The largest island in the country and a getaway to the world-famous Blue Hole in Belize, Ambergris Caye (pronounced key) is a must-stop on your Belize itinerary. Besides being a fun destination with stunning wildlife and laid-back Caribbean vibes, Ambergris Caye has a unique identity and offers a great home base for tourists who want to spend at least a few days in this tropical paradise.
If you need help planning your Belize itinerary, but don’t know where to begin, read my guide to some of the best places to visit in Belize.
Ambergris Caye is a popular stop for many tourists who come to Belize. You can get here either by boat from Belize City or by a 20-minute flight from Belize City airport, which is a more pricy but quicker option. Tropic Air, a Belizean airline operates multiple flights per day from Belize City to San Pedro, the largest town on Ambergris Caye.
Things to do on Ambergris Caye
While most famous things to do on Ambergris Caye revolve around nature, it also offers plenty of other activities that will not leave you bored. From exploring hidden corners of this island to enjoying delicious food and mingling with friendly locals, Ambergris Caye is an adventurer’s paradise.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Most tourists who visit Ambergris Caye, do a trip to the nearby Hol Chan Marine Reserve, an incredible area around Belize Barrier Reef that is protected by the Belizean government. Hol Chan means “Little Channel” in the Mayan language which refers to the deep cut in the barrier reef. This marine reserve is by far one of the most popular day trips from Ambergris Caye because it sits just four miles south of it.
At Hol Chan, you can see the stunning coral formations, and watch incredible wildlife such as stingrays, turtles, and even manatees. Visiting this reserve is possible only with a guided tour, and several companies in San Pedro offer tours of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
Popular tour packages in Hol Chan Marine Reserve include snorkeling and diving options. Most companies provide snorkeling equipment.
Shark Ray Alley
One of the major highlights of Hol Chan Marine Reserve is Shark Ray Alley, a spot within Hol Chan where you can snorkel alongside nurse sharks, the mellow and friendly creatures who are used to being fed by tour boats that come here regularly. Most tour operators include a stop of Hol Chan on their itinerary.
The close neighbor of Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker is a small sleepy island that is perfect for a day trip if you want to see something new. This is a much smaller island and is great for exploring at your own pace. You can get here by catching a water taxi from San Pedro.
PRO TIP: Ambergris Caye tends to be a bit more expensive than Caye Caulker that has a bit more of a backpacker vibe to it and offers more accommodations catering to budget travelers.
The crown jewel is Belize, the Great Blue Hole is a huge marine reserve located about 62 miles off the coast of the country. The Belize Blue Hole is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and part of the second-largest barrier reef in the world.
A popular site among experienced divers, the Great Blue Hole has created thousands of years ago when the rising sea level flooded a vast network of caves that have stalactites and stalagmites. It is over 400 feet deep and is the largest sea hole of its kind in the world.
Diving Blue Hole is by far one of the most popular things to do on Ambergris Caye among thrill-seekers who come here.
Iguana Eco Center
Now let’s get back on the island. There are definitely some classic things to do on Ambergris Caye, but the island also has many hidden gems. One of them is the Iguana Eco-Center, a sanctuary tucked behind one of San Pedro’s residential streets where you can see tons of beautiful green iguanas roaming around freely and even feed them a tasty banana.
Besides being a fun experience, this place also does a stellar job at providing safe heaven for these endangered reptiles that are unfortunately still hunted in Belize sometimes.
Belize Chocolate Company
If you have a sweet tooth, stop at Belize Chocolate Company, a small store where you can sample delicious Belizean chocolate. Not many people know that Belize has cocoa plantations on its mainland where the climate is different from the islands. Aside from Belize Chocolate Company, you can buy Belizean chocolate at many stores around Ambergris Caye.
Trying locally produced chocolate is one of the best things to do on San Pedro Belize, so you should definitely stop here.
Not so secret anymore, Secret Beach is the local’s favorite hangout spot. It’s a great place to relax and chill, especially after a day full of activities. Located just over 30 minutes north of San Pedro by golf cart, it offers a mix of quiet beaches with clear blue waters to the left and overwaters bars and restaurants to the right.
And while Secret Beach is a fairly well-known spot these days, it’s definitely one of the best things to do on Ambergris Caye, if you want to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
One of the most popular spots for eating out and socializing in San Pedro, Truck Stop is a food court made up of shipping containers converted into cute restaurants. Here you can try a variety of food such as Asian, Latin American, and traditional Western dishes. A shop that sells the famous Belizean ice cream is particularly worth a stop.
On weekends, visitors enjoy live music, games, movie nights and the overall awesome atmosphere, however, there are plenty of activities here even on weekdays.
So, don’t forget to check out Truck Stop, even if you are on Ambergris Caye only for a short time.
Marco Gonzalez Archaeological Reserve
Hidden on the southern end of the island in the middle of the jungle, Marco Gonzalez Archaeological Reserve is one of the most unique things to do on Ambergris Caye. While it is not the most impressive ruin site without any temples but some remaining foundations, it provides a great escape from the touristy side of Ambergris Caye and shows you the signs of prehistoric development in the area.
If you decide to make your way here, don’t forget to bring plenty of water and bug spray, to avoid getting bad bites from mosquitos that are common at the Mayan ruins in Belize.
San Pedro Artisan Market
The small artisan market of San Pedro is one of the best places to visit on Ambergris Caye. Here you will find local artisans selling a variety of goods including souvenirs, arts, and crafts. The vendors here are very friendly and will happily talk to you about their goods.
PRO TIP: If you plan to visit San Pedro Artisan Market, don’t forget to bring some cash with you. Credit cards are widely accepted around San Pedro, however, street vendors accept only cash.
Other cayes in Belize
Ambergris Caye is no doubt the most popular caye Belize. While it has the most developed infrastructure and amenities of any island in the country, it’s far from being the only one.
Belize has over 450 cayes around its coastline, and every one of them has its guardian. (Yes, that’s true!) Sounds like a dream job, right?
If you have extra time and are up for a little adventure, I recommend visiting one of Belize’s lesser-known cayes such as Half Moon Caye, Laughing Bird Caye, and Sapadilla Cayes Marine Reserve, located about 36 miles east of Punta Gorda in southern Belize.
Where to stay on Ambergis Caye
Caye Ambergris is a place where you can either stay at a modest hostel or splurge on a swanky resort, the options are endless! The island has a great variety of accommodations, so whether you are a budget traveler or have a little bit of money to spend, you will find a great spot here.
Budget hotels in Ambergris Caye
Althrough Ambergris Caye is slightly more expensive than its smaller neighbor Caye Caulker, it has plenty of affordable accommodations, so you don’t have to break your bank. For example, Drift Inn is a beautiful hotel that also has a dorm room, if you are a budget traveler. Drift Inn also has a kitchen, free water and towels and also can help you to book diving and snorkeling tours to Hol Chan Marine Reserve. And the staff there is super friendly too 🙂
Medium hotels in Ambergris Caye
If you are willing to spend a bit more money, Ambergris Caye has many gorgeous hotels that come with small kitchens and many amenities. For example, check out Casa Del Rai, an apartment-hotel that’s about half a mile away from Playa San Pedro.
Another popular property in San Pedro, Belize is The Palapa House. This medium-budget hotel offers gorgeous views of the Caribbean, private parking and a nice terrace.
Luxury hotels on Caye Ambergris
Luxury travelers absolutely love San Pedro, because it offers a ton of luxury accommodations such as beautiful resorts and private houses where you can relax and enjoy the serene scenery between diving, snorkeling and exploring downtown San Pedro.
For example, Anil Mar is a beautiful beachfront villa located about 7 miles from downtown San Pedro in a gorgeous setting. Another popular place with luxury travelers in San Pedro is Mahogany Bay Resort that has great restaurants and amenities on property.
How to get around Ambergris Caye
Golf carts are by far the most popular mode of transportation around Ambergris Caye. You can rent a golf cart at many shops around downtown San Pedro.
Bringing your drone to Belize
Belize has very strict rules when it comes to bringing a drone here. To be allowed to bring a drone here and to operate it, you are required to have special permission. So don’t make my mistake, and have your drone confiscated at the airport in Belize City when you try to clear the customs. If you want to fly your drone in Belize, make sure to get proper paperwork ahead of your trip.
Best time to visit Ambergris Caye
Just like many Caribbean destinations, the winter season is the busiest on Ambergris Caye. Meanwhile, June through November is the hurricane season in Belize when the weather the country is often hit by storms and hurricanes. Mid-November through January is the best time to visit Belize when the hurricane is over and the vacationing crowds haven’t yet arrived.
Belize also sits out of the way from the main track for hurricanes, unlike many other popular destinations in the Caribbean. Still, Ambergris Caye gets inundated with rains and mosquitoes during that time, so keep it in mind.
Ambergris Caye might be one of the most touristy places and more expensive than many other areas in the country, however, being a tropical paradise it is worth a stop on your Belize itinerary. I recommend you spend at least a few days in San Pedro before heading to other destinations in Belize.
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