Big, beautiful beach on Ambergris Caye
photo by Deanna Keahey

Ambergris Caye is the largest of several hundred islands in the northernmost waters of Belize, Central America. This simple island is a top destination in Belize for tourists worldwide,and its lack of high-rise hotels or big city public transportation gives the island a relaxed, laid-back feel.

The July/August 2008 issue of Islands Magazine featured a list of the Top 10 islands across the world that are most desirable to call home. Here's an excerpt on why Ambergris Caye made the list:

The budget-friendly properties available a few flip-flop steps away from the beach, an exuberant expat community and the vibrant streets of San Pedro earned this Central American island a place on our list. It's pretty easy to move here, too, since immigration policies are friendly, the locals speak English and it takes about two hours to reach Belize from Florida. Once there, life on Ambergris Caye entails lazing the days away on star-white beaches, spending afternoons snorkeling the world's second-largest barrier reef and enjoying nights at beachfront barbecues with newfound friends.

Getting there

By plane

You can head to the airport in Belize City and book a flight which will take about 20 minutes. You can also fly to Ambergris from the Phillip Goldson International Airport. There is a modest airfield near the center of the island and next to San Pedro town. You can also take a water taxi, a much cheaper option, from Belize City to the center of San Pedro. There is now limited air service from Chetumal, Mexico.

By boat

Buy tickets about an hour in advance at the Water Taxi Terminal in downtown Belize City, a twenty minute taxi ride from the airport. The ride costs about US$20 and takes about an hour.

Traveling around

There are three main north-south streets, and several that link them, running east-west. Barrier Reef Drive is closest to the two- and three-story apartment buildings that face onto the beaches.

Only some of the roads are paved with cobblestones, and in the rainy season, many can fall into poor condition from traffic and rain erosion, and provide numerous potholes which are sufficient to slow the bicycle and golf cart traffic. There relatively few automobiles licensed on the island, and they are not needed because you can get to most places walking, by bike, golf cart, or water taxi.

Most people get around Ambergris Caye by simply walking. There's a great deal of quality hotels in town, and many resorts on the island are less than a mile from the town of San Pedro, the only urbanized area on the island. Many travelers enjoy renting golf carts, which are the dominant form of transportation, next to bicycles. Others ride bikes or take water- or auto-taxis on the island.


Wherever you are staying, you will be able to book tours that go all over Belize and even into Guatemala. Ambergris Caye is a great place to relax, and you can see a lot of what Belize has to offer with the trips that you can book wherever you are staying.

Things to do

The beaches are coral sand beaches and you may need watershoes or sport sandals. There are many piers (every 100 meters or so) where a tourist can rent a boat for diving, deep-sea fishing, or sailboating to other islands. If you're going to be in town for a couple of days be sure to snorkel or dive the spectacular Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the longest in the Western hemisphere. Several marine reserves are close by.

  • Hol Chan Marine Reserve, 4 miles (6.4 km) south of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, tel: 226-2247 (E-Mail:, . Has been protected for longer than the local reef, and so it usually has more mature marine life (i.e. bigger fish) as well as more people, though it's never terribly crowded.

  • Bacalar Chico Reserve on the border with Mexico.

  • Do not miss the Coral Gardens in front of Caye Caulker, Shark Ray Alley, or a fishing expedition to Mexico Rocks.

On weekends, there are very entertaining pick up soccer matches at the small stadium near the airport.

If you visit the island during early July, take the water taxi to nearby Caye Caulker for the annual Lobsterfest. Great spiny lobster and coconut rice!

Drink rum on the beach!


  • Papi's, Front Street (on the northern half of the island). Great, local, inexpensive food. Try the ceviche; it's "to die for".

  • Casa Picasa (southwest part of town).

  • Caramba's, in San Pedro, off of Pescador Street. The food is great, cheap, and plentiful.

  • Estelle's. Breakfast by the sea.

  • Waraguma is a hole in the wall on middle street (closer to the southern end) with good burritios.


The water in San Pedro is safe to drink, but on the mainland and smaller islands, use bottled water to be safe.

Many piers have bars where you might order a rum drink with a parasol in it. For a nice laid back bar on the beach try BC's. The Tacklebox makes a mean mojito.

The local beer is Belikin, which can be bought everywhere.

  • Rojo Lounge, About 4 miles North of the Cut, Wonderful, relaxed upscale restaurant directly on the beach with it's own pool.


You should call ahead to make reservations, but can usually find accommodations even without them.

  • Xanadu Hotel. By far the best pool on the island, and the owners treat you like family (a good thing in this case). Stay in any of the rooms in the hurricane proof huts, all have views of the ocean or the tropical garden pool. Easy walk to town, or take one of the complimentary bikes. The staff can arrange diving, snorkeling, or fishing trips.

  • Conch Shell Hotel. A clean, quiet, friendly hotel. It's basic – no air conditioning or TV – but the ocean breezes blow right in, it's on the beach, and it cost only US$25 per night in July (it doubles in the high season). You'll be right in town so everything is nearby.

  • Mata Chica Resort. A more intimate, relaxing atmosphere, on the northern part of the island. Accessible by boat from San Pedro, this small resort offers a limited number of thatched casitas right on the beach. This is a great place if you are looking to get away from it all for a few days.

You can rent fully furnished and stocked homes by the week or more, for less than what it costs to get a hotel room for the same amount of time.

  • Victoria House , Coconut Drive, Beautiful resort south of San Pedro. One of the nicest on the island!


There are small shops on Back Street including a grocery store.

Caye Caulker

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Deanna Keahey, Bernt Rostad, India Kangaroo, anoldent, Russell Harrison, tacogirl

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This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at WikitravelView full credits

Burmesedays, Daniel Radford, David, Todd VerBeek and Rob Payne, Episteme, Morph, Airin, Lms and Jonboy

This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at WikipediaView full credits

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