Trip Coach: August 21, 2007 AnneLise Sorensen, writer for 'Rough Guides: Belize,' answered your questions on Belize. Budget Travel Tuesday, Aug 21, 2007, 11:47 AM Budget Travel LLC, 2016
 

TRANSCRIPT

Trip Coach: August 21, 2007

AnneLise Sorensen, writer for 'Rough Guides: Belize,' answered your questions on Belize.

AnneLise Sorensen: Hello—this is AnneLise Sorensen, and thanks for joining me. And now on to balmy Belize. This Central American eco-pioneer may be petite, but it can claim plenty of superlatives: snorkel the longest Barrier Reef in the western hemisphere, dive the inky depths of the Blue Hole, and embark on thigh-aching treks up soaring Maya pyramids. All this, and you don't have to pantomime in rusty Spanish to order a beer—the official language is English. As for the lush interior: Sure, Belize has changed since "The Mosquito Coast" was filmed in its tangled jungles—but, thankfully, not by much. Head to Mountain Pine Ridge in the southwest, where feathery pines give way to moist rainforests, punctuated by some of the oldest rocks in the region. Here, you can roam hushed limestone caves, and then go tubing on the Macal River, spinning past iguanas warming on the sun-washed banks.

While geographically Belize is Central American, at heart it's Caribbean: You'll hear a lilting Creole—"Weh di go aan?", or "Hi, what's up?"—spoken throughout the country; you can feast on Caribbean comfort food, like "fry jacks" and coconut-rich seafood stews, washed down with sweet cashew nut wine; and yes, the steel drums and tropical cocktails sprouting paper umbrellas are on enthusiastic display, particularly when the cruise ships are due to pull in.

I look forward to chatting with you about Belize, so bring on the questions and let's get started!

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Phoenix, Ariz.: We are planning several months next winter on Ambergris Key. What is the best long term rental on the island? Mike

AnneLise Sorensen: Mike, ahhh, winter on sunny Ambergris Caye—an excellent decision. This is, after all, "La Isla Bonita" that Madonna sang about. And when she crooned, "Last night I dreamt of San Pedro," she was paying homage to the caye's lovely resort village—which is a prime spot to pick up information on long-term rentals. Ambergris Caye has more condos, timeshares, and long-term rentals and apartments than anywhere in Belize, so you're spoiled for choice. However, prices do spike in the high winter season, so make sure to do some sniffing around before making a decision. Pay a visit to Caye Management (tel. 501/226-3077, cayemanagement.com), or try ambergriscaye.com, and click on the Lodging link, which will take you to long-term rentals. Best of luck on La Isla Bonita!

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Gulfport, Miss.: I am taking a cruise in March. One stop is Belize City. What is there to do? I want to have as wild a time as possible.

AnneLise Sorensen: Hi Gulfport, is karaoke wild enough for you? Belizeans have a surprising fondness for karaoke, and you'll find quite a number of city nightspots offering the chance to belt out tunes in between rounds of beer. Bodega Lounge, on top of Nerie's Restaurant 2 (Queen St at Daly St), sometimes hosts weekday karaoke nights, and also features live music. That said, Belize City nightlife is rather tame compared to other Caribbean capitals. Most of the sleek bars and clubs are in upscale hotels, while at the other end of the spectrum are dank dives populated by hard-drinking locals. One of the more buzzing strips in the city is the relatively safe stretch of Barracks Road facing BTL park, which fills with young revelers traipsing from one terrace bar to the next. Looming over this stretch is the Princess Hotel; while it has a rather dismal reputation for its sub-par rooms and laissez-faire service, its nightlife options, including Club Next, are generally top-of-the-heap by Belizean standards.

One of the newer nightspots where you can quaff cocktails is the Riverside Tavern (2 Mapp St, tel. 501/223-5640). A gleaming, four-sided bar, with bottles lining back-lit shelves, presides over the centre of this upscale tavern on the banks of Haulover Creek. Come nightfall, the tavern swells with a lively crowd of Belizeans and travelers, who settle in at the ample wooden tables or on the outdoor deck to sample such fruity concoctions as the Rainwater, watermelon and cranberry juice spiked with vodka.

You can also try Iguana Rana in the Tourism Village. By day, the large, breezy restaurant-bar perched on the pier is crammed with the in-port-for-one-day cruise crowd, who sip tropical tipples while enjoying the rays and listening to live steel drum music. On Friday nights (from 5pm) however, the festive Iguana Rana becomes largely the territory of locals. A cheery mood pervades, as groups of friends and couples enjoy cocktails under the night sky, surrounded by the lapping Caribbean Sea.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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