A delightful resort, uncommonly good food and the Caribbean’s best snorkeling brightened our mostly rainy week on Ambergris Caye, Belize.
The immaculately maintained Mata Rocks, a shining white boutique hotel, evokes those on the Greek isle of Santorini. Its 17 rooms on two stories surround a pool and front a small beach, with a long weathered dock where pelicans and gulls congregate.
Low-season rates in mid-December include a continental breakfast at the Squirrel’s Nest, where we perched on colorful stools under a palapa, while contemplating the ocean, trading tales with seasoned travelers and enjoying robust coffee, freshly squeezed OJ, pastries and slices of watermelon, pineapple and papaya.
From the balcony of our spacious second-floor suite, we could watch waves breaking on the world’s second-longest barrier reef.
Taxis ($5) took us the couple miles into the bustling tourist town of San Pedro, with its souvenir shops and cobblestone streets full of bikes and cabs but few cars. Here, memorable meals included coconut shrimp and plantains at Caliente; snapper burritos and pineapple shakes at Warugama; crepe-like lobster puposas at The Puposeria; and frozen custard at DandE’s.
Within walking distance of Mata Rocks, we stumbled upon such cheap and tasty treats as cinnamon buns at The Baker; jerk chicken with rice and beans at Robin’s; and grande burgers at Harry’s.
We splurged on one dinner at the critically and popularly acclaimed Hidden Treasure, a candlelit pavilion made of native woods and tucked into a residential neighborhood. Upon being seated, we were each handed a warm, moist, eucalyptus-scented towel with which to freshen up, a nice touch from a restaurant that also offers a free round-trip shuttle service. But what really transported us was the perfectly grilled trio of Caribbean lobster tail, shrimp and grouper with garlic butter and coconut rice. We concluded our evening quietly gazing at the countless stars and almost-full moon, as coconut palm fronds rustled in the balmy breezes.
Not surprisingly, the highlight of our vacation proved to be a daylong sail aboard the 36-foot catamaran Escape, with a stop at the Hol Chan marine reserve, where we snorkeled among nurse sharks, green turtles, Southern and spotted eagle rays and an amazing assortment of fish. We were allowed to handle different kinds of starfish, and a moray eel poked its head out to nibble on a conch. The variety and color of coral was impressive.
We later moored at dusty, laid-back Caye Caulker, just long enough for a snapper sandwich and a rum-raisin cone dockside. Our return to port concluded with more fruit punch, delicious homemade coconut tarts and the satisfaction that we had once again chosen our tropical destination wisely.
We recommend a second-floor ocean view junior suite.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.