For multiple reasons, we're really glad we chose to visit Belize when we did.
1) The resort we stayed at consisted of a few condo buildings (with more being built while we were there) plus a few individual cabana-style rooms called "casitas". Jennelle & Greg and Phil & I stayed in these casitas, which were thatch-roofed, with hardwood floors and very cool decor. They had a/c, a small refrigerator, coffee pot, small sitting area, king bed, and bathroom. Most importantly, they were right on the beach! We had a good sized front porch with 2 chairs, which overlooked about 100 yards of beach with only palm trees, hammocks and some beach chairs between us and the ocean. These casitas were the main reason we chose Captain Morgan's Resort. But sadly, during our stay we learned that these casitas are soon to be torn down to make room for more condo buildings. The resort is big on time shares, which must be big business for them, but for us the draw was the privacy of not having neighbors on either side of your walls, being right on the beach, etc. It will be sad to see them go...
2) Hurricane season! What a year Belize has had. I hope that they have survived these storms but who knows what kind of damage they are facing with the high winds and heavy rains they've experienced.
3) Construction -- the island was filled with it. We feel that if we were to visit again in 15 years, every spare inch of the island of San Pedro would be covered with resorts and tourism. For now, we were able to experience a more true sense of what the Belizean culture, food, and ecosystem is... before tourism takes over completely.
During our stay, we rented a golf cart, because the streets of Belize are not (yet) paved. They claim that they will never pave them (to save the island from being taken over by tourism), but we doubt that is true because we could see the roads deteriorate day by day as the construction trucks and tractors drove back and forth over them, causing bigger and bigger pot holes. And the dust! A normal ride home from dinner in the golf cart (which lasted about 30 minutes) would require a shower if you were the 2 lucky passengers sitting in the back, due to a thick layer of dust that would gather on your entire body. But on the bright side, it was certainly an adventure navigating around the island on that little cart.
The scuba diving in Belize was good; we were able to swim amongst 6 ft sharks, 5 ft wingspan sting rays, and many other large fish, not to mention the beautiful colorful smaller fish, conch shells, and coral that can be found underwater. We dove on two different days. On the first day, the water was so rough most of the passengers were getting sea-sick. But we all stuck it out and did our 2 dives. On the second day we dove, the water was much calmer and made for much more fun dives. Another day we took a snorkel trip during which we got to hold sharks, and pet the sting rays if we chose (much more interactive than during the diving). Our guide also dove down to the bottom of the ocean floor to retreive conch shells as souveniers for all the females on board. Pretty smart of him, as the shells were abundant and it certainly increased his tip!
We also took a trip inland one day for zip line/cave tubing. Our group took about a 45 minute boat ride over to Belize City where a van was waiting for us to take us to the zip line area. It was kind of like an amuzement park. We got all suited up and waited in line to go up to the top of a hill where the first station began. We then got to zip from one tree to another across the rainforest, well at least where they had the zip lines set up. But it wasn't like you could see wild animals or anything; this spot was very commercialized so there were not wild monkeys hanging from the trees like I'd hoped. I had been soooo excited about the zip-lining; I had convinced our whole group to pay $210 per person for the day trip to do it, and it really was lots of fun and (I think) worth the money. When in Belize...
The cave tubing was pretty funny, in that it made me realize how many people don't have the luxury that we Texans do to go tubing frequently. Most of the tourists had not ever been tubing before and as we went into the set-up area, they told stories of how we must wear shoes or our feet would get all cut up, and how we should not wear our flip flops or we'd certainly lose them, etc. The little store was renting water shoes and against the recommendations of everyone around us, we decided to take our chances and wear our flip-flops. Come to find out, we simply had to walk on a dirt path for about 15 minutes, then hop in the river which had no rapids and simply flowed slowly (needed to paddle to move at a good pace). Plus, we got to tell everyone about how tubing in Texas is all about bringing an extra tube for your ice chest. Our tour guides really liked that idea. We did get to wear "cool" headlamps around our foreheads to see up in the caves where it was very dark. We got to see some cool cave formations and bats, but other than that it was pretty much any other tubing trip, minus the beer.
Another cool thing about Belize was that the people really seemed to appreciate the tourists. After visiting other places, we know this is not always the case (sometimes you get the "this is my island and if you don't like the way we do things you can leave" attitude). But the Belizeans came up to us multiple times during our stay to thank us for visiting and to let us know that they appreciate the tourism, and ask that we return to visit again. It was nice to feel welcome!
And finally, the BEST part of our stay: the taco stands! On one of our first days, we found a taco stand that made pupusas right on the street, whose smell drew us right in. These were stuffed with pork, beans, and cheese, and you could have 2 of them with a Belikin (Belize's local bottled beer - very good according to the guys) and make a meal for about $4. They also served great tacos! Another day we tried out a different taco stand located a few blocks away on another street, where a woman had a large circular griddle with meat and onions cooking all the way around it. When we ordered she would bring out small corn tortillas and throw them on the griddle to warm them up, then add the meat/onion mixture and a little hot sauce (for those who wanted it). Each order was for a batch of 3 tacos, and they were to die for. I told Jennelle, Greg & Phil that if I was rich I would fly this woman (and her family if necessary) to San Antonio to live with me and cook these tacos for me all the time. They were DELICIOUS. And they went great with bottled Coca-Cola, another one of my favorite Central American delicacies.
Would we go back? Maybe, but there are so many other places in the world we want to see and to compare Belize to St. John, the beaches in St. John were far superior (although they did lack the taco stands).