Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize and the best-known destination in the country. Located at the northern tip of the waters of Belize, a small canal excavated by the Mayans separates the Ambergris Caye from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. The narrow, 25-mile (40 km) long island is surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean and consists of mangroves, lagoons and the quiet town of San Pedro, which sits on a sandy plateau near the southern tip of the island. the island.
There are very few vehicles on the island, with the exception of taxis, the main way to get around is on foot, by bike or on golf carts. The main attraction of Cayo Ambergris is the proximity to the Barrier Reef Reservoir System of Belize, which is less than a mile from the coast and runs parallel from the northern tip of Ambergris Caye to the southern border of Belize.
Healthy reefs are home to a wide variety of marine life, attracting divers and deep-sea fishermen from around the world. It's no wonder that this place is also one of the most expensive places in Belize. Before the arrival of the Europeans in the year 1500, Ambergris Caye was occupied by 10,000 Mayans, serving as a vibrant fishing community and a busy commercial center. Over time, as in other parts of Central America, the Mayan population on Ambergris Caye was decimated as Europeans began to settle in the area over the next three centuries. In 1848, the town of San Pedro was born as mestizos (a mixture of people of Spanish and Mayan origin), refugees from the Yucatan Peninsula rebelled against the Spanish occupation and arrived at Ambergris Caye, bringing with them the Spanish language and the rich cultural and religious traditions. The town grew rapidly, thriving on an increase in exports of coconuts, lobsters and other commercial fish species. The first tourists arrived at Ambergris Caye in 1950, and today the island and town of San Pedro is a Creole, Mexican and Mayan mix, with tourism as the largest economic engine.
The island is divided into three distinct areas: south of the airport, the town of San Pedro and north of the "Corte" (toll bridge).
The town of San Pedro occupies several blocks of the coast and is where most of the 17,000 inhabitants of the island live. The coast is full of guest houses, small hotels, restaurants by the sea and dozens of shops for diving or snorkeling, where you can book excursions or rent equipment. While the narrow strip of sand that lines the ocean in San Pedro is more of a passage than a beach, many of the hotels have long docks to the sea, where guests can sunbathe and swim. The shallow bottom extends far enough and in many areas is covered with seagrass. Some people dive on these docks, but the real action is on the reef, where a boat is required to get to this point. Other alternatives are kayaking, windsurfing, kite surfing and paddle surfing,
In the heart of San Pedro, we can see the golf carts, taxis and bicycles through the cobbled streets full of shops offering unique local products, including handicrafts, chocolates and others. Visitors can also find yoga studios and day spas, along with dozens of restaurants serving local dishes, seafood and even international dishes. The nightlife starts late around 11 pm and varies every night, with many bars offering live music.
The only large, well-groomed white-sand beaches on Ambergris Caye are found at private resorts outside of San Pedro. To the south of the town, you can find several luxury hotels that vary in size, as well as a wide variety of restaurants and outdoor bars. At the furthest point, it will be 3 miles (5 km) from San Pedro, so it is too far to walk but it is feasible to go by bicycle or a golf cart.
There are also several luxury options with beautiful beaches north of San Pedro. However, a few kilometers after the toll bridge, the road quickly degrades, and it is not recommended to travel by golf cart. The farthest resort is approximately 13 miles (21 km) north of the city and the only way to get there is a water taxi in a 30 to 40 minute drive. Many of the private resorts offer transportation, but for those wishing to stay far away in the north they should appreciate it in remote surroundings, as getting to the village is expensive and impractical.
The main attraction of the island is on the open sea on the reef, and there are excursions available both mid-morning and full-day. Most visitors practice snorkeling in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, where fishing is prohibited and marine life is thriving. This is often combined with a stop at the Shark Ray Alley, where divers can get up close with the large population of nurse sharks and stingrays. A less frequent, but equally impressive tour takes visitors to the northern tip of the island to the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, where travelers can explore the mangroves, observe the birds and snorkel along with marine life.
Getting to Ambergris is easy. Ferries depart all day from the city of Belize, arriving in San Pedo in about 1.5 hours. Water transport to and from Caye, Caulker, Corozol and Chetumal, Mexico is also available. Flying is another option, with more than a dozen daily flights to Ambergris Caye from the city of Belize and other destinations in Belize. Flights depart from both the international and municipal airports in Belize City, offering visitors the opportunity to see from above, the reef and turquoise waters. Once on the island, the taxi vans await you at the ferry dock or at the airport to transport you to your accommodation.