01 Feb The Best of Belize
After graduating from UCLA, JIll traveled the world looking for unique destinations. She’s been writing about her travels for almost 30 years in various publications.
She writes a weekly restaurant review for the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News. It’s inserted into the Los Angeles Times every Thursday and delivered to subscribers from Hancock Park to Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills to the Wilshire Corridor.
The Best of Belize
BY JILL WEINLEIN
We kicked off 2019 with a trip to Belize. The first time we traveled to Belize, we stayed in a treehouse at the Hamanasi Resort in the small town of Hopkins. Wooden stairs led up to a deck with a hammock and hot tub. Inside was a spacious bedroom with a beautifully tiled bath, a small kitchenette and sitting area. It was such a memorable vacation, that we wanted to start the new year off in the warm, safe and beautiful country. Belize borders Mexico, Guatemala, and the aquamarine Caribbean Sea. Since it was once British Honduras, people speak English. It’s a melting pot of Creoles, Mayans, Mestizos, East Indians, Chinese, Mennonites, North Americans, Europeans and Central Americans.
We planned a trip with two other couples and their adult age children to stay in treehouses at the Mariposa Resort in Placencia. Flying less than three hours on United Airlines from LAX to Houston, we then boarded another plane to fly about two hours from Houston to Belize City.
Once we arrived we picked up our rental four-wheel drive SUV and drove four hours to Placencia with two stops along the way. At the Belize Zoo, we enjoyed a traditional lunch of stewed chicken with rice, black beans and plantains, before strolling through the tropical exhibits to see 45 native species. These animals, reptiles and birds were orphaned, rescued, born at the zoo or rehabilitating. Highlights included being close to a jaguar, harpy eagle and beautiful toucans.
Our second stop was at The Country Barn Dairy and Creamery for freshly made black cherry and coconut ice cream. This roadside dairy and cafe near St Margaret’s village on Hummingbird Highway is run by a Mennonite family. These farmers make and sell homemade ice cream, flavored milk and fresh yogurt to the public, resorts and restaurants.
Driving on the paved road to Placencia, the street signs are in English alerting us to one-lane bridges, and speed humps when entering a new village.
Arriving at the Mariposa Resort, the owners Bruce and Sharon Maddison, staff and two dogs greeted us warmly. We were led to Treehouse #3 for our one-week stay. Walking up the wooden stairs, we noticed a table with chairs and hammock on our wooded deck. Opening the front door, the 380 spacious room offered a King size bed and bunk bed for our daughters. There was an air conditioning unit, small refrigerator, bathroom with double sinks, large tiled shower, bath robes, beach towels, in-room safe and Belizean hardwood floors.
The resort opened in 2014 and offers an onsite restaurant serving a warm complimentary breakfast to guests each morning. It’s attached to the Breezeway Pool Bar open for lunch and dinners. A bartender is always ready to make tropical drinks and open Belize Belikin beers.
Beyond the bar is a small oceanfront pool next to a few beach suites. Activities include swinging in a hammock under a palapa on the beach, taking a kayak out for a water tour, or ride one of the complimentary bicycles into Placencia Village to visit beach bars, restaurant, coffee and gelato shops.
The Placencia peninsula has storefronts for visitors to reserve a snorkel trip to one of the picturesque cayes (islands). Each day we visited Dana at Nite Wind Tours to book a snorkel trip. The first day we motored out to the private Wild Orchid Caye for a 45 minute snorkel led tour and lunch on the island. Belize has the South Water Caye Marine Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. The water is a pleasant 82 degrees, with visibility of at least 100 feet. We followed two squid swimming with schools of brightly colored fish.
On our next snorkel trip, we took a boat to Silk Caye to see a variety of tropical fish in water so clear that I discovered four different shades of blue at various depths. This tiny island is completely surrounded by a coral reef. After lunch on the sand, we got back into the boat and motored two minutes away to a nearby snorkeling area to see protected marine life. Jumping into the water, schools of docile nurse sharks about four to six foot circled underneath our boat. Two different types of rays and a hawksbill turtle swam near us. Our snorkeling guide pointed out a variety of coral, grouper and colorful tropical fish.
We saved our last full day for a trip together on the Monkey River Jungle Cruise from the docks at Placencia Village. While cruising to Monkey River Village, we first stopped at a small and peaceful village with about 200 residences along the coast of Southern Belize in the Toledo District. Two residential guides escorted us on our upriver ride, to point out beautiful flora, fauna and subtropical rain-forests. Highlights included crocodiles bask along the banks of the river, and bright orange iguanas sunbathing on branches of trees. Up on the top of trees, our guides pointed out troops of howler monkeys, and a variety of birds darting above. A variety of wading egrets and herons dotted the river. After lunch at a local cafe, we boarded the boat to search for manatees before arriving back at Placencia Village and the Mariposa Resort.
Put Belize on your 2019 travel list to enjoy warm sunshine, clear blue water and snorkeling experiences you will never forget.
For information about the Mariposa Resort, call (501)523-4474 or go to https://www.mariposabelizebeach.com.