With its perfect climate, gorgeous white-sand beaches, and turquoise water, many associate Turks and Caicos Islands with luxurious celebrity vacations…
Ambergris Caye is one of over 450 offshore Cayes (islands) off the eastern coast of Belize, sitting right in the Caribbean Sea. It is the largest island in Belize, and is where many of
the tourists that DO go to Belize end up at some point. The island has a very low-key vibe and offers just enough to do to not get bored, but not too much to the point where it’s crowded and super touristy. We spent 2 of our 3 nights here at the PUR Boutique Cabanas and were blown away! Not even joking, we left with my husband getting all kinds of ideas of replicating our cabana as a guest home someday – for a house we have yet to find or own 🙂 We actually arrived for their opening weekend and were one of the first (if not the actual first) to stay in our cabana, the Eagle Ray king suite.
Side note: even if you don’t end up staying here, at least check out their page on recommended activities if you’re headed to Ambergris Caye! That page is helpful no matter where you’re staying.
To get to the island, you have to either take a small little island-hopper plane, or a water taxi (ferry). We chose to do the water taxi since it was cheaper. We took a cab from the airport in Belize City to the water taxi terminal ($25), which was about a 20 minute ride. Once at the water taxi terminal, we bought tickets for a one-way ticket to Ambergris Caye ($28/person). There are scheduled departure times, so plan accordingly if you can – the schedule is usually posted online here. Our 100-person taxi boat left at 1:30, stopped at
Caye Caulker to drop off passengers and pick up new ones, and arrived to Ambergris around 3:15. Nelson, from PUR, met us at the water taxi dock with cold washcloths and water and took us to the hotel (only a 10 minute ride). Fun fact about Ambergris – they basically all get around in golf carts! There a few random cars on the island, but everyone just either walks, or rents/owns a golf cart to get around, which makes it a really fun and unique way to see the island! Upon arriving at the hotel, we sat down with the owner, Dave, who gave us a super helpful rundown of the facilities and amenities, made even better with the complimentary rum punch 🙂 The owners actually own a hotel down in the mainland beach town of Placencia as well, which won the 2017 Belize Tourism Award for Best Small Hotel of the Year, which explains how they know what they’re doing so well! They bring that same level of excellence to this brand new second location, and I fully expect to see this second location awarded as such within the coming years.
There are only 6 cabanas on site, so it is a small and private adults-only location that we absolutely loved! Many times we had the pool and the swim-up bar all to ourselves! There is a full bar on site that also serves food, complete with a taco bar that you just won’t be able to get enough of. We loved topping off our night with a huge ($7) plate of nachos, and starting the morning with their enormous footlong breakfast burritos ($6). They even have a reserve osmosis water system that filters and cleans the water so that you can drink it….it was the only place on the whole island where we actually drank non-bottled water.
The private cabana that we stayed in was absolutely incredible…it had a king bed, full kitchenette (stove, dishes, sink, mini fridge, toaster, etc.), TV, porch hammock, and a completely private side porch with an outdoor shower and hot tub. Each cabana varies a bit, so you’ll have to do some research, but I think the Eagle Ray suite is the only one with the hot tub/plunge pool. The prices are very reasonable right now with the establishment being so new, so the Eagle Ray suit is definitely worth the splurge (prices seem range from $125-$199 depending on the season). TOTALLY worth it – even for budget travelers!
Location-wise PUR is right in the Tres Cocos area, which is a great, quiet little trendy area that is close to the main town of San Pedro, but far enough away not to be crowded. It is considered “North” of the bridge, and San Pedro is “South” of the bridge. The bridge does cost about $2 to cross by golf cart each way, so be sure to bring cash with you if you plan to cross it via cart. While the Tres Cocos area is nice and quiet, there are still areas
nearby to get drinks and food if you like, so you have plenty of options. PUR is about a 30 minute golf cart ride to Secret Beach, which is the best beach on the island, and you can rent golf carts from PUR that are already on the premises for $50/day, which is pretty standard for rentals on the island. The cabanas are also only a short walk to the beach, and while the cabanas aren’t beachfront, the beach is super close. All in all, the location was absolutely perfect for us and was exactly what we were looking for! PUR Boutique Cabanas will definitely fall within our top 5 favorite accommodations, and we would HIGHLY recommend this gorgeous boutique hotel….we are looking forward to returning ourselves!
*This post was a collaboration with PUR Boutique Cabanas, but all opinions and photos are my own.
While this island is teaming with eating options around every corner, we went ahead and compiled a list of our favorites for you! This way you can have a list of everything all in one place and can spend your time exploring instead of yelping 🙂
- Hungry Grouper: Hungry Grouper is located in San Pedro. It was only a 10 minute golf cart drive from where we stayed, but it was a local open-air spot with only 6 tables and a sand floor. The specialty is Snapper, served a variety of ways. We tried the lemon garlic snapper and the blackened snapper plate, both of which came with rice and salad/coleslaw for a total of $26.
- Robin’s Kitchen: Robin’s is another local outdoor spot located in San Pedro that specializes in an island specialty – jerk chicken. Jerk chicken is basically marinated chicken with Caribbean “jerk” spices, grilled on a charcoal grill for about 30 minutes, and served with BBQ sauce. He also offers a few other dishes, some of which is fish, which is also fabulous. This was one of our favorite meals on the island, and we only paid $17 total! Robin is the owner and grills everyday and is super friendly. Half the experience is just hanging out with Robin and is worth the trip for that experience alone! Pro tip: bring your own alcohol if you want it, Robin’s doesn’t have it on the menu but allows you to bring your own.
- Boogies Belly: Boogie’s Belly is breakfast-only local joint in San Pedro that you have to check out once while you’re there! Their specialty is meat pies (you can get 3 palm/muffin sized pies for $1), which comes in chicken or pork (maybe more, those were the only options the day we went though). They are essentially meat and a sauce baked inside a mini dough pie and are definitely worth a try!
- Belize Chocolate Company: The Belize Chocolate Company is an adorable little shop right by the water in San Pedro that is great for a quick stop-in! It’s like a cute little coffee shop, except for chocolate – what’s not to love?! If you have the time, you can even schedule chocolate “tours”/classes which I’m sure are great!
- The Dive Bar: The Dive Bar was our first meal in Belize near where we stayed in the Tres Cocos area where we had fantastic fresh seafood dishes, but the atmosphere and location were even better! They are located right on the water and have several hammocks you can relax on, a dock, cornhole, beach chairs, and a swing set in the water itself! If it wasn’t a seaweed year it would have been absolutely perfect and we would have returned every day, but unfortunately since the seaweed was bad at the time we visited no one was getting in the water there. Any other time though this would have been our favorite spot so check it out!
- Estel’s: Estel’s is located in San Pedro (shocker, I know) and is right by the water taxi dock, so it’s super convenient to visit on your arrival or departure day! We visited for breakfast on the day we left right before we caught the water taxi and tried the Mayan Special – it’s a plate of flapjacks (fried dough), topped with eggs, ham, and beans.
- Elvi’s Kitchen: Elvi’s is a cute little place in San Pedro with a wide range of options. We got wonderful seafood basil pasta and coconut curry dishes and loved them!
- Caroline’s Cookin’: Caroline’s Cookin’ is another local spot in downtown San Pedro that is known for their fish tacos and fish fillets, which are fabulous! A little spicy, so be prepared, but wonderful flavor!
- Taco Bar at PUR: This is where we stayed (read more here), but they also have a pool with a full swim-up bar, and serve food that is great for snacking if you’re in the mood for snacks and drinks! Stop by for a huge plate of nachos for only $7, taco bar, or their footlong breakfast burritos ($6). Since it’s north of the bridge in the Tres Cocos area, it’s a great spot to stop for breakfast if you’re headed up to Secret Beach, which is only about 30 minutes away from PUR.
- Paradice Cream: Paradice Cream is a cute little ice cream shop in San Pedro where you can grab chalk and write on the walls as you wait. We tried the coffee and absolutely nutty flavors, which were full of flavor and super great! We had 2 double scoops for $10 total…would be a great place to bring kids to!
- Secret Paradise Beach Bar: Secret Paradise Beach Bar is in Secret Beach, obviously, and is pretty much in it’s own private cove. The people at this cove are usually only the ones at this bar/restaurant. Try the ceviche – it’s fabulous!
- Flight Cafe: Flight Cafe is right in downtown San Pedro across from the airport and is a super cute little coffee shop that is aviation-themed. We got 2 iced moccachinos for $8 total, which were great! Be sure to stop in for your morning coffee fix!
- Random “Fast Food”: Both on the island and on the mainland we stopped at several random places for “fast food”, which often times are locals who cook food in their house and run it out to you, or have a grill right in front of their house that they sell food from. Sounds sketchy, I know, but it was the best way to try the most authentic Belizean food, and it was all so great! The food was mostly Belizean staples like tacos, empanadas, tamales, etc. and we enjoyed it all, plus, it was SO CHEAP! I’m talking, like, fifty-cent tacos cheap, can’t be that! Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone a little and try something new!
To read more about our Belizean activities and excursions check out my post here!
If you haven’t already heard, French food is absolutely HEAVENLY. There’s a reason why the French are regarded so highly in the cuisine industry, and, from what I’ve experienced, rightfully so! We visited Marseille, France in the Fall of 2017 (read more about that trip here) and I’ve got to admit, of every country we’ve been to, the food in France takes the cake, literally 😉 While we were only able to visit for 2 days, we tried as much food as we could…in fact, we tried enough food to warrant its very own article! I’ve listed some of our favorites for you below! Bon Appetite!
- Bouillabaisse – this is a fish stew that contains at least 3 varieties of fresh local fish. The fish is typically served on its own platter, and the broth is served in its own pot, so you combine them together as you’d like. It’s normally a
pretty big portion – usually enough to share! Bouillabaisse is different everywhere you go because different restaurants in different towns use different seafood based on what is available in the area, so you get a different experience each time! This stew actually originated in Marseille, so Marseille is said to have some of the best Bouillabaisse in the country…definitely check it out if you’re in the town!
- Moules Marinier Frites – this is another popular French dish that consists of fresh mussels, tossed in a white wine sauce and served with french fries on the side. Again, this is often large enough to share, and is absolutely AMAZING. Then again, I’m a big fan of white wine sauces, so I may be a bit biased 😉 This is definitely a French staple in the town of Marseille, and you see people eating this in every restaurant as you walk through Vieux Port, which is always a good sign!
- Wine – it’s French. And Wine. Need I say more? This one is obvious.
- Cappuccino/Espresso – again, another obvious French staple. Everywhere you go you see locals siting in cafes sipping on an espresso or a cappuccino. If you’re not huge on coffee flavor then go for the cappuccino, which has milk/cream in it. If you’re a fan of coffee and like it strong then do it like the locals do and drink straight espresso….bonus – the espresso comes in those adorable little espresso mugs! Everywhere you go you see the French sipping on espressos and smoking cigarettes. I’m not a smoker, but apparently the flavors go well together….then again, what DOESN’T go well with coffee?!
- Croque Monsier – I can’t believe I don’t have a picture of this for you…it must have been too good to stop and pull out the camera and we just dove right in. This can be made several different ways, but the way we had it consisted of ham and cheese between 2 pieces of toast, coated with toasted crunchy shredded cheese, and topped with a runny fried egg. To be fair, I am a breakfast person, and breakfast is always my favorite meal, but I was a huge fan of this dish! How can you go wrong with cheese and eggs and toast?!
- Macaroons – macaroons are these adorable little French cookies that are iconic of France. We searched all over town for them and finally found them in a chocolate shop….and then found out that they were not made locally but rather shipped in. Come to find out, macaroons are more of a PARIS thing than an actual FRENCH thing. Still fun try if you’re in France, but don’t get too excited about them unless you’re actually in Paris, and don’t waste half a day trying to find them. Moral of the story – if you can’t find them easily then they probably aren’t a popular staple, which means there’s probably a good reason why 🙂
- Scallop Risotto – this was hands down the BEST dish we ate in France, and quite possibly the best meal of my life. I’m not really a scallop person, but it sounded good and I gave it a shot and it paid off to try something new! The risotto was perfect, the scallops were plentiful, and the white sauce was fabulous. I don’t know the name of the restaurant, it was just a random waterfront restaurant in Vieux Port, but it was absolutely fantastic, as I’m sure any scallop risotto would be in that area. Be sure to try it out if you’re a fan of amazing meals.
- Pesto Pasta – we tried this at one of the waterfront restaurants in Vieux Port and it was amazing! I know pasta is really an Italian specialty, but the French certainly give them a run for their money…especially when fresh homemade pesto is involved!
- Quiche – again, total breakfast girl here, so naturally I’m a big fan of quiches. We had several mini quiches from the bakery next door to our hotel and in other random places we found, all of which were magnificent! One odd thing to note though – all quiches seemed to be served cold, which was odd to us. While I think I still prefer them warm, I was certainly not disappointed in the fresh French quiches!
- Croissant – again, obviously. The French just don’t go wrong with buttery, flaky, light, airy croissants. And with all the air in there, it’s really only half the carbs, right?! In fact, with all the carbs you’re saving you can even justify filling your croissant with chocolate Nutella!! Sold!
- Bread and cheese – whenever you find a bakery, or even a grocery, be sure to stop in and get yourself some bread and cheese…these make for great picnics or for cheap but filling snacks/lunch on the go! If you have the room, wine and chocolate never hurt either 😉 We packed our bread and cheese and hiked to Calanque de Sugiton to picnic (best day of our trip), which we ended in Vieux Port with the scallop risotto for a perfect day.
- Crème Brulee – while France, Spain, and England all claim to be this classic dessert’s originating country, the first printed recipe for this dessert is from a 1691 French cookbook…so we’ll call it French 🙂 This rich dessert consists of baked custard, usually vanilla flavored, that is then sprinkled with sugar and caramelized to a hard brittle top with a blowtorch. We found ourselves to be big fans of crème brulee (which is big for me since I’m a total chocolate girl) and shared this dessert every night we were in France. Highly recommend trying it!
Let us know what YOU tried in France and what we should try next time! Happy Eating!!
Being that Marseille is not a tourist city, there’s a good chance that you don’t know much about Marseille, despite the fact that it is the second-largest city in France – only behind Paris! Marseille is located on the south-eastern coast of France, almost near Nice and Cannes, and despite the fact that it is not frequented by tourists, this bustling city is definitely worth stopping by if you plan to be in the area! We visited on a whim when we flew from Madrid to Marseille, on our way to Switzerland. We decided to rent a car and drive from Marseille to Switzerland so that we could experience a quick 2 days in France and soak in the French countryside on our way to Geneva, and we were so glad we did! 2 days was plenty long enough for us, and we fit quite a lot into those busy days but we loved getting to experience the French culture for the first time. Below is a list of all of our Marseille favorites, and a perfect little itinerary for a quick 2-day stop!
What to Do
*Note that all of these are free activities, but can get crowded, so I’d recommend doing them earlier in the day if possible. Pro Tip: you can do all of #’s 1-5 in one day, leaving all day for the Calanques of #6 – if you don’t read anything else AT LEAST do yourself a favor and make sure you skip down to read #6 🙂
- Vieux Port (The Old Port) – this is the city center area that is right on the water. Vieux Port is the main harbor and marina of Marseille, which is guarded by Fort Saint-Nicolas and Fort Saint-Jean. It’s the perfect place to eat, stop for a cappuccino (or glass of wine), or just spend time meandering through restaurants and shops. We did every Marseille meal here, and none of them disappointed! French food is absolutely AMAZING, the rumors are true 🙂 But more about that later….. (you can read about our favorite French foods to try here).
- City Center – The Port is (obviously) right on the water, but the main city center is right above the port and also has dining and lots of shopping. Soap is a big thing for Marseille, so you’ll find lots of adorable little soap shops with walls full of colorful bars of soap. One thing that DID surprise me was the lack of bakeries around town. Not that they weren’t there, but I was fully expecting to see a bakery around every turn with lots of bread and pastries, which was not the case. So, word to the wise, when you do find a bakery be sure to stop because you may not see another one for a while!
- Notre Dame de la Garde – this is an enormous Romano-Byzantine basilica that dates back to the 19th century. Situated on a hill that overlooks the city, the view from here offers amazing panoramic views of Marseille and is definitely worth carving some time out for. Be sure to look out over the Bay of Marseille at the Frioul archipelago from the vantage point of the basilica. One of the four islands that makes up this archipelago is If, which is the location of Chateau d’If, from the novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Admission is free and you can get to the basilica by walking, driving, or bus. Keep in mind that it is on top of a hill though, so if you’re walking you’ll probably get a pretty good workout, so maybe don’t wear heals that day 😉 The intrinsic artistic detail that adorns the entire church is simply breathtaking, and is worth a visit just to view the inside of the basilica alone. Colorful mosaics adorn the walls and ceiling, priceless paintings hang from the walls, pillars of marble run all throughout the interior, gold is present around every turn, and statues of gold, silver, and bronze live inside the magnificent halls. It is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and I would highly recommend checking it out!
- MuCEM – the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations is located right on the water, near Vieux Port. As you may have guessed, it is devoted to the history and culture of European and Mediterranean civilizations. This museum is split up into 3 different sites, the J4 building, Fort Saint-Jean, and the CCR (Center for Conservation and Resources). The CCR houses the museum’s actual collections and requires a paid ticket to explore. We explored Fort Saint-Jean (free), and the (free) J4 building, which is an astounding concrete cube that forms a perfect square. It is a see-through lacy screen made of concrete that you can’t miss. It’s actually super hard to explain, so PLEASE do your due diligence and google photos of it because it really is an amazing architectural feat. The J4 building is known as the “heart” of the MuCEM, and hosts permanent and temporary exhibits (although, we didn’t see many – but that may be because we were too interested in the building structure itself). Please do yourself a favor and walk through this unique building if you find yourself in Marseille – you won’t regret it. Be sure to come back and see it at night too, as it is lit up from the inside!
- Catedrale Major – this Cathedral of Sainte Marie Majeure was founded in the 4th century and is just a short walking distance from the MuCEM. We just walked over to the outside of it, took a quick peak inside and left. It was cool to see, but small compared to Notre Dame de la Garde. If you’re only going to do one historic site I’d definitely recommend choosing Notre Dame, but if you’re visiting the MuCEM too it’s worth a quick walk to check this one out as well. However, I probably wouldn’t make a point to go out of my way to see it if I wasn’t already in the area.
6. Calanque de Sugiton – this was the absolute BEST part of Marseille and is what really made this whole trip worthwhile, so I hope you’ve stuck with me long enough to get this far down! Calanque de Sugiton is a portion of France’s Parc National des Calanques, which lines the Mediterranean coast from Marseille to Cassis. Calanques are rugged coastal areas interspersed with narrow, steep-walled inlets developed in white limestone or other similar rock. Think the fjords of Norway… these are dry limestone cliffs that jut into the water. Sugiton is the most
popular area of the park because it is the calanque that is most easily accessed by hikers and is open even during the hot season. During the summer some of the other calanques are closed due to high fire risk, so if the calanques are in your travel plans be sure to do some research to see which ones are open during your visit! Sugiton is the one closest to Marseille, but if you end up staying closer to the town of Cassis you’d probably want to visit a calanque that is closer to that town. If the trail is open, you can actually hike from Marseille to Cassis through the park along all the calanques. We didn’t have time to try this, but I’ve heard it’s a rather strenuous and sometimes dangerous hike at parts, so be sure to do your research ahead of time if you decide to go this route! You can access Sugiton through Luminy College, which you can GPS to.
When you enter Luminy College keep driving through campus until you can’t go straight anymore and park. There is also a bus that will take you to Luminy if you don’t have a car. From the parking lot you’ll see a clear path, which will be about a 30 minute walk (part gravel, part paved) to the trailhead, and then another 15 minute walk from the trailhead to the water for a total of 45 minutes hiking (one way). Be sure to take note of the trail markers at the beginning of the route so that you know which marks to look for. At one point in your hike you’ll come to a fork in the road….going up will take you to an observation deck and going down will take you the water. We (obviously) chose to go the water route. At the bottom there are 2 pebble beaches, but you’ll want to get there early to claim a spot as it gets pretty crowded. If crowded beaches aren’t your thing then just climb around on the rocks to find a more secluded area, or swim to the island in the middle to climb up and relax like we did. If you’re a fan of cliff jumping the island in the middle is a great spot, and you’ll probably see many of the locals taking advantage of the spot. Pro Tip: bring lunch if you plan to be here a while and have your bread and cheese on the rocks by the water…it doesn’t get much better than that! Even if you don’t go the lunch route, DEFINTELY bring water with you and wear sneakers….it is definitely a hike down and a hike up and there is little shade until you get to the bottom. If you have time and want to spend the money, there are lots of options to kayak, paddleboard, sail, or boat out and around all of the calanques, which would be AMAZING. We would love to come back to France just to try that someday. While we didn’t get a chance to try it while we were there, I can’t imagine any reason why it wouldn’t be absolutely fantastic!
While the city is fun to see, it is still a city, and to be honest, we aren’t really city people. The French in general didn’t seem to be overly friendly or helpful (most didn’t speak English or pretended not to and didn’t try to communicate any other way), and the city itself was actually kind of dirty. In fact, we ran into a family from Paris on our hike who just talked about how dirty Marseille was and how it was nothing like Paris. Honestly, it wasn’t THAT bad, it’s not like we saw rats running around or anything, it’s just a normal city. While the port and the history make this an interesting city, it’s still a city and isn’t designed specifically for tourists. The family that we met on our hike were shocked to find out that we were from the US and visiting on vacation since Marseille isn’t a typical vacation destination. However, the beauty of a non-touristy area is that you get to immerse yourself in the real culture of a French city, not just a watered-down tourist version with astronomical prices. And while we loved our visit and we were glad that we did it, we probably won’t put it on our return-to list now that we’ve done Marseille already. We WOULD, however put the Calanques on our return-to list for SURE 🙂
Where We Stayed
- Kyriad Hotel ($100/night) right by the Marseille airport. We took a taxi from airport to hotel for 10 euros because we didn’t have reservations, but they do offer a shuttle service if you plan ahead. We took the free shuttle to the airport the next morning to get our rental car. Clean, king bed, hairdryer, can pay for breakfast in the morning if you want. This was the first big sized bed we had in Europe during our entire trip, all others were 2 twins pushed together.
- Hotel Carre Vieux Port ($100/night) in downtown Marseille. This hotel was right next to the port and was a perfect location for us! It was small but clean, with 2 double beds. They let us check in early, and you can pay for breakfast if you want (but there’s a great café next door). It was located one street up from the port, and near a parking garage that cost 30 euros per day.
- Hotel la place ($100/night) in Annemasse, France. This is a small town right outside Geneva but still in France, where lodging was much cheaper. The room was clean and warm, offered secured parking at no additional price and free wifi.
- Pentahotel ($80/night) in Paris. We had a bit of an issue getting out of the Zurich airport (we drove from Marseille to Switzerland, stayed in Switzerland and then flew out of Zurich) after a flight got cancelled, so we hopped on a flight to Paris just to get out of Zurich – oh, the behind-the-scenes joys of flying standby ;). Once we got to Paris a few other flights got cancelled and we ended up having to spend a surprise night in a Paris hotel at the last minute. This hotels was a cheap, clean option that was near the airport that worked well for us. It was $10 from airport by taxi, clean, big bed, hairdryer, and had a bar/restaurant downstairs.
* Disclaimer: all photos and opinions are my own, for which I received no compensation or discount