Absolute blog: Explore

Gaia, Rendezvous… And Updated Entry Requirements

11 August 21

Notes from the Directors

We are incredibly grateful to have welcomed so many guests to Belize as the country opened the international airport in late 2020. Guests have been able to access attractions with barely any other visitors in sight; spring and summer seeing the country build visitor numbers back substantially, which is why we are saying, “June is the new March!”

Most attractions and restaurants in Belize are outdoors, and accommodations are mostly distanced, including beach cabanas, jungle casitas, private villas and yachts, and remote islands, so guests can enjoy their holiday with as much isolation as they prefer.

Our Directors, Pat and Rach, have also been out and about enjoying “The Jewel.” Here are their recent experiences:

 


Rachael just returned from a quick sailing trip around the Central Cayes, including Tobacco Caye, South Water Caye, and Rendezvous Caye.

At Rendezvous (one of my absolute favorites!), we pulled into the dock at the tiny postcard-perfect island surrounded by azure waters and corals. Residents include the friendly caretaker, Pedro, the only person living on the island (except for a couple of passing fishermen who sold us some fresh lobster!), cormorants, ospreys, pelicans, sandpipers, and magnificent soaring frigates.

A snorkeling expedition around the island had us face to face with eagle rays, stingrays, and a green turtle, gliding through an endless school of blue tang and gazing at the technicolor of the rainbow parrotfish, spotted damselfish, and French angelfish. The formations at the island’s tip resemble an underwater “Grand Canyon,” with colossal corals including staghorn, pillar, elkhorn, and brain, dotted with colorful fans and massive drop-offs into the abyss.

A spearfishing mission was next on the agenda that yielded crab, lobster, lionfish, and a Spanish mackerel turned into a coconut seafood medley for dinner. We dined with Pedro aboard our very own yacht under a blanket of stars, feeling a million miles away from the rest of the world.

Next on the agenda? I’ll be heading inland to the Cayo District to scout a new collection of jungle villas, all with private plunge pools and spectacular views that we will be revealing soon!

 


Traveling fills us with so many emotions. And, if you’ve traveled in the past year, you know that traveling in a post-pandemic era is life-altering.

At Absolute Belize, we are grateful to be part of travelers’ journeys who have taken the leap, hopped on a flight, and landed in unfamiliar territory, willing to navigate through entry requirements, protocols, testing, and so many unknowns. Thank you to our valued clients who have entrusted us with making their travels safe and memorable.

Now more than ever, we know that our purpose is to help you fulfill your travel goals while taking the majority of the stress of planning away from you. Through our interactions with you, we know that travel is a feeling. Over the past few months, we have shared in

  • the feeling of taking your first family trip after being apart for so long,
  • the feeling of celebrating a honeymoon, birthday, or anniversary on a private island without another soul in sight, and
  • the feeling of being surrounded by nature and embracing all the new experiences that travel brings.

I, too, have taken a few trips to rediscover the authenticity of travel in Belize: From visiting a local home-grown coffee plantation to making birthday wishes at Gaia Riverlodge, enveloped by the enchanting Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, to indulging in beachfront luxury at Itz’ana Resort. In my eyes, Belize is still Mother Nature’s best-kept secret.

I am determined to grab life and make every memory count, and I’d love to help you rediscover your inner wanderlust.

 


Updated Entry Requirements

As of yesterday, August 9, 2021, all travelers entering Belize must present a negative COVID-19 test.

Visitors are required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 96 hours of travel or a negative result from any approved Rapid Antigen Test taken within 48 hours of travel. Testing is available at the airport for a fee of US$50 per passenger. Children under the age of 5 can travel without a test.

Top 10 Guide to Ambergris Caye

4 August 21

 

We love immersing guests in vibrant experiences tailored to their individual tastes and preferences and sharing our insider secrets.

There are myriad reasons Ambergris Caye is Belize’s most popular and populated island, so our next installment in our 10th-anniversary celebrations is our Top 10 Guide to Ambergris Caye, done “AB style!”

The 25-mile long island touches Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and lies only a quarter of a mile away from the largest living barrier reef in the world. It’s one of the leading locations for scuba diving, snorkeling, and sports fishing. Ambergris also has the broadest range of tourist amenities in Belize, ranging from bohemian beach retreats and executive waterfront villas to elegant luxe resorts, offering some of the country’s finest dining options and amenities.

Here’s our guide to “What would AB do?”

 

Mayans and Manatees

Venture out to the lagoon side of Ambergris Caye, where you’ll witness wild landscapes, turquoise waters, and exotic birdlife, including the roseate spoonbill and several species of heron. Travel north to the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, where a Maya trading post has a small exhibition of artifacts. Who knew how many Maya sites dotted the area laying under the blanket of foliage?

Keep a watchful eye for the elusive manatee as you weave through the mangrove channels bordering Mexico, then out to sea for some fun in the sun! Sightings are not guaranteed, but we’ve never not seen one there.

Snorkel along the reef off the beach while your guides find the perfect picnic spot. After snorkeling, enjoy an authentic sea-to-table beach BBQ, including a fresh raw conch and lobster ceviche – the ultimate Belizean appetizer served with homemade chips – and fish grilled whole over coconut husks and driftwood beach fires.

Go for a stroll along the beach, relax on a gently swaying hammock (nap optional), or snorkel some more before calling it a day well spent.

 

On the Fly

Belize is an angler’s paradise. A mecca for all things fishing, anglers flock to the country’s atolls (Belize boasts three of the four major atolls in the Caribbean), cayes, estuaries, flats, inlets, lagoons, and of course, the world’s second-largest coral reef! The abundance of game fish combined with unrivaled access to remote locations makes for excellent sport and infinite itinerary scope.

From limestone mudflats to turtle grass flats and white sand flats, the clear waters of Ambergris Caye are home to some of the most common yet highly sought-after flats species, including the mighty tarpon, the invisible bonefish, and the ever-elusive permit, along with many other species.

Here at AB, we partner with in-the-know guides who whisk you away to insider places where anglers rarely compete for the prime channels and flats. So cast your hook, line, and sinker and try to land the Grand Slam!

 

Tastebuds Safari

Some establishments in the now-bustling town of San Pedro have been open since the 1950s when the very first hotel opened its doors to intrepid travelers. Immerse yourself in the island’s culinary diversity and history, told by a native “San Pedrano.”

Sample unique dishes from legendary restaurants and venture into the back streets to hole-in-the-wall spots you’ll only hear about from a local. Savor heavenly Maya foods, mouthwatering seafood appetizers, and rich Garifuna and Mestizo recipes.

Sip on artfully crafted Belizean cocktails as you explore the true pulse of the town, but be sure to leave room for a sampling of Saul’s homemade rum cream at his handmade cigar shop – he’s quite a legend!

 

Cook your Catch

The residents of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, are known as “San Pedranos.” Before tourism emerged and blossomed, “catch and cook” was an integral part of daily life and continues to this day as a Belizean “Funday” experience. By default, many tour guides and captains are amphibious, having grown up spearfishing large cubera and mutton snapper, grouper, lobster (currently in season), and, of course, the delicious stone crab at great depths.

One of our favorite day trips takes you cruising up the reef with a few trolling lines out to see what you catch. Your captain disappears below at a cut in the reef to spear fish and lobster before journeying to Mexico Rocks for a snorkeling expedition.

Located 6 miles north of San Pedro, Mexico Rocks is now a part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and a protected area (so no fishing!). This popular snorkeling spot boasts crystal clear, shallow waters and teems with corals and fish, including star, staghorn, elkhorn, and brain coral, creating ideal barracuda, eel, grouper, and spiny lobster habitats. It also features a sinkhole that measures approximately 8 feet deep and 150 feet long.

After snorkeling, head to a remote beach to enjoy an authentic sea-to-table BBQ, including a fresh conch ceviche – the ultimate Belizean appetizer served with homemade chips – and seafood steamed in foil over coconut husks and driftwood beach fires. It doesn’t get fresher than that!

Go for a stroll along the beach, relax on a gently swaying hammock (nap optional), or snorkel some more before heading back.

 

Flyby

It’s no wonder that a colossal, perfectly round underwater sinkhole off the azure coast of Belize would be one of its most popular attractions. The Great Blue Hole is truly a sight to behold! And what better way to see it than from the air?

Made famous by the legendary marine biologist and underwater explorer Jacques Costeau, it ranks among the top 10 diving places worldwide. Experienced divers are rewarded with brilliantly colored corals, extraordinary stalactites and stalagmites, fascinating limestone formations, and myriad hues of marine life. On the other hand, a light aircraft flyover allows you to witness its sheer magnitude, its near-perfect circular shape, and the stark contrast of its deep blue interior with the shallow turquoise waters surrounding it.

This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

(Private charters and scheduled flights available.)

 

Pamper and Indulge Yourself

Elegantly bohemian, Matachica Resort & Spa is a magical retreat. We love to whisk guests up the coast for some special pampering time if you are not already staying there. Located 5 miles north of San Pedro Town, Matachica’s ambiance alone – sumptuous couches, mellow world music, and inspiring artworks – is enough to make you feel revived.

After a scenic speedboat ride up the reef, indulge yourself in a signature spa treatment (or two!). Next, tantalize your tastebuds at Mambo Restaurant with their award-winning global cuisine. Their Bistro menu is served all day long; our favorite light snack is the refreshing Asian summer rolls which pairs perfectly with their coconut mojito… and did we say lobster ravioli?

Docks are public until 6 p.m., so if you want to jump in, the water under the pier is pure turquoise and teems with fish!

 

Dive In

Ideally located near the world’s largest living barrier reef, Ambergris Caye is a diver’s perfect basecamp. It’s also the closest base to the highly sought-after Great Blue Hole (except if you’re staying on the atoll itself!), and let’s be honest, your scuba diving bucket list would be incomplete without diving this natural wonder.

The island boasts access to some of the most pristine marine ecosystems in the Caribbean, including Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, Esmeralda Canyons, Half Moon Caye, Hol Chan Marine Reserve (Hol Chan Cut), Long Caye Aquarium, Mexico Rocks, and of course, The Great Blue Hole.

Featuring shallow waters with plenty to see, it’s an excellent place for an “intro to scuba” for non-divers. Who knows, you might get hooked!

 

 

Go Slow

Sailing in Belize is a truly magical experience, especially since the trade winds typically blow from the east, and you generally journey north to south. Since visiting the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a must if you’re in Belize, there’s no better way to travel there than by sailboat.

Plunge into the water and be engulfed in the “underwater Disney” of marine life and spectacular corals, including elkhorn coral, finger coral, grooved brain coral, sheet coral, and many more, along with colorful yellow, red, and purple sponges.

Hiding and swimming among these corals are a vibrant array of playfully curious fish and other sea creatures such as blue stripe grunts, crabs, damselfish, flounders, hogfish, nurse sharks, octopus, parrotfish, starfish, stingrays, yellowtail snappers, and so much more.

Next, head over to Shark Ray Alley, where you will encounter – as the name suggests – sharks and rays in their natural habitat.

Rinse off onboard and sail to the country’s quintessential “go slow” island: Caye Caulker. “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” is the island’s motto, and it embodies the vibe. The white sandy beaches, cool ocean breezes, azure waters, a fantastic barrier reef on its doorstep, and fresh seafood make it a perfect place to relax and unwind before a late afternoon leisurely sail back to Ambergris.

 

Pedal Away

An active and fun way to explore the island is to rent beach cruiser bikes and pedal north. For a proper workout, pedal along the beach path and meander around the swaying palm trees, or take to the road for a more efficient journey.

If you start early enough, Ak’bol has 9 a.m. over-the-water yoga classes under a giant palapa. Look out toward the largest living barrier reef in the world as you say Namaste. Travel as far north as Portofino Resort and reward yourself with a dip in the ocean followed by a classic brunch (did we mention that they have over-the-water hammocks?). Stop in for the legendary coconut mojito at Matachica, or play volleyball beside the ocean at Coco Cabana. Coco Beach also has multiple pools to enjoy a refreshing dip, including a fun slide and a swim-up pool bar.

Don’t miss a visit to Truck Stop, a shipping container food truck park with oversized wooden beach games, themed afternoons and evenings, and an overall convivial vibe. There’s something for every appetite with options including Latin fusion, Southeast Asian, wood-fired oven pizzas, gelato, and of course, craft cocktails!

(Protip: Beach cruisers have no brakes, so you need to pedal backward to avoid any incident.)

 

Hammock Hop

Oscar Wilde once said, “To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual.”

When was the last time you did nothing? You’ll probably have to stop and think about it if you’re like us because we don’t “do nothing” very often.

When you lounge in a hammock on Ambergris Caye, you can hear the waves crashing on the reef, the breeze from the trade winds, and perhaps even a passing osprey. It is a truly meditative and restorative experience and an essential part of a stay on Ambergris Caye (and they make for a great souvenir to take home!).

 

At Absolute Belize, we enjoy curating immersive guest experiences and sharing our insider secrets and tips for a truly life-altering vacation.

Top 10 Plunge Pool Summer Escapes

12 July 21

Top 10 Plunge Pool Summer Escapes

Our 10th Anniversary here at Absolute Belize wasn’t quite what we expected, and like most of you, we postponed our celebrations in 2020. This year, we intend to make up for it!

Here’s how we’re celebrating: We’ll be drawing on a decade of experience and knowledge to share our Top 10s of Belize. We’re covering everything from cultural immersions, decadent dishes, exhilarating escapades, remote atolls, and even some insider tips!

So keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram pages as we take you along on FAM trips, site visits, weekend getaways, and personal staycations with all the inside scoop on what’s happening in Belize.

To kick things off, we’re sharing our picks for the sexiest plunge pool escapes just in time for summer!

 

The Lodge at Chaa Creek

Chaa Creek personifies eco-luxury. The 400-acre private reserve is an ecological playground, so much so that when you add their newest villas aptly named after the Maya moon goddess, Ix Chel, you end up with an intoxicating mix of nature immersion and indulgence pampering.

VIBE: chic, eco-luxury, modern, peaceful, private

PERFECT FOR: adventure seekers, families, honeymooners & hopeless romantics, nature lovers

 

Ka’ana Resort

Ka’ana is the perfect basecamp for exploring the culturally rich region of western Belize. With manicured lawns, polished grounds, and standalone cottages, the resort’s 1- and 2-Bedroom Private Plunge Pool Villas feature all of the trappings to put you instantly in vacation mode.

VIBE: chic, high style design, luxury, modern

PERFECT FOR: adventure seekers, epicureans, exploring locally, families, honeymooners & hopeless romantics

 

Blancaneaux Lodge

Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux is where it’s at if you’re looking for breathtaking views as you soak in your pool. Nestled against the dramatic backdrop that is the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, the Enchanted Cottage is a luxury hideaway in a rainforest wonderland.

VIBE: chic, exclusive, laidback luxury, peaceful, private, retreat

PERFECT FOR: adventure seekers, families, honeymooners & hopeless romantics, nature lovers

 

Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge

Bask in the sun as you enjoy the majestic views of the Sleeping Giant, which rests on the ridges of the Maya Mountains that surround this picturesque lodge. When night falls and the temperature drops, take a dip in the heated jacuzzi of your Mountainview Penthouse to relax before bed.

VIBE: chic, modern, peaceful, private, retreat

PERFECT FOR: adventure seekers, families, honeymooners & hopeless romantics, nature lovers

 

 

Victoria House Resort & Spa

Perched on one of the prettiest stretches of beach on the bustling island of Ambergris Caye, Victoria House is one of a few dreamy hotels you can find there. Casa Playa Blanca – a 2-Bedroom Villa – sits at the edge of the Caribbean Sea and features expansive outdoor spaces that allow you to enjoy refreshing sea breezes while getting your tan on.

VIBE: barefoot luxury, chic, escape, private, tropical

PERFECT FOR: beach walkers, exploring locally, honeymooners & hopeless romantics, views for days

 

Cayo Espanto

Cayo Espanto is the private island retreat of your wanderlust dreams! And while there are plenty of places to hide from the world in this pandemic, we prefer the seclusion of Casa Solana, which offers glorious views over the glistening Caribbean Sea from the comfort of your infinity-edge plunge pool.

VIBE: chic, escape, exclusive, luxury, private, retreat, tropical

PERFECT FOR: beach walkers, honeymooners & hopeless romantics, views for days

 

Naia Resort & Spa

Set in a 200-acre preserve on the highly sought-after Placencia Peninsula, Naia is the ultimate getaway for all things adventure, romance, tranquility, and wellness. Its 1- and 2-Bedroom Beach Houses all boast idyllic surroundings that allow you to recharge, renew, and reset and are the perfect escape after you’ve spent the day exploring this gem of a country.

VIBE: chic, escape, laidback luxury, modern, retreat

PERFECT FOR: adventure seekers, families, honeymooners & hopeless romantics, total relaxation, wellness getaways

 

 

Sirenian Bay Resort & Villas

With golden beaches and swaying palm trees overlooking the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea, Sirenian Bay is paradise redefined. There’s nothing like hopping into the plunge pool of the Turtle Villa and unwinding after exploring the nearby attractions, one of which happens to be the second-largest barrier reef in the world!

VIBE: barefoot luxury, chic, laidback luxury, modern, tropical

PERFECT FOR: adventure seekers, beach walkers, exploring locally, families, honeymooners & hopeless romantics

 

Ray Caye Island Resort

A destination in its own right and one far removed from the pleasures of daily living, we imagine Ray Caye has a high repeat guest percentage because once you visit this unspoiled island, it’ll live rent-free in your head! When you revisit, bring your family and friends to enjoy the private pools of the Oceanfront Villas, steps away from the crystal clear shallow waters of the Caribbean.

VIBE: chic, escape, exclusive, luxury, private, retreat, tropical

PERFECT FOR: beach walkers, families, honeymooners & hopeless romantics, views for days

 

Belize Sailing Vacations

For those of you looking for the perfect pandemic getaway, set your gaze out to sea and imagine sailing off into the sunset. The options are endless aboard one of Belize Sailing Vacations’ luxury yachts: bar/island hopping, fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling – the ocean is your playground! Or plunge into your very own private “pool” and do nothing at all – you’re the captain of the ship. Talk about social distancing done the right way!

VIBE: barefoot luxury, chic, escape, laidback luxury, modern, peaceful, private

PERFECT FOR: adventure seekers, anglers, epicureans, families, honeymooners & hopeless romantics, marine lovers, scuba divers, views for days

Man-O-War Caye

1 February 13

From afar the designated bird sanctuary of Man-O-War Caye looks like any other tiny mangrove island, but as you journey closer to shore the frenzy of activity becomes apparent, with birds soaring in the sky above in every direction… and the guys strutting their stuff (or inflating their red gular pouches) for the ladies during breeding season.

Man-O-War Caye lies around 70 miles south of Belize City close to South Water Caye. The 3 different types of mangrove vegetation provide a perfect sanctuary to a variety of indigenous bird species, including Pelicans, Brown Booby birds, and the Magnificent Frigate birds (also known as Man-O-War birds). Here is our pick of pictures….

Aquatic gentle giants

17 January 13

Manatees, which are also known as sea cows are marine mammals, originating around 45 to 50 million years ago. They are gentle, slow moving, plant-eating herbivores and their closest living relatives are elephants and aardvarks. They can grow over 13 feet in length and weigh up to 3,500 pounds.

Despite being an endangered species, with a population of approximately 2500 in the waters of the United States, Manatees are present in the waters of Belize and can be witnessed throughout the year. A close concentration can be witnessed at Swallow Caye, located 4 miles off the coast of Belize City. Swallow Caye has been declared a wildlife sanctuary and serves to protect the manatees and other marine life that call this habitat home. For more information or to plan a visit to see our aquatic gentle giant friends contact Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary

Hit list

Whether you want an action packed agenda in the water and the jungle, or simply spend some quality time in a hammock, Belize has something for all tastes and tempos.

Map of Belize, showing our 4 main regions
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