Belize in Love
Pardon the silly pun, but when you're surrounded by such raw beauty as the Placencia coast you can't help but say cheesy things, like, "UnBelizeable!"
This trip was basically a mini, second honeymoon for James and I. With a couple days to spare before James would start his grueling 24/7 on-call schedule, as his project worked towards installation, we knew we needed a couple of days to soak up each other and some rays.
Belize Ocean Club provided the perfect backdrop for our little love fest. Our ocean front room meant we could step right off our patio onto the white sand, laden with swaying palm trees, and find ourselves at the water's edge in only a few strides. With a welcome drink in hand we made ourselves right at home.
I love that this resort is not all-inclusive. This gave James and I many excuses to leave the resort and tour the town around us. I will say, the contrast is severe. Immediately exiting the beautifully landscaped resort you are face-to-face with the rigidity of a developing nation.
The roads are one of the major distinctions. Fortunately, James rented us a Toyota Hilux which is built for uneven terrain. We were particularly fortunate when our confused GPS took us down a "road" that was anything but. I thought we were going to find ourselves stuck in the Belizean jungle with a floating truck and zero cell reception. You also have to be very cautious driving because people on foot and on bicycle are often along the road and sometimes right in the middle of it. At night it becomes increasingly important to keep your eyes peeled for people, crabs and coatimundi.
Stepping out of the resort gave us many opportunities to taste traditional and non-traditional cuisine. A traditional Belizean meal consists of rice, beans and chicken seasoned with Caribbean spices. Because Belize is a popular destination to retire you can find a variety of restaurants. You'll also find the area extremely affordable. In downtown Placencia, James and I could order an appetizer, two entrees and a beer and pay around $26 BZD. That equates to $13 USD. Another appropriate use of, "UnBelizeable!"
Another allure of Belize Ocean Club is that they are a PADI resort. Something we absolutely HAD to do in Belize was scuba dive. The massive Belize Barrier Reef provides incredible opportunities to see marine life. Having been certified earlier in the year, I took off on a dive while James completed his beginner dive classes. On that first dive I was able to check off just about every marine animal from my diving bucket list. The Nurse Sharks are so curious and people friendly that they followed my group around, swimming right up next to us. A gorgeous Spotted Eagle Ray gracefully eased by. We saw lobsters and of course the dreaded Lion Fish, but what made my day was swimming upon a sea turtle!! My entire motivation for becoming a certified diver was to swim with the sea turtles.
After a delicious, customary lunch our group was all together for the second and last dive of the day. We were able to see many of the same animals on this different part of the reef. My only regret is that I do not own an underwater camera. I could have purchased a cheap disposable one, but the photos would not have done justice to the exquisite life underwater.
On our final day, James and I ventured south through banana farms to the Toledo district to locate some Mayan ruins. There are more well known spots up north and more inland, but James and I really wanted to take in some historical sites and still have time to relax in the evening before our early flight the next day. The two spots we visited were Nim Li Punit and Lubaantun.
Along the way we saw a sign advertising breakfast at the Belize Spice Farm and Botanical Garden. We pulled in to find the parking lot empty minus a few people working on construction. However, as we got out of the truck, a gentleman approached and asked our reason for visiting. When we told him food he invited us back into a small dining room and began making a meal just for us! As he cooked, we browsed some of the spices and treats available for sale and noticed some strange looking fruits. When the gentleman returned with our breakfast he explained the fruits were related to the lychee nut and allowed us to sample them. It was an authentic and enjoyable experience completely spur of the moment.
Nim Li Punit means "the big hat." These ruins over look the Toledo coastal plain, milpas and rain forest. Having only one main plaza, one pyramid, one ball court and a few moderately sized buildings, Nim Li Punit fall is smaller compared to masterpieces found in other areas. But it has a large number of stelae; twenty-five large, often huge, stone slabs and pillars, eight of them carved, populate this small area. In fact, one of the stela is the tallest carved example in Belize. Due to this curiosity, Nim Li Punit is believed to have served as its dynasty’s worshiping place. Here I had a little fun playing in my new dress, enjoying the contrast against the old ruins.
Lubaantun provided not only similar ruins, including a ball court and pyramids, but it felt to be much deeper set in the rain forest. We found a beautiful stream running through the site, though we had to hike through some dense brush to find it.
That evening we enjoyed a romantic sunset while poolside at our resort, chatting up our friendly bartender. Having visited Belize in the off-season, we found ourselves with most of the resort uninhabited. One thing to note about Belize in the off-season is that not all restaurants will be open. Our plans weren't hindered in the slightest, and Belize proved to be exactly the romantic getaway we hoped it to be.