1 Week in Belize

It may be corny, but it’s true what they say…..Belize is truly UNBELIZABLE! We spent 7 nights in Belize in the spring of 2018, splitting our time between Ambergris Caye and mainland Belize and we were absolutely blown away. We chose Belize because we didn’t IMG_3416 know anyone who had gone there…plus, we could hop on a plane in the US and land in Belize by 11:30 a.m., AND the flights were wide open, so flying standby wouldn’t be an issue. We knew we could get the beach on Ambergris Caye, and we love the Caribbean Sea, so that was a no-brainer, but neither of us had ever experienced a true jungle so we figured we’d get the best of both worlds and do it all! While the Belize Barrier Reef is the 2nd largest reef in the world, about half of the country also houses an incredible rainforest, 80% of which is protected by the government!  As it turns out, Belize is SEVERELY underrated. The country was absolutely breathtaking…and WASN’T overrun with tourists. We got the best of the Caribbean Islands, mountain views,  ancient ruins, and jungle adventuring all in one tiny country over the course of a week! If you haven’t heard of Belize you need to check it out and add it to your bucket list immediately!

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  IMG_3253 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. 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.

First stop, Ambergris Caye!

1.) Snorkel

Our FAVORITE day on Ambergris Caye was spent snorkeling on the Belize Barrier Reef,  IMG_3519hands down! We went on a half day tour with Searious Adventures (check them out on Instagram, at their website, on Facebook, and/or Tripadvisor) and had an incredible experience with them! They offer different tours, some of which go to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley, but the tour we went on was to the Mexican Rocks, which is an extension of Hol Chan, which is part of the reef, which is the second largest reef in the world. During our time, we visited 2 different snorkel sites at the Mexican Rocks…the weather obviously dictates where you can go, so if it’s too wavy or windy in certain areas your options may be limited. We left the dock at 8:30 IMG_3527 a.m., did a few pickups from resort docks, and came back at 12:30 for a 4 hour total trip. The cool thing about the trip is that it’s (obviously) via boat ride, so you get see the island from a different perspective as you cruise by, so it’s kind of like getting a tour in and of itself just to GET to the snorkel site. Our guides Jose and Eddie were fantastic and we had an amazing time with them. They knew answers to everyone’s questions about the history and the sea life, and they pointed out all kinds of fish and coral and told us what everything was. They even got  IMG_3741 eels and turtles to come out of hiding and had lots of great stories to tell. Our group had about 12 people, which was then split into groups of 6, each of which followed either Jose or Eddie. It was really a great setup because you could stick with a guide and see everything he pointed out, or you could wander a bit and explore on your own as long as you are within eyesight of the group.  During our half day tour we were able to see and swim with a sea turtle, eels, sharks, stingrays, lion fish, Spanish lobster, “Dory” fish, and all kinds of snapper and other types of fish and coral. As swimmers who have only ever snorkeled off the beach on our own,  IMG_3740participating in an actual snorkel tour  and seeing that much wildlife was an absolutely incredible experience. If you make it to Belize, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Searious Adventures for a snorkel tour….with Belize’s huge reef, it’s the best place to snorkel around! For those interested,  Searious also offers a variety of other packages, including mainland tours of caving, zip lining and ruins exploration, and sailing excursions. Their snorkeling options even come as half-day or full-day trips, and have several different tour sites that you can choose from…check them out!

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2.) Secret Beach

Our other 2 days on the island were spent mostly at Secret Beach, which is the best beach on the island. The beach is really no secret at this point, but it has only been accessible by IMG_3407land through a drivable path within the last 2-3 years, before that it was only accessible by boat. Since we stayed “North of the bridge” in Tres Cocos (more about where we stayed here), the drive was only 30 minutes by golf cart, and golf cart rentals are normally about $50/day. It’s definitely a bumpy ride over an unpaved road, but it’s enjoyable to see the scenery of the island and is definitely worth it to get to such a beautiful beach. When we were in Belize in the spring of 2018, they had feet of seaweed piled all along the eastern coast, turns out, it was an unusually bad year for seaweed, so you didn’t want to swim at any other beach other than Secret Beach, which made the drive even more worth it. The best spot at Secret Beach is actually the Secret Paradise Beach Bar , which has it’s own cove and is more private than the nearby cove next to it. Pro Tip: order the ceviche, it’s fabulous!

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3.) San Pedro

San Pedro is the main town on the island, and is the hub through which you arrive and  IMG_E3298depart. The airport and the water taxi dock is here, so you will inevitably be here at some point. It’s also the most  IMG_3828touristy area and is where most of the restaurants and shops are located, so you’ll probably spend a decent  amount of time here. There’s something around every corner – and half of the buildings are waterfront, so, even better! Would definitely recommend spending some time strolling through the streets and getting lost in the alleys.

4.) Eat

We love checking out the local cuisine wherever we go, so we made it our personal mission to talk to all the locals to find THEIR favorite spots. For your convenience, we’ve compiled that list here 🙂

 

Second stop, Mainland!

Because we wanted to experience the jungle, we planned to stay 3 nights right outside IMG_4686 the capital of Belmopan, which is right in the middle of the IMG_5247country. Our resort was the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge (read that review here), which was right in the middle of the rainforest itself, and was the coolest experience! We spent one full day driving around mainland Belize, and the other full day just hanging out on the resort grounds where we hiked up a jungle mountain, biked through orange groves, and paddleboarded down the river (all for free!)….all of that is included in the review of the lodge mentioned above if you’re interested in that, but the other activities we did are listed below!

1.) Xunantunich Ruins

The Xunantunich ruins (zoo-nan-too-nitch), which translates to “Stone Woman”, are  IMG_5260 located right outside the town of San Ignacio, which is right near Belize’s western border with Guatemala, so it is a bit of a drive unless you’re staying in San Ignacio. However, we loved the 1.5 hour drive from Belmopan because we got to drive straight across the country and see more of Belize, which was really neat. We had a rental car so we drove ourselves without a problem, but you can book tours that include transportation pretty easily. When you first arrive, you have to cross the river using a ferry. The ferry takes cars and walkers free of charge, but tips are appreciated, especially since it’s a hand cranked ferry. It’s not a large river and only takes a few minutes to cross. From there you drive (or walk) up a paved path until you see IMG_5262buildings and a parking lot. Bathrooms, gift shops, ad park services are located there, and you will need to pay $5/person as a park entrance fee, so make sure you have cash! After parking there is a quick 5 minute walk uphill to get to the ruins, which are pretty much all in one place. Be sure to bring sunscreen and water because it is sunny and hot in that main open area, and sneakers are recommended. It looks like most visitors hire a tour guide, which you can either come with if you booked a tour or you can hire when you get there.  We didn’t get a guide because we were just wanting to breeze through and we were in and out within 45 minutes, but I hear that the guides are worth the money, especially if you want to really learn about the ruins and history. There aren’t any informational signs on the grounds as you walk through, so if you are really caring to know about everything

then I’d recommend renting a guide, although there is a small building with lots of informational plaques on the walls of it’s rooms that you can read if you want. The ruins themselves were absolutely INCREDIBLE and was one of the highlights of our trip. We had visited Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico, but these were even bigger….plus, you can climb on them since Belize hasn’t made ruin climbing illegal. We climbed all the way to the top of the biggest structure, the main temple of El Castillo (Spanish for “The Castle”), which is over 130 feet tall and is the second-tallest building in Belize. The views from the top of the temple were absolutely BREATHTAKING, and you can see all the way into Guatemala! We loved walking up the stairs and through the dark stone corridors of the temple, and meandering through the grounds and the rest of the structures as well. It really is an unbelievable experience to walk in the same steps as the ancient Mayans did over a thousand years ago. Since the ruins are surrounded by jungle you also get the chance to see a variety of wildlife, including lizards and monkeys too! Pro tip: go early in the morning to avoid the crowds….we left our resort at 7:30 a.m. in order to arrive at the ruins by 9:00 on a Thursday and were the only ones in the park, which was incredible! From what I’ve heard, it’s almost never empty like that, as there are tons of tour buses and cruise excursions that roll in and crowd the area, so I’d recommend biting the bullet and getting up early that day 🙂

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2.) St. Herman’s Blue Hole

The Blue Hole National park is located about 30 minutes away from the capital city of  IMG_4613 Belmopan, and was only about 10 minutes from our resort, so we stopped in to check it out on our way back from Xunantunich. It is only about $4/person to visit the national park, and offers several hiking and cave exploring options, but we didn’t have much time so we went to see the blue hole instead. This blue hole is a small jungle pool that is similar to the Mexican cenotes, if you are familiar with those. Don’t let the photo fool you, since we got there in the middle of the day it was pretty crowded when we arrived, so we went for a quick swim and then left. The water was definitely pretty cold, but we would have loved to come back and spent real time if it wasn’t so crowded and if we had had more time. Side note: this blue hole is NOT to be confused with the Blue Hole in the ocean that you can fly over or boat to that many visit to go scuba diving.

A few random things to note:

1.) While the jungle wasn’t nearly as buggy as we expected, it still had bugs present, so make sure you have bug spray.

2.) Almost all prices you will see posted are listed in Belizean dollars, which also uses the same $ symbol as American dollars. When we visited in the spring of 2018 the Belizean dollar was worth half of an American dollar. Almost everywhere accepts both the Belizean dollar and the American dollar though.

3.) For the most part, everything in Belize was super cheap, so this country is a fantastic budget-friendly option! (I’m talking like, fifty-cent tacos cheap!)

4.) We found that both on the mainland and on the island Belizeans are super friendly! We spent a lot of time talking to the locals and finding out what life in Belize is really like and what they like to do. We loved seeing all the kids walking to school in their uniforms every morning, both on the island and on the mainland, always happy and smiling. Also, Belizean children are, no joke, some the most well-behaved children we’ve ever encountered. We were in the country for a full week and interacted with a lot of the locals and not once did we see any of the kids act out. Unemployment is pretty high in the country, so a lot of mainlanders actually go to the island to work. They all work extremely hard, often working 6 days a week. Most of them told us that on their days off they do what the tourists do (at least on the island), which is eat, drink, beach, etc. All of the locals were eager to show off their country and point us to the best spots to visit. Not only were they helpful, but the Belizeans are super friendly! We had a local at the water taxi baggage claim offer to let us use his phone to call our hotel to schedule a pickup since ours didn’t work and there wasn’t wifi available. We had our taxi driver tell us everything to do on the mainland and where to go and what to avoid, and another local on the island helped us push our golf cart for a solid 30 minutes when it broke down in the dark one night. Their life isn’t the easiest, but we talked to tons of locals at the restaurants, bars, beaches, etc., and every single one of them greeted us with a smile and treated us like long lost friends. We felt extremely safe the whole time and found Belize to be an extremely welcoming country.

5.) If you do some research, you will read that Belize has a pretty high crime rate and isn’t the safest country to visit. HOWEVER, that statistic isn’t exactly relevant in the way they pull the data. Since the country is so small, a vast majority of the population lives in Belize City. The city, like any major city in the world, is of course prone to crime, which is where those statistics come from. There just aren’t as many citizens living outside the city to balance out the numbers. Most tourists don’t hang out in Belize City, so it shouldn’t be a problem, and the crime areas aren’t near the airport and water taxi terminals that ARE visited by tourists, so it’s really not scary like it sounds and there isn’t anything to worry about.

6.) The main highways are paved and easy to drive on, but there are only about 5 main highways, and all the other roads are back roads of dirt and gravel. It’s not a problem to get to Xunantunich, but if you plan on doing any additional exploring be sure to get a truck/jeep/SUV that can handle back roads. Also, watch out for speedbumps…..they really sneak up on you, especially on the highways!

Where to Stay in Belize (Mainland)

While many visitors come to Belize for the islands and barrier reef, we wanted to experience as much of the country as possible, so we spent 3 nights in mainland Belize in addition to our island stay (read about our island stay here). About half of Belize is considered a rainforest, of which, about 80% is government protected. We wanted to be sure to check out the rainforest while we were in Belize, so we stayed at the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge (check it out here) in central Belize, right on the outskirts of the capital, Belmopan, and it may have just been the unexpected highlight of our trip!

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The “Sleeping Giant”

We rented a car to drive straight across the country because we had planned on doing some adventuring ourselves and didn’t want to plan a tour and be on someone else’s  schedule. Belize only has a handful of main highways, everything else is basically gravel paths and off-roading, BUT, it makes it hard to get lost since there are only a few actual roads/highways. However, if you rent a car and plan to explore on your own do make IMG_4798 sure that you get some type of truck/SUV type vehicle that can handle uneven/unpaved roads. The resort is about 1.5 hours away from the main international airport in Belize City, and is smack dab in the middle of the jungle. It really is a mountain jungle retreat and it was absolutely incredible! In addition, the grounds are absolutely breathtaking and are beautifully manicured and well-taken care of. There are gorgeous flowers and plants everywhere and you really feel like you have escaped into an Eden oasis. We were originally concerned about the jungle being buggy, but April is the beginning of the dry season and the bugs really weren’t bad! They were definitely present, but we wore bug spray and didn’t have a problem at all!

The resort has 26 rooms total, with 6 different lodging options. Prices range from $100-$750/night, depending on the room and season. We spent our first two nights in the Mountain View suite (pictured in slideshow below), which overlooks the Sleeping Giant property and gives you a fantastic view of the Maya Mountains. Just a note though – the  IMG_4142 view does come with a price. Not a steep one, and definitely not a deal-breaker, but there are about 4 flights of stairs to get up to that Mountain View building….a total of about 78 steps. It makes sense, as you normally have to get higher for a view, but it is TOTALLY worth it (attendants will carry your bags for you). The room itself was absolutely unbelievable….it included an enormous balcony with a private mini pool, a 2-person hot tub, and patio furniture set, complete with a balcony hammock. Most of the time we spent at the room was spent outside on our balcony. The room does not have WiFi or a TV, (none of the individual rooms do) in order to complete the jungle “escape”, which was actually really cool to fully unplug from the world. Both TV and Wifi are available down in the lobby building if you need them though!

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Our third night we tried out one of the River View Rooms (pictured in slideshow below), which was also amazing. It also had a large balcony with a patio set and hammock, and this one overlooked the fish pond, gardens, and river and is a more budget-friendly option than the Mountain View Suite if that’s what you are looking for. All the rooms included a king bed, mini fridge and mini bar (stocked and reasonably priced), iron and board, hair dryer, and espresso Keurig machine with free pods. The furniture was grand and high quality, as were the gorgeous bathrooms. While the Mountain View Suite was our favorite due to the view, pool, and hot tub, both rooms were super luxurious and exceeded all of our expectations. In our opinion, the absolute BEST way to explore the jungle 🙂

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In addition to outstanding lodging, the resort offers a host of additional amenities that are worth the trip in and of itself. The hotel has a high-quality restaurant that is a fabulous farm-to-table organic eatery, a gorgeous pool area with a hot tub, IMG_5193 a main lobby with TVs and WiFi available, free bike, kayak and paddleboard (SUP) rentals, amazing jungle hiking trails, and a ton of additional tours and activities available. Activities range from about $35-$175/person and you can experience anything from jungle safaris, cave expeditions, ancient ruins tours, horse riding, zip lining, rappelling, bird watching tours, and more! The resort will set all of these different activities up for you and arrange transportation if needed as well. We chose to go to the ruins of Xunantunich on our own since we had a rental car, which was about an hour and 45 minutes away (read more about that and what else to do and eat in Belize), but I’m sure all of Sleeping Giant’s  IMG_5165activities are fabulous! We took advantage of all the free options available at the IMG_E4686resort as well, all of which were amazing! We did the Gazebo Hike one day to see the outstanding views at the top of the mountain. The hike only took us about 15 minutes, but was straight uphill, so we got a good workout. We were told it normally takes about 25-30 minutes to get to the top. It takes you right through the heart of the jungle, which is super cool. We were afraid it would be really hot and muggy, but it was surprisingly not – the foliage creates a canopy that shields you from the sun which was a lifesaver! We wore bug spray and were totally fine from bugs during the hike, so I would recommend planning for that. There was a secluded little gazebo at the top (we were the only ones up there) with spectacular 360-degree views of the Maya Mountains and Sibun River. This hike is a must-do while you stay at the resort – ESPECIALLY if you aren’t staying in a Mountain View Suite already! Another free activity that we loved was biking through the  IMG_5346orange groves. The resort has their own orange grove on the premises at the base of the Sleeping Giant mountain, where they harvest and serve their own oranges. Their breakfast includes fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning that is absolutely INCREDIBLE that comes from their own groves. We borrowed the resort bikes and biked the 1-1.5 mile path to the end of the grove, stopping to pick fresh oranges off the trees for a refreshing  snack.  Something to note – this path is not IMG_5247 through the IMG_5347jungle and therefore does not shield the sun, so be sure to wear sunscreen! We topped off our bike ride with a refreshing paddleboard trip up the Sibun River with the resort’s free SUP rentals. The river is safe to swim in and was clear all the way to the pebble bottom. The river runs right down to the base of the Sleeping Giant mountain, so you get that spectacular  view the whole way.

We ate every breakfast and dinner at the on-site restaurant, Grove House Restaurant. As I mentioned earlier, this is a farm-to-table restaurant with reasonable prices for a nice sit IMG_4170 down meal. The open-air seating area is on the top deck of the building, so you get to feel like you’re eating outside, and again, offers an incredible view. The menu features lots of local products, including cheese from the Mennonite community down the road, oranges from the resort trees, and veggies and herbs from the resort garden. Dinner is served at 6:30 and 7:30 every night. We tried coconut shrimp, mozzarella sticks, ribeye steak with onion rings, potatoes, veggies, shrimp bisque, papusa (an El Salvadorian dish of dough filled with beans/cheese/pork/shrimp and grilled), shrimp linguine, pollo asado (chicken/cheese), cheesecake, chocolate lava cake, and ayote en mile (traditional Belizean dessert of pumpkin slow simmered in  IMG_4878cinnamon and spiced syrup). I know that sounds like a lot – but that was for 2 people for 3 3-course dinners 🙂 The continental breakfast buffet is about $12/person and includes a typical spread of eggs, bread, beans, potatoes, fruit, yogurt, cereal, and of course, fresh-squeezed orange juice. They seem to mix it up each morning by offering a different variety of eggs each day….spoiler alert: they’re all good! They also have a full bar that serves drinks all day, and are also available for some food throughout the day. Just a head’s up though, there is a 12.5% tax on all expenses, plus an additional 9% resort tax on all goods, so the bill will be a bit higher than what you expect unless you are factoring those additional taxes in on the front end. This restaurant is the only food option around unless you want to drive into town, but the prices were reasonable and we loved eating at Grove House every night so we didn’t feel the need to go elsewhere!

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All in all, we absolutely loved our stay and would rank Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge as one of our top 5 favorite accommodations. They have something for everyone, and for all price points, so you won’t be disappointed! We would HIGHLY recommend this resort if you are up for a secluded jungle escape, and we can’t wait to return!

 

 

*This post was a collaboration with the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge, but all opinions and photos are my own.

 

Where to Stay in Ambergris Caye, Belize

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

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Eagle Ray Cabana

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

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This whole cabana was ours!

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 IMG_3508ourselves!  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!

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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

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Restaurant and bar area/building

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!

To learn more about what we did in Belize read that post here, check out where to eat here, or to see where we stayed on the mainland (hint: jungle resort) check that out here! Happy Planning 🙂

 

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*This post was a collaboration with PUR Boutique Cabanas, but all opinions and photos are my own.

 

12 Foods to Try in France

If you haven’t already heard, French food is absolutely HEAVENLY. IMG_6346 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!

 

  1. 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!
  2. Moules Marinier Frites – this is another popular French dish that consists of fresh mussels, tossed in a white wine sauce IMG_6305 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!
  3. Wine – it’s French. And Wine. Need I say more? This one is obvious.
  4. Cappuccino/Espresso – again, another obvious French staple.  IMG_6291 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?!
  5. 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?!
  6. 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 IMG_6563in. 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 🙂
  7. 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 IMG_6533 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.
  8. 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!
  9. 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!
  10. Croissant – again, obviously. The French just don’t go wrong  with buttery, IMG_6344flaky,  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!
  11. 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.
  12. 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 IMG_6544 French cookbook…so we’ll call it French 🙂 This rich dessert consists of baked custard, usually vanilla flavored, that is then IMG_6339sprinkled 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!!