You Betta Belize It! Check Out Cheery & Charming’s Must See Spots (+ What You Need to Know) if You’re Considering A Visit to Ambergris Caye’s Great Barrier Reef!

This past New Year’s Eve, we decided to celebrate a little ‘less’ traditionally: we planned a trip to Ambergris Caye, Belize!!

Some of you may know this trip was our second time visiting Belize; our first adventure being on our honeymoon! Throughout our first visit, we realized quickly we loved the country, the scenery, the water, and especially the people and culture so much so that we simply couldn’t get enough. We knew we wanted (and needed) to go back and, after this most recent trip, we still haven’t gotten our fill!

If you’re looking for a new spot to add to your travel bucket list, please do yourself the favor in adding this gorgeous destination to your vision board. While it’s relatively affordable and easier to get to than other exotic options, there are a few tips and pieces of advice I’m sharing here to get the smoothest experience out of your travel, and start building your list of MUST sees!!

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  1. Southwest flies here! This makes booking travel super easy and fairly affordable to most. Even better – get yourself a Southwest credit card! I was able to hook us up with free flights using points from my everyday purchases. While I haven’t been able to find a direct flight via any airline just yet, most layovers are a mere hour or so.
  2. Arriving Checklist:
    – You’ll fly into the mainland (BZE airport). From there, you will have needed to arrange travel in advance for getting from the mainland to the island, Mon! Options are by air or by sea.
    OPTION 1: There’s a water ferry that transports guests to the island for about $40-$50/way, but PSA: it does take a little over 2 hours from point A to point B, not including the time it takes to get to the boat port from the airport.
    OPTION 2: Personally, our preference is to save a few extra pennies and splurge for the puddle jumper plane to and from San Pedro. Thankfully, there are only (2) airline options, so it makes your decision easy between Tropic Air & Maya Island Air. While this option is a tad more expensive alternative, est. $170/pp/way, you’re there in only 20 minutes, and you get to see the gorgeous clearwater views on your final stretch.

    – Once you’ve landed on the island, there isn’t much, if any, public transit available. You will want to pre-schedule some variation of pickup of yourself and your luggage with your resort/staying accommodations from the San Pedro airport.

    FUN FACT: There are little to no cars on the island! The most common method of transportation is via gas-powered golf carts, which you’ll want to be sure you reserve in advance for getting around town/around the island. Last visit, we used Sam’s Golf Cart Rentals and couldn’t have had a better experience! They even were super flexible with us in extending our golf cart rental at the last second for a few additional days. 🙂

YOU’VE ARRIVED! …. now what?

While everyone has different vacation agendas, here’s a list of my favorite spots compiled from both visits! While there’s still a ton to see on this little gem of an island, I sure my list barely even scratches the surface in regards to unique finds 😉
I hope to be able to update and/or add a new entry the next time we make it back. The island is full of new business development, so there’s always new shops and concepts emerging as well as restaurants popping up. If you happen to stumble on a favorite or two, please comment at the bottom of this article so I can keep adding to my “MUST-see list” !!

  1. Estel’s Dine By the Sea
    THE breakfast spot in Ambergris Caye! It’s downtown on Front Street/right on the beach front. You’ll want to arrive early, or earlier than starvation mode as this spot is always packed, but the food is 100% worth the wait!
  1. Crocs Sunset Sports Bar
    In town during football season? This is the coolest spot to post up for any sports game watching on the island. If you’re sweet to the staff, they’ll ensure the game you’re there to watch is streamed on the nearest TV to your seat 😉 PLUS – don’t miss the stunning views of the lagoon side of the island at sunset!
  2. Matachica – Mambo Restaurant
    Incredible dinner spot on the Matachica Resort! While it’s a little further out from town – think 20 minutes or so of golf cart riding, it’s worth the hike. You may want to head this direction before the sun sets though, as this restaurant is well past where the more formal road paving ends and there’s limited lighted streets.
    You can’t go wrong with the menu! It’s MUCH larger and filled with more seafood options when you arrive in person versus what’s noted on their site. We enjoyed the authentic Italian bruschetta, tenderloin carpaccio, calamari fritti, and spicy gazpacho from the app section! I don’t see the fresh seafood entrees we went with on here, but everything we had was mouth watering.
  3. Secret Beach – Maruba Beach Klub
    We actually missed going to this spot the first time we made it to Ambergris Caye and man was I bummed once we did made it!! It’s quite a drive (about 4 mi north of the downtown bridge, and then west another 3.5 mi), but a really unique area filled with restaurants, beach chairs, bars, massage and pedicure options – IN THE WATER! (does it get any better than that?!), colorful swings, local shops and more.
    P.S. While it’s called ‘secret beach,’ it’s far from a secret anymore, as it’s likely one of the most touristy spots on the island, but totally worth the visit 😉
    Maruba Beach Klub was my favorite place we saw with great service, yummy drinks, tasty food, and comfy adjustable lounge chairs for posting up in right on the water . Although we really wanted to make it back a second day to explore the other spots!!
  1. Rain Rooftop Restaurant
    Beautiful view! We spent our New Year’s Eve dinner here, before heading down town and enjoyed the vibrant decor, live music and friendly staff. Also a really great location, as part of The Grand Caribe Resort – you don’t have to go far!
  1. PUR Boutique Cabanas & Taco Bar
    Loved this little gem! Really great tacos! PUR Boutique Cabanas is new since we last had been to Ambergris Caye. A cozy & tranquil spot just south of The Grand Caribe resort, this boutique hotel is adorned with 6 queen & king suites – some even with their own private plunge pools!
    While we didn’t stay here (maybe next time!), we enjoyed dinner al fresco adjacent the multicolor LED lit pool. They had both vegan, low-card and gluten free options available!
  1. Carambo Restaurant & Bar
    THIS. PLACE. WAS. THE. BOMB. !!!
    We had no idea what we were getting into at Carambo. We stumbled on this as a local recommendation by one of the bartenders we befriended at Crocs Sunset Bar and it absolutely was NOT one to miss.

    The decor and family heritage made me feel similarly to if I had stepped into an island version of the legacy Tio Pepe Baltimore restaurant. After being greeted by our server, we were prompted escorted outside – yes, outside – to pick out our dinner!

    Lining the front of the restaurant was an open, market-like spread of all the fresh caught seafood you could imagine: lobster tail, shrimp, red snapper, yellow snapper, scallops… enough to make your stomach full just by looking at the spread!! How to order you ask? By simply walking with your server down the line to hand pick exactly what you’d like prepared on your plate to perfection!
    Seriously one of the coolest spots we’ve found to date on the island!!
  2. Palapa Bar
    Into night life? Palapa bar is a fun, happening spot in the center of downtown in you’re looking for a little post-sunset fun! While most places tend to wind down earlier on the island (think 9-10PM), this is a great option for keeping the fun going. There’s typically a live DJ every night and a lively crowd. If you visit during the day, they have inner tubes tied by the dock that you can float on in the crystal clear water while you enjoy your snacks and bevvies 🙂
    PPSSSTT… there’s also a buy 1, get one FREE drink coupon on their website!

I think that wraps it up!

Got questions? Reach out to me! I have even more photos over on my instagram and ove connecting with my readers!

Check me out at @brittanyleighxo

Cheers & talk soon!
xoxo
Brittany

Cheery & Charming’s Traveler’s Guide: 10 MUST See Places When Visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico

Well, well, well . . . Puerto Rico – like other islands we’ve had the blessing to visit, was absolutely beautiful. The sunsets were stunning, the food was amazing and the culture of Old San Juan was priceless! I wish we had the time to visit all the reco’s we received before visiting, but with a jam-packed, short four days, I’m posting my personal, favorite finds here:  

1. Serafini Beach Hotel
This spot was absolutely STUNNING. Talk about feeling like you’re on the edge of the ocean – a quaintly designed infinity pool, waves crashing and live jams. I was super bummed to have stumbled here on our last day, as we weren’t able to take full advantage of the amenities, but the staff was warm, welcoming and nice enough to hold onto our luggage while we explored during our last day – even with not having stayed there!

2. Cochina Abierta 
Umm… YUM. That’s all I have to say. Although, to be transparent that it was definitely more on the pricey side of the meal options we had while in San Juan, it was worth it for sure. Wanting to try everything on the menu, the four of us went family style, which also made it feel like we got a lot more ‘bang for our buck.’ They have a seasonal, farm-to-table menu, but in the event you see any repeats, here we the table favs!

– Croquettes filled with porcini mushrooms, truffle oil & tomato chutney
– Octopous causa over a bed of purple potatoes, black olive “crema,” & hibiscus pickled quail egg
– Fresh local catch ceviche seasoned with chiles, cucumber & tropical fruits
– Goat cheese and ortica leaf ravioli over charred tomatoes Passata, parmesean cheese & roasted pine nuts
– And accompaniments Gratin of creamy yucca and cauliflower + Ember roasted veggies


… is your mouth watering yet?!

3. Tacos & Tequila by Patron – inside the Condado Vanderbuilt Hotel
Yet ANOTHER breathtaking spot. This gem, located inside the Condado Vanderbuilt Hotel is another space we stumbled on during our last day that I wish we had more time to enjoy. The views were incredible and they had multiple areas to lounge in the ocean-side, shallow infinity pools & hot tubs.
But, one thing we WERE able to enjoy were the giant margaritas and delicious tacos! I had (2) crispy fish tacos and (1) pork belly taco – some had (3) of all different kinds! It was fun that you can order all three the same, or mix and match what’s on the menu.

4. Alambique Beach Lounge – NEXT DOOR: “For Lifeguards Only”
The day we visited Isla Verde Beach, we were in search of… you guessed it… even MORE tacos! While the Alambique Beach Lounge was hopping, we decided to try the smaller, more intimate spot to the side of it called “For Lifeguards ONLY,” and SO happy we did! In recapping our trip, this place, hands-down, had the BEST fish tacos we had the entire time we were there. The staff made you feel like family as they graciously served you tacos OVERFLOWING with goods and crisped to perfection. Deliciouso!!

5. Piu Bello Gelato & Restaurant
Being a firm believer that you can’t let any vacation go without the local ice cream and/or gelato, Piu Bello was great! We ended up having a great chat with the owner, who coincidentally used to live in Baltimore! What a small world!! Oh, and the gelato was delightful. I mean, who doesn’t like a sprinkle cone?!

6. La Placita de Santurce
Definitely a must see! This is the “party-scene” of San Juan – a full “block-like” plaza square of everything you could imagine having in one spot:
music, dancing, clubs, some food, nightlife, fine dining and casual bars and restaurants alike. While we were there on a Wednesday, it wasn’t quite as “hopping” (which was honestly sort of nice), but it was cool to pop around a number of spots without having to jump back into an uber or cab.

7. Barrachina 
Eeeee! One of my favorites!! Barrachina is most well-known for a traditional Spanish bartender Don Ramon Portas Mingot, who in 1963, created what became one of the world’s most famous drinks: the Piña Colada.  With the reputation of 50 years in the business, they certainly did not disappoint. Look at that beaut!

8. Isla Verde Beach 
While we had a beautiful view and beach where we stayed, at Condado Del Mar, I think everyone agrees that you shouldn’t spend an entire vacation in one spot. SO, this is my top beach pick for the places we were able to make it to during our time in San Juan. There are a number of beach bars, convenient to the beach so you can grab a quick bite to eat, without losing too much beach time. Plus, it’s always fun to immerse yourself in more of the local culture – everyone we encountered here was friendly and welcoming. Then again.. who wouldn’t be on a nice day at the beach? 🙂

9. Fortaleza Street – Old San Juan
A bustling street in Old San Juan full of shops and boutiques! I really can’t place enough emphasis on the true, authentic sense of San Juan’s culture you receive by visiting here. From handmade treasures to uniquely manufactured Puerto Rican finds, there’s an array sights for everyone to see – including my favorite – Fortaleza street, which is lined with parasoles! And, depending on when you visit, they’re always different colors, so no visit is ever the same.

10. Di Zucchero
And, finally… DiZucchero! This was our first night’s dinner adventure and WHAT an adventure it was – CHECK. OUT. THAT. FISH. Located across from the San Juan Condado Mariott, this final “must see” could very well be listed first. The food was incredible, the drinks amazing (they’re know for their fresh squeezed/crushed daiquiris) and our server was the best! It was a great kick off to our trip, and an awesome way to close out this post 🙂

And that’s a WRAP! I hope you enjoyed scrolling through my reco’s and feel compelled to share some of yours!

Until next time…

xoxo
Brittany

All That Jazz Bachelorette-ing in Chicago

Finally catching up after this past whirlwind of bachelorette activities for one of my lovely besties. And – when I say whirlwind… I mean WHIRLWIND. They weren’t kidding when they nicknamed Chicago “the windy city.” Let’s be honest – I immediately gave up hope of having anywhere near picture perfect hair for the weekend and quickly welcomed my female blowout – literally.

// these blenders alumni queen shades are only $25 !!! //

Kicking off the festivities with a bright and shiny 8AM flight, we hit the town upon arrival. First stop – FOOD. Courtesy of our concierge, we were directed to a quaint little spot – Mercadito! Locals raved about their award winning tacos, signature guacamole, killer margaritas and cozy, ethnic atmosphere. Not to mention their expansive mezcal list!! The food was to DIE for and reasonably priced for the mega-Mexican portions you receive!

Psst – my entire outfit is from Amazon! Scroll down for deets & links!

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Afterwards, like any typical tourists, we raced to Millennium Park to see Cloud Gate, or as most may more popularly know it – The Bean. This 110-ton egg-shaped sculpture is forged of a continuous smooth surface of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect Chicago’s famous skyline and the clouds above. After endless selfies and groups shots, we ventured home to clean up for dinner at 312 Chicago.

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// white scoopneck crop top // pin stripe highwaisted tie shorts // free people faded denim jacket //

312 Chicago was… incredible! Priding itself on its house made pastas and fresh seafood, they also had an extensive wine list with highlighted Rose options (my favorite!) and extraordinarily welcoming staff and atmosphere. I opted for their Ippoglosso, or Roasted Halibut, that came beautifully decorated with cauliflower puree, watercress, red onion, fava beans, roasted cauliflower, pancetta, and olive oil. YUM!! The portions were perfect and left each of us ladies with pleasantly filled tummies.

Fast forward  – I can’t even tell you the last time I went clubbing, but we had A BALL at ROOF atop The Wit hotel, where we stayed. Pop the bubbly, cause this beautiful lady is getting married in t-minus 36 days !!! There was dancing, cheersing, dancing and even more cheersing the night away. The staff made it a truly incredible and amazing night for all of us and our bride-to be!

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// navy blue embroidered dress //

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P.S. The theme of the night was navy dresses (as that’s our bride-to-be’s favorite color). I literally panicked because I own nothing navy!! BUT – found this adorbs little satiny number on Amazon – even came with Prime delivery!

Saturday morning! Rise and… shine?! I dressed in my Saturday pool party best, only to look out the window and see… rain. Rain, rain and more rain. But, that didn’t stop our positive outlook and high expectations for fun. This was a bachelorette party, after all! We ventured off to Shore Club Chicago for cabana brunch! While the rain hindered the cabana festivities slightly, this place made us feel like true celebs! Not to mention, there’s definitellyyyy something in the shrimp in Chicago – they. were. GIANORMOUS!!

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P.S. my best kept secret of awesome monogrammed items! I received this lovely little number in my monthly Monobox subscription with i love jewelry! It’s only $21.95/month and you get one personalized, monogrammed item + TWO fabulous surprise items! Check it out here!

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Saturday day was the first time we actually got to go out and explore – with NO jackets and NO umbrellas! It was a beautiful day exploring the Chicago Riverwalk, visiting City Winery, having dinner at The Hampton Social, and subsequent bar hopping all around The Chicago Loop to end the trip.

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Alright y’all… this post has been long enough (serious props to you if you made it this far !!) … thanks for checking it out 😉
Keep on keepin it real, Chicago. I know us girls had a blast !!!

Talk soon!
xoxo
Brittany

SHOP THE POST:
// white scoopneck crop top // pin stripe highwaisted tie shorts // free people faded denim jacket // navy blue embroidered dress //