My take on some differences between the two islands.
CHECKLIST TO COMPARE AMBERGRIS CAYE
AND CAYE CAULKER
AMBERGRIS CAYE (often referred to as San Pedro):
* The biggest island in Belize (originally a peninsula jutting
down from the Yucatan) — northern Belize.
* Settled by Mestizos from Mexico.
* Most popular destination in Belize (for many good reasons)
* Tends to attract a crowd in their 30s and older, mostly couples.
* 10,000 people on the island.
* # 1 area in Belize for foreign investment and expat living — second homes, condos, retirement.
* Mostly sand streets (though some downtown streets are now paved with concrete cobblestones), formerly no building
over three stories (though some new developments plan four stories).
• Significant new development taking place in the zone from town to about 2 miles south of town, and also on North Ambergris.
* By far Belize’s widest selection of restaurants and hotels.
* Among the best top-end hotels: Victoria House, Azul Resort, Seascape and condotels Villas at Banyan Bay, Grand Colony, Belizean Shores, Banana Beach, The Palms, Xanadu.
* Among the best mid-range lodging: Mayan Princess, Corona
* Among the best budget lodging: Ruby’s, Sanpedrano, Pedro’s Backpacker Inn.
* Some shops, sizeable groceries, lots of bars and places to hear live music.
* Some excellent restaurants including
Expensive: Rojo, Blue Water Grill, Rendezvous, Casa Picasso, Elvi’s
Moderate: Wild Mangos, Caramba, Caliente
* Very nice beaches though like all beaches inside the reef somewhat narrow and with some goop bottoms and a good deal of seagrass.
* Beaches along most of the Caribbean side (20+ miles).
* Reef just a few hundred yards offshore, closest at the far north.
* Your first decision is to decide where to stay — in town, south
of town or on more remote North Ambergris.
* Lots of snorkel tours and day trips to the mainland to visit
* Good recreational diving locally and excellent diving on day
trips to Turneffe or Lighthouse atolls.
* Get there by flights from international (US$54) or municipal
airstrip (US$30) or by water taxi (US$15)
* Safe and friendly though usual cautions are in order — burglaries
and thefts are fairly common, murders not unknown.
* Transportation on the island — bikes, rental golf carts, cabs, water taxis.
* Traffic in town is starting to get really bad.
* New bridge over Boca del Rio (carts, bikes and pedestrians only) is helping open up North Ambergris, but cart path there is
still very rough.
* Hotels from US$15 to $500+ a night.
* Small condos and vacation rental houses available US$100 to
$500+ a night.
* Golf available on nearby Caye Chapel (but expensive —
US$200 a day).
* Tennis available at sports club and at several hotels.
* Water — safe to drink from municipal system or RO/wells.
* Good fishing — tarpon, bonefish and other.
* Little snorkeling from shore (best snorkeling requires a short boat ride to Hol Chan Marine Reserve including Shark-Ray
* About the same amount of rain as Atlanta, Ga.
* The main part of the island really is just one village of about 1,200 people, and on the average day maybe 200 to 400 tourists.
* The vibes are laidback, easy-going, calm.
* This is Ambergris Caye’s little sister — smaller and a cheaper date.
* Moving more upmarket, but it is still mostly a budget and backpacker island — only one hotel on the island has a pool, for example, and a number don’t have A/C (or charge extra for it).
* Tends to attract a younger crowd, quite a few singles.
* Sand streets, few cars, you get around by shank’s mare, bike
or maybe a golf cart.
* A mix of people on the island, Mestizos, some Creoles, some
* About 40 hotels, mostly very small.
* Beaches are not the island’s strong point, though an effort
was made to renourish the beach with sand. Some of this has
washed away. A little swimming from piers, but the Split is the
main area where folks swim.
* No municipal water or sewage system — pipe water in some places smells strongly of sulphur.
* Best hotels on the island cost only about US$100 to $145 a night — Iguana Reef, and the rebuilt Seaside Cabanas (it has a pool, the only one on the island).
* Other good low-moderate choices — Tree Tops, Trends Beachfront, Shirley’s, Anchorage, De Real Macaw, Tom’s, Jaguar Morning Star and others.
* Good restaurants at the “top end” include Habaneros, Rasta Pasta, Don Corleone’s, Rainbow Grill and Bar ... and good food, too, at Cocoplum Gardens, Sand Box, Syd’s, Jolly Roger’s and others ... Glenda’s and Amor for breakfast.
* Three or four dive shops do dive trips, and numerous operator
offer snorkel trips — snorkeling and diving here are a little
cheaper than San Pedro and Placencia ... the reef is just a few hundred feet out.
* For booze and what action there is, hit the Lazy Lizard and I&I.
* Rastas occasionally bug you — some (mostly) petty crime.
* Getting there is easy — it’s a US$10 water taxi ride from Belize City or San Pedro. You can also fly — same prices as to San Pedro