With well-priced hotels that run from luxury lodging to rustic accommodations and inexpensive day trips that take you out into the blue Caribbean Sea for snorkeling, diving and deep-sea fishing, Belize has become one of the world's most diverse adventure, eco and pure relaxation destinations. It's one of those places where the adults still smile and no one, and I mean, no one, tries to get over on you. More than just friendly, Belizeans want you to come back to their country.
While air-land inclusive package tours at huge resorts are staples throughout the Caribbean, Belize travel is a mellower experience at small waterfront hotels where service is a premium. Start your stay in Belize at Ambergris Caye, the largest of Belize's small islands at 36 miles long. Filled with hotels ranging in price from $30 to $300 per night, you have your choice of centrally located hotels in the middle of San Pedro or remote places on the Northern or Southern tips of the Caye. The Sun Breeze Hotel (tel. 800/688-0191; www.sunbreezehotel.com) just a short mile from San Pedro and the islands main strip of shops, bars and restaurants, has some good deals to correspond with Belize's high season. Regular rates for a standard double room start at $130 with suite prices going up to $160. Government taxes in Belize are fairly low coming in at only 7% with a 5% room service charge. Most of the hotel's 42 air-conditioned rooms were recently remodeled. They look out onto a scenic poll with views of the Caribbean Sea. The hotel is equipped with a PADI dive site and they can help you with any excursions to Belize's Blue Hole, one of the best-known diving spots in the world. The hotel can help you put together diving certification packages to decrease the total price of your trip and several romance packages are available including honeymoon and wedding stays.
Further up the island towards Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula lies Journey's End Resort (tel. 800/460-5665; www.journeysendresort.com). One of the Ambergris Caye's premiere properties, Journey's End has small hut-like completely private Garden View Cabanas and Beachfront Cabanas starting at $205. For even less money, you can get the resort's practically white glove service for a double occupancy room looking over the lagoon for $145. Fairly remote, the resort is equipped with a full-service restaurant that looks over the water.
Restaurants on Ambergris Caye range from hot dog stands in the town square with some of the best under $2 dollar burritos and grilled dogs you've ever eaten to home-cooked Caribbean diner-type shops manned by families or couples to upscale restaurants where dress code means flip-flops, shorts and bathing suit tops. (There's nothing fancy about the island.) For a great chicken fried steak, fried shrimp or grilled fish sandwich, try George's Kitchen. Don't even worry about a phone number or a Website address. George's doesn't need one. Just ask anyone where it is and remember it's closed Tuesday. For a gourmet meal, try the Palmilla Restaurant in the main dining room at the Victoria House Hotel (tel. 800/247-5159; www.victoria-house.com/palmilla.html). Chef Amy Knox has won several awards for her cuisine, which combines Caribbean home cooking with American haute cuisine flavors. You might want to wear a button down shirt if you dine here. The service is impeccable with headwaiter Oscar and sommelier Enrique handling all your needs.
To get to Ambergris Caye, you need to fly a puddle jumper over from Belize City. Mayan Air (tel. 800/225-6732; www.mayaislandair.com) or Tropic Air (tel. 800/422-3435; www.tropicair.com) can get you to Ambergris and back to Belize City for US$50. These small 12-seater prop planes only fly during daylight. Your hotel will be able to book all your air travel within Belize on both Mayan and Tropic Air.
From the United States, American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) flies to Belize City from Miami; Continental Airlines (tel. 800/525-0280; www.continental.com) flies from Dallas, Houston and Newark; and USAir (tel. 800/428-4322; www.usair.com) gets you there out of Charlotte. A direct flight from Newark Airport to Belize City will run you $522 on Continental, roughly $412 from Houston. On US Air from Charlotte to Belize City, expect to pay around $602. From Miami on American it'll cost you $429 round-trip.
Don't worry about transportation on Ambergris Caye, mini-van taxis are very inexpensive ($5 to $10 for most fares), you can walk almost everywhere, and if you like, golf cart rentals are available through your hotel.