Arriving in Belize City we found Charlie with no problems at all, especially because he was holding a sign that said "Happy Birthday Jess!" on it!!! It was so awesome for him to be so thoughtful and it really brightened Jess' day. On the way to the cave system Charlie spoke to us about much of the Mayan culture and how his life was growing up in this amazing country. He also told us a lot about what we would see inside the caves, the many different formations inside, and he opened our imaginative minds up so we could recognize the formations when we saw them.
Charlie Chan from charliescavetubing.com was extremely attentive in helping us get all our equipment we would need for the tubing adventure and his personality really makes you feel welcome, like you belong there, instead of just visiting for a few hours. On the hike through the jungle Charlie showed us many different types of plants and wildlife including a huge termite nest and the beautiful Sensitive Mimosa. Charlie took us up higher than most of the cave excursions go, to a second cave system where we got to do a cliff jump into a sacred Mayan pool. If you don't want to do the cliff jump its ok, there is another way down, but do the jump! It isn't that high or scary, just tons of fun. Charlie will take you through the caves safely and give you his rich mixture of knowledge and excitement. I HIGHLY recommend Charlie Chan at charliescavetubing.com.
After the tubing adventure through the Mayan caves and jungle you can indulge in one of the best meals I had the whole cruise, traditional rice and beans and chicken, before hopping on the bus to head home. Charlie really made our entire trip and we will never forget him. Next time we are in Belize we are definitely going to book with Charlie Chan for some cave tubing adventures. BELIZE IT!
On the way to the ruins you will stop at a gift store with many handmade crafts. In my opinion, this place was REALLY overpriced and unless you specifically fall in love with something, hold off and you might see it somewhere else for cheaper. I felt like this particular shop as well as most at the ruins were targeting unknowing tourists.
The Ruins of Tulum were absolutely beautiful. My girlfriend had been to some different ruins, supposedly the biggest in the Mayan world, but this being my first time, I was in awe. The real shocker came when viewing the beach right next to the ruins. We had time for a dip in the ocean and hopefully you will to because its very hot at the ruins. The beach here is so inviting...like something from National Geographic.
Try the restaurant at the ruins where you can get great tacos and burritos, etc. Definitely not your local Taco Bell, this food was delicious!
Booking through the cruise is a great idea when doing a long excursion like the Ruins of Tulum. You are sure to get back to the boat with no problems if you do this.
Also, establish a price for the taxi ride to wherever you are going right off the bat. Average flat rates for any destination on the island can be found with a quick search on the net. If you don't establish a price or have an idea how far away your destination is, expect a grand tour of the island at your expense.
Be sure to hit up Margaritaville if you have time. Always a party. Also, at the beach we went to, part of Seven Mile Beach, there is a little restaurant called Calico Jack's. They had the BEST Caribbean Jerk Chicken I've ever tasted...but it cost nearly $20! Grand Cayman is expensive...so expect that kind of thing. Also, be VERY aware of the exchange rate, and this goes for all ports. While you won't have trouble purchasing items with the USD in the Caymans, if you are wanting some souvenir currency be sure you are getting what you're supposed to if you aren't exchanging on the boat. This goes for ALL ports.
When you get off the boat in Roatan don't start shopping right away. You might get swarmed by peddlers but wait on it a bit, there are plenty of shops on the outskirts of the port than you can bargain with for a good price and it is also probably a bit safer. Don't be afraid though, the Honduran police are there to keep things under control.
If you plan on doing a Discover Scuba program, I recommend you go to your local dive shop first and ask them if they can let you get acclamated to breathing underwater before you try diving on the open water with the Discover Scuba program. My girlfriend was a bit overwhelmed and despite numerous attempts she couldn't follow through and decided diving wasn't for her, returning to the boat. Being certified, I enjoyed the dive thoroughly, despite not having the love of my life with me. I plan on helping her get comfortable in the pool and maybe trying it again one day. The folks at Discover Scuba were very understanding and gave us back more than half of my girlfriend's share of the dive expenses.
The reef itself, called "Sponges", was gorgeous and I've never seen so many different kinds of fish and sealife. If you can get comfortable as a first time diver, let me tell you that the reef is REALLY safe and you have nothing to worry about. It is ok if you have trouble and don't want to dive though, recognizing that you aren't ready is one of the most important aspects of diving. Once you get down to the reef though, I assure you, it will be something you won't soon forget.