Belize is a small country, only 325,000 people in an area less than 9,000 square miles sandwich between Mexico on the north, Guatemala on the west, and Honduras on the south. It was formerly British Honduras before independence in 1981.
Off the Belize coast are Cayes with dive shops, hotels, restaurants, and bars that cater to tourists fleeing winter blizzards. A major attraction are Caribbean atolls and the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere that stretches from Mexico’s Yucatan to Honduras.
When we began planning out trip to Belize, a friend and veteran Central American traveler told us to check out Tranquility Bay, a remote resort in the far north of Ambergris Caye with long, sparsely populated beaches and only 300 meters from the reef.
The journey from Belize City to Tranquility Bay involves an hour bumpy boat ride to San Pedro, a bustling town with cafes, bars, dive shops, hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. The roads in San Pedro are so narrow that golf carts are the main means of transportation.
We spent two nights at the Corona del Mar hotel on the beach with a dock, pool, and small bar. But we were eager to get to Tranquility Bay for swimming and snorkeling.
This means another boat ride, about 30 minutes jetting north along Ambergris Caye lined with resort hotels, villas, dive shops, and stretches of pristine beaches.
One of the many attractions of Tranquility Bay is it’s remoteness, beautiful beaches, coral reefs offshore, and the Belize barrier reef just 300 yards from the beach.
We loved the convenience of Tranquility Bay, walking a few yards from our modern, comfortable casita to the crystal green warm water. Mornings were windy as they are in wintertime, with high tides covering the barrier reef off shore.
As the tide receded later in the morning, 2 meter high breakers crashed over the reef the rest of the day into the evening. There was a steady soft roar as the breakers rolled over the reef creating waves that lapped up on the beach.
The atmosphere at Tranquility is very casual. Some days, we never wore shoes or sandals. Bathing suits were acceptable all day, even at meals in the restaurant on the boat dock that featured a deck where we and other guests had drinks before dinner and watched fish swimming under the dock lit up by underwater lights. Every night we saw tarpon swimming circling the deck, waiting for fish to come out.
From the shore, we could swim out a hundred yards and snorkel among coral reefs where we saw beautiful tropical fish, blue tangs, grunts, sergeant majors, spade fish and many species we couldn’t identify, including tiny grey stripped fish like those found in home aquaria.
One afternoon snorkeling, we saw a large green moray eel nestled in a crevasse. When I raised my head to motion to a fellow snorkeler, the moray disappeared. Looking around, I spotted him several yards away on the sand against a reef. I swam closer and watched as his head and long neck protrude about a meter from a smaller coral formation. I was so close I could see his tiny sharp teeth in his gaping mouth. I estimated he was about four feet long, round as a small car tire. Pretty awesome.
Abandoned shacks and villas
Morning walks at Tranquility Bay were pleasant with bright blue skies, light clouds, and a stiff breeze. The sand was hard packed, easy for walking. Tall palm trees waved in the breeze, fronds slapping against each other.
On morning beach walks, we saw several villas and abandoned shacks, some with rickety docks, others with small boats tied up. Many villas seemed vacant, waiting for their owners to visit from Central America or the US or Canada. Many shacks looked abandoned, weather-beaten, coconuts and dried palm fronds lying around them. Each one probably had a story, some simple, owners coming down occasionally during winter, others abandoned for reasons unknown. Intriguing.
After five nights at Tranquility, we departed on a boat to San Pedro, another boat to Belize, a 45 minute taxi ride to Belize airport, a flight to San Salvador, followed by a second flight to San Jose, Costa Rica for the next where our Central American adventure.
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We’re spending a month in Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama with a side trip to Tikal Mayan site in eastern Guatemala.
Next: Tikal Mayan ruins in Guatemala
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