Ambergris Caye (pronounced key) is one of the beautiful, tropical Caribbean islands off the coast of Belize, Central America. The official language of the country is English, and the currency is fixed to the U.S. Dollar at two to one, making it easy for the English-speaking tourist.
Ambergris is the largest island in the country and the most popular of Belize tourism destinations. The second largest barrier reef in the world is located just a mile from Ambergris’ shore, making it one of the premier dive destinations in the world. The reefs teem with tropical fish of every size, color, and description, along with exotic corals, sponges, and sea fans. Windsurfing, sea kayaking, catamaran sailing, jet skiing, parasailing, and kite boarding are among some of the water sports available on the island, but if you think this is just a Caribbean diving and snorkeling destination, think again. The traditional Maya communities and ancient archaeological sites, uncovered in the dense, lush jungles of the Belizean mainland, should also be on your “must-see” lists.
We took a water taxi from mainland Mexico (Chetumal Bay) and arrived at one of the main docks of this lively island at San Pedro Town. The waterfront was bustling with activity. There were dive shops, restaurants, craft and gift shops, vendors selling crafts on the beach, and people playing volleyball. Others were enjoying the sun, soaking up the wonderful Caribbean ambiance. The sound of reggae wafting across the beach said, “You are in the Caribbean!” The islanders are so friendly – it seems the people of Ambergris are eager to share their island with everyone who happens upon its sun-drenched shores. The allure of the deep green-blue Caribbean waters, fringed with powdery soft white sand beaches, are hard to resist. The visitor here will not feel like an outsider. The San Pedranos, whether old-timers or newer arrivals, delight in sharing their island with visitors.
Securing a golf cart, the main means of transportation on the island, we headed for our resort. The resort for this visit was just south of San Pedro; the island’s only town with a population of around 15,000. San Pedro is located on the southern part of the caye (island). The town has many excellent restaurants and shops, of which we sampled quite a few.
Some of the resorts on the island have been featured on TV series such as Temptation Island, The Bachelor and Family Jewels. Over our time on Ambergris, we have stayed at several of the fine resorts you will find listed below.
Quite a few of the expats we met on the island are successful entrepreneurs. Kelly McDermott, whose family is from Texas, was raised on the island. Along with her husband, Mukul and a friend, she has the Phoenix Resort, three restaurants, Caliente, Blue Water Grill and Red Ginger, a wine shop and wine distribution business. If you visit Kelly’s Caliente restaurant, try the Mango Chicken. It’s delicious. Her philosophy is, “Leave the world a little better than you found it.” According to Kelly, she wouldn’t live any place else. Chef Amy Knox’s Wild Mango restaurant is located on the beach and has a very special Caribbean ambiance. South of town a young couple, Jo and Chris Beaumont, have started the successful Belize Chocolate Company out of their home. Their “Kakaw” brand chocolate is free trade with all ingredients from Belize.
When asked about safety on the island, expat and local realtor John Turley answered, “Like when I was a child – unsupervised – no danger.” Referring to his kids riding their bikes to and from school, “It’s 100% the best place to raise a family.”
The mainland of Belize is only an hour away from Ambergris by boat or 15 minutes by plane. There, one may visit many of the world-renowned Maya archaeological sites, including Lamani, Altun Ha, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, Caracol, El Pilar. Tikal (a world famous Maya site) is close to the Belize border in Guatemala. These traditional Maya communities and ancient archaeological sites – uncovered in the dense lush jungles of the Belizean mainland – should be on your “must-see” list. Also, one can enjoy many adventures on the mainland, including caving, cave tubing, hiking, zip lining, river canoeing, and horseback riding.
Traveling from either Mexico or mainland Belize, you will find Ambergris Caye an enjoyable Caribbean adventure. The memories you are likely to take home with you are that of the friendly island people you have met.
IF YOU GO
Several airlines have flights from the U.S. and Canada to Belize City
By air one can get to Ambergris from Belize City or Corozal (near the Mexican Border) by
From Belize mainland or Chetumal, Mexico one may go by water taxi:
San Pedro Water Taxi
While on the island, golf cart is the preferred means of transportation:
San Pedro Golf Cart Rental