Remember the Belize-bound L.L. Bean tote? It and the Ms. Montenaro it belongs to report back from their Victoria House adventures.
Aside from a few long weekends here and holiday visits with family there, I haven’t been on a real vacation in two years. Needless to say, a trip to Belize for sun, snorkeling and snoozing was exactly what the doctor ordered. We arrived in Belize City before noon and anxiously waited for our Tropic Air flight to Ambergris Caye, where the views from the Cessna Caravan were beautiful. Touching down in San Pedro brought on an instant feeling of relaxation; we were now on Caribbean time. A short golf cart ride and we arrived at Victoria House.
Located on 10 acres of beautifully manicured grounds, this luxury resort seamlessly mixes Plantation-style buildings with laid-back culture for which the area’s known. As a city girl, I was instantly enamored with all the wildlife to be seen—from the rays who circled the dock, to lizards and coatimundi. I especially liked the swift, if not stealth, daily arrival of pelicans, always timed perfectly to the morning fish cleaning on the dock. What wasn’t fed to the pelicans contributed to the great menus at the resort. Cashew crusted grouper and butternut squash enchiladas? Yes, please!
Victoria House was a great home base to explore Ambergris Caye, especially since they provide bicycles for the guests and can arrange any type of snorkeling or fishing tour straight from their dock. We made near-daily trips into the town of San Pedro via bike to grab breakfast pastries, dinner or just to people watch. Casa Pan Dulce Bakery was our clear favorite for breakfast and we took well to Estel’s on the beach for lunch. We quickly caught wind of and made a point to visit Palapa Bar & Grill on the north end of the island, otherwise known as heaven on earth. A basket of chips and salsa accompanied by cool Cocoladas were the perfect treat as we watched the needlefish below.
While you could easily spend a week at Victoria House and never tire of their menu, we did our best to explore the area and came across two great restaurants near by. Hidden Treasure, a short walk from Victoria House, claims rave reviews from the locals and visitors alike (that’s their Coconut Crusted Grouper pictured). Mr. Joe’s Grill is a little farther away, but if you’re hankering for some real Tex Mex this is the place. My boyfriend, a born and bred Texan, claims their chicken friend steak is among the best he’s had.
Home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, Belize is a treat for anyone who enjoys the water as much as I do. We took no time in signing up for a daylong catamaran sail to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley for some of the best snorkeling in the world. Both of these spots are protected marine reserves, which means no fishing. In fact, it’s quite the opposite as the fish are well fed and from what I observed more than used to constant visitors. Filled with tourists, yes, but well worth it as I had ample one-on-one time with an enormous stingray.
For our second snorkeling trip later in the week we decided to forgo the crowds and hire a private boat to take us to the more remote spots of Mexico Rocks and Tres Cocos. I consider the fish we spotted here to be truly wild so of course I screamed in delight (as loud as one can while underwater) when I spotted a lone stingray.