From Punta Gorda, Aaron and I took off in a tiny 12-passenger Maya Island Air plane. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the airport, which was around the size of a small one-car detached garage back home. I sarcastically said that I bet they had wifi... but they actually did. The place was a one-man show, but that man was doing a great job running all facets of the operation. No security, moving sidewalks, baggage handlers, bars, restaurants, shops, or other amenities here. I will say, though, that it seemed far more efficient in many ways than the larger configurations in the U.S.
Our flight was due to leave at 11:40 a.m., and around that time, the plane landed, we boarded, and were off in a matter of minutes. We made a quick stop in Dangriga, where we picked up some more passengers, dropped some people off at Belize City International Airport, and had a short layover at Belize City Municipal Airport.
We boarded our second plane, returned to Belize City International to pick up some more passengers, and took off across the clear turquoise Caribbean waters. A few minutes later, we landed at San Pedro Airport and rode a taxi to our new abode on La Isla Bonita.
Yes, that's right. When Madonna sang, "Last night I dreamt of San Pedro..." in La Isla Bonita, she was referring to this place. They embrace the moniker, and it appears all over San Pedro town on businesses, hotels, and even trash cans.
I wasn't sure what to expect from the town of San Pedro. I knew it was the tourism mecca of Belize, where most everyone goes who visits this tiny country. That had given me the impression that it would be more polished and less authentic. I was pleasantly surprised to find that to be far from the case. After nearly a week on the island, the only familiar company name I've seen was far north of the town, at a Wyndham development.
While there are full-sized cars on San Pedro and Ambergris Caye (the name of the island that the town inhabits), the primary method of transport for most passengers is golf carts. Constant traffic, gasoline fumes, and noise result from these little carriages. I don't know what the hurry is, but everyone certainly seems to be in one, and I'm surprised I didn't see any accidents from this giant bumper-car experiment.
Ambergris Caye is a short distance from the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world and probably Belize's biggest claim to fame. On the island's east side, you can see waves breaking on the reef a ways out from shore, across the beautiful blue-green water.
We had been warned that San Pedro was pricey, but we found if you worked at it a bit, you could manage pretty reasonably. Aaron and I continued our diet of mostly beans and rice, and enjoyed a couple times out at restaurants, too. However, it had the most expensive Banana Factor to date, at a cost of 5 bananas for $1 Belize.
Snorkeling turned out to be far less expensive from San Pedro than we had been seeing on the mainland, and we booked a trip to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley for less than $40US per person. We've snorkeled a few other places in the Caribbean, but this was definitely the most impressive variety of sea life I've seen.
I got a huge blister from my flip flops a few days in, which meant it must be time to rent our own golf cart. We found a reasonable place to rent one and found it to be a great way to see more of the island than we would have seen otherwise, including a long and bumpy ride out to Secret Beach, which was a beautiful calm expanse of clear, shallow, blue water. Aaron nearly lost a shoe when it vibrated out of the cart on the way back, but thankfully we back-tracked and located it.
We had heard that theft was a big problem before leaving for Belize. Until San Pedro, we hadn't been the victim of theft or any other crime, or even an unkind word. One afternoon, we stopped at an El Salvadoran pupuseria for some amazing pupusas. When we got back, we were one beach towel lighter. As they belonged to our Airbnb, we ended up paying $15US for this incident. I think we'll live. :-)
Our next destination is Caye Caulker, a smaller island south of Ambergris Caye. The locals in San Pedro all say that Caye Caulker is what San Pedro was like twenty years ago, with sandy unpaved streets and a slower pace.