Impressions of Belize

Altun Ha Archaeological Reserve - Belize.jpg

Belize City, Altun Ha Archaeological Reserve and Tranquility Bay Resort


Travel writer Eva Eldridge shares her impressions on Big Blend Radio, of Belize in Central America, where she explored Belize City, Altun Ha Mayan Ruins, Tranquility Bay Resort which lies just inside the remarkable Belize Barrier Reef, the longest unbroken living reef on earth. 


From the moment we landed in Belize City, we noticed how easy the area is. Some places are hectic and people seem pushy and radiate irritation, but not here. Maybe we were just lucky and arrived on a slow day, but getting through the airport, renting a car, and figuring out our way to the hotel was painless and people were friendly and helpful.


Driving in Belize City is not for the faint of heart. There is one stop light in Belize City and it doesn’t work. Stop signs seem to be a suggestion and be wary of one way streets. It’s not always obvious. As with many old cities, streets are tight, congested, and not clearly marked except for the “BUMP” signs. You can believe every one of those.

We stayed downtown at the Ramada Princess. The hotel sits on the edge of the ocean and our view was lovely. Our room was clean and everything worked, especially the air conditioning. If we were more inclined to party, the Ramada would be perfect because there is a casino, movie theater, and nightclub on the ground floor, besides the restaurant and bar. Adjacent to the hotel, The Calypso Bar and Grill had fresh fish and a casual atmosphere. The Ramada Princess is close to downtown, but I’m not sure the downtown area is much different from the rest of Belize City. It’s an interesting mix of businesses, homes, touristy areas, and a soccer field.


Our first afternoon, we wandered around the city and found a local restaurant for fish balls, and yes, we laughed as we ate them, and crab soup. Everything tasted great, but the crab was the local crab which is small and slippery. But, while in Belize you have to try the local fare even if you end up wearing some of it. We stopped by an ice cream shop on the way back to hotel for a delicious sweet treat. If you are a beer drinker, you’re in luck. Belikin Beer is the official beer of Belize. Pretty much, it’s the only beer in Belize.


One of the things we noticed was a lot of broken sidewalks and security guards. Once off the main street, be careful as you walk around because sidewalk maintenance isn’t a priority. We were told not to walk around at night, which is usually good advice when you are in a strange city. Despite the sidewalks and the traffic, I still loved the feel of the city.

Altun Ha Archaeological Reserve

Altun Ha are Mayan ruins located about thirty miles north of Belize City. It’s an easy drive if you don’t want to join a tour, but be careful of the speed bumps because they can sneak up on you. Driving out of Belize City gives you an opportunity to see areas that don’t cater to the tourists. We went on a day where there weren’t buses of tourists, which was good for us, but maybe not so much for the vendors and guides. Our guide, Esther, said she lived in the area her whole life and was able to give us local information along with the history of Altun Ha. The ruins were used for building materials until 1963 when archaeologists noticed it and it became an archaeological site.


One of the things I found interesting was Altun Ha didn’t practice sacrifices as some of the other ruins indicate. The stone work is tight and solid, but the jungle is going to claim its ground over time. Only a few of the structures were dug out and restored. Others are huge mounds of dirt. Standing in the plaza you can transport yourself back in time and imagine the people living and working in the area. I met my first allspice tree here and even the leaves smell like the spice.


If you visit Altun Ha, I highly recommend using one of the local guides, bring a hat and sunscreen because the sun is intense, and use mosquito repellent.


Tranquility Bay Resort

The name says it all. Tranquility Bay Resort lies just inside the remarkable Belize Barrier Reef, the longest unbroken living reef on earth. It is the only resort on Ambergris Caye that is actually inside the Bacalar Chica National Marine Park and United Nations World Heritage Site. Tranquility Bay is fourteen miles from San Pedro and access is by a thirty minute boat ride from San Pedro. The ferry from Belize City to San Pedro is an hour and a half ride with a stop in Caye Caulker before dropping passengers off in San Pedro on Ambergis Caye. You can also fly in from Belize City.


Our ride to Tranquility Bay was waiting for us when we got to San Pedro. We had a chance to get a bite to eat, pick up beer, and find a bathroom before they ferried us to the resort. We were greeted with drinks and a friendly smile. The staff took care of our luggage so all we had to do is make our way to our cottage.


The beds were comfortable and each unit had its own hot water tank and air conditioning. Since I’m from the desert, having someplace to go that isn’t humid is very nice. The units come with a fridge and microwave. There’s a little coffee pot, but mostly, I think eating at the restaurant is the preferred way to go.


What I really want to rave about is the Aquarium Restaurant. The food was amazing. We came in on a Saturday afternoon and had our first dinner in the restaurant. Of course lobster is on the menu. Bacon wrapped lobster, lobster with garlic. Lobster ceviche, lobster corn chowder. Shrimp and fresh fish, mostly red snapper, dominated the menu. We ate fish every day and we never tired of it. Everything was fresh and local. Fish was purchased from the local fisherman, unless you caught one and the chef cooked it for you. An eleven year old boy caught a nice sized red snapper right off the dock. You know what that family had for dinner. Even the vegetables came from the mainland and were seasonal.


Besides the food, I loved the people, both the guests and the staff. Belize is a melting pot of cultures and I love the variety. According to the manager, Mark Ridge, many of the employees were related and they all support each other. The guests were friendly, coming from all over the United States and Canada. Because most of the guests stay for a few days and there are only fourteen cabins, you get to know them. You see them at meals or playing and lounging on the beach.


Tranquility Bay is one of the closest places to the barrier reef which makes diving or fishing the reef quite accessible. The bay waters are clear, aqua, and full of fish. It’s an ideal place to snorkel and watch the pelicans and frigate birds soar through the blue skies and dive for food. The sea grass shelters many small fish including sardines, baby tarpons, trumpetfish, and manta rays, just to mention a few. The Aquarium Restaurant is a perfect place to watch the fish, especially at night when they turn on the lights under the restaurant which attracts many of the fish.


Activities like fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving can be arranged on site with their own dive shop. There are sea kayaks available for guest use, hammocks, and lounge chairs. You can be as busy as you want to be, or not at all.


I loved the fact that there was no television in the cabins and the WiFi didn’t work well except in the restaurant. This forced me to disconnect for a while. I read books, walked on the beach, played in the ocean, took naps, and enjoyed not doing anything.


Weather wise, it was warm and humid when we arrived. One day the wind shifted from an ocean breeze to an inland breeze, then completely died. It was cool enough one morning I had to wear a long sleeved shirt for my morning walk. The bad thing about having no wind was the sand flies and mosquitoes. A strong bug repellant and a serious layer of baby oil was necessary to keep the little blood suckers at bay. I wasn’t completely successful and would suggest an antihistamine to help with the scratching, and a couple of happy hour cocktails.


Belize is less than a three hour flight from Dallas, TX. The language is English, although you will hear Spanish and other languages. Belize is working hard at being eco-friendly and sustainable in regards to shrimp farming and tourism. If you want ruins and beaches, Belize is definitely a place to see.


Eva Eldridge is a contributing writer for Big Blend Radio & TV Magazine and Parks & Travel Magazine. Along with travel and lifestyle articles, she also writes fiction and poetry. Visit

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About the Author:

Eva Eldridge is a contributing writer for Big Blend Radio & TV Magazine and Spirit of America Magazine. Along with travel and lifestyle articles, she also writes fiction and poetry.

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