A mbergris Caye is the name of Belize's largest island. The history of the island goes back to the days of the Maya, European Pirates, and Mexican Refugees who fled during the Caste War. The descendants from Mexico make up most of the island's population today. The economy of the island was once dependent on the coconut industry, followed by the fishing industry and presently it depends on tourism.

Ambergris Caye is the largest of some 200 cayes (pronounced keys) that dot the coastline of Belize. Ambergris is 25 miles long and a little over a mile wide in some places, and is located in the clear shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea just off the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
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Her coastline is protected by the 190 miles long Barrier Reef, the second largest living coral reef in the world. In Mayan times, Ambergris Caye was a trading post. The Marco Gonzalez ruins at the southern tip of the caye and the Basil Jones site to the north, as well as the many recently excavated "home sites" in the heart of San Pedro Town give evidence to a former Maya population of 10,000. The narrow channel that separates Mexico and Belize was dug by the Mayan to provide a trade route from the bay of Chetumal to the Caribbean. Following the Maya came the whalers and buccaneers and the ancestors of present day residents who were fishermen and workers in the coconut plantations. Today tourism has replaced fishing as the major source of income for the islanders although the mahogany skiffs are still in service for charter fishing and diving.

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Facts on Ambergris Caye and Belize

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S an Pedro Town is the only inhabited area on the island. It's atmosphere is that of a small bustling fishing village. The town is clustered with wooden houses, some with Mexican decor, others Caribbean, and some still remain with the English colonial architecture. Gift shops, boutiques, bars, cafes, and restaurants adorn Front And Middle streets (now named Barrier Reef Drive/Pescador Drive). A short walk in town will make you feel the friendliness of the people and enjoy their lifestyles as they go around doing their daily chores. Barefeet, tee-shirts, and shorts is the typical island dress code.

The people of the island are called "Sanpedranos" and speak English, Spanish, Creole, and Maya all at the same time, making it their own island dialect. They are proud of their heritage and are willing to share it with the tourists. Before tourism picked up in the eighties, the islanders wer mostly Mestizos (Maya-Spanish). Today they share their island with the Creole, Maya, Central American refugees, and Americans that have made San Pedro their new home.

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The island's biggest tourist attraction is the Belize Barrier Reef that runs parallel along the entire coast of Belize. The reef is only a quarter mile from the beach of Ambergris Caye making diving easily accessible. The island's seaside is jammed with jetties and dive shops which offer trips to the different dive sites and to the Great Blue Hole. The also offer certified scuba lessons in NAUI, PADI, and SSI. One of the most popular dive sites is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which is only a ten minute boat ride from town. The reef's beauty and richness has put Belize among the top ten dive destinations in the world.

The evenings on the island are a social event. You will find tourists and islanders at the different bars and restaurants listening to reggae and latin music and sharing the day's adventures. For those that like to take a day off from diving, the travel agencies in town arrange day tours (click here) to the Maya ruins and rain forest. For those who just want to relax, a day on the sandy beach will certainly do.

When planning your next vacation to one of those exotic islands that offer everything but crowds, remember my name is . . . . . Ambergris Caye!

Gach Guerrero, Amigo Travel

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Scenes from Ambergris Caye

The Barefoot Executive - Walking down the beach with a friend one day (an island dog in tow), both on our way to our respective jobs, (we do have those, even in paradise), he remarked: "Great Commute, Huh!!!"
Beverley Mercier, San Pedro Town

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