A Travellerspoint blog

San Pedro, Ambergris Cay, Belize

A Relaxing Resort Week at the Alaia Autograph Collection.

sunny 81 °F

The Alaia is a new resort. It opened either just before or during the Covid pandemic and it is the first (and currently the only) Marriott Bonvoy brand property in Belize. The main resort buildings are newly built. The adjacent villas and condo style apartment rooms were part of a pre-existing resort. All has been completely redone & integrated into one lovely resort, maybe within the past 2 years.

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You can guess that we chose to stay here because I have Marriott Bonvoy status. Lifetime Platinum and currently my last pre-Covid status was Titanium which is still on a courtesy extension. Upon arrival the reception clerk said “Wow Titanium - how did you achieve that? (A lot of years, brand loyalty wherever possible, & a Marriott credit card for my daily spending). My advice is to pick your program & stick with it. We’ve been well rewarded.

I booked our 8 night stay on points. We were upgraded to a comfortably furnished two bedroom, 2 bath condo with living room, kitchen & balcony. I had communicated by email ahead of time with the concierge and requested “a quieter room.” The Reef House side of the resort, adjacent to the modern spa & fitness center has its own lovely pool! It has been quiet our entire stay. Oh & our daily full buffet breakfast is a Titanium benefit too.
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The hotel staff couldn’t be nicer. It’s Perfect! We’ve loved it.

In the neighborhood, just a 5 minute walk, there is a SuperBuy grocery store, another general store & The Baker which is a great expat owned bakery with coffee, smoothies, morning baked goods and sandwiches during the day.

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We’ve eaten at the resort & at restaurants off of the resort. For dinner, the Deck at the Alaia has a Lobster & Seafood Grill night on Thursdays, Fridays & Saturday’s. It’s Caribbean lobster season and that was our favorite dinner here. Our favorite Alaia lunch was at Sea Salt, it’s a salad with seared tuna on it. The tuna strips had a mild Caribbean curry rub that was subtle and delicious.
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Off the resort we have stopped at The Baker for light lunches. We went for dinner at Black Orchid & Hidden Treasures. We really enjoyed both. We are going back to Hidden Treasures for our last night. The entire restaurant is quasi outdoors which makes us comfortable. Our seafood dishes were cooked and spiced perfectly, there was live music on Saturday evening & we enjoyed our evening there. The Alaia concierge made our reservations and requested their complimentary transportation. We were picked up & dropped off at the hotel. It’s only about a ten minute ride.
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Black Orchid’s owners also use as many fresh & local ingredients as possible. We liked our dinner there also. The restaurant seating is all indoors. We had one of the 3 booths & felt comfortable from a “Covid situation.” The local artwork as decor was lovely. We especially liked the Maya themed masks. Black Orchid is also on the south side of San Pedro town, maybe 15-20 minutes from Alaia. We took a taxi - $10.00 each way.
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We were surprised that even off-Resort, the restaurant prices aren’t that different than eating in a US restaurant. A nice dinner for two at both restaurants will be about $100 including a drink or glass of wine. It seems incongruous with the apparent local living standard. But it’s an island, much must be imported, & the upscale places definitely cater to and are priced for western tourists.

A note about local transportation:
This island has gone from bicycles (I see locals commuting by bike to & from work) to golf carts with delivery trucks, a few cars, and taxi vans for the tourists. The Alaia provides a free taxi to and from the airport and will meet your flight. The van taxi rates are $10.00 US per ride whether going to San Pedro town or to a restaurant closer by. There’s a taxi stand at the front of the hotel. We booked a sunset cruise. The taxi dropped us near the dock by the high school in town, and the driver gave me his card so that I could have someone call him when we were almost back. The boat captain called for us when we were almost back. That worked well. A driver was waiting for us to take us back!
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Golf carts: everyone drives them and rides in them. There are golf cart traffic jams in town! You can rent them by the day or week. Belizans use them in their daily lives. Tourists drive them too and sometimes they are visibly inebriated. The roads are very bumpy & the gas fumes are strong so we skipped out on that.
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Phones: I forgot to bring my old unlocked phone. Usually I get a local SIM card at the airport with data & calling minutes. But this time, oops! We turned our phones onto airplane mode. We’ve been using them on WiFi. At Black Orchid, the restaurant called the taxi for us to come back. When I went to town on my own, I walked over to the airport & easily got a van taxi back without a phone call. We have AT&T international available for $10 US a day. We would use it if we needed to, but it hasn’t been necessary.

Currency:
The Belizan dollar (BZD) is $2.00 to the US $1.00. US currency is totally interchangeable. ATM’s distribute Belizan dollars. Changing a $20.00 US bill, you might get $20 BZD with 2- $5 US bills. That =‘s $20 US. We have not found any hesitancy to accept our US bills or any preference for one over the other. Before we arrived, I did find this article helpful:

https://www.sanpedroscoop.com/2022/01/tips-for-handling-money-in-belize-2022-update-belize-currency-usd-accepted.html#ATM_Machines_in_Belize

Ambergris Cay is the island where we are. We flew into Belize City from Miami. You can take a water taxi (2.5 hours) to San Pedro or a 15 minute flight. The flights Tropic Air or Maya Air depart the same airport as the International arrivals. I asked the Alaia concierge to book our flights a couple months in advance, and they did so. It was $100 each way ($400 US) round trip for the two of us. The Water Taxi is less, I’m not sure of the prices.

San Pedro town feels a lot like remoter spots in Thailand felt 15 years ago. This is an island in the midst of change and growth. But the infrastructure is still very undeveloped. We wandered a bit before our Sunset Cruise, & another afternoon I explored a bit more on my own. There’s a small handicrafts market with Belizan bags, fish bone sculptures and wooden boards etc. I found a great new water bottle carrier. But mostly I am waiting for the Saturday market in San Ignacio as I’ve heard it’s very good. There are local Belizan restaurants everywhere. And the presence of expats has brought some upscale restaurants & cafes as I described above. There was an air conditioned Chocolate Boutique off Front St on the beach that does chocolate making classes. I found a very large modern general store “Cay Supplies” on Back Street a block beyond the soccer field just near the international ferry landing. The few people I met in town have been friendly and helpful.
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For winter travel, I’ve mostly been to Thailand as we have family there. You can see my pre-pandemic Thailand blogs on Travellers Point too. But we’ve also been to Jamaica, Peru and Ecuador, and all of those places seem to be lower priced than here. I’m not surprised by the western prices at the Alaia resort and spa. That’s consistent with resort prices everywhere. But we are surprised to see off resort transportation and restaurant prices in US $ not much cheaper than at home. The Belizans community appears poor. And Belizan vendors sell street food that is affordable to them. I bought a delicious flan on the street in the neighborhood yesterday. It was $2.00 BZD. That’s $1.00 US. A comparable dessert in the restaurants we’ve looked at or been to is $8.00-$12.00 US. So you can see my point and will know what to expect.

I always look for a local laundry person. I avoid the resort prices by the piece that way and also bring business to a local person. I found one just next to the pharmacy down from the Super Buy, just a few minutes walk from the hotel. We wanted to start the next part of our trip with clean clothes. I dropped off some laundry in the morning & Letitia had it ready at 5:00 PM.

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I’ll write about our Sunset Tour & 2 Snorkel Tours in the next entry so be sure to check out my photos there.
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Posted by Nsevers 19:11 Archived in Belize Tagged hotels restaurants san pedro ambergris currency cay

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Comments

Congrats on your great stay! Tanks for sharing your nice memories...

by Vic_IV

Congrats on your great stay! Thanks for sharing your nice memories...

by Vic_IV

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