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Ambergris Caye is one of the most popular tourism destinations in Belize. And for good reason, with the Belize Barrier Reef a short boat ride away, travelers love the island for its proximity to some of the world’s best diving and fishing.
The 26-mile-long island is not heavily developed and has only one town, San Pedro. Long gone are the sandy streets that tied Ambergris Caye to its humble beginnings as a quaint fishing village. However, the island has retained much of its charm and is an ideal destination for adrenaline junkies and/or those looking for some well-deserved R&R.
- 1 Ambergris Caye’s Main Attractions
- 1.1 Ambergris Caye’s Best Food & Drink Options
- 1.2 Getting Around Ambergris Caye
- 1.3 Places to Stay on Ambergris Caye
- 1.4 Don’t Miss Out On Ambergris Caye’s …
- 1.5 Belizean Things to Know
Ambergris Caye’s Main Attractions
The Belize Barrier Reef is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the second longest barrier reef in the world, the largest in North America. The main activities and attractions on Ambergris Caye are typically water-based, and include:
Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley
If you aren’t a scuba diver, book a snorkel trip to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. Here you’ll swim among the coral with lots of marine life, and then make a second stop at Shark Ray Alley where you can get up close and personal with nurse sharks and sting rays.
Undoubtedly, the world-famous Blue Hole is a primary reason travelers come to Ambergris Caye. Certified divers excitedly get up before dawn for the 3+ hour journey, which includes some other interesting stops. Want to see it from above? Both Tropic Air and Maya Island Air operate charter flights out to the Blue Hole for a bird’s eye view of the iconic sinkhole.
Rent a jet ski, learn how to flyboard, or try your hand at kite surfing or parasailing. There are ample options for those who want to partake in some adventurous watersports while staying on the island.
Whether it’s reef, deep sea, or fly fishing you’re interested in, Ambergris Caye is a popular departure point for all three.
Marco Gonzalez Maya Site
Day trips to the mainland for various tours are very doable, but there is also a small Maya site, Marco Gonzalez, on Ambergris Caye. It’s several miles south, so it’s best to rent a golf cart and bring long pants and lots of bug spray.
Sunset Sails and Booze Cruises
Beach Bar Hopping
As with many tropical island destinations, a common pastime is to beat the heat at some of the island’s best beach bars. In San Pedro, you can walk along the beach to try some of the popular spots like Palapa Bar, where you can cool off in the tubes. Or, hop on golf cart and head north of the bridge to check out some of the newest places on the island like Paco’s Tiki Bar or the swim up bar at Youcan Toucan.
Speaking of beach bars and heading north, “Secret Beach” is a popular destination for travelers; however, it’s anything but a secret anymore. What used to be a confusing unmarked golf cart ride that only locals would make on a Sunday afternoon is now a packed hang-out spot on the back side of the island, complete with several beach bars serving both drinks and food.
Ambergris Caye’s Best Food & Drink Options
There are a number of great dining options in San Pedro. You can find everything from local “fast food” spots that sell inexpensive eats to higher-end restaurants that are ideal for a romantic night out. Some of the local foods to try on the island include the following:
Fry Jacks/Johnny Cakes
Get an order of fry jacks, which are somewhat akin to a beignet, on the side of your breakfast, or pick up a Johnny Cake, which is like a breakfast sandwich, at a local deli
A local morning specialty, but go early as they sell out quickly, especially at Boogie’s Belly.
Another breakfast specialty that is worth trying; most popular on the mainland in Orangewalk, but San Pedro has a number of delicious options from food stalls all over town.
Rice n Beans
Considered the national dish of Belize and most often, served with stewed chicken, meat, or pork
Conch and Lobster
There are strict times of the year when you can consume both lobster and conch; be sure to try this if one or both are in season during your trip
Don’t skip trying ceviche, which is typically made with shrimp, octopus, conch, lobster, or a mixture of these, and lime juice, onion, tomatoes, and cilantro
Once Saturday hits, you’ll find delicious smelling BBQ stands popping up all over town
The Garifuna culture is recognized by UNESCO for its historical importance, and you can try traditional Garifuna eats at the Black and White Cultural Entertainment Center.
Want to learn more about Belize’s cuisine and cultural roots? Consider booking a food tour through Belize Food Tours. Felipe is a great guide and very knowledgeable. He’s born and raised on the island so expect lots of interesting tales and historical information during the tour.
Getting Around Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye has only one town, San Pedro, which is easily explored on foot, bicycle, and/or golf cart. There are taxis around town and at the local airport as well. Golf carts can be rented by the hour, the day, or week.
Places to Stay on Ambergris Caye
Accommodation on the island ranges from several hostels, including a beachfront one, to high-end boutique resorts miles outside of town. Private villas dot the beach as you venture further out of town for those who prefer a residence rather than a hotel.
For a completely different experience, book a luxury catamaran charter through Belize Sailing Vacations out of Belize City and spend a few days sailing around the northern islands, like Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. You’ll anchor right off shore for one or more nights, while enjoying the best San Pedro has to offer.
When searching for accommodation, decide what factors are important to you. Do you want to be close to shopping and restaurants? If so, don’t pick a resort five miles north, as five miles here is a long journey on a partially paved road into town, and requires crossing the bridge which is a BZ $5 toll each way (certain hours).
Don’t Miss Out On Ambergris Caye’s …
After the sun goes down on the island, look for the bars and restaurants that feature live music. Much to the chagrin of some neighbors, karaoke is also a common activity. There are different weekly events that take place, including the popular Chicken Drop at Wahoo’s on Thursdays and Hermit Crab Races at Crazy Canucks on Tuesdays. The Truck Stop up north has a series of different events including weekly trivia and movie nights.
Belizean Things to Know
Some helpful things to keep in mind when traveling to Ambergris Caye:
Belize is an English speaking country
US dollars are widely accepted with an exchange rate of 2 BZ to 1 USD
You need a valid drivers license to rent a golf cart
There are no fast food restaurant chains in the country
Belize is affected by the Atlantic Hurricane Season so expect more rain during the months of June through October
Belize only has one international airport (BZE)
If you’re looking for the ideal Caribbean destination that offers a blend of island relaxation and adventure, Ambergris Caye may be the perfect spot for you.
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Erin De Santiago
Originally from California, Erin is a travel, food, and wine writer who splits her time between Ambergris Caye, Belize, and the Netherlands. She’s traveled to over 60 countries on 6 continents and lived in Taiwan prior to moving to the Netherlands.When she’s not traveling in search of the best food and drink around the globe, she can be found at a Disney Park worldwide. She writes for a variety of clients and blogs about food travel at Our Tasty Travels and all things Disney at Disney Globetrotter. Look for her new site, Caye to Belize, to launch in late 2017. You can connect with Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest here.