Here's some information excerpted from one of the guides I write on Belize, Belize Islands Guide.
Getting to San Pedro is easy as caye lime pie, but from the U.S. it does require at least one stop along the way. There is no international air service direct to San Pedro’s little 3,000-foot airstrip. Continental, Delta, US Air, American and TACA fly nonstop into the International Airport at Ladyville just north of Belize City from several U.S. gateways: Continental from Houston and Newark, Delta from Atlanta, US Air from Charlotte, TACA from Houston and American from Dallas-Fort Worth and Miami. Seasonally there are charter flights to Belize from Toronto via Roatán, Honduras. With the runway extension project at the international airport completed, Belize is hoping to get service from Europe, but as of this writing nothing has been announced. Belize’s International Airport also has service on Maya Island Air from San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Flores, Guatemala; Cancun, Mexico; Guatemala City; and on TACA from San Salvador, El Salvador.
From Belize City: You can either fly or take a water taxi to San Pedro (or to Caye Caulker). It’s a 20-minute flight to San Pedro; the boat trip takes about 75 minutes. To Caulker, it’s 10 minutes by air, 45 minutes by boat. Two Belize airlines, Maya Island Air and Tropic Air, each have about one flight per hour every day to San Pedro, starting at around 7:30 a.m. and ending around 5:30 p.m. In peak visitor season, sometimes additional flights are added to accommodate demand. Flights originate from both the International Airport in Ladyville about 9 miles north of Belize City, where your international flight arrives, and Municipal Airport, a small airstrip in Belize City. In many cases the same Maya Island and Tropic flight picks up passengers at both airports, making the short hop between the two in a few minutes. Most flights also stop at Caye Caulker on demand.
Should you fly to San Pedro from International or Municipal? Depends on whether you’d rather save time or money. It’s easier just to fly into International and walk over to the domestic terminal and catch your connecting puddle jumper. But you’ll save a little money, especially if traveling in a party of several people, by flying from Municipal. Adult and child one-way fares on both Maya Island and Tropic are approximately US$63 from International; from Municipal, adult one-way is US$35. Round-trip fares are just slightly less than twice one-way. Only rarely are there any bargain fares or discounts for advance booking. Sometimes, mainly in the summer, the Belize airlines will offer deals if you pay cash, rather than use a credit card. Fares to Caulker are the same as to San Pedro.
Transferring between the airports requires a 20-minute taxi ride. A taxi from International to Municipal is US$25 for up to four or five passengers. A tip isn’t necessary unless the driver carries a lot of your luggage, in which case add a couple of bucks. Taxis – they have green license tags – are plentiful and await passengers just outside the main lobby.
A party of four pays about US$480 round-trip to San Pedro via International, and US$318 round-trip from Municipal, even including the taxi transfers.
Do you need to make reservations for Maya Island or Tropic flights in advance? Off-season, it’s not really necessary, though having a reservation won’t hurt. In-season, a reservation might save a wait. Most hotels on Ambergris Caye will arrange for your air travel to the island at the time you make your hotel reservations, and there’s usually no extra cost to you. The hotel gets a small commission from the airline.
You also can book direct with the airlines by telephone or over the Internet. Here’s contact information:
Maya Island Air: 800-225-6732 or 501-226-3838, fax 226-2192; schedules, fares and reservations at www.mayaregional.com.
Tropic Air: 800-422-3435 or 501-226-2012; schedules, fares and reservations at www.tropicair.com.
Another option is to take a water taxi or ferry from Belize City to San Pedro. If you are going to San Pedro or Caye Caulker, you have the option of taking a water taxi. Two water taxi companies, with fast boats that hold up to 100 passengers, connect Belize City with Ambergris Caye (US$10 one-way) and Caye Caulker (US$7.50 one-way), each with eight to ten departures a day. Caye Caulker Water Taxi boats depart from the Marine Terminal near the Swing Bridge; San Pedro Belize Express boats leave from Brown Sugar building near the Tourism Village. Despite their names, both water taxi companies have service to both Caye Caulker and San Pedro. It's a 45-minute ride to Caulker and 75 minutes to San Pedro. Boats stop on demand at Caye Chapel. You can make reservations, but boarding is likely to be first-come, first-served. A cab to downtown Belize City from the International Airport is about 20 minutes and US$25.
"Reasonable hotel" means different things to different people, but here are a few on the island in the budget to moderate category:
HOTELS IN AND NEAR SAN PEDRO TOWN
Hotel Del Rio. Boca Del Rio Drive, tel./fax 501-226-2286; www.ambergriscaye.com/hoteldelrio/index.html.
At this small seafront operation, you have the choice of a big cabaña, a small cabaña, less-expensive rooms in a Mexican-style building and even more modest rooms in a guesthouse. This is not a fancy resort, there’s no air-conditioning, but it has personality some other places lack. In-season doubles are US$50 to $145, off-season US$40 to $105, plus 9% tax. Worth considering if you’re watching your pennies and want a bit of thatch ambiance.
Seven Seas Resort. Boca Del Rio Drive, tel. 501-226-2382, or toll-free 866-438-1435; www.AmbergrisCaye.com/sevenseas/index.html.
This long-established beachfront property has gone through a variety of incarnations over the years, including timeshare, but it remains a good value, though not an upscale one, at the north edge of town, within walking distance of downtown restaurants. In a small cluster of three-story pink and white buildings you’ll find air-conditioned one-bedroom suites with tile floors and Belizean-made furniture. There’s a small pool and a pier. Free wireless. Rates for direct booking in-season: US$101-$115, off-season, US$88-$102.
The Tides Beach Resort. Boca Del Rio Drive, tel. 501-226-2283, fax 226-3797; www.ambergriscaye.com/tides/.
Owned and operated by San Pedranos Patojo and Sabrina Paz and with Patojo’s Scuba Center on-site, this 12-unit hotel focuses on divers, and you’ll often see wet suits and dive gear hanging over the balcony. Though built just a few years ago, with its wood construction and balconied verandahs, this three-story hotel has a vaguely colonial era appearance. The rooms are modern enough, though, with fans and pleasant furnishings. The hotel also offers two and three-bedroom suites with kitchens. No restaurant, but several good ones are nearby, and there’s a tiny beach bar and a pool. Off-season rates are US$85 with A/C, and US$125 (suites US$205) in-season. Plus tax. Dive packages also available.
Conch Shell. Barrier Reef Drive, P.O. Box 43, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-2062; www.ambergriscaye.com/conchshell/.
This center-of-town, water-front two-story hotel, with its wood-frame construction, ceiling fans and linoleum floors, is an option for travelers who just want a clean, simple place to stay. Recently renovated. Rates around US$69 to $89 double mid-November to mid-April, plus tax, US$10 less the rest of the year. Free wireless available.
Tio Pil’s Place (formerly Lily’s Hotel). Barrier Reef Drive, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-2059, fax 226-2623; www.ambergriscaye.com/lilys/index.html.
This family-run budget favorite has been around for more than 35 years, recently going upmarket a bit with air-conditioning and some remodeling. Regulars prefer the seafront rooms. Those on the second-floor have breezy verandahs with sea views, while the first-floor rooms are for the gregarious who like to gab with passersby. Rooms are smallish and simple, but all have fridges and comfortable beds. Doubles US$65 off-season, US$75 in-season, plus tax.
Sanpedrano. Barrier Reef Drive, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-2054, fax 226-2093. Six-room budget spot near the water. Bottom line: For the budget-minded.
Mayan Princess. Barrier Reef Drive, San Pedro; tel. 800-850-4101 or 501-226-2778, fax 226-2784; www.mayanprincesshotel.com.
This three-story, seafront condotel, painted a distinctive coral pink, has 23 large and attractive one-bedroom suites (king or queen beds) with air conditioning, kitchenettes, phones and cable TV. Rates are a good value at US$120 double off-season, US$145 in-season, plus hotel tax and 10% service. Some further discounts may be available at certain times. Dive packages and long-term rates available. Amigos del Mar dive shop is nearby. No pool, but each suite has a balcony with wonderful views of the sea, and the whole atmosphere here is comfortable and homey. Long-time managers Rusty and Sheila Nale have moved on to Toledo, where they own Tranquility Lodge.
Martha’s. Pescador Drive and Ambergris Street, (P.O. Box 27, San Pedro); tel. 501-226-2053, fax 226-2589; www.AmbergrisCaye.com/marthas/index.html.
In the middle of town, not on the water, but a good budget choice with 12 clean rooms in a three-story wood building. No air conditioning and no phones in rooms. Rates US$27.50 double off-season, US$35 in-season, including tax. Monthly rates available off-season.
Spindrift. Barrier Reef Drive, San Pedro; tel. 800-688-0161 or 501-226-2174, fax 226-2251; www.AmbergrisCaye.com/spindrift/.
This dominating three-story concrete hotel won’t win any awards from Architectural Digest, but it is on the water in the center of town, with 22 rooms and 2 one-bedroom apartments. All but the cheapest rooms have air-conditioning. Caliente restaurant is on the first floor, and the Pier Lounge at the hotel hosts the “famous chicken drop” at which drinkers bet on where a chicken will poop. Doubles in-season US$53 to $110, apartment US$150, a little less off-season, all plus tax and 5% service.
Holiday Hotel. Barrier Reef Drive, San Pedro, tel. 501-226-2014, fax 226-2295; www.sanpedroholiday.com.
This was one of the first hotels on the island, opening June 15, 1965. Built and owned by Celi McCorkle, an island native and near-legend in the hospitality industry, the three-story Holiday Hotel has been well-maintained and remains a pleasant spot convenient to most everything. All rooms have A/C and some have refrigerators. Celi’s Restaurant and Celi’s Deli are in the hotel. Bottom Time dive shop is located on the hotel’s dock. Off-season doubles are US$80 to $110, US$110-$175 in-season. Rates plus 15% tax and service charge.
Rubie’s (also known as Ruby’s). Barrier Reef Drive, (P.O. Box 56, San Pedro); tel. 501-226-2063, fax 226-2434; www.AmbergrisCaye.com/rubys/index.html.
This is the favorite of many value-conscious visitors. Rooms in the old wooden building are basic but clean, most with shared baths; those on the street side can be a little noisy. Year-round rates: older rooms with fans and en suite baths, US$40 double (cheaper single rooms at US$20 have shared baths); rooms in a new concrete addition on the ocean side sport A/C and private baths and go for around US$60 plus tax, still a good value. Good inexpensive breakfasts and light meals in the first-floor restaurant, which opens at 5 a.m. to catch the fishing crowd. The hotel is often full.
SOUTH EDGE OF TOWN/AIRSTRIP SOUTH:
(Listed from north to south, with those nearest town listed first.)
Corona Del Mar. Coconut Drive, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-2055, fax 226-2461; www.ambergriscaye.com/coronadelmar.
This is a low profile lodging spot, also known as Woody’s Wharf after the gregarious founder of the hotel, but regulars know it offers 12 pleasant rooms and four attractive apartments on the water, at moderate cost. It also has the island’s first elevator, but no pool. Off-season rates US$70 to $120; in-season US$85 to $130, all plus tax and 10% service. Friendly, homey place and one of the best values on the island.
Pedro’s Backpackers Inn. Seagrape Drive, San Pedro, tel. 501-226-3825; www.[#%!].com.
This hostel cum budget hotel south of town isn’t on the beach, but it does offer affordable accommodations – single beds with share bath start at US$10 per person. New rooms in the annex with A/C, cable and private bath go for US$50 double in-season and less in low season. Free DSL Internet, and there’s a sports bar with pool table and projection TV. Also, a small swimming pool. The owner, inveterate Englishman Peter Lawrence, claims Pedro’s has the best pizza in Belize.
Changes in Latitudes B&B. Coconut Drive, San Pedro, tel./fax 501-226-2986, www.AmbergrisCaye.com/latitudes/.
With six small but pleasant and very clean rooms on the first level, and the helpful owners Renita and Cindy upstairs, this is a B&B with a tasty Belizean breakfast (hot entrees include breakfast tacos or Belizean eggs) served in the common room. Guests have 24-hour access to the common room and kitchen. Changes in Latitudes isn’t directly on the water, but it’s close. The owners have redecorated all the rooms (all have private bath, A/C and fan.) Rates US$95 double May to mid-December, US$115 rest of year, plus hotel tax (no service charge).
Coral Bay Villas. Coconut Drive (P.O. Box 1, San Pedro); tel. 501-226-3003; www.coralbaybelize.com.
One-bedroom beachfront condo suites in a white two-story concrete building with red tile roof. No pool, but there’s a nice sandy beach. Offered through Southwind Realty, rates are US$120 double, off-season, US$150 in-season plus tax.
Caribbean Villas. Coconut Drive (P.O. Box 71, San Pedro); tel. 501-226-2715; www.caribbeanvillashotel.com.
The folks who built and ran this place for many years, Wil and Susan Lala, sold out in 2004, and new management has added a beach bar and new swimming pool. There’s a variety of accommodations in the two-level whitewashed buildings with tile roofs, from small studios to two-bedroom suites. You’ll enjoy the nice beach area and pier, with a little artificial reef for snorkeling, and there are two outdoor hot tubs. There’s no full-service restaurant (the beach bar serves continental breakfast and snacks) but several are nearby, as is a supermarket if you want to self-cater. A “people perch” is great for a bird’s eye view of the island or for letting the birds see you. In this fast-changing island, this is one of the few hotels near town that still has a significant amount of undeveloped green space around it. Bikes are free for guests, and there are phones in rooms but no TV. Rates are US$105-$260 double mid-December through mid-April, and only a bit less, US$95 to $210, the rest of the year. All rates plus tax (no service charge).
(This area begins about a mile south of town. Properties are listed from north to south, with those nearest town listed first.)
Banana Beach. Coconut Drive (P.O. Box 94, San Pedro); tel. 501-226-3890, toll-free 877-288-1011, fax 501-226-3891; www.bananabeach.com.
Under new Canadian ownership since late 2009, this resort has just about everything to make your vacation a success – a genuinely friendly staff, spacious and furnished one- to four-bedroom suites, affordable rooms and a setting just steps from the sea. The 35 original one-bedroom units are in a single three-story building, designed in a style similar to Mexican hotels, around a courtyard with swimming pool, within watermelon seed spitting distance of the sea. A three-story addition, which went up in 2002, has a variety of “expandable” suites, regular rooms and also some one-bedroom efficiencies, which are rented for longer periods (one month or longer.) The suites have fully furnished kitchens. Also added was a second pool, an air-conditioned restaurant, El Divino, featuring excellent steaks and killer martinis. We recommend you spring for one of the seafront units, especially the second and third floor deluxe units in either the original or new building, all of which have fabulous views of the water. The hotel’s tour office, Monkey Business, can set you up with tours, cart rentals and diving. Rates have risen with new management but are still a good value. Off-season, rates start at US$100 double for a room or US$125 for a courtyard suite, US$165 for a seafront one-bedroom suite and top out at US$465 for a four-bedroom seafront suite. In high season, rates range for US$115 to $530. All rates include breakfast.
Mata Rocks. Coconut Drive (P.O. Box 47, San Pedro); tel. 888-628-2757 or 501-226-2336, fax 226-2349; www.matarocks.com.
Mata Rocks is a small beachfront hotel with 11 rooms and two junior suites, just south of Banana Beach. With its stucco and wood exterior in a distinctive white, turquoise and purple paint scheme, Mata Rocks has a comfortable, relaxed feel. The thatch beach bar hops, however, and if you want to pop into town, about 1 1/2 miles away, bikes are complimentary. All units have A/C and little fridges, and the junior suites have kitchenettes. In-season doubles US$145 to $170 for rooms and US$195 to $210 for junior suites. Summer rates US$110 to $170. Rates are plus tax but include continental breakfast and roundtrip transfers from the San Pedro airstrip.
Royal Caribbean Resort. 1 Seagrape St., tel. 501-226-4220; www.ambergriscaye.com/royalcaribbean/.
New in late 2005, the little yellow cabins lined up in rows at Royal Caribbean remind a lot of people of army barracks, or DFC by the Sea, but, inside, the 45 cabins are fairly spacious, with tile floors, wicker furniture, and kitchenettes, and all have cable TV and air conditioning. There’s a pool and 400 feet of beach immediately next door (south) of Victoria House. The prices, US$125 double off-season and US$140 in-season, are attracting some guests. All rates plus tax. A restaurant is on-site.