belize barrier reef snorkeling

The best of both (or three or four) worlds

If there’s any downside at all to a Belize vacation it’s trying to cram so much into the always too short amount of time you have there. Plan as much as you like; new things always present themselves when you arrive in the Jewel, as Belizeans refer to their country.

For example, I’d never thought much one way or the other about caving before a guide at Chaa Creek suggested we go see the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves, and that was one of the best travel experiences of my life.

Belize is like that. There are so many incredible places and things packed into the little tropical paradise that it almost gets overwhelming.

When we were planning our third trip to Belize (yes, the place gets addictive) I noticed that Chaa Creek was now part of the Rainforest and Reef Resorts  of Belize, and life suddenly got much  easier. On a previous Belizean holiday we spent some time in the rainforest and Maya temples at Chaa Creek and then organised our own trip out to Ambergris Caye. We had a great time, but it did take some planning, with a bit of trial and error, and there were some things we would have done differently.

This time we wanted to try something similar, and were looking for an easier way to do it. Chaa Creek to the rescue!

My email to them was quickly answered with the news that Chaa Creek and some select sister resorts had formed the Rainforest and Reef Resorts of Belize network to cater to people like us who wanted to experience those main facets of the Jewel – the lush rain forests, Maya heritage and stunning Caribbean Sea – as easily as possible.

Chaa Creek then worked with us to arrange the perfect surf and turf combination, splitting our time between Chaa Creek and Hamanasi Resort near the Garifuna village of Hopkins.  Talk about tailor-made heaven! And all without our needing to do any additional planning, booking, arranging, calling, calculating or anything, really. Chaa Creek suggested the perfect itinerary and packaged it up into one seamless all-inclusive Caribbean holiday, so we knew exactly what we’d be spending and for what.

From the moment we arrived at Belize’s little international airport until we were dropped back off a week later the only thing we concentrated on was having a good time. And that wasn’t too hard at all.

One of the big attractions for us about Belize is that it’s only two short flights away from home, so we arrived fairly early and refreshed enough to enjoy the ride out west to Cayo and still have time for a delicious lunch and a swim at Chaa Creek.

Over the next three days we immersed ourselves in nature, and with all the stuff you hear about the Maya and 2012 it was even more intriguing this time to explore some of the many archaeological sites and Maya temples crammed into that area.

With 365 acres to play around in and so many things to do, Chaa Creek really is a destination in itself, what with horseback riding through beautiful jungle trails, canoeing the Macal river down to San Ignacio town (and having the luxury of being driven back up after exploring the ancient Maya centre of Cahal Pech in town), swimming, mountain biking, tours to ancient Maya cities and more than enough things, including excellent food and exotic beverages, to satisfy two adventuresome young teens and their happily refreshed parents. In short, it was wonderful.

It was hard to leave Chaa Creek, but they definitely steered us in the right direction with Hamanasi. Just as the Rainforest & Reef Resorts website hinted, they did seem to share a certain vibe, with the same Green environmental emphasis we liked about Chaa Creek and a similar high level of casual quality and service, so swapping hiking boots for bare feet and bathing suits was a breeze.

Snorkelling the Belize Barrier Reef is definitely one of life’s great experiences, and to go from lush jungle to the sparkling clear warm Caribbean waters and the astounding abundance of colourful marine life was a breathtaking experience. And the fact that you can do it in one scenic, absolutely hassle-free day is nothing short of incredible.

The rest of the week went by dreamily and given our levels of relaxation it would be hard to believe we managed to do as much as we did at Hamanasi, but just like Chaa Creek  it pretty much has everything you need right there. We drove south to check out the lovely little village of Placencia, and while there was a seemingly endless list of attractions and things to do in that part of Belize, we decided to save most of it for another trip and just concentrate on Hamanasi’s seaside adventures and get in some solid lounging around time.

By the time we ambled off the plane back home we were sandy, satiated and enjoying that feeling that comes with having had an incredible vacation together.  Now having unpacked and sitting down to sort through photos and reflect, I still find it amazing that we did and saw so much in such a relatively short amount of time. And all that while being in a state of complete relaxation.

Thanks again, Chaa Creek and your Rainforest & Reef Resorts of Belize pals – you made it easy to have the time of our lives, and we couldn’t have done it that way without you.

(editor’s note –Chaa Creek and Hamanasi, along with sister Rainforest & Reef Resorts of Belize member The Phoenix Resort on Ambergris Caye, were selected by Trip Advisor as three of the  “Travellers’ Choice Top 25 Hotels” for the Central American Region for 2012)

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