In 2019 I spent 3 weeks touring Belize with friends. Despite the fact that Belize is a tiny country, there is a LOT to see and we covered a lot of ground. This post sums up what we saw with links to detailed posts if you’re interested in more.
Belize it or not! A budget Itinerary for 3 weeks in Belize including a 3 day sailing trip AND Tikal
One place we missed was Ambergris Caye so this time I decided to escape winter and spend 10 days solely on the island. I was a little concerned I’d be bored but since I LOVE the sea I figured I could just spend a lot of time swimming. I needn’t have worried. There is a LOT to do!
Belize City to Ambergris Caye January, 2023
I arrived in Belize city still undecided on how to get to Ambergris Caye. To get there by water taxi you need to take a taxi to the terminal which costs about $30USD. If you can share a taxi that reduces the cost but I was alone so decided to fly since it’s much more convenient and not that much more expensive. $56.50 for a return ferry trip plus $60 in taxis vs $179 USD for a flight with Tropic Air. Luckily I could buy a ticket last minute. Should you decide to book this flight ahead of time, don’t worry about making it if your flight is delayed. They’re very flexible and will just put you on the next flight should you not arrive on time. Besides, the flight is a tour in itself as the view is fantastic!
Just so you know Belize has it’s own currency and it’s valued 2 to 1 on the USD. You can use US dollars there but will likely be given Belize dollars in change. ATM’s supply Belize dollars.
An advantage to travelling light is the ability to walk everywhere. Most San Pedro accommodations are within easy walking distance of either the ferry or the airport. Mine was no exception. I walked to the Drift Inn and checked in to my bed in a 6 bed dorm. Drift Inn is right behind the Sandbar and the relationship serves as a great advantage to all the guests. The kitchen in the Drift Inn is accessible to both as is the pool in the Sandbar. Nice! I connected via “WhatsAp” with reception and they kept me up to date on things going on in town as well as tours available. First thing I did was book the tours I knew I wanted.
Tip. During high season book ahead. They fill up and I met a few travellers who couldn’t get rooms.
Book here: https://www.booking.com/Share-PnYKaX
Here are my recommendations in no particular order 😀
#1 Watch the Sun Rise!
It may be the windy side but the sun rises shortly after 6 every morning and it’s definitely worth getting up to watch it come up. If you go to the dock to the south of Palapas, you might even get to see the eagle rays. Several times I saw three of them gracefully cutting through the water. Once I was treated to dolphins gracefully jumping right in front of me!
#2 Visit the Iguana Sanctuary
The Iguana Eco Corner is a 5 minute walk from the Drift Inn and on the Lagoon side of San Pedro. There’s an eagle’s nest right outside it so don’t forget to look up. The sanctuary is small but it’s definitely worth a visit. Walk the path slowly and make sure you look deep into the mangrove trees. There are some big beautiful male iguanas in there. Leave a donation if you’ve enjoyed your visit.
#3 Visit Secret Beach
Secret beach isn’t much of a secret and everyone tells you to go there. You need to rent a golf cart or a bike to get there. Apparently you can rent ebikes too. If I’d known that I might have chosen that rather than a golf cart since I was on my own. Oh well. It was fun and I ended up picking up a couple of young men walking to work. Picking up hitch hikers is certainly NOT something I’d do at home but lots of folks do it on the island. I never felt in danger and I do trust my instincts.
It’s only about 13 km but takes about 40 minutes by golf cart as the road is horrible.
I chose to stay overnight and had booked room at Secret Beach Cabanas. I highly recommend them. Giselle was very welcoming and my room was wonderful. Check it out here: http://secretbeachcabanas.com/
I’m glad I did as I got to experience more than the typical tourist thing. The beach is covered in bars with picnic tables and palapas right in the water. Waiters will serve you drinks no matter how deep you’re in there. There’s an inflatable obstacle course that looks like lots of fun too.
If sitting on the beach eating and drinking isn’t your thing, (it’s not mine) you can walk for a few km south and there really are some beautiful “secret” beaches with nobody there. If you snorkel in front of the Secret Cabanas there’s a big green, moray eel. Further south in front of the Blue Bajou is a pile of stones in the water that’s nice to snorkel around too. There are lots of pretty fish and I did find a lobster there. The Blue Bajou is a great place to watch the sunset. The food is okay, though not as great as I’d heard. Note that most of the kitchen’s on the beach close at 5 so make sure to order before then OR eat at the little cafe in front of Secret Cabanas. It’s open later. Not only is the food great but the young couple who operate it are really nice and their prices are the best I’d found on the beach.
#4 Go Bar Hopping
That’s right. I don’t drink and rarely go out at night and I’m saying you really should go bar hopping. The music scene is incredible and there’s always live music playing somewhere. You don’t have to drink or even stay out late but you really should experience the bar scene. The Jerry Jeff Walker festival starts the end of January and there’s even more music on the island then as musicians come from all over to play together and enjoy music. Since Jerry Jeff died, his song Django has taken it on.
#5 Go on a FOOD tour
San Pedro is home to too many good restaurants to try them all. A food tour lets you sample an really good assortment from Fry jacks to conch fritters and even traditional soup. Book that here: https://www.belizefoodtours.com/
I did a lunch tour and ate so much I didn’t need dinner. You really do need to visit as many different restaurants as you can. Estelle’s for breakfast, Lucy’s Treasure Chest for conch ceviche, El Fogons for conch fritters, Sandbar for the snapper fillet, Maxie’s for traditional rice and beans …. the list goes on. In 10 days I wasn’t able to eat at every restaurant I wanted to. Then there are the bakeries, ice cream shops and the Belize chocolate factory to try as well.
#6 Take a Snorkelling tour to Mexico Rocks
The only way to visit is to go with a tour as it’s a National park and well regulated. I booked it through the Drift Inn with Searious Adventures. (https://seariousadventuresbelize.com/) Bob was a great guide and we saw a lot. There are big chunks of coral there and lots of sea life. Even though it was windy, the surf wasn’t bad for snorkelling and the water was clear.
#7 Take a Snorkelling tour to Hol Chan Reserve and Shark Ray Alley
This one too needs to be done with a guide due to the national park. It’s a busy area with lots of people so not as relaxing as Mexico Rocks. The coral there is not as nice but there is a lot of ocean life to see. Shark ray alley is kind of intense. The guides feed the sharks so they come at the sound of the boat. Yes, you swim amongst them. They’re nurse sharks and not dangerous. They may be curious about you but don’t bite. Apparently the worst they could do is give you a big hickey.
#8 Watch for local fishermen and snorkel from Shore
I spent some time chatting with Roberto, the conch hunter and watched while he cleaned his catch. Shortly after he dropped the leftovers from the conch in the sea, the fish and rays came along for the feast. I stood for quite sometime just enjoying the beautiful creatures as they swam over my feet.
Most mornings I got up early to watch the sunrise from the dock just south of Palapas. Several mornings I saw spotted eagle rays there and once even saw dolphins. You can snorkel around that dock too. There’s a giant green moray eel living in a concrete pot just in front of the dock.
If you’re a diver, Ambergris Caye is paradise. The MesoAmerican reef
is the second largest in the world and it meets the island at the north end. There are a lot of dive spots along that reef. Snorkelling the blue hole isn’t worth it as, well, it’s just a hole. Diving it would be really cool. You’ll need to be an experienced diver to do it justice though.
#10 Take a day trip (or spend a couple nights) to Caye Caulker
I didn’t go this trip but if you haven’t been, you really need to experience it. Caye Caulker is very different from Ambergris Caye and easily accessible by water taxi. Learn more about that here: Panama layover. Caye Caulker! Sailing the Meso American Reef.
There’s a lot more to do on the island. I’ve just noted the highlights. There’s a group on facebook called Ambergris Caye tourists. Join that if you’re planning a trip. They’re a wealth of information!