Welcome to your Ultimate Ambergris Caye Travel Guide covering everything you need to know about this Central American country. Located just south of Mexico, Belize is home to some of the most distinctive ecosystems and terrestrial biodiversity in the world. In Belize, you can find coastal mangrove swamps, hilly terrain, dense forests, wild jungles, and still much undeveloped land. For those on the more adventurous side, you will be able to scuba dive in the Great Blue Hole, wander through cave systems, and, if you’re lucky, spot howler monkeys in their natural habitat.
Belize has around 450 islands, called cayes (pronounced “keys”), that line an 185-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef that extends from Ambergris Caye in the north to Sapodilla Cayes in the south. The Belize Barrier Reef is protected by the UNESCO World Heritage program and is currently the largest living coral reef system in the world.
In this blog, you’ll learn more about Ambergris Caye, the largest and most popular of Belize’s cayes, as well as what to do, see, and eat while there. So get ready to book that ticket and GO!
WHERE IS AMBERGRIS CAYE?
Located in the clear shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea just off the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Ambergris Caye is 25 miles long, and a little over a mile wide in some places.
HOW TO GET TO AMBERGRIS CAYE?
From Belize City, you really have 2 options on getting to Ambergris Caye.
Whichever way you choose to get to the island, please factor in the time it takes to get back to the international airport (airplane/ferry and taxi) so you don’t miss the cut-off to check-in for your international flight home.
Journey Duration: 15 minutes
To get to Ambergris Caye/San Pedro or Caye Caulker you can fly from Philip S.W. Goldson International airport on one of two airlines, Maya Island Air or Tropic Air.
Tickets on Maya Island Air costs anywhere between $50 to $100 (one way) depending on the date and time.
Tickets on Tropic Air flights cost somewhere between $80 to $120 (one way) depending on date and time.
*The two airlines and planes are more or less the same, so book the one that’s more cost effective and aligns with your flight(s) into Belize City.
Journey Duration: 1.5 hours
A water taxi from Belize City Airport to Antigua costs around $55 USD for one round trip ticket and is a much more affordable option for those not pressed for time.
WHEN TO VISIT AMBERGRIS CAYE?
The best time to visit Belize is during the dry season, which is between January and May. Although you can enjoy warm temperatures across the country, the type of weather you get will depend on the region. Expect clear, sunny days in the Cayo District and on the Cayes. The Toledo District and Placencia enjoy a more tropical climate where there’s a chance of rain at any time of year, but this is what gives these regions their lush beauty.
The wet season runs from June to December, but travel is still possible until early August, with rain mostly falling in the afternoon.
WHERE TO STAY IN AMBERGRIS CAYE?
There’s no shortage of hotels, vacation rentals, and hostels in Ambergris Caye. From budget to luxury, the island has you covered. You’ll probably spend more time finding the best location than you will on choosing a place to stay.
San Pedro Town is where the action takes place and has most of the bars, restaurants, and nightlife. It’s just 3 blocks wide so it’s very walkable and impossible to get lost.
Best Luxury Hotels in Ambergris Caye:
Alaia Belize (my personal favorite)
Las Terrazas Resort
Mahogany Bay Resort and Beach Club
*Alternatively, you can check out AirBnB and rent a pretty nice apartment that will not only be more affordable, but also offer a more authentic feel of Belize
HOW TO GET AROUND AMBERGRIS CAYE
From personal experience, the best way to get around Ambergris Caye is by golf cart. While the island isn’t all too big, it is in fact spread out, so walking may take a bit of time.
Typically your hotel will offer you golf cart rentals, but you will pay for convenience. I recommend using Avis Golf Cart Rental. This company was affordable, easy to work with and available 24 hours a day.
*For reference, golf cart pricing is around $30 – $50 USD per day (cheaper the longer you keep the cart) Anything above that and you’re getting ripped off
THINGS TO DO IN AMBERGRIS CAYE
Visit The Truck Stop – The Truck Stop may be the most iconic sight on the island. It is a shipping container food truck park near San Pedro, Belize on Ambergris Caye. Each container has a different type of food available, and they are arranged around a central seating area.
But that’s not it…
It also features a pool with swim-up bar, 18-foot movie screen, outdoor games like ping pong, cornhole, and extra-large Jenga and Connect4 and even an outdoor pavilion for events and a stage for live music performances.
This is my #1 place to visit in San Pedro
Check out Xunantunich Mayan Ruins – This sight is home to the “Maiden of the Rock,” the ghost of the woman who is said to inhabit the ruins. If “lucky,” you’ll see her dressed in all white with fiery red glowing eyes. Spooky!
Atop of the ruins, you can see some of the most panoramic views of the surrounding areas and, on a clear day, you can see over into neighboring Guatemala which is about half a mile away.
Go Cave Tubing – Cave tubing is 100% worth it. When you arrive at the Nohoch Che’en Archaeological Reserve, your guide will take you on about a 20 minute walk to the river and along the way, explains the importance of various plants you see in the dense forest and their uses in modern medicine.
When you finally reach the river, you’ll be AMAZED at the geological formations of the limestone. Prepared to be wowed.
Swim with Nurse Sharks – Swimming with sharks has always been on my bucket list, but I still need to work up the courage to swim with Great Whites, so this was a great starting point!
In order to get Nurse Sharks to come near the boat, your guide will chum the water. But don’t worry, nothing too big will be in the area – haha
Visit Secret Beach – Honestly, this place was pretty underwhelming to me – I was told I went to the wrong area. The area I went to is where they have the staple sign “Secret Beach” and it was pretty run down.
However, I would give it a second shot (if I were to return) and check out Blue Bayou – a different part of Secret Beach – where I’m told the water is clear, the drinks are strong and the food is brought to you while you relax at your own overwater table in the middle of the ocean!
WHERE TO EAT IN AMBERGRIS CAYE
One of the main reasons I looked forward to visiting Ambergris Caye was because of all the amazing food recommendations I received from fellow travelers. I was told that Ambergris Caye has some of the freshest seafood in all of Belize, so I was eager to see for myself if it lived up to the hype.
Elvi’s Kitchen: This restaurant is Top 2 and it’s NOT 2. This restaurant has been feeding the locals for over 20 years and is a MUST when visiting San Pedro
Palapa Bar and Grill: This restaurant may be one of the coolest in the area. It is situated right on the ocean and even has its over swimming pool where you can relax on a float and have food and drink delivered to you by bucket!
If there is a specific dish you’re wanting to try, make sure you come early enough during the day to make sure they still have it. With its popularity, they tend to run out of certain foods and once they are out, that dish is done for the day.
Caramba Restaurant: This is the BEST and FRESHEST seafood in all of Ambergris Caye. This restaurant literally has all of their catch of the day displayed outside where you can hand select whatever you want and instruct the kitchen on how you want it to be cooked.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ANTIGUA
The most important rule when packing for a trip to Belize is to bring lightweight, airy clothes. You won’t need anything fancy, and you should leave all denim at home (unless you’re planning specific photo-ops). It’s far too warm for jeans. The weather was usually hot, and I was more than happy to walk around in shorts and t-shirts.
Hat: Ambergris Caye was pretty warm, especially when you’re doing outdoor exploration, so hats are a must
Bathing Suits: One of the most coveted things to do in Belize is swim or snorkel in the Belize Barrier reef, so you want to make sure you have your swim attire packed and ready to go.
Sunscreen and Sunglasses: Belize is famous for its coral reefs, so it’s important to bring reef-safe sunscreen. Regular lotions contain chemicals that hurt corals, whereas the ones labelled as reef-safe will not harm the environment, even when you go swimming.
Also, don’t forget to take your sunglasses! Make sure to buy some that offer UV protection for your eyes, so you don’t damage them. Sand and water reflect a lot of light, and your eyes will thank you later for any protection you give them.
Comfortable Sneakers: If you’re going to be exploring on the mainland, you’ll be doing a good amount of walking in the jungle, so you’ll want a solid pair of shoes that you can move around in.
Bug Spray: In Belize, you can find two types of insects that will be bothering you the most.
First, there are mosquitos. You’ll see those mostly in jungle areas, whereas you likely won’t be bothered as much if you’re staying on a caye.
Second, there are sandflies. Those live on beaches and they can seriously bother you. Over time, you’ll develop a resistance to their toxin (or at least I did) and you won’t feel their bites anymore. But if you’ve just arrived in the Caribbean? Then you should protect yourself as much as possible!
Underwater Camera: If you plan on going snorkelling or scuba diving, then you could consider getting an underwater camera. You will see so much marine life in the water from stingrays to sea turtles, so these memories are definitely not ones you’ll want to forget.
Waterproof Day Pack: This is another great item that you are going to want to have, especially if you plan on doing anything near the water. Choose a pack large enough to carry essential gear with convenient storage compartments and easy access to water bottles. This bag can also double as a bag you use to for simply exploring.