Imagine a sleepy little Caribbean fishing village with sandy streets, gently swaying palm trees and brilliant blue waters, where time passes relatively unnoticed. This would be San Pedro, and even though most of the fishermen have adopted the tourism industry for their livelihood, the ambience remains the same.
San Pedro is the main city on Ambergris Caye, located 35 miles north of Belize City. The area was first discovered by tourists about 30 years ago but, to its credit, has resisted the exploitation and development of massive tourist complexes. The lodging facilities, as in the rest of Belize, range from budget to luxury–something for everyone. Even though this is one of Belize’s most popular tourist destinations, it never feels crowded. The native population of about 1500 will make you feel most welcome. While it is true that many of the tourist facilities have been built by Americans and Canadians, the Belizeans are holding their own as some of the best hotel and restaurant owners on the caye.
The main reason for visiting here, if there has to be one, would be a love of water-related activities. San Pedro will cater to your every whim, whether it be swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing, windsurfing or sport fishing. You can even take day trips to the mainland, to see Maya ruins, go birdwatching, or look for manatees.
None of these activities are required, however, and there are plenty of beaches and hammocks beckoning you to relax with a cold drink. We personally recommend anything made with one of the many varieties of Belizean rum. From your hammock, you can view the barrier reef and all of its related activities, just a half-mile offshore. Note of Warning: Beware of falling coconuts!
The primary mode of transport on the island is an electric golf cart. There are a couple of “rent-a-cart” agencies in town and, for a fun adventure, spend a half day driving up to the north end of the island and have lunch at Sweet Basil or Capricorn restaurants. You won’t be disappointed.
The majority of hotels are strung along the beach on the eastern shore, with the heaviest concentration running from the centre of San Pedro to a couple of miles south. There are 3 or 4 resorts located farther to the north, which are accessed by water taxis from piers in the centre of town. Some hotels have a “courtesy cart” which will pick you up at the airstrip or pier when you arrive. Once you have settled in, you can explore most of the area on foot or by bicycle. In the luxury hotel category, we can recommend Ramon’s Village or the Belize Yacht Club. A more moderate choice would be Mata Rocks Resort, Sun Breeze Beach Hotel, or Changes in Latitudes B&B.
You will find a good selection of restaurants in the centre of town, and also at the hotels. These cover the full range from burgers, fish & chips and pizza, to Mexican, Italian and Chinese food. Be sure to enjoy the fresh local prawns, lobster and conch, but be advised that each of these has a closed harvesting season, at which time they will not be available. But don’t despair! There is always plenty of other fish available, including grouper and snapper–all of which are fantastic as prepared by local chefs.
You can reach Ambergris Caye by plane or by boat. There are local airlines which make the 15 minute trip, and the fare is about US$40, but take note—if you depart from the Belize International Airport, your fare will be double what you pay to depart from Belize Municipal Airport. (Sorry, no explanation nor justification available!) Boat trips generally depart near the Swing Bridge in Belize City, or near the Bellevue Hotel. The standard, one-way fare is US$12 to $15, and takes about an hour. Most tourists enjoy the boat trip, even though it takes a bit more time.