Just a 15-minute flight on Tropic Air from Belize City, Ambergris Caye is the largest of the offshore cayes and the most popular destination in Belize.
The charming town of San Pedro is the bustling center of the community. Originally a Maya trading post, San Pedro boasts a variety of restaurants, bars and shops with a vibrant mix of cultural influences. The main mode of transportation on the island is golf carts and bicycles. Many resorts outside of town are accessible by private boat or water taxi. The Belize Barrier Reef, the most extensive in the Western Hemisphere, lies just 1/2 mile offshore and provides infinite recreational opportunities.
Floating atop the warm, turquoise waters with a mask and snorkel is a must for visitors. Knowledgeable local guides will introduce even first-time snorkelers to the underwater wonderland of colorful corals and fish that thrive on the Barrier Reef. As the name suggests, Shark Ray Alley is the place to swim with docile nurse sharks and gentle rays in calm, shallow water.
Ambergris Caye’s popularity is partly due to its proximity to some of the best dive spots in the Caribbean. Choose a ½ day trip to Hol Chan Marine Reserve or an all day excursion to the one of the outer cayes or famed Blue Hole. Only near Ambergris Caye does the reef run so close to a well-populated caye. Here it is an almost solid wall of magnificent coral formation broken only by narrow channels called “quebradas”. Rainbow tinged tropical fish, delicate sea fans and majestic coral gardens abound. Visibility routinely extends to 200 feet. Don’t worry if you are not already certified; courses by qualified dive instructors are available ranging from introductory to full certification. Check-out dives to complete your certification are also offered. Many resorts have full-service dive facilities on-site. There is a hyperbaric chamber by the San Pedro airstrip.
The protection of the Barrier Reef makes the waters just offshore perfect for water sports of every kind. Glide along the surface in a sea kayak on the lookout for rays and dolphin. For a great workout, give paddle boarding a try. Fly across the water on a Hobie Cat, windsurfer or jet ski. Go parasailing for an exhilarating bird’s eye view of the reef and beach.
The waters around Ambergris Caye flourish with a great variety of fishing. Cast your fly for bonefish, permit and tarpon in the tidal flats. A typical reef catch includes grouper, snapper, jacks and barracuda while the deep blue water outside yields wahoo, tuna, sailfish, marlin and shark.
Ambergris Caye’s nearness to the Belize mainland make many popular attractions and adventures accessible in an easy day trip by boat or airplane on Tropic Air. Explore the fascinating Mayan ruins of Altun Ha, Lamanai and Xunantunich. Explore the amazing realm of Belize’s caves and cave tube on underground rivers. Soar above the pristine rainforest on a zip line, then cool off in the refreshing pool of a waterfall. Get up close and personal with jaguars at the Belize Zoo.
Rent a golf cart for a day and go exploring! Golf carts are the most popular mode of transportation and the best way to see the island. You can travel as far as 7 miles north in a gas powered cart along beach and jungle paths. Be sure to stop along the way at local watering holes and secluded beaches. When you journey to the southernmost tip you can truthfully say you have stood at the very end of the Yucatan Peninsula!
Ambergris Caye offers quaint little gift shops selling tropical apparel and the work of local artisans offering everything from paintings and pottery to baskets and beach chairs. Talented and friendly local artist Ricardo Zetina of “The Little Old Craft Shop” crafts beautiful jewelry, figurines and wonderful wood carvings. “The Belizean Arts Gallery” offers ceramics, wood carvings, Garifuna drums and antiques alongside affordable knickknacks.
San Pedro’s many excellent restaurants cater to all tastes from seafood, Italian and Jamaican Jerk to fine international cuisine. Ultra-fresh Belizean seafood ceviche is a must-try island favorite, as is lobster and conch. Enjoy breakfast with your feet in the sand at the local favorite, Estel’s Dine by the Sea. Indulge in Belizean Chocolate made right in San Pedro at the Belize Chocolate Company. With its funky tropical décor and marimba music, Elvi’s Kitchen is a long-standing San Pedro institution serving local specialties, and the huge open-air Blue Water Grill’s wide ranging menu rarely disappoints. But by far, the best kept dining secret on Ambergris Caye is The Hidden Treasure Restaurant which serves up fine Latin American and Caribbean cuisine in an enchanting candlelit atmosphere.
Enjoy a Belikin Beer or tropical drink while paddling in an inner tube in one of the clearest swimming holes in town at Palapa Bar. In the evenings, Big Daddy’s is a real hot spot for the younger dance generation, as is the Jaguar Temple and Barefoot Iguana. At Fido’s there is often live music. And don’t miss the nutty “World Famous Chicken Drop” every Thursday at Wahoo’s Lounge. For a classier experience visit “Stella’s Smile”, an unpretentious wine bar set in a lovely garden at the edge of the lagoon.
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