Lifestyle

Ambergris Caye, Belize: The Ultimate Itinerary


Located in Central America, just south of Mexico, Belize is home to some of the most distinctive ecosystems and terrestrial biodiversity on the planet. It’s here that you can see coastal mangrove swamps, hilly terrain, dense forests, wild jungles, and large swaths of undeveloped land. The intrepid explorer will be able to scuba dive in the visible-from-space Great Blue Hole, wander through cave systems, and spot inimitable flora and fauna like mahogany trees, black orchids, toucans, howler monkeys, and tapirs.

With Mayan roots, a history with England (English is the official language), and rich cultures like the African-based Garifuna, Mestizo, Kriol, East Indian, Mennonite, Arab, and Chinese, there’s much to learn when it comes to the traditions and customs of the citizens in this country.

Belize has around 450 islands, called cayes, that stud the 185-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef. Part of the Mesoamerica Reef system, extending from Ambergris Caye in the north to Sapodilla Cayes in the south, the Belize Barrier Reef is protected by the UNESCO World Heritage program. Keep reading to 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.

Explore San Pedro Town

Stretching along the world-renowned reef, Ambergris Caye is home to San Pedro Town, the island’s biggest settlement, located in the southern section of the island. The sandy streets, flanked with multi-hued wooden houses, sets the scene for island life and you’ll notice that everything operates a bit slower. If you love seafood, you’re in luck—great bites are everywhere. Hop in a golf cart, the main mode of transportation, and explore the best of San Pedro Town.

Hang out at The Truck Stop

For a fun gathering place, carve out some time for a bottle of local Belikin beer and a mini food tour around The Truck Stop’s courtyard restaurants, fashioned out of brightly painted shipping containers. From pizza at Slice of Haven to conch ceviche and fish tacos at Sol Fresca to southeast Asian noodle, rice, and soup dishes at Rasa to a scoop of ice cream at Cool Cone, this is the place to hang out for hours on end. Open seven days per week, compete at the trivia night, enjoy live music, see an outdoor movie, or swim in the pool.

Dress Smart at Sea Salt Restaurant and Terrace Bar

While the space is well-designed with a sophisticated modern flair, the ambiance at Sea Salt Restaurant and Terrace Bar at Alaia Belize is laid-back and serene. This is the place to take a risk and try something off the menu that is newfangled and out of the ordinary. Local flavors influence the international cuisine where the fresh catch-of-the-day reigns supreme.

Sample Treats at Belize Chocolate Company

Treat yourself to a special outing and visit the Belize Chocolate Company, located in the heart of San Pedro, along the coastline (there’s a second location on the neighboring island of Caye Caulker). This chocolate company has been making chocolate from organic Belizean cacao since 2007 and there are no signs of it slowing down. All the beans come from indigenous farmers in Southern Belize, while all the sugar derives from northern Belizean cane farmers. An online store is up and running for all of those at-home purchases as well.

Show Up Early at Robin’s Kitchen

With a large black smoker out front, plastic chairs in the sand, and limited seating under a palapa roof, you’ll feel like you’re walking into an adventure novel with a visit to Robin’s Kitchen. A white board lists the daily specials—jerk or curry chicken and Jamaican goat. This is the place everyone is talking about.

Relax at Secret Beach

Secret Beach is definitely not a secret, but it does take a bit of an effort to get to so folks who come here usually hang out for several hours. Pirates Not So Secret Beach Bar and Grill serves food and drinks and the staff will even bring your order to you as you lounge in a hammock or sit at a picnic table on the sand bar with your feet in the water. If Pirates and Secret Beach are too busy, head just south of there to Blue Bayou Restaurant and Bar where you’ll find more hammocks and picnic tables under palapas in the water. Relaxation is the name of the game.

Listen to Live Music at the Piano Bar

The Piano Bar at Alaia Belize has a relaxed-yet-upscale vibe, with comfortable and intimate seating options. Order a craft cocktail or take part in a molecular mixology experience where you’ll be able to see liquor concoction wizardry created out of what looks like an urbane chemistry set. Interact with the master mixologist, Subhash, and enjoy an artistic libation adventure like no other. You’ll want to take photographs of this Instagram-worthy jaunt.  

Visit a Staple: Elvi’s Kitchen

Many folks agree that you can’t visit Ambergris Caye without stopping at Elvi’s Kitchen, a staple on the island and a favorite of locals and tourists alike. From the Mayan fish, steamed in a banana leaf, to street corn to butter poached grouper, you’ll likely taste a home-grown favorite at this restaurant. Be sure to take a peek at the colorful paintings and art located in the back room while there.

Snorkel with Nurse Sharks

Of course, the Great Blue Hole is a popular destination for divers, but if you’re not certified, add Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize’s oldest marine reserve, to your list for exceptional snorkeling. Explore the four different zones, A, B, C, and D, which include The Reef, The Seagrass Beds, The Mangroves, and Shark Ray Alley. This is your chance to get an insider’s look at the diverse marine habitats—full of corals, sponges, seagrasses, and mangrove trees—that are home to vibrant fish, turtles, sting rays, and nurse sharks (you can swim with all the creatures, including the sharks). Belize Pro Dive Center will lead the way, keeping your safe and well informed.

Stay in Luxurious Accommodations

For well-appointed ocean-front accommodations, a plethora of dining options, and access to San Pedro Town and all at Ambergris Caye has to offer, rest your head at Alaia Belize, an Autograph Collection Hotel. Swim or sip cocktails at the Vista Rooftop Pool and Lounge, meet with new friends at the Beach Bar, enjoy casual dining on The Deck, or opt for indulgent room service.

One thing is for sure, you can expect amiable service, a relaxing atmosphere, and special conveniences like the onsite Dive Shop and Adventure Concierge. Whether you want to explore the island via golf cart, go diving or snorkeling, or experience an excursion to the mainland for a custom tour of Maya archaeological sites, Alaia Belize will take care of everything and ensure that you have the ultimate vacation while in Belize.

Pro Tip: Many visitors fly in and out of Belize City, which makes a trip to Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, with Belize N Me tour company, a great add-on, particularly if you have an exploratory spirit and love wildlife and walking through a jungle landscape. Much of the park is still unexcavated, however, you can see the Mask Temple, Jaguar Temple, and High Temple, all of which are incredible to see up close.

Likely, you won’t bump into too many other visitors, making the experience quite ethereal. You’ll travel on the New River via boat, past Mennonite communities and whole families fishing in the murky water. Your head will be on a pivot as you look for wildlife in the trees above as well as lurking in the water underneath. I promise you, this will feel like a real adventure, one worth having and writing home about. The Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina offers affordable accommodations, near the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, for those early morning departures back to the United States.



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