Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is the largest of several hundred islands in the northernmost waters of Belize, Central America. This simple island is a top destination in Belize for tourists worldwide,and its lack of high-rise hotels or big city public transportation gives the island a relaxed, laid-back feel.

The July/August 2008 issue of Islands Magazine featured a list of the Top 10 islands across the world that are most desirable to call home. Here's an excerpt on why Ambergris Caye made the list:

The budget-friendly properties available a few flip-flop steps away from the beach, an exuberant expat community and the vibrant streets of San Pedro earned this Central American island a place on our list. It's pretty easy to move here, too, since immigration policies are friendly, the locals speak English and it takes about two hours to reach Belize from Florida. Once there, life on Ambergris Caye entails lazing the days away on star-white beaches, spending afternoons snorkeling the world's second-largest barrier reef and enjoying nights at beachfront barbecues with newfound friends.

Get in

By plane

You can head to the airport in Belize City and book a flight which will take about 20 minutes. You can also fly to Ambergris from the Phillip Goldson International Airport. There is a modest airfield near the center of the island and next to San Pedro town. There is also air service from Corozal, Belmopan and Caye Caulker, Belize.

By boat

San Pedro Belize Express has departures, 14 first class boats and first class service to get you to and from Ambergris Caye. From Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula Chetumal, Quintana Roo The connecting hub from Mexico to Belize is Chetumal, Quintana Roo. From Chetumal, take the San Pedro Belize Express water taxi from Muelle Fiscal (Municipal Pier). The boat leaves Chetumal en route to Ambergris Caye every day at 3:00PM and ticket cost is $60 US, one way, .

From Belize City San Pedro Belize Express has daily runs to Ambergris Caye from Belize City. Departure times are 9AM, 11AM, 12PM, 3PM, 4:00PM, 5:30PM. Tickets are One Way $15 US / $30 BZ Round Trip $27.50 US / $55 BZ.

From Caye Caulker San Pedro Belize Express has daily runs to Ambergris Caye from Caye Calker. Departure times are 7AM (Connection to Chetumal), 9:45AM, 11:45PM, 12:45AM, 1:45PM, 3:45PM, 4:45PM, 6:15PM. Tickets are One Way $10 US / $20 BZ Round Trip $17.50 US / $35 BZ.

Get around

There are three main north-south streets, and several that link them, running east-west. Barrier Reef Drive is closest to the two- and three-story apartment buildings that face onto the beaches.

Only some of the roads are paved with cobblestones, and in the rainy season, many can fall into poor condition from traffic and rain erosion, and provide numerous potholes which are sufficient to slow the bicycle and golf cart traffic. There relatively few automobiles licensed on the island, and they are not needed because you can get to most places walking, by bike, golf cart, or water taxi.

Golf carts are the dominant form of transportation, and can be rented by the hour or day. As of January 2016, around $100 BZ a day is a reasonable rate for golf carts. Advertised rates may be intentionally overpriced, so a polite haggle may result in a better offer. Pricing may also relate to the condition of the golf cart. For traveling throughout the island, good tires and working headlights and taillights are a must. There is a $5 BZ toll for crossing the bridge north of San Pedro, but the bridge is often unattended in the later hours.

Bikes can also be rented throughout the island, but are less preferable for travelers staying further away from San Pedro.

Water taxis may be offered by beachside resorts. Dive shops in particular may offer water transport free of charge with a paid diving excursion.

Walking is the most common way of getting around within San Pedro. There's a great deal of quality hotels in town, and many resorts are less than a mile away.

See

Wherever you are staying, you will be able to book tours that go all over Belize and even into Guatemala. Ambergris Caye is a great place to relax, and you can see a lot of what Belize has to offer with the trips that you can book wherever you are staying.

Do

The beaches are coral sand beaches and you may need watershoes or sport sandals. There are many piers (every 100 meters or so) where a tourist can rent a boat for diving, deep-sea fishing, or sailboating to other islands.

Snorkeling and diving are a must if you are going to be in town for a couple of days. The spectacular Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the longest in the Western hemisphere, offers superb coral reefs and marine wildlife. Several marine reserves are also close by. The bigger and more reknown diving locations include the Turneffe Atoll and the Great Blue Hole -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both require a large group, around 8 to 10 divers, in order to make the day trip. Dive shops often coordinate with other shops to ensure enough divers are able to attend, and midweek (not the weekends!) are the most common days for large diving excursions.

On weekends, there are very entertaining pick up soccer matches at the small stadium near the airport.

If you visit the island during early July, take the water taxi to nearby Caye Caulker for the annual Lobsterfest. Great spiny lobster and coconut rice!

Drink rum on the beach!

Buy

San Pedro,Ambergris Caye, is a bustling town with several small and one large Gringo style supermarkets where you can buy pretty much anything. However, imported items can be very expensive,so if you enjoy American snack foods, pack them and take them with you. Fresh fruit and vegetables are readily available. There are several bakeries and butchers shops that sell all sorts of meats.

Eat

All food on Ambergris Caye is inexpensive. Eating "street food" or catching and cooking your own are also part the adventure that awaits you on this island.

Local Central American cuisine.

Drink

The water in San Pedro is safe to drink, but on the mainland and smaller islands, use bottled water to be safe.

Many piers have bars where you might order a rum drink with a parasol in it. For a nice laid back bar on the beach try BC's. The Tacklebox makes a mean mojito.

The local beer is Belikin, which can be bought everywhere.

Sleep

You should call ahead to make reservations, but can usually find accommodations even without them.

You can rent fully furnished and stocked homes by the week or more, for less than what it costs to get a hotel room for the same amount of time.

A small pool and two hot tubs. Tour operators are familiar with the CV and can pick you up in the morning right on the dock. The CV office also arranges tours. Prices are listed in the office or in the info book in each room. The villas have kitchens so you can cook your own food instead of paying the outrageous restaurant prices. There is also a small bird sanctuary behind the villas that shield you from the noisy street. Grocery stores and restaurants are a short stroll away. There are no TVs in the room and the free WiFi is spotty. MC and Visa accepted. But not American Express.

Located north of San Pedro, Portofino Beach Resort, info@portofinobelize.com Tel: +501 226 5096, sits on a stretch of white sandy beach, away from the hustle and bustle of San Pedro Town. The resort offers various types of accommodation, each offering amazing views of the Caribbean Sea and the barrier reef. Each room has a porch with chairs and hammocks. To the rear of the property lies the lagoon, home to an assortment of rare tropical birds and the occasional crocodile.

Decorated with local artwork and custom made furniture, each room showcases the exotic woods native to Belize. Complete with air-conditioning, ceiling fans, Cable TV, DVD/CD Player, mini refrigerator, hair dryer, bathroom amenities, potable bottled water and free wireless internet. Facilities include a gorgeous swimming pool, a full service restaurant, beach bar, and on-site dive shop. Guests can use complimentary kayaks, canoes, snorkeling gear, movies and books. Activities include guided snorkeling tours, scuba diving and instruction, day trips to archaeological sites, caving, sailing and fishing, to mention a few.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, January 31, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.