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Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 14
MadameK Offline OP
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Hello - Our first trip to Belize - we're here for mostly beachtime and some snorkeling. Is this accurate:

1) Ambergris Caye - better beaches, more crowded and expensive (lodging and food) than Caye Caulker with more access to land-based wildlife stuff

2) Caye Caulker - not amazing swimming (just at the split?); less expensive, way more laid back, lower budget/less swanky lodgings, fewer food choices

3) Placencia - pretty beaches, relatively affordable, takes awhile to get there by bus

Given these choices...are these characterizations accurate? What would you choose if you had a week and why?

Thanks so much!

Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 3,888
AC is the hub of fun. Lots of variety in places to stay and eat. The Northern beaches are very nice.

CC is smaller, slower and lots of fun. The split is a nice place to hang out and the Lazy Lizard could be the coolest bar in the world.

Placencia is amazing. It's quiet, lovely and has VERY nice beaches. The views are wonderful with the bay and the mountains in one direction and the sea in another.

Tell us what you want out of your stay and we will point you in the right direction. I like all 3 places.

Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 14
MadameK Offline OP
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Thank you for such a nice response. What we'd like is something that isn't completely crazy, since we'll be there between Palm Sunday and Easter. We'd like to do some serious beachtime, serious snorkeling and at least one type of trip that is jungle-y, manatee-ish, howlermonkey-ish. I don't want to spend more than US$130 (total including taxes) per night. There will be 3 of us.

Placencia sounds very nice, but with the bus ride both ways - it shaves off two full days of time for travel, something we were hoping to avoid. AC sounds great in many ways, but a little expensive...CC sounds great, but with just one beach choice.

I've also been looking at Sarteneja, which seems like you could get there fairly easily from San Pedro (or Belize City? but I'm not sure how long that would take).

Any insights you have would be very welcome.

Thank you!

Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
Here's a checklist comparison of the three areas.

It really comes down to a judgment call and on what kind of area you prefer.


This short checklist compares three popular beach destinations in Belize.

AMBERGRIS CAYE (often referred to just 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
* Some 20,000 people on the island
* # 1 area in Belize for foreign investment and expat living - second homes, condos, retirement
* Some sand streets though some of the streets are now paved with concrete cobblestones, formerly no building over three stories, but some new developments have four storiesCool by
* Significant new development taking place south of town and also on North Ambergris -- some 500 condo units recently built or are under construction on North Ambergris; large-scale development proposed for south end of island
* By far Belize's widest selection of restaurants and hotels
* Among the best top-end hotels: Victoria House, Azul Resort, Pelican Reef and Mata Chica
* Among the best condotels: Grand Caribe, Villas at Banyan Bay, Grand Colony,
The Palms, Xanadu, The Phoenix, Las Terrazas
* Among the best mid-range lodging: Mayan Princess, Corona del Mar, Banana Beach, The Tides
* 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:
Very Expensive: Rojo Lounge, Capricorn, Red Ginger
Expensive: Blue Water Grill, Rendezvous, Elvi's, Pinnochio's, Hidden Treasure, Sunset Grill, Wild Mangos
Moderate: 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 - garbage on the beach in areas not policed by hotels
* 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, on North Ambergris near the river channel or on more remote parts of North Ambergris
* Lots of snorkel tours and day trips to the mainland to visit ruins
* Good recreational diving locally and excellent diving on day trips to Turneffe or Lighthouse atolls
* Get there by flights from international (US$63) or municipal airstrip (US$35) or by water taxi (US$10)
* Friendly and safe 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 in places
* 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 Alley
* About the same amount of rain as Atlanta, Ga.

* Still a charming, laidback small village atmosphere with a Caribbean resort vibe
* The main part of the island really is just one village of about 1200 people, and on the average day maybe 300 or 400 tourists
* The vibes are laidback, easy-going, calm
* This is Ambergris Caye's little sister -- smaller and a cheaper date
* Moving more upmarket, with several condos recently opened, but it is still mostly a budget and backpacker island -- only five hotels on the island have a pool, for example
* 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, a few gringos
* About 55 hotels and vacation rentals, mostly very small, with a total of around 900 rooms
* Beaches are not the island's strong point -- a little swimming from piers and one or two places south, but the Split is the main area where folks swim
* No municipal water or sewage system -- pipe water in many places smells strongly of sulphur (municipal RO water system coming)
* Best hotel on the island costs only about US$160 a night
* Iguana Reef Inn, Seaside Cabanas and CayeReef Condos are among the most "upscale" choices for Caulker, and all have pools
* Other good low-moderate choices -- Tree Tops, Trends Beachfront, Shirley's, Anchorage, Jaguar Morning Star, Lazy Iguana B&B, Caye Caulker Condos, De Real Macaw, Barefoot Beach, Maxhapan and others
* Good restaurants at the "top end" include Habaneros and Don Corleone's and good food, too, at Rosa's, Rainbow Grill, Sand Box, Syd's, Wish-Willie's, Amor y Café, Femi's, Jolly Roger and others
* Two or three dive shops do dive trips -- snorkeling and diving here are a little cheaper than San Pedro and Placencia
* The reef is just a few hundred feet offshore
* For booze and what action there is, hit the Lazy Lizard and I&I and a few other bars
* Rastas occasionally bug you
* No golf or tennis (golf available on Caye Chapel)
* Several high-profile crimes occurred recently on island - police force has been revamped
* Getting there is easy -- it's a US$7.50 water taxi ride from Belize City or San Pedro; also, by air on Maya Island or Tropic Air, US$63 from international, US$35 from municipal

* 16-mile long peninsula in southern Belize (Stann Creek District) in the midst of a major cultural shift, from small, somewhat remote beach resort to a real-estate driven, development-oriented area, with hundreds of new condos and houses either just built, under construction or approved, though there are areas of quiet and charm
* Access from Belize City via road by rental car (3 1/2 hours, US$55-$90+ a day), bus (6+ hours, US$9), air (40 minutes, US$95 from international, US$80 from municipal)
* Placencia village is 25 miles from the Southern Highway; optional access is from Independence/Mango Creek on the Hokey Pokey across Placencia Lagoon (US$5)
* Paving of peninsula road is partially complete - road is paved from around Maya Beach to Placencia village, with some work completed on the section from the Southern Highway
* New "international" airport under construction west of Riversdale - ultimate function of airport still unclear
* Two villages on peninsula -- Placencia (Creole) and Seine Bight (Garifuna), plus Maya Beach and the northern peninsula
* Before driving, especially during rainy season, check status of Kendal Bridge on Southern Highway near Maya Centre - it washes out after heavy rains
* Peninsula population about 2,500 to 3,000
* Wide choice of hotels from budget hotels in Placencia village to upscale resorts farther north
* Hotels from around US$20 to $400+
* Growing number of condos and vacation rental houses, US$100 to $400+ a night
* Among the best top-end lodging: Inn at Robert's Grove, Turtle Inn, Chabil Mar Villas
* Among the best mid-range lodging: Maya Beach Hotel, Barnacle Bill's
* Among the best low-moderate lodging: Ranguana, Tradewinds, Westwind, Seaspray, Manatee Inn, Deb & Dave's Last Resort
* Some restaurants in Placencia village and elsewhere, though some of the better restaurants are at hotels: in village among the good places to eat are Wendy's, De Tatch, French Connection, Tutti Fruitti (amazing gelati), Rumfish y Vino, Yoli's; north of the village Maya Beach Hotel Bistro and Inn at Robert's Grove
* Transportation on peninsula -- taxis or your rental car (taxis are fairly expensive, especially if going way north -- BZ$40 one-way from Placencia village to Maya Beach)
* 15+ miles of very nice beaches along Caribbean side -- best beaches on mainland but not much different from those on Ambergris Caye
* Day trips to mainland to visit Cockscomb jaguar preserve and Mayflower and to Maya sites near Punta Gorda
* Day snorkel trips -- reef is 15 + miles out, though snorkeling is also available at islands and patch reefs closer in
* Little snorkeling from shore
* Few shops, only small groceries
* No golf; tennis for guests at Robert's Grove
* Safe and friendly (though usual precautions are in order, especially regarding theft and burglaries in Placencia village)
* Water from municipal system safe to drink
* Good fishing for permit, bonefish, tarpon and other
* Access to small islands offshore for day or overnight visits
* Good to excellent diving on day trips -- see whale sharks in late spring
* Limited nightlife - mostly bars in Placencia village
* Usually more rain than the Northern Cayes (especially during rainy season June - November)
* Sandflies can be irksome

Lan Sluder/Belize First
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 14
MadameK Offline OP
OP Offline
Thank you - this was very helpful. I'm wondering how many people stay at Caye Caulker and take the boat/water taxi to AC for the day to hit their beaches? Could you say a bit more about the differences between South AC, North AC and in town in San Pedro?

I'm also intrigued by the Turtleman's spot....

Also, how crazy are things on AC and CC from Palm Sunday to Easter?

I'd love some recs on lodging in the US$100 - 150/night (with tax) on AC that wouldn't require an additional cash layout for lots of cabrides to and from town or beaches....I'd love to see breakfast included in the above rate and/or a kitchenette....

I so appreciate your help!

Joined: May 2006
Posts: 229
Im pretty sure you can fly from Belize City to Placencia.

Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 14
MadameK Offline OP
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yes, but things are all booked up due to Easter week....unfortunately...

Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 955
Are you sure everythings booked up in Placencia ?? I guess it could be because of the whale sharks season but it sounds a bit odd

Peronally I think you would be more suited to Ambergris Caye lots more places to lay out it can be as quiet or an busy as you want it to be.

As far as prices caye caulker is getting more expensive in fact its surpassed Ambergris on the cost of diving and is now more expensive to dive there than Ambergris caye.

You can make Ambergris as expensive or as cheap as you wish also, there are many inexpensive places to eat on the island and also many expensive restaurants so its really your choice how much you spend.

As far as including food in a hotel package most people would not reccomend that as there are so many choices to eat on the island.

As far as taking a boat each day to hit Ambergris Caye that would get old real quick its about 45 min boat ride and can be a bit choppy at times.

I wrote a small article which explains more about North South and San Pedro town and what to expect here is the link

hope you find it helpful making your decision.


Gaz Cooper

Last edited by Gaz Cooper; 03/12/10 12:55 AM.
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 4,672
My choice for serious beach time, head to Placencia, at least for 2-3 nights. And fly there, $180 RT, you are there in 1/2 hour. the taxi ride to the village is just a few bucks and a few minutes... then you can walk everywhere!

Joined: May 2005
Posts: 3,955
Disclosure -- I have yet to make it to Placencia, but have been inland a couple of times.

For a very first trip to Belize, I would recommend San Pedro. While it is certainly the busiest of the three choices, methinks you may find it very laid back compared to other Caribbean destinations -- especially if you stay just a mile or so north or south of town. From there, you can make it to Caulker very easily.

If beaches are a priority, LaurieMar is likely correct (as per usual). I love the walking beaches in Belize, and there are some good swimming stretches to be sure, but you will want to head south to Placencia for what many gringos would find to be a serious beach environment.

Have fun!

I will have a Belikin -- put it on klcman's tab.
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