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October 1st – The Opening of Conch Season & The Best Ways to Eat It

No matter where you go along the coast of Belize, you see huge conch shells everywhere – polished and on display, heaps on the beach and in the water and used, sometimes, in construction.

The word, by the way, is pronounced CONK here in Belize.

Here at the pretty Conch Shell Inn on Ambergris Caye.

conch wall

On Tobacco Caye there are so many shells, they are used to construct sea walls.


In Caye Caulker at Celi’s Gift Shop/Music Store, the shells are fashioned into jewelry by this conch carver (who is now working in Placencia on the sidewalk).

Conch Carve

I am kicking myself now…but for years, I have been wondering WHO would wear the conch shell breasts?  JUST LAST WEEK, a taxi driver at the water taxi was sporting them on a short leather cord around his neck.  THE CONCH BREASTS!  And I didn’t have the guts to ask for a picture.

What a TIME to be shy.

Conch breasts


Artist Dimus Guerrero on Ambergris Caye also makes some gorgeous pieces.  A must visit on a trip here.

He made this beautiful wedding ring out of a conch pearl and gold for my friends’ wedding – John and Dawn.  They got married atop a Maya temple.  Check it out.


Every first time visitor wants to take one of these giant shells home.  Some learn the hard way, that you can not bring one in your carry-on bag.   The airport security sees this as a security hazard.  It’s not called a conch for nothing.


The harvesting of conch in Belize is a $10 million+ industry but one that needs to be watched very carefully.  Countries around the Carribean are worrying about the diminishing conch supplies both for the local fishermen and for the species.  The US has even been talking about banning conch imports for a few years now.

Here in Belize, there is a season and an annual quota- usually one million pounds of shell-less cleaned conch.  The season is closed from July 1st, re-opening on October 1st.

Rum Punch 021

Belize’s main fishing fleet just last week by the swing bridge in Belize City.  Today’s fishing industry in Belize revolves around conch & lobster.  I know we sell lobster to Red Lobster, I wonder who buys the exported conch…


The beautiful, sometimes HUGE conch shell is the outside of a pretty ugly sea snail.  A mollusk.  It reaches it’s maximum length of about a foot in three to five years….which I find pretty miraculous.   When it is soft, young and tender, it has quite a few predators but once it grows the hard shell?  Very few can get in there.

Even people need practice to extract the conch from his shell.

The only thing that seems to do it with ease is the nurse shark.  Who sucks that tender little snail right out of his shell.   When they are not busy frolicking around snorkelers.

Don’t worry, they never suck around snorkelers – only frolic.

IMG_1319-2Okay…enough chatter…here are some of my favorite conch dishes and where to get them in San Pedro.

I LOVE conch soup.  Like a chowder but a bit thinner and made with coconut milk, it’s just delicious.   I’ve had a number of good ones but my favorites?

The special at Estel’s Dine By The Sea (also opening on October 1st…wonder if they will have the soup.)  It’s got heat…watch for it on their black board.

Estels Soup

And Elvi’s Kitchen has one on the menu that is delicious.

Conch fritters are very popular in all of Belize but I almost never order them.  They tend to be doughy or oily or…I’m just not the biggest fan.  But when they are done right?  Like at El Fogon?  They are delicious.

A huge plate of mini-fritters done just right.

fritterConch ceviche is my favorite type of this classic Belize dish.  I’ve heard complaints of it being rubbery.  But if done right…and fresh?  It’s delicious.

I love Alba Heredia’s fresh ceviche – not sure if she has a shop right now.   May have been the best plate I’ve ever had.


Lily’s Treasure Chest also does an AMAZING one and they have one of the best views in town.

Lastly, just a few months ago, I had maybe my very favorite way to eat conch ever.  Sushi.   Made by Chef Jeff from Rojo Lounge.

I don’t think it is on the regular menu – this was for the opening party at Zen Arcade.  But I stood by that table and could not stop eating it.

Zen’s cafe now has new ownership but Rojo Beach Bar is opening in October at some point.   Remember…this is how they operate.


But maybe if you call ahead and beg?  Tell them with great authority that THE SAN PEDRO SCOOP SENT YOU!  Maybe they won’t laugh at you and you can get some of this delicious sushi.


DO you think I dropped a big enough hint?

So…HAPPY CONCH SEASON!   Let me know what you favorite dishes are.


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7 thoughts on “October 1st – The Opening of Conch Season & The Best Ways to Eat It

  1. TarheelBornGal

    Yum! I love conch. The best I ever had we bought fresh from some boys who were harvesting it from their small boat near the shore near Grand Caribe. They cleaned and sold me a pound (or was it two?), which I immediately put into a lime juice bath and made ceviche with shortly thereafter. SO fresh, so delicious. I can almost still taste it. The soup at Estel’s sounds & looks DELICIOUS — I never knew they had it. My loss!

  2. conrad

    Agree on lilys conch cerviche ! First thing I have when I reach the island along with a cold beliken! Rebecca, what bar did you manage for 3 years? See you in January for JJW soirée!! Conrad from Conroe Texas

  3. Pingback: Conch and Estel’s– two ways we mark the change in seasons on Ambergris Caye « Bound for Belize

  4. Pingback: There is PLENTY To Do in Belize in October - My Recap - San Pedro Scoop

  5. Michelle Kosin Jesus

    This has made me even more impatient for our trip in Oct. Cannot wait! P.S. I will hit you up closer to my trip to see if I can bring you anything from the U.S.

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