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Ixcacao Chocolate Tour and Hiking Antelope Falls at Bocawina National Park!

Remax Vip Belize : Ixcacao Chocolate Tour and Hiking Antelope Falls at Bocawina National Park
Our guests have raved about the Ixcacao (pronounced Ish-cack-cow) Chocolate tour, and we finally had a chance to take it ourselves, with Mark from Cayequest Tours. It was wonderful! It is a full day tour, where you start off visiting Juan and his lovely wife Abelina. You get to try so many fun, exotic treats along the way….hot cacao drink, sugarcane right off the plant, roasted cacao beans, chocolate at every stage of making it (including making your own!), all kinds of chocolate flavors – even liquor!, and then you get one of the best authentic Belizean meals I’ve ever had. So good in fact that I even bought a little cookbook of her recipes.
Remax Vip Belize: Welcome To Ixacao may Belizean Chocolate
Dave, me, Abelina, Juan, and Mark…..and yep I am totally aware that we look like avatars in this picture.
Remax Vip Belize: Dave, me, Abelina, Juan, and Mark
Hot Cacao drink…..unbelievably good!
Remax Vip Belize: Hot Cacao drink
Juan teaching us how to make chocolate from the bean…you even get to take your chocolate home with you!
Remax Vip Belize: Chocolate from the bean

After that fun, depending on timing, you may stop at a Mayan family’s home, where they will explain how they cook in their outdoor kitchen, tell you some really interesting stories about their family set up, and show you how they make those Mayan baskets you see everywhere!

Finally, you stop at Nim Li Punit Mayan ruins, where Mark gives some great history about burials, culture, and the village structure.

Remax Vip Belize: Nim Li Punit Mayan ruins

Everyone on the tour loved it, and it has been unanimously highly recommended!

Another highly recommended activity is to hike at Bocawina National Park, There are several hikes to choose from, as you can see on this map:

Remax Vip Belize: Bocawina National Park
We did Antelope Falls this time, and please note, this hike was NOT for the faint of heart. Much of it was uphill, and you had to use ropes to pull yourself up and let yourself down at times! But, totally worth it….the waterfalls were totally amazing the whole way through.
Remax Vip Belize: Antelope Falls this time
Rope climbing!
Remax Vip Belize: Rope climbing

Look for signs to the view–you climb over to a ledge where you are treated to this amazing view all the way to the sea….this picture doesn’t capture its awesomeness at all!

Remax Vip Belize: Amazing view
Remax Vip Belize: Amazing view
Be ready for LOTS of steps. You’ll feel it for 2 days afterwards.
Remax Vip Belize: LOTS of steps
Rock climbing.
Remax Vip Belize: Rock climbing
Remax Vip Belize: Rock climbing
Finally, I wanted to share some totally gratuitous and random pictures from the last couple weeks.
View from the veranda at Wendy’s Creole Grill…..every time we eat here we wonder why we don’t eat here more often. Great fish!
Remax Vip Belize: Veranda at Wendy's Creole Grill
THIS PICTURE. There is a chihuahua smiling on a kayak. Go ahead and click it to get a close up, you know you want to!
Remax Vip Belize: Chihuahua smiling on a kayak

My mom came for a visit, and we had such a great time. She is terrible with knives so I thought it would be fun to teach her to machete a coconut. (she didn’t even break its skin.)

Remax Vip Belize: Machete a coconut
One last random observation this week. I hadn’t eaten at Omar’s in a while and had the chance to try it again. I felt I had to mention that you can call and have him deliver stewed chicken, rice and beans to your door, and I realized that it was the best stewed chicken I can remember having in a long time! There is a reason Omar’s is always on the must-eat list πŸ™‚
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Placenciaβ€” named Central America’s Leading Beach Destination

Remaxvipbelize - Caribbean destination

Remax Vip Belize: Placencia, Belize

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″] Not only do we have mile upon mile of stunning beaches, but Placencia is truly the perfect base from which to discover the amazing islands and dives site off the coast, as well as to explore everything that Belize has to offer inland, such as the rainforest, Mayan ruins, cave tubing and zip lining. You can be watching the howler monkeys in the rainforest in the morning and be snorkeling amongst eagle rays and dolphins in the afternoon. I think the award is very well-deserved.

β€”Ben Mason, Belize Ocean Club [/quote]

Mr. Einer Gomez, Vice Chairman of the Belize Tourism Board received the “Leading Beach Destination in Mexico & Central America” accolade for Placencia, as well as the “Leading Destination in 2015″ for Ambergris Caye. This year has been a great year for Belize, with the development of outstanding properties, cruise ship terminals and possibly a new airport. The World Travel Awards earned by Belize also confirm what we have known all along: This country is a paradise waiting to be discovered.

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Placencia vs Hopkins – How to choose between them for your trip to Belize!

Remaxvipbelize : Bare Foot Bar
It is so hard to choose cities to visit in a country you have never been to, and you just can’t get a real sense of a city until you visit yourself. I had driven through Hopkins a few times before and we decided to stay for a long weekend to get a better sense of what it is like, as we get many questions about the differences between Placencia and Hopkins.

General comparisons

In general, you will read that Hopkins is a “sleepier” village, more rustic, and perhaps tourist wise, a bit behind Placencia. Some travelers choose Belize because they want to have an authentic experience, and do not want to feel like they just went to another all inclusive resort. I believe the average tourist will not feel that either place is TOO touristy–I mean really, it is very hard to find a place that has NO traveler comforts unless you are going wayyyy off the beaten path. Both if you are looking for a lot of warm interactions with locals, where the experience IS the village, there are no chains, plenty of local excursions and restaurants, but it is still safe, manageable, and you can get by with English, then you are headed to the right places. I added in a few pretty pictures of Hopkins to enjoy πŸ™‚ So, the comparison….

Beach view from resort end of Hopkins
Remax Vip Belize:  Beach view from resort end of Hopkins


Hopkins has an interesting divide. After you drive the road in, if you go left, you head into a very authentic Central American village. You will see a few tourists riding bikes, but for the most part, you have all local owned businesses, a lot of very simple and rustic shack restaurants, parts of it look a bit rough, but you can safely navigate it. The roads are dirt and moderately hard to bike in places. The ride in is quite bumpy.

If you go right, you will see a bunch of signs that look pretty touristy–and you will quickly enter into a town where it is all tourists. However, this is a seriously cute little town, we were told it is called Hollywood Boulevard :). There are a bunch of really cute resorts on the beach–Jaguar Reef, Belizean Dreams, Hamanasi, Almond Beach. Any of these will make a traveler happy. Very first world. We stayed at Jaguar Reef – they had a nice clean beach, free bikes and kayaks, good restaurant on site, and a fun pool bar. I also realllllllly appreciated that the resorts banded together to keep the beach clean….in Placencia, we rake our beach, but many parts of the beach aren’t touched too often. This is annoying and aesthetically unpleasing when the seaweed comes in.

Cute beach signs
Remax Vip Belize: Cute beach signs

Closer to Excursions

One huge plus of Hopkins is that you are closer to the excursions. You are saving about 45 minutes of a drive to most of the inland excursions. If you are looking for a first world resort where you can easily hit the inland excursions, it might be the right choice for you.

View from Chef Rob’s
Remax Vip Belize: View from Chef Rob's

Authentic Experience?

I would say that for MOST people–if they stayed IN town (taking a left) they might feel it was a bit rough looking with not a huge amount of village activities to do. So you get a more authentic experience on that side but you need to be ready for a town that is not geared for the average tourist. The “Hollywood” side of town – great restaurants including Barracuda’s, Chef Rob’s, and a cute shopping center that I’d kill for sometimes in Placencia. There was a very fun bar called Loggerheads that I recommend. BUT overall on that end of town, you might feel like you had a more tourist-contrived experience. The prices were all in American dollars which tells you a lot right there πŸ™‚

Not a bad view for breakfast
Remax Vip Belize: Not a bad view for breakfast

Cons of Hopkins

The water was a bit muddier than Placencia and the bugs got me bad in Hopkins–but this is entirely unfair to say this is the norm, as it really just depends on luck sometimes. A consideration is that while Placencia has an airport a couple minutes from town, you have to fly into Dangriga and get a ride from there, which can be 20+ minutes, and there may be a charge for that, with a bumpy drive in. I am trying very hard not to be biased here….but Placencia is just a perfect mix of authentic and what you see on a Caribbean postcard. Everything is is one place (not separate sides of town for tourists). The village experience IS the experience here. There are too many good places to eat to name, and while we don’t have a super polished resort area in town, we have adorable guest houses and a unique Caribbean looking village that just works. While you are farther from the excursions, it makes up for it by the village experience you can have (just head out for an afternoon turned evening here and you will see what that means!!) And, you can drink the water in Placencia.

Overall, Hopkins has a more polished (tiny) resort village on one end/more authentic Central American village on the other end–where Placencia is a perfect mix of the two. Hopkins is closer to excursions; however, with that, there is more to do and experience in the village of Placencia. I’d say you may want to stop in Hopkins and do the excursions, then check out Placencia for a few days to have the village experience! πŸ™‚

View from Barracuda’s
Remax Vip Belize: View from Barracuda's