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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Ambergris Caye (San Pedro), Belize

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Currency Conversion Site 

"What do people do here in San Pedro?" Billy asked.

""Well, Mon, dere's only fore tings. Snorklin', divin', fishin' an' drinkin'. Dat's it, Mon."

Tour director, Scuba shop, Ambergris Caye

It was sad to be leaving Lydia's in Placencia, but it was time to move on to Ambergris. The largest of Belize's cayes, Ambergris lies 36 miles north of Belize City.

We got up early and stood on the main road at 6 a.m. to catch the bus going to Dangriga. Our backpacks were stowed up at the front with the driver, and we climbed our way into the bus and on through to a seat. Ten Belize Dollars (about $5US) each was the fee to get to Dangriga  which is about 2 hours away. It didn't take long before the bus was once again packed. 

 

Our water taxi to Ambergris Caye

Dropped off at the station, we didn't find much information posted about the arrival of the next bus so we took anything going to Belize City. For another $10BZD each, we purchased tickets to take us onward and when we arrived in the city, it was hectic. Minivan drivers were shouting out that they would take us to the dock for the water transport to San Pedro. 

$4BZD each got us to the dock and our transport was waiting.

 

Our water taxi is pretty much chockers - We be jammin' Mon

Arriving at the dock in time to take the 12 noon water taxi, we get out of the minivan and gather our gear. A young man is there waiting to move us through the paces to purchase water taxi tickets and to check our luggage through.

$30BZD each buys us our passes for an hour and a half water ride to Ambergris. Being jammed in like sardines is starting to be the norm, and the ride across to San Pedro went smoothly enough. Bumpy at times, water splashed in through the windows, but the color was turquoise and beautiful. Views of the barrier reef met us as we approached Ambergris.

Tip:

We suggest getting a seat against the wall to support your back, water splash or not. An hour and a half of bouncing around can make you tired enough without adding to your discomfort by having nothing to lean on. If you have a jacket or anything else handy to use for a pillow, that would be good also.

 

Advertisements of beach, tour, diving and snorkeling activities

When we disembark from the water taxi, I head over to the office to obtain information on how, when, where and how much money it will cost to take our next transport off the island of Ambergris. Taking notes, this saves us another stop back here later on. We  have this travel tip and others listed in The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement.

Meandering around, I find Billy who is at the dock's edge getting our luggage which is being deposited right there on the sandy beach. We decide on a direction to go and walk to the first street past the beach to get our bearings.

 

San Pedro highest elevation is 50 feet

This gives you a good idea of what the island is like, and how to get from place to place. Hotels and essential businesses are listed in a column up at the top left. The island itself is pretty easy to navigate one's way.

Maybe I'm being silly, but 50 feet in elevation is pretty low. One good storm and my house, boat, business and anything else would be out with Davy Jones and his locker!

 

Ambergris is modern, clean and more populated than Placencia

 I drop Billy off at a corner in the shade while he eats a sandwich and I go off hotel hunting.

 

The map for the town doesn’t have the two hotels I am looking for so I go walking around to see what I can find. Martha’s was recommended so I find it first on Pescador Drive. The place looks a bit shabby on the outside and is next door to a bar. I try to find someone at the office  - which is locked, the tv is on and the fan is going, but it is lunchtime and she’s gone.

 Naturally.

 

Streets are clean and most people walk, bicycle or use a golf cart to get around

Next I go to Barrier Reef Drive and find Tomas Hotel, and speak with Mr. Tomas. He shows  me 3 rooms, and I pick out the best one. It's a large room with a refrigerator and 2 beds, cable TV and large bathroom for $70BZD per night. It is sandwiched between 2 grocery stores so this is good - much better than being next to a bar with the music blaring all night. We get free drinking water and Billy is able to pick up some Wifi, so we are all set.

 

Pina's, a tiny restaurant across from our hotel

Across the street from our hotel is a small restaurant offering tasty main courses for $9BZD, about $4.50USD. They are good portions and she has a fresh selection daily of pork, chicken or beef. Very tasty!

She's open every day but Sunday.

Perfect!

 

A typical meal from Pina's

In order to keep travel costs down, finding a solid source of a daily meal at an affordable price is invaluable. This allows you the financial freedom to try other places without busting your budget.

The meal above is beef in a Belizean style gravy with red stew beans, rice and coleslaw.

 

Joe's Bike Rental at the top of the list

Getting around the island by bicycle appealed to us so we went to Joe's to see what was happening.

 

Joe and his bikes

Hey Joe!

Don't you just love his smile?

Joe offers a good deal on bicycle rental: $5BZD an hour, $12 for 3 hours or $20 for a day. It's a great way to see the island,  and to get some exercise. Highly recommended!

 

Here I am buzzin' around on my rented bike

The bit of sand on the road grabs the tires, so biking is more of an effort than a flat road that's totally smooth. Oh Gee, some exertion in paradise!

But I've got a basket and a bell and my water bottle is in my daypack. I'm all set.

 

Elegance in flip flops

Nothing moves too fast when you are on island time. Biking is just the right speed. Even golf carting isn't too bad, and they rent for about $70BZD for 4 hours.

 

Mr. Krazy's Medical Laboratory

What's in a name?

Is a medical laboratory run by a man named Mr. Krazy as dependable as one that isn't? Glad we didn't have to find out!

 

Bridge fees!

I guess the city has to pay for the bridge somehow... Tooling around on our bicycles, we find that to get to the other side of the island where all the Toney places are, we have to pay a Belizean buck each way.

 

Where the Toneys live

This location is on the other side of the island and this "beach" is makeshift. However, it's still far better than putting one's towel down on the rocks!

Some Palapas, shade, a couple of chairs and a gorgeous view. The only thing missing might be some grilled shrimp!

 

Sea, sea, beautiful sea

There are no beaches in Ambergris, and swimming is done off the docks. The reef just a bit out from here has some of the best snorkeling in the area. It's not difficult to rent a boat and driver and go out for the day. Tour companies are everywhere.

 

More turquoise sea with the barrier reef at the horizon

It was odd for us to be at such a gorgeous seaside and not have a beach to set up our towels and flip flops. We didn't notice anyone resting on the docks either to soak up the sun, but we did see families putzing around in the shallows.

 

Anyone for swimming in a harbor?

We have never swum in a harbor and weren't going to start now. From all of our boating experience, a harbor is not where one wants to be swallowing sea water.

 

Commercialism is far more present here

Even at its most feverish pace the traffic on Ambergris is still tolerable. Streets are clean and the tropical Caribbean colors seem to take the seriousness out of any situation.

How can you get upset with someone dressed in lime green or shocking orange? It would be like arguing with a gecko.

 

An "S and M" Center

Not sure what goes on here, and we were pretty stumped as to what those letters might stand for.

Any ideas?

Take it easy Mon!

 

A small sundry shop

Plantains, bananas, oranges, limes, guavas, papayas, eggs and chips. She has it all!

There's probably ice cream in her freezer, too.

 

A Belizean beach band

What a wonderful afternoon extravaganza! We had some BBQ, tropical drinks and a beach band for entertainment. Isn't this what people in snow country dream about in the dead of winter?

We finish up our 105 Day Adventure by moving on to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

And you don't want to miss that!

For more information, stories and photos of  Belize by clicking here


A Final Word regarding our time in Belize.

In a nut shell we were disappointed.

That is not to say we will not go back, but Belize has been so hyped up as a great retirement destination, that I guess we just expected more. Personally, we found it dull and coined the phrase “Brainless in Belize”

If you look at where Belize is positioned geographically, you can see that it is just as tropical as Mexico and Guatemala. Yet the produce we found there was not only more expensive than its neighboring countries, but also of lesser quality and with skimpy selections offered in the stores. This made little sense to us and after the opulence of Guatemala and Mexico, we found it frustrating. If you look at the picture up above of the girl in the sundry shop, you can see the blackened bananas and plantains. This was not an unusual sighting, and we routinely found moldy onions, soft potatoes and unattractive papayas.

The beaches were often covered in dead sea grass and it was flourishing out in the ocean as well, making swimming close to shore a sort of slimy affair. We have traveled extensively through this area of the world visiting some of the finest beaches you will ever see. The white sands of the island of Nevis, Mystique, Martinique and the Grenadines in the Caribbean are particularly memorable.

A huge shocker to us was the amount of garbage we saw lying around. Ambergris Cay is a long thin island and supposedly displays the best Belize has to offer. On the one side you have beautiful million+ dollar beach homes, yachts and private docks with commanding views of aquamarine water and the barrier reef. But behind them across the narrow road we found cesspool after cesspool of thick, garbage-filled, slimy water with bottles, bags, baskets, appliances, parts of wooden pallets, cars on cement blocks and old tires. They looked like open landfills tangled in the mangrove coves. There were pockets of putrid water and waste and these were sights that we were not prepared for. Our guess is that a couple of large storms would submerge this mess and the place would look pristine, but the garbage would still be there.

We saw shanties in terrible shape, sometimes overrun by 40 or more dogs left to run wild with no food or water so eventually, the animal shelter would have to be called in or – horribly – the pups would be poisoned so that they wouldn’t reproduce and become a drain on the environment.

In speaking with some of the Expats we learned that oftentimes, food was purchased in Chetumal, Mexico at better prices and selection, and brought back to their massive refrigerators and freezers. In terms of Health care, there are no specialists on the island of Ambergris or on the peninsula of Placencia. One has to go to Belize City for anything of consequence. If one becomes ill, there is a clinic near the airport, but for anything serious, or if there is an accident, one must be airlifted by helicopter and fly to Belize City.

So there definitely are challenges here in the Paradise of Belize, and in general, we found this country to offer First World prices but giving Third World services.

It’s entirely possible we were missing something, but we didn’t catch the magical passion that is Belize. That having been said, everyone’s description of Eden is different, and the fact that English is spoken there is certainly a plus for many Expats.

Belize is a great place to visit if you want a vacation time focused on sea activities. But long term living might not be as satisfactory.

Remember what the tour operator told us:

"Well, Mon, dere's only fore tings. Snorklin', divin', fishin' an' drinkin'. Dat's it, Mon."

Tour director, Scuba shop, Ambergris Caye

About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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