It’s no surprise Belize is a popular travel destination because it has it all- bright crystal blue water, tropical jungles, Mayan Ruins and amazing snorkeling and scuba diving on the second largest barrier reef in the world!
Today’s blog post is going to talk about one of my favorite places in Belize, the beautiful island of Ambergris Caye! (pronounced Am-BUR-gris Key) Ambergris Caye is located just off the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the clear shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea. The island is 25 miles long and only a little over a mile wide in it’s widest part.
How to get to Ambergris Caye?
Ambergris Caye is the largest of 200 Cayes that dot the coastline of Belize so there are a few different ways to get there. You can take a water taxi which takes about 1.5-hours for about $30USD. Or, you can take a small plane and arrive at the island within 15-minutes for about $75USD.
If you opt to take a water taxi, know that you will need to take a $25 cab ride to get to your boat. We heard that the water taxis could be crowded and uncomfortable when traveling with bags. If it rains you may also get wet. Therefore, we opted to take the plane, which is very easy to book through Mayan or Tropic Air. The view as you fly to San Pedro, the capital of Ambergris Caye, is absolutely stunning. The planes are small though so be prepared! I hate flying and felt pretty nervous as we took off. Luckily, it’s only a 15-minute ride!
Where to Stay?
There are many wonderful hotels to stay in on Ambergris Caye but if you want to be near town a great option is Mata Rock. The hotel is only a mile from San Pedro so it is in a wonderful location. Mata Rock is a small, beachfront hotel that offers views of the ocean in every single room. The rooms are very comfortable and chic. The hotel has a nice pool, beachfront bar, free access to bikes, and golf cart rentals for a fee. This hotel is very affordable as rooms can be rented for about $100USD/night.
Captain Morgan’s Retreat
If you don’t mind staying in the quieter part of the island, Captain Morgan’s Retreat, is a beautiful place to stay during your time in Belize. Captain Morgan’s Retreat is about 3 miles from San Pedro on a private beach. The resort has villas, condos and beachfront casitas with thatched roofs available to rent.
The resort also features a spa, casino, restaurants, access to a white sand beach and three fresh water pools. Rooms at Captain Morgan’s Retreat start around $200USD/night depending on what type of room you want to book.
What to do?
Take a day trip to Lamanai
Lamanai is one of the biggest and most excavated Mayan sites on the northern part of the mainland of Belize. Getting to Lamanai isn’t that easy and it is best to go on a tour. From Ambergris Caye you will depart early in the morning via a boat to the mainland. You will then have to transfer to a bus that will take you on a 50-minute ride to the New River. Once at the New River you will board another boat that will take you 26 miles up the New River to Lamanai. The boat ride is very scenic! Expect to see monkeys, crocodiles and tons of other wildlife along the way.
Lamanai is located in the rain forest and its name means “submerged crocodile.” It is one of the largest Mayan ceremonial sites in Belize and consists of 100 minor structures, a ball court and 12 major buildings. Make sure you check out, “The High Temple,” as you are allowed to climb to the top of it. This view from the High Temple is incredible but be careful because it’s easy to slip and fall on the steep stairs. Hold on to the rope!
Note: Bring sunblock, wear sturdy shoes and put on plenty of bug spray! You’re going to the rain forest and I got quite a few bug bites.
Snorkel Shark Ray Alley & the Hol Chan Marine Reserve
If you are visiting Belize you have to go snorkeling in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. You will see many different fish and even turtles if you are lucky! We did! If you are feeling brave and want to swim with stingrays and sharks make sure to snorkel Shark Ray Alley! Shark Ray Alley is located south of Hol Chan and has 100’s of nurse sharks and stingrays in the area. It feels pretty surreal to jump in the water with these animals all around you but they’re friendly! It’s a pretty cool experience and worth the boat ride. You can book a tour to both of these locations at most hotels in San Pedro.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t mention the Blue Hole it’s because I am not a skilled scuba diver so I couldn’t go. We heard tons of wonderful stories from other people about their experience but they all stressed the importance being an advanced diver.
Explore Caye Caulker!
Caye Caulker is a smaller island than Ambergris Caye and even more slow paced. The entire island is only 4-miles long and has no paved streets, no cars and no problems!
The atmosphere on the island is very laid back due in part to the strong Creole presence on the island and the small community of Rastafarians. It’s also only a 15-20 minute ride via water taxi from Ambergris Caye and a wonderful place to lie out, eat lobster and swim!
Make sure to check out The Split, a channel that was created by Hurricane Hattie in 1961 that splits the island into two parts. The water here is very clean, which makes it a great place for swimming. There’s a really fun bar next door for drinks too!
Where to Dine?
Blue Water Grill
There are quite a few great restaurants in Ambergris Caye but I’m going to tell you about my favorite two. Blue Water Grill is my favorite restaurant in San Pedro. The restaurant is open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner and has a wide variety of tasty food. The service is wonderful!
If you love sushi make sure you go on a Tuesday or Thursday when Blue Water Grill serves the best sushi on the island. Also, try the lobster. Yum!
Pirate’s Treasure Restaurant & Bar
Pirate’s Treasure Restaurant & Bar is a bit further from town but absolutely worth a visit. The restaurant is famous for it’s Lionfish recipes. I bet you’re thinking, “What’s a Lionfish?” Well, I’ll tell you. A Lionfish, while pretty to look at, is not supposed to be in the waters of Belize and has no natural predators. This fish does like to eat A LOT, and constantly, so is slowly destroying the barrier reef. Luckily, they taste great so Pirate’s Treasure is incorporating these fish into their menu. (So go eat some Lionfish and save the reef) While dining at Pirate’s Treasure is always a delight, try to book a meal at the Chef’s table. Chef Maresha is amazing and will cook you a three-course meal you won’t forget. It’s worth the money!
Where to Drink?
Palapa Bar & Grill
You can’t go to Ambergris Caye without visiting Palapa Bar & Grill. This bar is right over the water and SO fun.
Not only is the food great but there are also rafts you can float in while you listen to live music and enjoy cold drinks. Hanging out at Palapa Bar is a party you don’t want to miss!
Wahoo’s Lounge is home to the World Famous Chicken Drop on Thursday nights and a must visit while in Belize! What’s a chicken drop you may ask? Basically, at 6pm people will show up to Wahoo’s and put bets down on certain numbers. After the betting period is over, chickens are taken down to a board that resembles a bingo card. The chickens are then placed on the card and everyone waits and watches to see where they poop! If the chicken poops on your number you win money! (You also have to clean up the poop though- yuck!) The Chicken Drop is unlike anything we had ever seen before! (Don’t worry they don’t hurt the chickens!)
View from the “baby plane” on the way back to the mainland.
We hope you get the chance to visit the beautiful country of Belize! If you go, tell us all about it on our Instagram page and feel free to share your tips!
Lindsay & Christopher