Belize’s barrier reef, stretching for over 350 miles, is the longest in the western hemisphere. A string of about 200 islands – cayes – is the main tourist attraction in the country. We were heading to the largest – Ambergris Caye – and the main town of San Pedro.
By land or sea is the only decision – 90 minutes by boat from Belize City or 20 minutes by air. Both docks and airport are in the middle of town – you just disembark and you’re there!
(Approaching by air -the white line on the horizon is the crest of the reef)
You can easily manage on foot if you are staying in the town centre – you can even walk from the airport or dock. There are plenty of bikes for hire but we found it a bit hot for cycling so just did what most people do – we rented a golf buggie!
(I love this – queuing for fuel San Pedro style!)
This former fishing village is now the destination of about half of Belize’s visitors. This does not in any way take from the charm of the place. Nor is it solely a party town – it’s popular with families, retirees and couples as well as singles. It has a definite Caribbean vibe and informal atmosphere and is a great place in which to chill for a few days. It combines with the jungle to make for a perfect vacation.
(The first thing that strikes you – after the golf buggies – is the colour!…)
(…and more colour…)
(Even the police stations are bright and cheerful!)
(Lots of small churches)
(Buildings draped in purple for Easter)
Things to Do
Water- water – water: swimming, snorkeling, diving, fishing, sailing, windsurfing, caye-hopping, kayaking…..
(There can be a lot of sea grass at times in the water around town so hotels have docks for swimming.)
The Blue Hole of Belize is on the bucket list of every serious diver ever since Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the top 5 dive sites in the world. The depth of the giant sinkhole gives it a strong blue colour. Giant stalactites and caves are found at the bottom. The greyish ring around the top is actually dried out coral.
Situated about 80km from San Pedro, its suitable only for advanced divers. However, anyone can snorkel at the top and there are flyover trips if you don’t feel like getting wet!
A misnomer if ever there was one, Secret Beach is the most popular bathing and sun area in the area. Located about 8km from town, it lies on the opposite shore so no sea grass – just glorious warm water. And crowds! There are lots of bars with sunbeds, ‘free’ to use but you must eat and drink there – some have a minimum spend. Further along the beach, there are less busy spots.. we found Aurora a short distance away – they were happy for people to sit all day whether they bought or not.
(Heading to Secret Beach – no one on the road – maybe it really is a secret!)
(Aurora’s Bar was relatively quiet, had lots of space and great fish burgers with real fries!)
Nature Reserves and Maya Sites.
You can take an organised tour to the Marine Reserve and swim with nurse sharks and stingrays or head to the National Park at the northern end of the caye . There are also Maya sites on the caye for those who don’t get the opportunity to visit the bigger sites on the mainland.
There’s a great choice of accommodation in town – suiting every pocket. We stayed at Xanadu Island Resort which was on the beach about a 25 minute walk from the centre. We were on a room only basis but there was a supermarket and bakery just out on the road and street food vendors, restaurants and bars locally if we didn’t want to walk into town.
(That’s our room – upstairs on the corner – photo taken from the beach)
(Great room, lovely balcony – and what a view!)
(Kitchen area was better equipped than our own!!)
(A slice of heaven – and always the white line of the reef crest…)
Food and Drink:
If you love seafood, Mexican or fried chicken then you’re in luck – love all three and you’re in for a treat! The food is great – and again, will suit every pocket. There are plenty of restaurants but equally, you can just follow the locals and join the queues at the best street food stands. (On our way to Secret Beach, we passed a building site where a gang of workers gathered around a golf buggy. They were buying burritos from a woman with a few cool boxes. It was obviously a regular scene – we were the only ones to give her cash – everyone else had a tab and she wrote their order in a notebook.) Mains are usually served with rice or potato. We broke our rule about salads and shellfish and ate everything. There’s plenty of fruit available and they love their key lime pie. Oh – and Marie Sharpe’s hot sauce is on every table in Belize!
Wine is relatively expensive but the local beers and cocktails make up for it.
Travel Agent – We booked this trip through naturallybelize
Flight from Belize City to San Pedro will cost around US $100 single
Ferry from Belize City to San Pedro circa US $17 single
Golf buggy rental – we paid about US $50 for 10 hours ( but we decided on the spur of the moment and didn’t shop around).