One of the big Hawkins family goals was to prioritize a family adventure for 2019. Our girls are now 11 and 13… they have summer birthdays so soon to be 12 and 14. We are becoming very aware of the time at home with them ticking by so quickly. Sydney is entering high school this year and so we know that before we know it we will be sending her off to college. Maybe we are being dramatic, but really these next 4 years are going to go fast, and they are getting more and more busy by the minute. Family trips have been some of our best memories. Some of our favorites have been Maine, South Dakota/ Wyoming, NYC, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and the outer banks of North Carolina. We love visiting National Parks, historical sites, and we love any trip that kind of centers around the water. Riley (11 years old) is obsessed with marine life and animals in general and dreams of becoming a marine biologist. Sydney eats up adventure, loves trying new things, and exploring new places. Mark pretty much falls in line with Sydney…he must have adventure and also water/boats are kind of essential. I (Kelly) love nature, culture, trying new foods, and much of the above.
So where to go? Mark was getting his certification to teach sailing by US Sailing, and many of you know of his love of all things boats. He stumbled upon the ability to do a sailing charter vacation through Moorings, and looked at Belize as one of the options. It sounded like the perfect place for our family and checked a lot of boxes. So we started planning our adventure to Belize.
- It is an English-speaking country in Central America that has a pretty small population when compared with the amount of land mass.
- Our family spends a lot of time sailing on the bay so being able to do that in the ocean was an awesome opportunity.
- The barrier reef of Belize is amazing and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The people of Belize take seriously the care of the reef which I love.
- The rainforest in Belize is amazing and much of it is protected.
I plan to break up the details of the trip into a few posts. We both literally poured over lots of blogs and Pinterest posts getting advice before our trip so hopefully this will be helpful to some. Otherwise just skip ahead to the photos which btw are 90% phone photos because hello—VACATION!
First of all, this trip was the for 11 days in the beginning of JUNE! Not many people head to Central America in summertime, but this did have some advantages and disadvantages of course.
Heat of course. Temps were mostly in the 90s sometimes up to 105 inland, but it did get cooler at night. Depending on where you were, it went down to the 70s or 80s at night. I would also say that out on the ocean and on the Cayes the daytime temps were more in the high 80s and much more pleasant. Most of our trip we did not have air conditioning which coming from temps in the 50s and 60s in Wisconsin was a big adjustment, but we did adjust. Proof was our last day in Belize at the air-conditioned airport… we all were freezing and huddled under our Mayan blanket that we purchased as a souvenir.
June also starts the rainy season, but it literally did not rain the entire 5 days we were out on the water sailing and on the various islands. It did rain in the rainforest a lot, but it’s the rainforest so kind of expected.
So much cheaper. We probably couldn’t have afforded to do everything that we did had it been Dec-April…the typical tourist season.
As the girls get older, it is harder to miss school for trips so taking a trip in June was perfect timing.
A lot of the amazing places we went, we kind of had almost to ourselves with a handful of other people. Most places still had their full staffs on hand so we had amazing service everywhere we went, and it was never crowded.
Day 1: Long Travel day for Kelly and the girls. (Mark came on Day 2.) We arrived in Placencia, Belize by evening and crashed at our hotel Cozy Corner.
Day 2: Exploring Placencia, Belize; provisioning the sailboat and spending our first night on the boat at the Moorings Marina. Mark arrived that night.
Day 3: More time in Placencia and provisioning. Mark was getting briefed on captaining the Beneteau 38 Monohull. We set sail, but only made it as far as the Placencia harbor.
Day 4-7: Moorings sailing charter at sea visiting various Cayes in the Caribbean Sea and exploring the largest reef outside of Australia.
Day 8: Return to Placencia and rent a car to head to the jungle/rainforest.
Day 9-11 Time in the Rainforest, Black Rock Lodge, Mayan ruins, and returning to Belize City to fly home on day 11.
So in this post, I wanted to highlight some of the first few days in Placencia, a small peninsula in Belize, and talk about how we got there!
There are lots of ways to get to Placencia from the international airport near Belize City but by far the cheapest in the bus. (Bus schedule linked here.) We had plenty of splurges this trip, but we decided that one way for us to save would be to take the bus. We got a taxi from the airport to the bus station ($25 US). Our taxi driver literally chased the bus down. We missed the express bus by 15 minutes so regular bus it was for us. Mark made the express bus the next day, but he was traveling alone, sitting closer to the front of the plane, and got through the customs line much quicker. I would definitely recommend getting on the express bus if at all possible because it probably shaved off a good 2 hours off the ride, and it has air conditioning. Sundays afternoons are also a very busy bus day because of people traveling back to their work so the bus ride for the girls and I was around 5 hours. But it was a beautiful drive, and the windows were open so the heat didn’t bother me. And honestly, I thought it would be a really good experience to do this with the girls. The reality is that most of the world relies on bus transportation like this to get around so it was a good experience that also was good for the wallet and the planet. We stashed our travel backpacks right above our heads so our luggage felt very secure. The bus conductor was helpful to me and took pity on my obviously tourist-self advising me where to get off to make a connecting bus or ferry to Placencia. Five hours of bus riding later, we finished our ride in Independence, Belize where we took a taxi to the ferry dock only to find out we missed out we missed the last ferry by 15 minutes…the story of our day. (Here is the ferry schedule so you don’t make the same mistake.) At this point, we were tired, thirsty, hungry, and sweaty! So the ferry attendant also took pity on us and found us a boat ride to the peninsula of Placencia…to drive would have taken almost an hour and a half back in the direction we came from. So for $25 US dollars, we landed an awesome boat ride through the lagoon to Placencia. We could not have been more thankful!
We had no reservations for the first night because I knew it was off season and there would be a lot of openings. So we got off the boat at the ferry dock and just walked towards the beach on the other side of the peninsula. This was pretty much the first place we came to, and it could not have been more perfect for us tired travelers. The hotel was around $60 US per night; it was on the beach with air conditioning. And it had a great restaurant. We took a quick swim in the ocean, then cleaned up and got an amazing dinner. Our first introduction to Belizean food was amazing. And I really did not have one bad meal this whole trip.
The next morning we took a walk towards pier, and found this adorable little breakfast spot. We had a delicious Belize breakfast pictured. Which if you ever get to visit, fry jacks are a popular menu item and are so delicious. Basically its fried bread so there it not much to not like about that. And amazing beans are served with breakfast and really most meals. Of course there is fresh juice and fresh fruit smoothies…so good. I realized on this day that I was done with hot coffee for this trip because it was way too hot to enjoy that, but the Shak did have some great iced and blended coffee drinks.
Touring the town of Placencia for a bit. We were starting to fall in love.
Our first hotel rented golf carts so we decided that would be a great way to get around the Peninsula especially since it would have been a $10 taxi ride to the marina, and we needed to make quite a few trips since we were doing our own provisioning of our boat with supplies for the sailing charter. You can have the Moorings do it for you, but one of the advantages to our getting down a day early before Mark was to do our own shopping. The Moorings is partnered with the Laru Beya Resort across the street from the marina so we got to enjoy the pool and facilities at the resort as part of our sailing charter so it was nice to hang out at the resort and plan our meals and shopping while the girls were swimming. And we had a blast driving the golf cart around Placencia! It was such a fun way to explore the town and get supplies. We got lots and lots of fresh fruit from a few local fruit stands. There is a great one by the soccer field in Placencia. We picked up Mark from the ferry that evening and enjoyed an awesome dinner at the Barefoot Bar which was also beachside. The food was amazing and super affordable.
More to come on the sailing and rainforest portions of our trip!