island has only five cottages. The snorkeling off the shore is only so-so, but most package rates include snorkel trips to the reef a few miles farther out.


THATCH CAYE
In a process that took years of hand labor, the owners of Thatch Caye put up bamboo seawalls and raised boardwalks around the island, built 11 guest cottages and the rest of the infrastructure of this “hand built” island, with its popular small resort. Shore snorkeling isn’t very good here, as the island isn’t on the reef, but the resort runs dive, snorkel and fishing trips daily. Although Thatch Caye strives for sustainability, with solar and wind power, wild coatimundis, rabbits, and other mainland animals unadvisedly brought to the island could become an ecological problem.


WHIPRAY CAYE
Whipray Caye, about 11 miles off Placencia, is a great spot for anglers, as you can wade out about 50 yards in the flats and fish for tarpon, permit and other game fish.


THE ATOLLS
Atolls are characterized by a large lagoon surrounded by coral reefs. While atolls are common in the South Pacific, they are rare in the Western Hemisphere. Of the four known atolls in the Western Hemisphere, three are in Belize – Glovers, Turneffe and Lighthouse. (The fourth, Chinchorra, is in southern Mexico.) Altogether the atolls boast about a dozen small dive and fishing lodges. Nearly all require minimum stays of a few days to a week, with transportation included in the package price. There is no scheduled boat service to the atolls, though dive shops from San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Placencia, Hopkins and elsewhere make day trips for divers and (in some cases) snorkelers. Pass the Dramamine – the boat trips out are long and can be very rough.

Glovers Atoll
Glovers Atoll is the smallest of the three atolls in Belize, with an area of about 140 square miles. Some 45 miles from the mainland, Glovers offers some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean. The atoll has hundreds of coral patches in the lagoon. Around the atoll are 50 miles of walls dropping from 40 to 2500 feet or more. Fishing is restricted in this marine reserve– if you are fishing, reserve rangers will collect a fee of US$10 per person per day.

Lighthouse Reef Atoll
Lighthouse Atoll is about 45 miles off the mainland coast, east of Belize City. The atoll is famous (thanks to Jacques Cousteau) for the Blue Hole inside the lagoon. The Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole or cenote, is about one-quarter mile across and about 500 feet deep. Divers usually find the Blue Hole less interesting than they expected it would be, with very little sea life other than some sharks, but it’s worth doing once. Several divers have died here, and it is not for novice divers. Half Moon Caye, a 45-acre coral island, is one of the most beautiful of all the Belize cayes, and it was part of Belize’s first marine reserve. There’s a daily fee of US$40 per person to visit the reserve.

Turneffe Atoll
Turneffe Atoll is about 25 miles from the mainland, to the east of Belize City. The central lagoon, which has some 200 small mangrove islands, is about 240 square miles in area. There is also a smaller northern lagoon. Like Belize’s other atolls, Turneffe offers magnificent diving and great fishing. The eastern and southern side of the atoll offers the best diving. Probably the most famous site is The Elbow, on the southern tip. Spur and groove diving is here only for experienced divers.

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