From BELIZE~ With Love xo A
I had been hearing that Belize has many new wellness destinations that are popping up all over the islands and I was excited to explore them all and see for myself just how much Belize has grown!
Off I went and, as I was on a “puddle jumper plane” from Belize International Airport to Ambergris Caye, my journey into uncovering a new wellness destination was about to begin. I was looking out the small window at a spectacular view of the second largest reef in the northern hemisphere spread out wide below me. Every inch of water was a different shade of turquoise and blue, the waves were lapping against the wall of coral and boats were moored all over while people were snorkelling, diving and sailing. It was like flying into a whole new world and felt so freeing!
That’s what this new trend of wellness travel is all about! Wellness is not just about sitting in quiet meditation or hitting your yoga mat, wellness is about taking care of one self and doing what fuels you. Eating well, exercising, adventuring, enjoying beauty in nature and finding a balance. With that in mind, my Belize itinerary was to begin in San Pedro, then off to the mainland vast jungle for an adventurous few days and finishing at a new up and coming wellness spa in Placencia.
As the last eagle ray drifted by under the small plane, I am brought back to reality, as the rubber hits the tarmac at the small airstrip on the Island. San Pedro is a small town full of hustle and bustle activity and golf carts lining the streets. I was looking forward to discovering this place, eating well and finding hidden gems amongst the busy, yet very laid back life the Islanders lead.
A few days later, hours of walking and listening to the unique creole language spoken here (along with English and Spanish), it didn’t take too long to source out my favourite wellness spots. Carumba Restaurant has to top the list as you literally stand in the street and “go fishing” by picking your own fresh seafood for dinner. This includes jumbo shrimp, conch, lionfish, stone crab , lobster and whatever else was caught fresh that day. Wild Mangos also offers up amazing ambiance and the best innovative food around. It focuses on, organic food that come from sustainably-minded sources. Juice Diva sells fresh juices along with a few other places that are now providing great gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options.
Walking all day also gets a little tiring so a massage was definitely necessary. I was lucky to come across Massage by the Reef and Ocean Essence spas and experience wonderful affordable treatments including a deep tissue massage and ear candling. Both provided professional services and a great relaxing atmosphere, right overtop of the ocean.
San Pedro is blossoming in so many areas that ones choice of where to stay is as tough as what place to eat dinner. Mahogany Bay is a new grand hotel resort and boasts a state of the art yoga studio called Science and Soul Wellness. Science and Soul is a stunning facility that offers aerial yoga along with a variety of other yoga classes and beautiful spa treatments. Right across is a quaint cafe called Rum and Bean which is a perfect chill spot within this beautiful resort. Mahagony Bay also has a private island beach experience in which you are shuttled to and can partake in paddle sports, SUP yoga or chill out on one of the overwater cabanas. Banyan Bay Suites is another great place to relax with a beach front location and provides a great new K’in spa and retail space which carries great boho stylish clothing. Diamond Lodge is also recommended and boasts its own spa as well, where they carry their own line of natural body scrubs included with your treatment. For a bit more budget friendly accommodations there is Ramons Resort, Xanadu or Blue Tang. All of which are great options on this magnificent island.
There should always be a little time for retail therapy! I found my favourite shop called 12 in downtown San Pedro. This store carries all local Belizean made products and you are sure to find your own favourite handmade body butter, scrubs, coffee, art and jewelry there. Just down the road from 12 is Belize Chocolate providing high quality cocoa goodies even gluten free and vegan chocolate!
Wandering San Pedro is an amazing experience. You literally absorb the culture and lifestyle and Belizeans are so kind. There is so much to do on the Island and off the Island. You could go on a happy face parasail leaving from the Palapa Bar dock. After your sail, you could also sit in inner tubes and enjoy a sunset cocktail. However, that is just one side of the Island, the other is on, in and under the water. Snorkelling, scuba diving, sailing, fishing, boating, sunset tours, day trips all abound. This Island is literally a water baby’s mecca and not to be missed.
Take a trip with Seaduced Adventures and you will find yourself snorkelling at Hol Chan Marine Park and Shark Ray Alley making friends with nurse sharks, turtles and manatees and then landing at the slow barefoot island of Caye Caulker for an afternoon of chilling and exploring. With Serious Adventures, I found myself climbing the incredible Mayan Ruins of Lamanai in the interior of the Belize mainland.
If your wellness vacation is all about literally slowing right down, then do take time to explore the island of Caye Caulker via catamaran or water taxi. With sandy roads, and bicycles, you feel like you are back in the days of Robinson Crusoe. The Iguana Reef Inn and Sea Dreams are great places to stay if you decide like many to stay overnight. Lunch at Ana’s Falaffel restaurant by the beach or Caribbean Colors Art Cafe for fantastic vegan and vegetarian options, are places not to miss. Grab a a cold “PIPA FRIA” coconut water and wander the little streets and stalls. I would also encourage you to visit RandOM yoga studio and cafe in town, the Little Blue Gift shop and find the little BeLioness stall on the main street which carries Lionfish jewlery. BeLioness is a small organization founded and run by woman to empower woman in local communities to learn to fish for the highly invasive lionfish and then turn their spines into jewelry.
As I sail away from Caye Caulker and my time on San Pedro dwindles down, I find myself excited for the next leg of my Belize adventure. Flying back to the mainland, grabbing a rental car from Crystal Rentals begins this new mainland experience. Driving on the mainland is fairly easy and the roads are greatly improved. This allows me to make my first stop at the Belize Zoo. Known as the smallest, best zoo in the world, it certainly didn’t disappoint. Native animals everywhere from monkeys to birds to large cats. It’s a must stop!
After that and a few more hours of driving, I find myself checking into Ian Anderson’s Cave Branch for a few days of adventuring. A beautiful jungle setting on the side of a river boasting sunsets, waterfall pools, orchid green house, jungle cabins and canopy tree houses and wildlife everywhere.
The main attraction here and the reason it is booked year round, is that Caves Branch has over 25,000 acres of pure wilderness. Within this lies geological and historical features that are unique to the country, so your daily adventure is spectacular. Over two days, I cave river tubbed and hiked deep into a cave that was once a Mayan site. Speculator stalagmites hung from the ceiling and each corner brought a new discovery. I also hiked through another cave that boasted 6 underground waterfalls. Climbing these, as we drew deep and deeper underground, was fascinating and a bit scary but the highlight was jumping off of a 25 foot water fall into the pool below. With only a headlamp to illuminate my decent……….can you say adrenaline rush? Another big highlight for some is the Black Hole rappelling experience.
Three days went way to quickly for sure but if you want a great challenge and sense of adventure within your wellness trip, definitely book yourself into this place. Ian Anderson’s is a must see!
My last stop is Belize’s first Wellness Destination Resort called Naia Resort and Spa in beautiful Placencia. This is 100% owned and operated by Belizeans, is newly opened and is already topping the lists as a destination must in Belize. Arriving at Naia, I am greeted by professional staff, stunning property, a fresh fruit drink and a beautiful clean modern oceanfront bungalow room.
Some of the highlights were Kayaking at sunset throughout the mangroves, walking the beach at sunrise and sunset, relaxing in a hammock, eating fresh and amazing food but it was truly the Spa that took my breath away.
Every detail has been put into creating the Spa and Yoga area here and the female traveller is certainly top of mind when this was designed and developed. The spa is one of the best spas I have been to around the globe and you truly do feel like a “goddess of the waters” which is loosely what Naia means. Each spa treatment hut sits on it’s own little island in a lagoon and everything from the products used, to the therapists, are top notch. They have a stunning aerial yoga studio and also practice ashtanga, pilates and meditation.
A short drive to the town finds one right in the middle of Placencia proper, which boosts artisans, little souvenir shops, restaurants and a must try, seaweed shake at Brewed Awakenings beside Eucalipto yoga studio . Although the name doesn’t sound too great, the taste is amazing like eggnog.
Weeks later, sadly it was time to leave this beautiful, diverse country. The one thing I definitely did discover was that t there is no doubt as to why Belize is trending as a hot spot for Wellness Destinations. It is a perfect location for solo women, and this alone is a very good reason to promptly return.
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Photo Cred: Paul E German Photography