First of all, I’d like to thank all of the people who have posted up on the San Pedro forum. We were very prepared and had lots of “local” knowledge before we even stepped into the city. I’ll try and give you our experience and hit on the major topics and questions that come up here on TA very often. My family consists of me, my wife, and two sons (16 and 21). Our primary focus was to SCUBA dive.
Accommodations: We stayed at the Holiday Hotel right in the center of town. The HH was very clean, quaint, and functional. Our room was right on the beach. It had 3 beds, one queen and two twins, and a pull out futon. The air conditioning was ice cold and the showers had more hot water than we could ever use. Housekeeping was super functional and did a great. The cost all said and done was $2400 US for 12 days and 11 nights. I know there are cheaper places in San Pedro. But there is a Golden Rule in travel that never gets broken: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!!!! ALWAYS!!!!!!!
The key to the HH is the location, you are in walking distance of almost everything on the island that is touristy. We were able to get to all of the major attractions north and south in less than a 20 minute walk. I’d give this a huge plus. We dove with a family that was staying at one of the swanky places north of the bridge and they liked the resort but hated the constant travel back and forth into town.
Food: We ate at Celie’s and Ruby’s almost every morning for breakfast. These two delis are less than 50 yards from the front door of the HH. The family LOVED fry jacks($4.50BZE). We ate quite a bit of Johnny cakes also($4.00 BZE). A few mornings, we walked to the Pan Dulce bakery and got fresh pastry we fed the whole family for less than $10BZE. Pan Dulce was less than a 5 minute walk from the HH. Lunch was eaten off of the street vendors almost every day. ¼ chicken, rice and beans, cole slaw, and tortillas for $9-$10BZE. The quality is terrific and don’t be scared…we never got even a hint of stomach problems.
We ate at Waragumas several times. It was a great value and the food was terrific. Try the stew chicken for $8BZE. Also if you like civiche, get it. It looks pricey at $40BZE, but it will feed three people easily for lunch. Dinner was split up between Waragumas, The Pupusaria across the street from Waragumas, Road Kill café, and Caprice that is attached to the HH. We had a few dinners from a lady across the street from the Tropic Air terminal. She sets up a taco cart for dinner only. These tacos are addicting and the cost a whopping $1.50 BZE. My kids would eat there every night if we let them. Lots of local eat there too.
Waragumas and the Papusaria are less than a three minute walk from the HH. The street taco lady is less than 5 minutes by foot. The Road Kill is 10-15 minute walk. Every place we ate was terrific.
As far as cost: Caprice is the most expensive…equal to a nice dinner in the states. But the food quality is very high end. Waragumas ran about $20BZE per person for dinner…$15BZE for lunch. The Papusaria was $15-$20 BZE per person. Road Kill for burgers was $20BZE per person. The street taco lady was a huge meal for $10BZE per person. Bring your own beer, soda, or water and sit at the table and chat with the locals.
We budgeted $200BZE per day for eating for a family of 4 (including two large teen age boys). We beat that by a mile. We averaged less than $125BZE per day. Breakfast at Celie’s $20BZE for all 4 people. Lunch with the street vendors $32-$40BZE for 4 people. Dinner at various places averaged $60BZE for 4 people(including super cheap eats with the street taco lady).
Drinking/Partying: The key to cost effective drinking/partying is to BYOB. We always bring a big insulated mug with us whenever we go out of the country. We bought rum and punch mixes at the store and made our own rum punch every day. We would tip the bar tender at the Holiday Hotel a few dollars a day and got all the ice we needed. You can make 1.5 gallons of rum punch for about $25BZE. We brought our mugs into every restaurant and no one cares.
We also bought cases of Belikin from a store a little south of Ramones. A case of 24 beers was $52BZE. We kept them in the fridge in our room. Don’t forget to bring your own coozies. The standard price for a Belikin in almost every place we went was $5BZE. The rum drinks at a bar (we never ordered any because we always brought our home made rum punch) ran about $5BZE as well.
We hit Fido’s a few nights and watched a pretty good reggae band. We also did Wahoos on Thursday night for the Chicken Drop. That was a BLAST!!!! The people there come from all walks of life and the fun and energy of the place is off the hook.
SCUBA Diving: We dove with Island Divers Belize which is located right on the Holiday Hotel property. It took us 45 seconds to walk out our hotel door and get on the dive boat. You can’t get any easier than that. We loved Rudtiy’s operation. The gear and boats were modern and well maintained. He customized his dives to blend our family’s dive experience and fun factor. We saw the big name operations go by all day and all we could say was “MOOOOO!!!! There goes the cattle boat.”
Lots of people ask on TA which is better Roatan or San Pedro. I can answer the question. They are both great…just different. The reefs and fish in Roatan are more colorful. There is more and bigger sea life in San Pedro. The snorkeling is better in Roatan as the reef is closer to the beach and you can swim or take a kayak and tie up to a dive marker. People are not kidding when they say it is not safe to swim past the docks at San Pedro. We did snorkel the pier at Ramones…it was OK but not spectacular. We did dive Turniff and it was the best dive I have ever been on. We also snorkeled Shark Ray Alley. It was way cool don’t miss it.
Crime/Safety: We never felt threatened or scared at any time. Use your common sense. Don’t go dark places by yourself, don’t get super drunk, don’t flash cash. Get back to your hotel by midnight and you will be fine. These are the same rules I use when I am at home in Charlotte.
There are the typical vendors selling necklaces, bracelets, textiles, and you will be asked to buy dope. Just politely say, “no thanks” if you don’t want anything. They will move on.
Overall: San Pedro is a great place for a family vacation. It is a super dive destination and a great jump off point for other adventures. It isn’t a “cheap” destination if you want all of the Americanized amenities. It is a super value if you are willing to step off the tourist trail and eat and drink as the low locals do. I’d go back in a flash and I’d do a few things differently. I figured I could shave off another $300-$500 off the total trip knowing what I do now.