Ambergris Caye (pronounced “am-bur-gris” “key”) lies in the Caribbean Sea, surrounded by Belize’s Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest reef system in the Northern Hemisphere, extending from Belize’s border with Mexico on the north, to near the border with Guatemala on the south. The island is 25 miles long and about a mile across at its widest points.
Ambergris Caye’s main town is called San Pedro, named after Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishing. San Pedro is located on the southern part of the island and contains the airport and the largest concentration of shops, hotels and restaurants on the Caye.
While it is one of the most popular spots for tourism in Belize, don’t expect Ambergris Caye to be over commercialized, overrun with tourists, or fronted with a skyline of massive high-rise hotels.
The island maintains its very low-key, laid-back vibe, earning it a devout following of regular travelers who return again and again, and in some cases, just never leave. As Belize is an English-speaking country, you will find a large number of expats who made Ambergris Caye their permanent home after falling in love with the island.
Things to Do
Aside from just lounging on the beach and taking in the beautiful views, there is a lot you can do on the island. Choose from water activities like kayaking, windsurfing, parasailing, or rent a Jet Ski for the afternoon. Of course, scuba diving and snorkeling are two of the biggest reasons people visit Ambergris Caye – think: Great Blue Hole. The Belize Barrier Reef is less than a mile offshore so there are countless dive sites and snorkel stops within a 15-minute boat ride. You can spend the morning fishing on the reef and then your guide will cook your catch while you enjoy relaxing on the beach or snorkeling.
Where to Eat
If you had a month on Ambergris Caye, you probably still wouldn’t be able to try all the great restaurants and food on the island. Be sure to try lobster and conch when they are in season. Ceviche is probably the most popular dish on the island, showcasing the freshness of the local seafood, but be sure to also try the Mayan buffet at Elvi’s Kitchen and stop in Estel’s By the Sea for one of the best breakfasts in town.
Where to Stay
Despite an uptrend in luxury resorts popping up on the island, Ambergris Caye still offers a variety of lodging options for every budget. From hostel-type accommodations to five-star luxury beachfront condos, you will find something that will suit your needs here.
Getting to Ambergris Caye is very easy. Once you arrive at Belize’s Phillip Goldson International Airport, you can choose between two options, depending on your budget and preferred mode of transportation.
The cheapest, albeit longer way, is to take a cab to the Belize water taxi center where you can hop on a boat to the island, which takes around 1½ hours to San Pedro.
The best, and most direct option is to take a flight on either Tropic Air or Maya Island Air from the airport, which takes about 20 minutes and you are treated to some fantastic views of the reef and neighboring islands.