Three Very Different Vacation Rentals with Vacasa Belize
Last week, I started telling you about 3 night/4 day trip around Belize with Vacasa Belize* – traveling from San Pedro to three different locations in Belize and then back to San Pedro. Each one…I could have spent 2…3 days…a week…more but I had a schedule (one I set for myself) and I was going to keep it. A plan to check out three very different vacation rentals in three different parts of Belize.
One of the vacation rentals, I am quite certain, is nothing like ANY other spot in the country.
Here’s the entrance.
But that’s in Placencia – my last stop!
Here is my route (you can click on it to expand!). Water taxi and then rides with the Vacasa team and then a flight to return home.
I visited some of Belize’s most popular tourism hubs. San Ignacio – the pretty town in the west of Belize that’s a great jumping-off spot for Mayan ruins like Cahal Pech and Xunantunich and ALL of the jungle activities including the MUST DO in this area (in fact, in Belize!) – ATM Cave.
So…let’s take a look at where I stayed and a few of the things that I saw with Vacasa. Buckle up, this might be a long one. But I promise many many pictures to break up all my blabbing.
Vacasa has an on-the-ground manager for each area – one for the San Ignacio area – one of the South – one for San Pedro – who knows the district inside and out. And they are always available by telephone or WhatsApp. Each was able to show me some things and places that I’ve never seen before.
Let’s start in San Ignacio!
Located in the west of the country – less than 10 miles from the Guatemala border, San Ignacio is a vibrant town with an active marketplace, great restaurants and bars, and a pedestrian-only Main Street.
A gentleman repairing shoes under a tree.
I love the murals around town.
There are a handful of health food stores and restaurants and I tried this DELICIOUS kombucha with a very cute logo (soooo t-shirt ready!).
Taco breakfast at the market.
I visited and loved lots of the sights in the area – and was very excited to see the Belize Botanic Gardens with Sheldon for the first time. (You can read about that here)
The next day I headed to one of my favorite breakfast spots in the country – a diner called Pop’s. They do amazing puffy light fry jacks stuffed with a chaya eggs scramble that’s delicious. You can also linger and enjoy your coffee refills and relax. My kind of place.
(If you don’t know about Belize’s “wonder green” Chaya – I wrote about it here)
And then Joerdy – the San Ignacio Vacasa area manager – picked me up to show me his village – the farming village of San Antonio, Belize. I’ve driven through San Antonio a number of times…and been told that it was the “Peanut Capital of Belize” but this was the first time that I stopped and looked around.
We stopped first at the San Antonio Womens’ Group – they do a tour where you can make your own pot using the same clay and natural colors that have been used for centuries. You then help prepare your lunch the traditional way. Grinding corn to make your own fire-roasted tortillas to start…
We took a very brief tour/walkaround but I definitely need to come back. I love the idea of making pottery. Experience tells me that I’m horrible at it – but I love to try.
And I love the subtle red and brown paints…
San Antonio is on the way into the Mountain Pine Ridge area of Belize – into the mountains. And it is some rugged. rocky but very well-used area for farming. Lots of rocky dirt “roads” cutting between different farm areas. But almost every square inch is filled…and much of it with PEANUTS.
Snacking on the way to the peanut fields. These are very traditional Belizean candies, almost like a brittle with more nuts and less sugar – this one with peanuts or the sesame seed one called wangla.
Peanuts are such beautiful green plants with small yellow flowers….and they are everywhere!
As well as food for the family – from corn to pineapples to herbs. Many families in San Antonio are almost completely self-sustaining from the produce of their farms. (Imagine if we had to do that on sandy Ambergris Caye? I’m not sure how long I’d last on a coconut-only diet.)
Rain was coming…so we rushed to our next stop. The Oxmul Coffee farm. A very new business – just officially opened in April of 2021 – but it’s been in the works for some time…
Oxmul (pronounced: Osh-Mool) was the original Maya name for the village and surrounding area – meaning Ox = Three and Mul = Hills.
The Mesh family, in particular, the father John, grew up in San Antonio, Before they had a proper road and electricity. It was a simple farm-based way of life…and the hot drink of choice? Instant coffee. And for many people in Belize, instant coffee is still what they drink. Almost always with sugar – and sometimes powdered creamer or evaporated milk.
John visited Costa Rica a few years back, tasted the local coffee and it was like…AHHHHHH. So THIS is what coffee is supposed to taste like!
He decided to buy some plants (at the Belize Botanic Gardens!) when he got home and give it a try. And a few bushes turned into a few more and now he has an acre of coffee and he is planting more…
We sat down for some coffee and waited for a POWERFUL thunderstorm to pass over – dumping about 5 minutes of serious rain. Almost everyone I met in the village thanked me for “bringing the rain”. Farmers take rain very seriously. Especially the first real rains of the season.
We sipped coffee under mango, annatto and avocado trees and a small zinc roof. A dark roast, slightly smoky…and really really good. John and the whole family showed me how it is produced. NOTHING is mechanized. Fire and good old-fashioned elbow grease. Lots of it!
I need to write more about this – I’ll do that in another post – but let me show you where I spent 2 nights in San Ignacio. A HUGE 2 bedroom apartment with wrap-around porch with hammock and outside furniture – huge modern kitchen in a pretty neighborhood just up the hill from San Ignacio. You can see the great pictures and pricing here.
And the master bedroom – it was like being in the cayes. The walls were painted by an artist in an island scene (look at the pictures in the link above!) I have a sneaking suspicion they were painted by Linda Mikulich who used to live in San Pedro and has since passed away. She had a tiny gallery near the bar I managed when I first moved to Belize – and she let me buy her paintings on layaway! I own 3 and they are some of my most prized possessions. So cool…you can see some examples of her work here.
Time to pack up…now I’ve got a box of plants, a pound of coffee and a bag of mangos to add to my luggage…and head down to Hopkins Village. Joerdy, the local manager of Vacasa and farmer of 40 acres in San Antonio (he has help!), picked me up in the morning. For the beautiful ride along the Hummingbird Highway.
Here’s the drive a few years back – we had planned to stop and take photos but dark clouds were looming and we wanted to get to Hopkins.
And down the main road which was littered with mangos.
I had some yummy meals in Hopkins and took a bunch of photos but let me show you the VERY cute cabana I stayed in – in the heart of the village.
Latitude Adjustment Cabanas. You can rent one or ALL!
The perfect studio apartment – fridge, microwave, coffee maker, couch, TV…I really loved this spot. Mine was called Starfish Cabana.
And my meals. I tried Peer’s Place – the first time I’ve tried this spot in the center of the village with a view of the beach.
My server suggested a smoked chicken quesadilla – it was the special. And while I was craving a sandwich, her suggestion was PERFECT. The chicken was smoking in the back and the quesadilla (an item which can often be a bit heavy) was grilled and then stuffed with tons of fresh greens and tomatoes and had a drizzle of vinagrette. The cool veg and the warm cheese and chicken and beans…this was SOOOOOOO good.
And the next morning, I had a simple but FANTASTIC coffee and fruit cup at Kat’s Coffee just a 5-minute walk from my cabana. I’ve thought about this cup every single day since I’ve been back. TONS of fresh local mango, a drizzle of slightly sweetened yogurt and homemade granola with coconut and almonds softening slightly in the mango juices. Heaven in a cup.
24 hours in Hopkins is not enough – but luckily, this was not my first OR last time. Onward to Placencia!
No overnight stay here – I was actually heading back to catch a flight back to San Pedro. (Two flights actually. Placencia to Municipal airport in Belize City. And then Municipal to San Pedro) But I wanted to stop in and see a vacation rental spot this is SO unique and so different. It was actually Vacasa’s FIRST international rental.
Swan Villas in Placencia
This spot, on the Placencia Peninsula, is a show stopper. There is no one straight line in the construction. 5 condos. And a combination of the following – 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Spanish architect Gaudi (you’ve definitely seen his stuff before!) with a little bit of the Hobbits’ village, The Shire. Hard to picture? Here are some photos from my quick visit.
The entrance from the street.
The view of the lagoon and the mountains – the sunsets must be spectacular.
The 2 story condos!
One of the showers, round…of course.
Such A COOL VACATION RENTAL. How fun is it to stay in a place that is SO different from your real home? Instagram magic!
This spot makes me feel so conventional…so square!
What a fun trip – thank you for hosting Vacasa! Amazing staff with 101 suggestions on places to go and places to see – constantly available by phone or quickly online – it made everything super easy and fun. I got emails before each of my different stays with location and directions and information and was greeted at each spot by a local representative and my contact while there.
*Vacasa is an international vacation rental management company based in Portland, Oregon. It provides property management services for over 30,000 vacation rentals in North America, Belize, and Costa Rica. (I got this from Wikipedia and modified slightly – added Mexico because I know they have properties there.)