Can you close your eyes and try to imagine all that area from Paradise Hotel all the way to the Boca del Rio and all the area at the back known today as San Juan? In short, there was nothing but trees and mangroves and swamps along that entire area. There were no dwellings, not hotels, no stores, no residences, no high school, no businesses, no nothing in that area 25 years ago.
So what was in that area? Only bush? You got it right, only bush. Once you stepped beyond the compound and plant of Belize Electricity Limited, you stepped into bush. Along the beach, once you stepped beyond the Paradise Hotel, you were met by a line of coconut trees and more bush. Paradise Villas and Blue Tang Inn were the site of coconuts and bush. The high school was not only high bush but was also the site of an ugly ditch that had in some areas as much as fifteen inches of water and tree trunks as thick as fifteen inches in diameter. The beach was extremely dirty with driftwood, and debris of all types that drifted and accumulated. The beach side was slippery and full of seaweed and there were no good swimming areas. Some parts of the beach were impassable due to large patches of mangrove growing right in line with the sea and there was a lot of tar on the beach as well.
Of course there was no street and if you wanted to cross from the beach to the lagoon or river, you had to cross through dense bush and mangroves. All of the area nearing the river or canal, was mangrove swamp covered by as much as ten inches of water.
Traffic in that area was by dories and small boats. You could tie your dory to any spot along the river or canal and you could drop your fishing line and be sure of a good catch of snapper, grunts, shads, bony fish or even small barracudas. Of particular interest was the lagoon area behind the high school, known as Tzak Bajo. That spot had some excellent fishing spots. At Tzak Bajo you could tow for barracuda or tarpon. There were spots where snapper was abundant. There was even a blue hole where large fish could be caught by hand line or where the intrepid could dive and spear, like grouper or Jewish. Yes, there were large Jewish in that lagoon at Tzak Bajo.
Coming closer to town, between Tzak Bajo and Caribeña Fishing Cooperative, there was a small waterway known as a creek. In there, there must have been about three dozens of tarpon of all sizes.
Catching these tarpons was permitted, but the boys let them alone. What about the street behind the high school? That entire street, Mangrove Street, leading all they to the ferry and river was total mangrove.
In short, all of San Juan and all of Boca del Rio area was dense bush and mangrove. When the high school commenced building in 1981, there was not even a street that led to that site. And when the high school was inaugurated in 1986, there was not a single house around it. That gives you a good picture of how that entire area looked like twenty five years ago.