Secret Beach and My Biggest Conflict About Blogging

by tacogirl
North Ambergris Caye

My biggest conflict about blogging is absolutely a double-edged sword. I fell in love with the old world charm of Ambergris Caye, Belize and the very thing I ended up doing for a living has been contributing factor in changing the face of the island by increasing tourism and expats. Increase = growth and change.

While I love my job, and I do try to do a lot of good for my chosen country. The above does affect me and sometimes my desire to write about certain stuff.

The not so new changes at Hungry Grouper Restaurant are a good example. One day my friend messaged me and asked “how come I did not write about the additions” He had seen a recent write up detailing the HGTV upgrades. Because he knew I was a big fan of Chef Argyle’s cooking/restaurant for a very long time, he thought I would have jumped all over it.

My answer was simple. I had verbally wished his business success and appreciated he wanted to add some style. However, I was not ready to promote that. Why? I was sad that the simple 6 or so item hanging menu board sign and indoor wall chalkboard were both replaced by multi-page table menus.

Instead, I chose to promote him on my 7 secret menu items article. By highlighting one of my favorite meals there that is not on the menu and very rarely made it on the menu board. Had I not lived so close chances are I never would have caught it.

Losers Bar is another one I have trouble adjusting too. I wish them no ill will but it saddens me that a restaurant and bar franchise with a less than positive name has made it to the Boca Del Rio area. I also heard from a good friend (on a travel budget) that their beers are a bit pricier than others on the strip.

Secret Beach Belize

Another big one I have a hard time with and am still mourning the transformation of is Secret Beach which is northwest on the island. I mean no disrespect to any of the businesses there. I hope they succeed and I always have favorable answers to people asking me about the place.

However, I am speaking my truth and the development of Secret Beach still saddens me. In my case it is definitely a deep lost love. It is taking longer to get over this than it is my last breakup 😀

For me, it started well before the roads were built. We used to go there on my friend’s boat. Once he lined up a tour with someone selling plots not far south of the area back when they were going for the crazy low price of $8000. Our other friend Paul and I got invited to go for the ride so of course we both jumped at the chance.

I remember that day and pulling up to the beach and loving landing on “Gilligan’s Island” as we had done many times before in that area. I knew that the land sale meant changes were coming. I had no idea at the time just how much.

The development in question never really got built up. As you can see by the above picture it was a jungle hike looking at land plots. Years later enter roads, and with them came the more public start of Secret Beach. A stone’s throw north of the area above. It became more accessible to the masses and slowly developed. Today Secret Beach is a globally known, thriving and popular beach area.

I know you can’t stop progress but sometimes it stings badly, and I mean no disrespect to anyone in saying that. We all have to make a living. I wish all the business well that are up there. I am glad people have a sargasso free place to enjoy the water and a fun tropical road trip. I even got Secret Beach listed in USA today: World’s best picnic spots – Travel bloggers’ picks, when it was just getting started with businesses. There’s that double-edged sword again.

Sometimes when something so special is lost it takes time to grieve.

This first picture below is one of the reasons I am still morning. This island was once inhabited by ancient Maya Civilizations. When too many of the less developed areas get developed we will no longer be able to find important historical artifacts. The circled ax head is one I found on one of our pre-Secret Beach adventures. It was excavation free and literally laying there waiting for me. I enjoyed the thrill of what I had found for a minute, then donated it to Marco Gonzalez Maya Site. The picture below came courtesy of site guide Jan Brown. She put it in their fundraising calendar one year.

I will leave you with a few more Secret Beach pictures from the good old days – before it got its name and the secret got on Google maps 😀

Secret Beach Belize
Secret Beach Belize

If this next picture appeals to you, The Cave Beyond Secret Beach will too. That was a fun day discovering it with my friends and fish watching.

Secret Beach Belize
Secret Beach Belize

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27 comments

Michael Bliss April 20, 2019 - 10:42 am

We will be over on the west side of Belize in Benque in Jan, but I want to make a little time to fly over to Ambergris Caye for a few days. We were they last Nov, and we took a golf cart ride out to Secret Beach, made sure our lots were marked, and just to have a look-see around. I noticed an off grid home model that you can see from the side of the road going out to SB. Will Mitchell is a San Pedro realtor working on that project. Do you know any other planned projects or developments in that area? With the growing popularity of Secret Beach, I would venture to guess that there would be more things planned.

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tacogirl April 21, 2019 - 5:18 pm

Nice, a good idea to check it out while here. Not heard of anymore planned projects recently, there are more individuals building up there now. I bet a small Tienda (store) or two in the area is not long to follow. Currently, Beach Basket Belize, Captain Morgans, and Mata Grande Grocery are still the closest shopping options as far as I know.

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Michael Bliss April 20, 2019 - 5:31 am

My partner and I have two side by side lots that he purchased 10 years ago at the Grand Belizean Estates lots. Our plans are to build something there in 8-10 yrs. From Secret Beach you can see Blackdore Caye, which is also supposed to be developed for an eco resort, but I haven’t heard when it’s supposed to be completed.

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tacogirl April 20, 2019 - 7:50 am

Nice Micheal, hopefully, you and your partner will get to plan a visit soon to see your lots. Not heard anything on Blackdore Caye, development lately.

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Dale Hutchinson March 25, 2019 - 3:32 pm

I am so sad to hear about all the development going on. I will be visiting Placencia in September/ October for a month. Then I plan on moving to Placencia, in January 2020, I just pray that I don’t find out that it has changed due to development. I have bee planning this since 2014, so I would love to find small village near Placencia and an Episcopal Church.

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tacogirl April 20, 2019 - 7:53 am

Congrats on planning a month in Placencia Dale. I have friends who own a condo here on Ambergris Caye and in Placencia. They both feel similar to you and feel like Placencia is a good fit and not going quite as crazy development wise right now.

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Wayne M. March 25, 2019 - 2:36 pm

My wife and I visited in March of 2017 and fell in love with Ambergris Caye and enjoyed Secret Beach immensely. On our return trip this February, (we stayed on Caye Caulker this time), we looked forward to a water taxi ride to San Pedro and quick jaunt back to Secret Beach. It felt as though the population and number of vehicles had doubled in that short time, and Secret Beach was hardly recognizable. We still love Belize and would love to spent some retirement time there.

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EMILY SMITH March 25, 2019 - 1:45 pm

Wonderful blog post, Laurie. One of your very best because of its honesty.

Although we discovered Ambergris Caye & San Pedro later than you, even in just the couple of years between our discovery (2010) and leaving the island for good (2013), we saw far too many changes for our liking. When we found the “Secret Beach”, it was simply the backside of Grand Belizean Estates, a wonderful and near-deserted spot to ride our cruiser bikes. There was a friendly couple who built an off-grid blue house on the lagoon side, the first house along what would later become the Secret Beach, and we met them and their five dogs on one of our rides. Hard to imagine what it looks like there now, though I have seen photos. Seeing it in person would be a shock, I am sure. I understand that development and progress are inevitable, but still, it pains me to see so much of what was unique about Ambergris Caye now gone, changed, or in the process of doing so.

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tacogirl April 20, 2019 - 8:01 am

Thanks for the compliment. I agree Emily, way too many changes for such a small place and not all good ones either loosing out uniqueness is hard. I think seeing it in person would be a shock too. It has likely been around 2016 last time I was there, just before the permanent businesses hit. A friend was up there on a date and his report was that it was really trashy. That made me not want to go back. I am glad though that the businesses that moved in up there are keeping it clean now from what I hear and see in the odd picture.

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Greg747 March 25, 2019 - 10:26 am

Wow does your blog resonate! And we’ve no particular interest in BZ other than a handful of visits to Placencia a few short years ago. We’ve gone back three times in less than 5 years and we have no “right” to say a darn thing…But then why on earth were we so ‘saddened’ to learn about all the development, the paved road, the new streets laid out, the skyrocketing price of real estate?…
I guess this is the where the phrase ‘victim of success’ hails from?
We had hoped to retire in a local village…now, meh. Maybe. Will still visit and support the good people of BZ though, for sure!

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tacogirl March 25, 2019 - 10:50 am

Thanks, Greg. I think worldwide it is a challenge to keep the charm in unique places as they get “discovered.” Hopefully, we can still find the balance before it is too late.

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Greg747 March 25, 2019 - 11:17 am

Thanks, and sorry if I sounded kinda mean…wish nothing but the best for the people of BZ. Fell in love with the easy-going Creole and local folks .. can only want the best life possible for all!

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Jennie March 25, 2019 - 9:50 am

So sad and so happy for Ambergris and Belize at the same time…we came for the first visit in 2012 for our honeymoon and absolutely fell in love. San Pedro is so wonderful and we have made so many friends. I want all our friends and everyone in Belize to be full, rich, happy, successful, and healthy, but it is selfishly so hard to see all the things that made San Pedro special start to be subsumed by the Cancun-ization of the island. I am hoping we can all find a way to help Belizeans be successful while keeping all the things that make Belize wonderful. Losing the turtle grass and the mangroves will be the final blow in Becoming Cancun and I sincerely hope it does not happen.

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tacogirl March 25, 2019 - 11:04 am

I feel the same, Jennie. Hopefully, mangroves and turtle grass will not disappear. Another concern is water quality, that is something that is getting damaged by improper growth.

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Bruce Pfeiffer March 18, 2019 - 3:59 pm

I’m guessing that it may still be in the proposal stage, but it makes me wonder if it is a done deal already because I do know that the 4 lots next to our lot have accepted the offers that were presented to them. We were also presented an offer but were not sure if it’s just a way for someone to pick up properties and then resell at a increased price, or if it is real, hate to be pressured. Appreciate anything you may hear.

Thanks again
Bruce Pfeiffer

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tacogirl March 18, 2019 - 4:13 pm

Makes sense. Agreed feeling pressured on your land not good.

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Bruce Pfeiffer March 18, 2019 - 2:57 pm

Hi Lori, we’ve heard that Cayo Rosario has been approved and I also heard that they will be putting in a water treatment plant, generator, housing for workers fuel station and a large dock in Sea View park which is just up the beach from the secret beach bar and grill.
Have you heard anything about this? It would be nice to know for sure as we own one of the lots next to the other lots that have already been bought up. Anything you hear please let us know

Regards,
Bruce Pfeiffer

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tacogirl March 18, 2019 - 3:04 pm

Where did you hear that Bruce? As far as I know it is still in court and still unsettled. Will keep you posted if I read anything new about approval. (Hopefully not.)

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Bill Toonen March 13, 2019 - 12:22 pm

Thanks for the blunt truth even though somewhat sad but a fact of life. I got here in 1980 so remember the old days and the “. Magical 90s “ sometimes with a tear in my eye .
Bill Toonen

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Linda Merrill March 13, 2019 - 10:08 am

I too remember secret Beach way before development. And I too now have regrets with my years and years of ranting and raving about this island.
Too many pristine water sanctuaries have been destroyed to make way for development.
Now I hear that life-saving mangroves might be destroyed. Unbelievable that safety could be replaced by greed. ?

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Meredith Barnes March 13, 2019 - 9:57 am

I agree. AC is slowly losing/changing what we have come to love about Belize. It’s our special place. We got married there. We want it to stay that way! We will continue to come but we know we will continually see progress toward being a Popular Tourist Caribbean location”. Money always changes things, doesn’t it?

And yes, thanks for keeping us in the know I always look forward to reading your posts.

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Cindy March 13, 2019 - 9:13 am

My husband and I first came to Ambergris Caye in 1990 when British troops were still stationed in Belize. The streets were made of sand. We stayed at Lilly’s where he served family style meals to his hotel guests. At mealtime, guests would share their plans for the day of who would be taking people out in their boat for a day of snorkeling at the reef. I asked a fellow traveler what I should do with my valuables while snorkeling, he replied, “Leave it in the boat, no one is going to steal anything.” Our first snorkeling trip to the reef was magical. Ignacio and his son, Tulu, took us out. Ignacio was a Grey-haired man with light skin and blue eyes…seemed filled with joy. His son, Tulu, had the darkest skin and magnificent blue eyes with a smile that seemed with joy and love. How they loved to share their home treasures with us.

While Ambergris Caye has undergone numerous changes and growth, I like to focus on what has been done right – saying no to offshore drilling, establishing Hol Chan, and more recently Mexico Rocks to name a few.I

Having grown up in Southern California, I understand the pains of “progress” and “growth”. Let’s hope Belize can learn from the mistakes of other places.

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Janice Carlson March 13, 2019 - 7:50 am

I too remember the “good old days” of no development on the back of the island. We took our kids to those beaches when they were learning to swim at 1 and 3 years old (they are now 24 and 26). We named one of those beaches after our dog because she loved to frolic in the water. Yes, development will happen but at what cost?

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tacogirl March 13, 2019 - 10:37 am

That is a great memory, Janice. So true, generally there is a price for development.

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Paul Chaney March 13, 2019 - 7:39 am

As much as I love Belize, my concern (and I’m casting no stones at you; I appreciate your love of Ambergris Caye and the whole of Belize) is that it will lose its “old world” charm in the face of the growing tourism trend and become just another Caribbean resort destination. To me, it’s inevitable, particularly on Ambergris — Secret Beach being one example — but also in places like Placencia, which is getting a lot of attention.

Thanks for what you do so well.

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tacogirl March 13, 2019 - 7:50 am

I agree with you Paul (and did not feel like your comment was throwing stones at me.) I know growth is inevitable, I just wish more people would do it with more respect and consideration to where we are and what makes Ambergris Caye and Belize special. Thanks for the compliment.

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Terri March 13, 2019 - 10:00 am

Laurie, I too remember the simple things like the dirt streets and the hand ferry. It was a true adventure “back in the day” to get beyond Sweet Basils. The biggest thing we miss is the smell of chicken stewing from the many local food vendors lined up at Central Park every evening. When you WALKED into town that smell was intoxicating! We fell in love with Ambergris Caye and all it simplicity. Nightly entertainment was Wii bowling at Pedro’s and the town except for the Blue Iguana closed down by 9:00. It has definitely lost its Old World Charm and every year when we return we are saddened by all the growth and Hotel chains that are building and blocking the view of the Ocean. This year we are bringing family with us that have never been and we are sad that they will not get to experience the old Ambergris Caye. It is true the times they are a changing and unfortunately it has not all been for the good. Oh, and the coconut pork chops on the secret menu at Hungry Grouper are now one of my favorite things to order! We have followed you since the very beginning of your blog and love your insight and perspective on Ambergris Caye.

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