Articles on Belize and San Pedro

Welcome to Ambergris Caye, Belize

by: Belize Tourist Board

Ambergris Caye is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Belize for good reason. Besides its ample amenities and restful ambiance, the island is ideally located for day-time excursions to the many offshore attractions for which this country is famous.

Imagine a small, palm-shaded island, its white sands awash in some of the warmest, clearest water to be found anywhere. Offshore, we're talking world-class snorkeling, diving, sailing, kayaking, and windsurfing in the turquoise Western Caribbean. On land, you're immersed in a friendly, laid back atmosphere that offers hotels, restaurants, and services to suit every whim and pocketbook.Your range of nightlife options includes bars, dance clubs, and a good-humored local oddity called "the chicken drop," in which bets are placed on where your chosen fowl will relieve herself!

Welcome to Belize's Ambergris Caye (pronounced "key"), a 20-mile-long, two-mile-wide tropical spit of sand covered with coconut and mangrove trees, cooled by trade winds, and protected by one of the world's longest barrier reefs. Golf carts, bicycles, and your own two feet are the main modes of transportation on the sand-covered streets of tiny San Pedro, the island's only town. But don't let the slow pace fool you. The local folks, uncorrupted by the mass tourism and chain resorts that have invaded much of the region, are ready to welcome you with plenty of places to eat, drink, and be merry-or leave you alone if you so desire. Many San Pedranos are also experienced guides and recreation outfitters eager to make your daytrips picture perfect. And there's no language problem, since English is the official language of this former British colony, independent since 1981.

For those who really want to get away from it all, there are secluded resorts that specialize in diving, fishing, boating, or simply stretching out in a hammock with a cold drink and a hot bestseller. Parts of Ambergris are even more remote, comprising government-protected reserves where you can see endangered sea turtles swim ashore to lay their eggs, ospreys dive for fish in backwater lagoons, and archaeologists hunt for artifacts among ruins left by the ancient Maya civilization a thousand years ago. Dozens of fishing, diving, and snorkeling sites are less than an hour away, including Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark/Ray Alley.The latter are underwater national parks that teem with tropical fish of every size, color, and description, along with exotic corals, sponges, and sea fans. Nonsnorkelers can view this amazing panorama on a glass-bottom boat ride.

Prices for half-day snorkel trips begin at about $30 per person, including equipment, and work their way up to $200 or more for all-day fishing and diving expeditions to places like the Blue Hole.You can arrange these trips through your hotel or travel agency, as well as on your own.The larger hotels on the island-including Ramon's Village Resort, Victoria House, Journey's End, and Playador have their own dive/snorkel shops on the premises. Most also handle fishing trips as well as the rental of windsurfers, kayaks, jet-skis, sailboats, and other gear. When it comes to nightlife, the bigger hotels also offer live entertainment and dancing in addition to their on-site bars and restaurants.

Daytrips can easily be arranged to the mainland, too. Popular and worthwhile destinations include the Maya ruins at Lamanai, or Altun Ha; the howler monkey reserve and Belize Zoo west of Belize City; and soft-adventure horseback, mountain bike, or canoe trips in the jungles of the Cayo District.

Back on Ambergris, visitor services include gift shops, banks, grocery stores, museums, and even a small casino. Surprisingly, cosmopolitan ranges of cuisines are available at San Pedro restaurants, including the lade Garden (Chinese), Fido's (Belizean, home of the chicken drop), Celi's (seafood), Elvi's (Belizean/seafood), and Little Italy (Italian). Memorable gourmet meals in elegant surroundings are served north of the village at Capricorn, Rendezvous, and Mata Chica. For beyond-the-hotel nightlife, try the convivial music and dance scenes along the shoreline at Big Daddy's,Tarzan's, and ado's and Barefoot Iguana. Movies and karaoke are also sometimes available at various locations.

Getting to Ambergris Caye is easy.The island is an inexpensive, 15-minute hop from Belize City and there are direct flights to many other airports throughout the country, including neighboring Caye Caulker. Passenger boats also operate on a regular schedule between Ambergris and both Belize City and Caye Caulker.

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