Ambergris Caye is Belize’s largest island, and it is located in the Caribbean Sea a few miles northeast of the country. The island is 25 miles long and about a mile wide. San Pedro Town is both the only town and largest settlement with a population of a little over 16,400. Golf carts are the main form of motorized transportation. Ambergris Caye is best known for its proximity to the Belize Barrier Reef.
The following guide includes descriptions of the main attractions and recommendations of some of the best hotels. It also describes the best ways to travel to Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Main Attractions on Ambergris Caye
1. Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the oldest marine reserve in Belize, and it is off Ambergris Caye’s southern tip. It covers about three square miles and is divided into four zones, with Shark Ray Alley (Zone D) being the best-known. The other three zones are The Mangroves (Zone C), The Seagrass Beds (Zone B), and The Reef (Zone A). Hol Chan is home to over 160 fish species, 40 coral species, three sea turtle species, and three sea mammal species. Visitors will need to hire a boat with a guide, and they may dive or snorkel while there.
2. San Pedro Town
San Pedro Town was established by war refugees in the mid-19th century and was a fishing village for many years. It wasn’t officially declared a town until 1984. It has recently become a tourist attraction because of its many dive sites and festivals. One of the oldest and best-known is El Gran Carnaval de San Pedro which dates back to the 1870s. It takes place a few days before Ash Wednesday every February. Events include dancing, music, parades, and painting each other. San Pedro has a well-deserved reputation as a party town with more than its share of clubs and bars.
3. Marco Gonzales Maya Site
Marco Gonzales Maya Site was first described by scientists in 1984, and it is about five miles south of San Pedro Town. It contains ruins that are two millennia old. The site officially became the first Maya Site National Park in 2011. It has a Visitors’ Center that contains exhibits and artifacts. Travelers can enjoy guided tours. Many bird species live in the eight-acre site, so it is also popular with birdwatchers.
Other Things to Do on Ambergris Caye
1. Diving and Snorkeling
Belize in general in known its many great diving spots. The Blue Hole, arguably the most famous, is about 45 miles east of Ambergris Caye Belize. Several boat operators offer daytrips to the Blue Hole. Closer to home is the Belize Barrier Reef, the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. It is about a half mile off the island’s windward side. Other dive spots near Ambergris Caye include the Love Tunnel, Cypress Garden, and Eagle Ray Canyon.
2. Boat Rides
Boat rides are another popular activity, and travelers have many options. Island Dream Tours, for example, operates a catamaran with a flat deck and takes people on dinner cruises, snorkel cruises, and wedding cruises. The Reef Runner Glass Bottom Boat takes passengers on a tour of the Belize Barrier Reef. The boat can accommodate up to 20 passengers, and it will stop at some points to let people go snorkeling. Captain Geraldo Badillo is the proud owner of a 30-foot long sailboat called “El Gato,” and he takes people on day trips, half-day trips, and sunset cruises.
3. Self-guided Tours with Golf Carts
Ambergris Caye Belize is a small island, so golf carts are the vehicle of choice. Travelers who want to explore the whole island or visit sites that aren’t near their resort should consider renting a golf cart. Many places rent golf carts and offer hourly, daily, and weekly rates. Belizean law considers golf carts vehicles, so the traveler needs a valid license to drive one. The golf carts typically have four or six seats. Avis Cart Rental provides a delivery service: They will arrange to meet travelers at the airport, resort or water taxi with a cart.
Where to Stay on Ambergris Caye
1. La Perla del Caribe
Located on a beachfront, La Perla del Carib is a luxury resort that boasts 12 villas that range in size from two bedrooms to five bedrooms, and the latter can accommodate up to eleven people. Amenities include complimentary bicycles and kayaks, free BBQ grill, in-house phone system, and a concierge. It includes packages for couples and scuba divers, and describes itself as a “family resort.”
2. Conch Shell Inn
The Conch Shell Inn is a budget hotel with ten rooms, each with a double bed and a twin. Established in 1973, it has recently been renovated. It is located on the beachfront, and the amenities include free WiFi and a mini-fridge. The manager lives on-site and will help travelers arrange day trips.
How to Travel to Ambergris Caye
In order to get to Ambergris Caye Belize, travelers will first need to take a plane to Belize. Most international flights arrive and depart from the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (BZE) just outside of Belize City. Formerly known as Belize International Airport, it is the primary international airport in Belize. Once there, travelers may take water taxis or another plane to Ambergris Caye Belize. Travelers who want to take the water taxis need to buy the tickets at the Maritime Museum located at the foot of the Belize Swing Bridge. Local airlines providing flights to Ambergris Caye include Tropic Air and Maya Island Air.
Visitors will need a passport to enter Belize, but travelers from the US, Canada, and most European or Caribbean countries will not need visas.
Ambergris Caye Belize may be a small island, but it offers many attractions that will appeal to visitors. Travelers may explore the Belize Barrier Reef or investigate Maya ruins at Marco Gonzales. They can also relax at the beach or party in San Pedro Town. Ambergris Caye Belize has something for everybody, including a variety of resorts like the two mentioned.