|Old Reviews - Blue Tang Inn|
Our 4 night stay at the Blue Tang Inn was the second part of our Belize vacation organized by Windy Hill Resort on the mainland. The 17 minute flight from Belize Municipal Airport with TropicAir was very smooth and picturesque. We immediately retrieved our luggage (only 4 passengers on board) and were promptly taken by taxi to the resort.
Blue Tang is located directly on the beach and backs on to the town of San Pedro. The hotel is on a small access path that leads to the beach, so we did experience some noise at night from people going to and from the beach and the nearby bars & restaurants. If you are a light sleeper, take ear plugs.
Blue Tang has about 16 rooms. We were in a second floor, oceanview room (Suite #5). There was a complete kitchen (stove, fridge, microwave, toaster, blender, coffeemaker and all utensils), a table & 4 chairs, a futon, our sleeping area with 2 dressers and a small closet area with shelves and a full, good sized bathroom. We had windows on 3 sides, so we never had to use air-conditioning, but instead enjoyed the great breeze.
There are 2 grocery stores immediately behind the hotel which make it convenient if you want to stock your room for cooking meals. Also within easy walking distance are many restaurants, bars, shops, street stalls, etc. many of them accessible from walking down the beach to the right when you leave Blue Tang.
The hotel provides a continental breakfast each morning from 7-9:30 a.m. – tea, coffee, fresh fruit and a different item daily – cinnamon bread, waffles, etc. There was also peanut butter and jam on the table. This is all set up outside the main office.
There is no restaurant or bar on-site, but there are a few restaurants down the beach that open at 6 or 7 a.m. for breakfast. Wet Willy’s is on the end of the pier out front of the Blue Tang and they open at 11 a.m.
If you are not afraid to eat with the locals in a non-fancy setting, try Los Cocos just around the corner from Blue Tang (on the side street that runs between the two grocery stores). We had a huge plate of baked chicken, rice & beans and coleslaw for $18 BZ or $9 U.S. for the both of us!!
We also ate from some of the street stalls and had great tamales, papusas and coconut desserts for very reasonable prices. We would recommend Dandi’s frozen custard if you are looking for an alternative to ice cream. Dandi’s makes frozen custard & sorbet daily from fresh local fruits (mango, coconut, soursop, key lime, chocolate, etc.). It is delicious, and addicting!! Dandi’s is located down the street a few blocks and on the other side from the police station and fire station. This street runs from Blue Tang past the grocery store, hardware store, etc.
There are many restaurants in the town with many ethnic choices. Most post their menus outside so that you can check them out while wandering through town.
Included in our package was the snorkeling trip to Hol Chan Marine Reserve where saw a great variety of fish, a reef shark sleeping on the ocean floor, a turtle and an eagle ray! From there we went to Shark Ray Alley and snorkeled and interacted with very friendly, and docile nurse sharks and stingrays. We went on this trip with Searious and our guide Frank was excellent.
We took a water taxi (30 minute ride, $30 BZ/ $15 U.S. return) to Caye Caulker for the day. Caye Caulker is even more laid back than Ambergris. Their motto is “go slow”. We wandered around the whole island, checked out a few hotels for future reference and had lunch at Rasta Pasta. Friends who had been there warned us about the size of their burritos, so we split one and were glad we did. These things were huge, at least a foot long and packed full for $10 BZ/$5 U.S. and delicious. Also their homemade ginger beer was amazing and cookies very good.
Ambergris Caye (and Caulker also) is very laid back and not the place for fancy clothing, high heels, or a lot of jewellery or make-up. Transportation here is by van taxis, or golf cart only. They can be rented at Blue Tang. We rented one for 4 hours for $35 U.S. and covered most of the island (south of the bridge) and went to PepperOni’s for pizza which had come highly recommended to us. It was delicious and reasonable priced also. PepperOni’s is located on the paved road south of the airport across from Exotic Caye resort.
We found the Blue Tang to be a great location for our stay on Ambergris. All of the staff were friendly and helpful, with a special thank you to Allan and Fanny at the front desk. We would definitely return here for another stay on Ambergris.
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A long time goal of ours had been to visit Ambergris Caye after watching a travel program highlighting the area years ago. So, on a wet/windy December morning, after a short drive South from Vancouver, we boarded our plane in Seattle and 8 hours later (including a layover in Dallas, Texas) we stepped off onto the hot tarmac in Belize City, Central America. Isn't modern air travel marvelous ?! As we've learned over the years to "travel light", we removed our only luggage from the overhead storage compartments and bypassed the majority of fellow passengers milling about the luggage carousel and quickly made our way to the Tropic Air counter where we handed over our tickets and boarded the small 18 passenger twin prop "puddle jumper" for the last 20 minute flight to our final destination, San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Ambergris Caye, (pronounced "key'" meaning island) is the largest of over a hundred local islands, measuring about 30 miles long off the northern most warm Carribean waters of Belize. Our stay was booked at "The Blue Tang Inn", right on the water, slightly North of the noisier/livelier section of San Pedro. My wife had researched the area and made an excellent choice, even pre-booking our top floor corner unit (#11) after perusing their informative website. Free pick-up was provided by the BT at the airport and within a few minutes we were in our room.
We had researched our destination for almost a year via an internet-based "travel forum" and 'had learned of a provisioning/grocery delivering service that, for the reasonable sum of $20. US, purchased, as per our grocery list sent via email, and delivered and unpacked it all in our apartment in advance of our arrival" (you're the best Simon). Ahhhh, a cold drink and crisp salad on our waterfront deck was a terrific way to begin our 3 week adventure. Later, in the evening darkness, we strolled down the beach to the rustic "Crazy Canucks Beach Bar" and reclining back on deck chairs with ice cold Belize -made "Belikin" beers, listened to a live band playing island music that appealed to even to us "middle agers" ('though we made our way home by 9:00 pm and let the younger patrons party into the late hours...) We knew that first night as we sat on the beach at this non-decript beachfront establishment wiggling our toes in the sand, that we were in an easy-going vacation destination as our fellow patrons enjoyed pizzas brought right to the bar via bicycle-riding delivery staff from a nearby pizza restaurant (PepperÓni's, and it's delicious too!). And yes, the owners are Canadian (they hail from Alberta), but no, the bartender replied (noticing my "Canada" T-shirt), they were not here tonight. An easy 15 minute stroll later we arrived home at the Blue Tang Inn (named after a local fish) and retired to the upper deck to marvel at the star lit night sky in the warm tropical breeze off the water.
On every holiday, regardless of the duration of our trip, my wife and I typically have churches, monuments, area hikes, areas to swim, etc. that we must do and, while in the the past, our choices have been cultural experiences, this time one of my goals was to go to the Pier lounge on the beach in San Pedro for what the locals refer to as the famous "chicken drop". Yup, that's right, "chicken drop", Ambergis Caye's version of Las Vegas. The owner of this bar has been maintaining this tradition now for 18 years and I wanted to be there! Quite simply, you bet $5.00 Belize ($2.00 Belize = $1.00 US and US money is accepted anywhere on the island at that exchange rate plus there is an ATM in San Pedro at the Atlantic Bank open 24 hours...) to purchase a numbered square on a large fenced off checkerboard pen in front of the bar. A chicken is brought out,and someone from the eager audience is chosen to gently "shake the chicken and blow on his backside" before lowering the bird into the pen. At this point the sizable crowd of betters hoots and cheers and if the chicken "poops" on your numbered square you win the prize which on the night we visited was $1,000. Belize. Well, we didn't win BUT everyone was urged to stick around as this was the annual Christmas Chicken Drop as there were additional prizes, so with ticket in hand we eagerly waited as bottles of liquor, tourist T-shirts, gift bags, etc., were handed out and finally our number was called - as the winners of.... a pen and key chain!!! It didn't matter because a good time was had and in the end I got to hold the renowned chicken - "ol' Redneck", so I left for home that night a happy man... I pointed out to my spouse on our walk home that night that we must truly be on "island time" as here we were, on a Friday night no less, betting on where a chicken was going to sh*t. Our careers back home seemed far away indeed.
We booked a snorkelling tour on a small local dive boat to nearby Hol Chan Marine Reserve ("Hol Chan"" translates to "little channel"in Mayan) and what an incredible experience that was ! Established in 1987 as a protected area, this is a must do for anyone visiting Ambegrise Caye as the sea life is unbelievable. Nurse Sharks and huge Manta Rays fed on fish scraps in the crystal clear warm waters waters and the channel in the reef was a haven for sea life of every description/colour. The Nurse Sharks seem to know the routine and as soon as the motor is shut-off from an approaching dive boat, they slowly ascend from the bottom in anticipation of more food, petting and picture taking from us camera-toting aquatic tourists. It is worthy to note that the reef off Amdergrise Caye is the longest in the Western Hemisphere (180 miles long), second longest worldwide, and is located less than 1/2 mile offshore of the land. The reef teams with loads of colorful fish and even on one of our many lazy days, we could simply snorkel off the end of our pier out front of the Blue Tang and in less than 6 feet of water see Grouper, Barracuda, Rays, etc. It doesn't get much easier than this! In the evenings, local children would join us on the pier, happy to show off their diving skills from the dock before nightfall when the pier lights would come on and we'd call it a day, walk back to our room and prepare dinner that we could enjoy under the clear night sky in the warm sea breeze on our deck. A very civilized way in which to enjoy such a natural and mostly undeveloped holiday destination. We also chartered a small boat out to Mexico Rocks and, while an enjoyable snorkelling trip, it did not have the abundance of sealife as did Hol Chan. On a side note to this; bring an extra memory card or film as there are many opportunities for photos - my favourite being one of the chefs cleaning fish on the beach at a little wooden table a few meters from the shoreline in about 12" of water as a dozen pelicans floated just a few feet away, patiently waiting for handouts and rays, about 2 feet across, swam expectantly around the chef's legs (in the ankle-deep water no less!) looking for their share... too cool.
Our spacious top-floor corner on the Blue Tang had full cooking facilities but with all the wonderful local restaurants and roadside BBQs at our doorstep we had to go out for a few meals (well, actually a lot of meals...!) The roadside kitchens (in some cases, just a beer keg cut in half and filled with coals, provided awesome BBQ'd chicken meals consisting of a 1/2 chicken, rice and beans for the most reasonable sum of $1.75 US or 4 corn tamales, still hot, wrapped in corn husks for $1.50 US. Chase either of those down with a cold beer or coconut rum drink and there you have fine island dining. There were also loads of sit-down restaurants (we preferred the ones with sand floors) and among our favourites were Estels, Cannibals, Lilly's, Coconuts and PeperOni's (great pizza). The bars were everywhere and no matter how thirsty we got on our many walks, a cold refreshment was never far away. It also seemed that no matter where we walked, we met interesting/friendly folks, many being Americans who either retired or just plain "ran away" to live here. English is the official language, but Spanish and Creole are also spoken and we never failed to chuckle at the islanders who greeted us with a "good day maan" and a big smile as we strolled the beachfront. The main method of getting around the island is on foot (cars are not very abundant) but bicycles and golf carts are also available for rent (The Blue Tang Inn has their own fleet but there are loads of rental co's everywhere and the prices all seemed to be close to the same). Grocery stores are plentiful and besides the local peddle-powered fruit and veggy mobile stands, the next best place for fresh produce was the "Green Grocer" right on the main street in San Pedro. Also, the best ground coffee was from "Caye Coffee" which was available in most stores or you can save a dollar and go to their roaster/store just South of town and purchase it direct (a few pounds of it found it's way home with us!) The staff at the Blue Tang Inn for super and our every request or question was dealt with most professionaly. Water is fine for showering, brushing teeth, etc and they also supply bottled water free of charge (there is a fresh 5 gallon dispenser on each floor to refill your water bottle or for coffee, ice cubes, etc.)
Yes, we both agree that Belize is "di place" (ohh yaah mann ...)
If you have any questions you are welcomed to email me, Bruce, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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