In years past when we stayed at a different resort on the island, we would head straight over to Wet Willy’s for a beer before embarking on the island’s main water taxi to our resort. Wet Willy’s and Fido’s are two popular restaurant/bars that are also local drop-off/pickup points for the resorts on Ambergris Caye. We love Wet Willy’s because it sits on a dock (you can see the fish below through the floor boards) and the ambience is nice and mellow. But they do have some novelty drinks — rum with scorpions (for women) and rum with vipers (for men). On a past trip, we tried the scorpion concotion — we didn’t die, obviously, but I wouldn’t recommend it. We chatted with the new owners of the place — really nice folks from the East Coast somewhere (I think Maryland) — and they are sprucing up the place nicely. Check out their facebook page, or better yet, check out Wet Willy’s if you’re down this way. Fido’s is a big place and they have a very well stocked bar, including the two Belizean beers: Belikin and Light House. There’s a nice annex inside, featuring arts and crafts from local artists.
From the airport to Wet Willy’s (or Fido’s) is either a long (but very doable) walk, or a very quick ride in a land taxi ($5 bucks). The main operator on the island is the Ambergris WaterTaxi Service, which operates hourly from sunrise to sunset. In addition, most resorts on the island have their own boats, and can shuttle you (but generally only to/from airport). This can add up pretty quickly if you are traveling back/forth to San Pedro (see prices) a lot. Weekly passes are available for a discount, however a well-thought out plan should keep this down to a minimum.
Our old resort (Costa Maya Reef) was situated 6 miles north of San Pedro. While the location is ideal for many of our other leisurely pursuits, it did pose a challenge when it came to food/drink. But after our first trip, we got smarter, and would do as much grocery shopping as we could fit into our backpacks. Since then, the old resort had fallen into a state of general neglect, due to the mismanagement of several managers. So on this trip we decided to stay at one of the island’s best-rated resort — Xanadu — which would prompt Julie to break into spontaneous song at the mere mention of the name.
It’s too bad we didn’t bring the rollerskates.
Xanadu Island Resort is located about a mile south of the airport. We had the oceanfront suite, which was beautiful and included all the amenities — TVs in all the rooms, a fairly well-stocked kitchenette, panoramic views, air conditioning. Not the most spectacular place I’ve ever been in on this island, but pretty darn nice. The staff at Xanadu were wonderful as well. A nice family from South Africa is now managing the resort. (Here’s a terrific story as well. The family travelled and lived on a boat for 5 years. It’s a nice size boat, but still…) Then there is Ingrid, who can make all your travel arrangements and book local tours/dives for you. Orlando also looked after us, making sure we don’t get into trouble. The resort grounds is nice and well maintained — coconut trees, a nice pool, a bird sanctuary (but don’t go unless you are covered in mosquito repellent.) There are a couple of resident cats; Coco guarded our door day and night and is very vocal about being fed on time. Kayaks and bicycles are free for resort guests. We took the bikes out a few times for our grocery runs. On my first attempt, the chain choked because it’s so rusty from the salty humid air.
We kayaked out to the reef once on this trip. Here’s where you really noticed the difference in the location between the two resorts. When we were up at Costa Maya Reef Resort, kayaking out to the reef was a nice, pleasant experience. The water was calm (hardly any wakes) and it didn’t involve a herculean effort to paddle the mile out to the reef. Once there, you can tie the kayak to a buoy and spend all day snorkeling. The water is crystal clear and abound with colorful fish and coral. I saw a stingray that was at least 8 feet long. Off the pier of the old resort was an old barracuda, apparently the stuff of local legend, because of how he had managed to outwit all the fishermen. That barracuda was humongous, and I swear he was stalking me.
Kayaking out to the reef from Xanadu was an entirely different matter. We were wary of all the water taxis because the resort is located so close to town. The water was choppy, so it made the paddling a lot harder. Once we got to the reef there was no buoy to tie to. Bonnie had to dive around to find some dead coral to tie our boats to. But because of the water movement from boats/wind/current, it wasn’t as crystal clear as we remembered it. A couple of boats came by as well, and at one point I thought Michelle was going to get run over. She had her head in the water the whole time and was completely oblivious to the surface traffic. It was still an enjoyable snorkeling experience, but it was nowhere near the wonder of the place up north.
One cannot get lost in San Pedro. There are only three main roads running the length of San Pedro: Front Street (fronting the ocean), Middle Street, and you guess it, Back Street. (These are not the official names, but how the locals refer to them.) You will find the majority of restaurants and bars on Front Street. Grocery stores, pharmacies, fabric stores, banks, etc., line Middle Street. I don’t think I have ever been on Back Street — except maybe for the SAGA Humane Society (another story for tomorrow). The airport and the fancy new Super Market are on the south end of Middle Street. I could go on about San Pedro, but probably the best information online can be found here.
Photos, lots of them, can be found here. Tomorrow I’ll write about our adventures, mishaps, and some terrific discoveries!