How our family found paradise
Family vacations are one of the most enjoyable things in life, but they can also be the most stressful, especially when expectations run high and different interests must be catered for. How do you accommodate a 12 year old boy, his teen sister and two parents who would rather spend their time doing things and relaxing instead of managing a holiday? Oh, and satisfy a yearning for some adventure as well?
This relatively unknown and definitely unspoiled Caribbean paradise packs more variety within its 174 mile length and 68 mile width than most countries four times as large. Imagine having a tropical island holiday swim in the morning, and spend that evening listening to howler monkeys in a jungle hideaway. The next day you could leisurely explore ancient Maya ruins, and still enjoy a Caribbean snorkel back at the sandy beaches before sundown. And that’s only the first two days!
The next four days of what we called our Belizean adventure vacation were just as varied, exciting and, especially considering all the things we did, relaxing.
Belize shares borders with Mexico, beautiful Guatemala and Honduras, and combines, to me, the best of those countries’ beaches, highlands, jungles, mountains and savannas. Plus, it has a 180 mile long barrier reef dotted by nearly 200 small islands, or cayes.
You can imagine the difficulty in deciding whether to have a primarily Caribbean sea vacation or a more inland rainforest adventure holiday, or an equal combination of both.
We opted on spending the first few days in the Caribbean, staying in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, and then lovely Placencia to the south. Somehow our beach time felt deliciously lazy even though we packed in catamaran sailing, snorkelling, kayaking, diving and even dancing in the breezy, family friendly clubs and restaurants that are such part of island life.
But the real surprise came inland, where we were almost overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to do and see, with each one almost more interesting then the next. We took advantage of The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s Family Adventure packages and enjoyed the most amazing quality time together with jungle excursions, intimate tours of Maya ruins, and lazy canoe trips down the Macal River with visits to traditional villages along the way. There was also horseback riding, bicycling, birding, a fascinating Rainforest Medicinal Plant Trail and visits to the Natural History Museum, butterfly breeding hill and traditional Maya organic farm. Oh yes, and a day in Guatemala roaming around the majestic ruins of ancient city of Tikal, surrounded by an endless expanse of jungle still alive with toucans, monkeys, alligators, peccaries, jaguars and creatures whose names and sounds we didn’t recognise.
To be delivered from such exotic adventure back to a comfortable room, excellent food and the sort of interesting company one finds in a well stocked jungle bar was the icing on a very rich cake. An early mother’s day gift of a long massage in the professional hilltop spa put a huge smile on someone’s face.
After years of mixed results in planning holiday vacations, we were the happiest of campers with our discovery of Belize. Everyone had the time of their lives, and we truly bonded over the enjoyment of so many unique shared experiences. It has been a hallmark of our family vacations that we always try something new, but the votes are in and next year we’re definitely going back to Belize for some more surf and turf adventure packages – there are still many things that we didn’t get to do, and some wonderful experiences we wish to repeat. I think we’ve found our Caribbean paradise.