Belize is the travel destination for nature lovers and adventurous spirits. Ambergris Caye is one of the many cayes or islands that run along the coastline of the small vibrant multicultural nation of Belize. The coastal waters contain the world’s second largest Barrier Reef where the clarity of the warm Caribbean waters has established it as a diver’s paradise. Much of country of Belize has been retained in its original rain forest as it forms a vital link in the unique ecosystem of this part of the world.
Ambergris Caye is the largest of the cayes and is the most developed. The long sandy shores and marine wonderland have ensured its popularity with visitors over the years. The largest settlement is the old fishing village of San Pedro which now has a population of 9000 providing service for the numerous hotels, cafes and bars. Visitors are drawn to the ocean and a hotel right on the beach is a definite must have. Xanadu Island Resort is situated right on the beach and it ticks all of the essential beach resort boxes and then some.
Xanadu’s unique domed buildings blend into the beach environment framed by the palm trees fringing the dazzling ocean right beside you. There are a range of rooms from studios and lofts to 1, 2 and 3 bedroom suites. The style is simple, immaculate and luxurious with a colorful Caribbean touch. The curved buildings have generous windows and doors ensuring optimum indoor-outdoor flow. There is a heated pool, complementary Wi-Fi, rental bikes and kayaks to splash around in your front yard – the ocean. Xanadu is perfect for family holidays with spacious living areas and a fully equipped kitchen to cook up the fresh local produce available nearby.
If you are in Belize to experience the diving there are a multitude of dive sites around the Barrier Reef, a half hour boat ride from the Xanadu dock. Also you can arrange trips to the Turneffe Atoll and Lighthouse Reef which is the site of the world famous Great Blue Hole. An intensely blue sinkhole with a depth of 450 feet (135 meters), it branches out into a catacomb of caves and steep sided crevasses. Experienced divers will get the most out of this environment but the place itself is worth a visit even if you are not a diver. Turneffe Island is also another fascinating day trip destination, with a huge lagoon and a beautiful coral reef, home to a dazzling array of fish. The diving and snorkeling here is superb.
Another location with top snorkeling is 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of San Pedro at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve at the southern end of the caye. A licensed guide is mandatory but it is worthwhile as the mix of mangrove and seagrass habitats make this a rich marine environment. Hol Chan is actually a break in the reef which is a gathering point for schools of peaceful nurse sharks and spotted eagle rays. A valuable fishing spot before it gained reserve status, there are also plenty of lobster and conch and the occasional manatee sighting.
Fishing is a true Belizean way of life so there is a variety of fishing available – fly, deep sea, or reef. It is possible to take a fishing trip out with local operators for a half or full day. The trade winds and network of cayes make sailing in these waters safe with just the right amount of challenge. There are overnight trips and day trips available on sailboats and if learning to sail is on your bucket list, there is nowhere better.
For landlubbers who may be planning to make Ambergris Caye your base, trips are available to sites on the mainland. The Crooked Tree Wild Life Sanctuary is inland north west of Belize City. It is a mix of pine, oak and savannah visited by up to 275 different bird species including herons and hawks. There are numerous trails available through the wetlands and around the lagoons.
Inland from the Crooked Tree Reserve across the New River is Lamanai, the ruins of a Mayan city, which was occupied from 400BC to 1600 AD. Lamanai is accessed via boat along the New River lagoon. It is famous for the large stucco carvings adorning the high temples including the Jaguar Temple. Lamanai means ‘submerged crocodile’ in Mayan and the site has strong connections with crocodiles, their forms decorating many of the structures. Also there is an archaeological museum on site with displays of found artifacts.
An alternative trip, further north of the country, is to Caracol on the Vaca Plateau. The most extensive Mayan sites in Central America, it was rediscovered in 1936 after 1000 years. Work is still being carried out on excavation in this remote location. Caracol has the highest known structure, the Sky Palace or Caan, which is 140 feet (42 meters) high built in stone block work. This ancient world provides just part of the enchantment visitors feel in the magical destination of Belize.
Belize is a wonderful vacation spots for families, couples and solo travelers. Whether it be water or land adventures you are looking for, you’ll most certainly find it on and around Ambergris Caye.
Do you have anything to add to our top things to do in Ambergris Caye Belize list?