Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

We had a wonderful trip to Belize and Guatemala planned for us by Patricia. She worked with us to find experiences and hotels that worked well for us. Our trip was eight days long and divided into two parts—one was in the jungle and the other was on the beach at Placencia.

We flew from Newark to Belize City (a direct flight of less than five hours) and were picked up by our driver/guide Brainerd. Over the years, we’ve learned that a guide can make or break a trip. We had a phenomenal guide with Brainerd—very knowledgeable, warm, and just a lot of fun. (He’s named after a town in my home state of Minnesota.) We learned a great deal from him. He, without our asking, took loads of photos of us with my phone and his own. He later sent me the ones he took, which I very much appreciated because I make a photobook of all our trips. He made a habit of checking in to see if we wanted water, if the temperature in the car was okay and if we needed a bathroom break. Very considerate.

We stayed first at the Lodge at Chaa Creek, a 400-acre eco-resort. Lots to do there: visit the butterfly farm, the natural history exhibit, the organic farm; canoe; hike; birdwatch or sit with a delicious drink and admire the beautiful grounds. The staff could not have been more hospitable. They asked and remembered our names, where we were from and our food preferences. Very professional.

We used Chaa Creek as a base from which to explore the Maya ceremonial centers at nearby Xunantunich and Tikal in Guatemala. We absolutely loved the Belize Botanic Garden tour. I am a gardener, and the tour was one of the highlights of the trip.

The Naia Resort, right on the beach near Placencia, was lovely. We were very happy with our little bungalow, which was about 30 feet from the water. The staff was helpful and friendly.

While we were there, Patricia arranged for us to spend time with a group of six Maya sisters who taught us how to cook on an open hearth. They showed us how they weave baskets and extract the juice from sugar cane. It was fun!

We really enjoyed our trip and met people who go to Belize year after year. We can understand why.

I knew just who to call after deciding last-minute to book a family vacation over the Christmas to New Year’s holidays — Wendy Perrin WOW travel agent Patricia Johnson. In a matter of days, Patricia organized a world-class 12-day trip for our family us to Belize, with features that kept our 3 kids (ages 17, 17 and 20) engaged and happy, including climbing Mayan ruins, riding horses, lounging at the pool and snorkeling. Lots of snorkeling.

Christmas Day was spent relaxing on and snorkeling off of idyllic islands near the village of Placencia. New Year’s Eve was spent on a “catch and cook” adventure off the coast of Ambergris Caye with dive master and boat captain extraordinaire Carlos Cordova. We fished for bait, dove for conch and lobster, and went fishing. Then we cooked our catches on the beach. The highlight was ceviche made with fresh conch, lobster and fish. We particularly enjoyed the accommodations at Hidden Valley Wilderness Ranch and Naia Resort & Spa in Placencia. Patricia, Rachael and Josue were in regular communication with us throughout the trip. They even rearranged one of our outings when they noticed the weather forecast didn’t look favorable. We couldn’t have asked for a better family trip.

The Ring family and friends at the Indian Creek Mayan Arts Women's Group, Belize.

The Ring family and friends at the Indian Creek Mayan Arts Women’s Group, where they learned local cooking techniques, basket-weaving, and a traditional dance.

Our family (parents, 1 teen and 4 20-somethings) and 2 friends of my adult children visited Belize for 2 weeks over the Christmas/New Year’s Holiday season. We stayed in San Pedro at the Grand Caribe and The Enclave in Placencia. There were complicated logistics with some people traveling from different cities and joining at later dates, and Patricia’s office handled that incredibly well. The housing options recommended were luxurious and enjoyable as well. Patricia’s team did a fantastic job of keeping everything on track while we were in Belize and checking in with us to fine-tune trips. Our family’s favorite excursions were the trip to Xunantunich, the sunset Catamaran rides, a helicopter charter over the Blue Hole, river tubing in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve and snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve. They organized a private chef to make us meals in our villa in San Pedro, which is a tip when large families travel at the holidays—sometimes it is difficult to get a reservation for a large group.

Patricia’s office excelled at communication and trip-planning process in the months leading up to the trip, when we were deciding what the trip would look like. Also, in terms of value added to the trip, they organized a surprise singer/guitar player that came to play for our son’s birthday party and another surprise picnic after our river-tubing excursion, both of which were completely appreciated and really great highlights of our trip.

Just back from a wonderful week in Belize with our adult daughters (23 and 25). Patricia, Rachael and their team did a great job. They exemplify why I use your planners — they really listened and planned accordingly, were easy to communicate with, have in-country expertise and contacts (Rachael met us at the airport!), and were able to adjust on the fly.

Everything they planned was just what we asked for. In fact, this is the first time I’ve worked with a planner where they got it right on the first iteration. We were looking for a Christmas week alternative to our typical beach resort experience where we stay at the hotel and rarely venture out. Instead we had a 2 BR villa in a small hotel right on the lagoon with day trips tailored to our desires. That first morning when I opened my door and walked 20 steps in my PJs to the completely quiet beach and into the still, clear waters was magical. All alone in paradise.

We snorkeled, zip lined, floated on the river, visited a spice farm and learned all about cacao and chocolate. We also relaxed on the beach, ate lots of ceviche, and discovered a new taste for rum.

I had stressed about the rain in the forecast and luckily, it only rained once and it was short-lived. Even in the one downpour, my daughter was in heaven touring the spice farm on the tractor — just us and the guide — after a group of 24 (from a cruise ship) had just gotten off. I was surprised to learn that rain was not atypical for December. I had not done my homework on that, but happily, all worked out.

Rachael planned a lovely WOW Moment — a private concert with up-and-coming Belizian vocalist Kylon Eiley on our villa patio, complete with margaritas.

The snorkeling guides were really great and considerate, especially to those who were a bit anxious. We decided to stay and have lunch at a bar at one of the cayes instead of eating the prepared lunch. The guide was completely flexible and we all had a fun time. He also made sure we saw the sharks and turtles nearby. On our second snorkel day we saw a jeweled damsel fish and that alone was worth the trip. How that can exist in nature is amazing. And the corals were spectacular. Rachael had insisted that we add that second half-day snorkel to our trip and I was glad she did.

Itzana was lovely. We very much enjoyed breakfast every morning on the restaurant patio. All the staff were wonderfully accommodating. One big request for the hotel would be more loungers on the beach. We had to drag the ones from our villa patio out to lie out on the sand. There was that little DIY aspect of our stay — no roaming staff to help you like at the resorts in Mexico or elsewhere, but Whatsapp worked perfectly for any and all requests. Drinks and lunch delivered to the beach!

Speaking of the beach, they kept it raked and clean. We tried to take a walk on the beach but beyond the perimeter of the resort, it was not clean and the neighboring hotels and structures unappealing to walk past. There was that unpolished feel to Placencia, but that was also part of its charm. The restaurants in the area were mostly casual, food tasty and the staff eager to please.

As Belize is an English-speaking country that made it very easy to communicate with everyone, we also enjoyed learning from our guides and drivers about the different cultures. Everyone we interacted with was kind and keen to make sure we were happy.

All in all, a super trip. Thank you Brook, for the recommendation, and to Patricia and Rachael’s team.

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