Planning a trip to San Pedro, Belize can feel incredibly intimidating. At first glance, it seems like one of those Central American locations touted by savvy travelers and wanderlust insiders, but no one is 100% sure on its actual location. A sort of secret destination that only appears after a traveler has 50 or so passport stamps.
Thankfully, this is not true. While San Pedro, Belize is an off-the-beaten-path location, it is not a destination that requires any sort of travel prerequisites (minus the CDC’s recommended travel vaccinations, of course) and is reasonably accessible.
San Pedro is the only town on the island of Ambergris Caye just off the coast of mainland Belize. What was once a fishing town, named for the patron saint of fishing- Saint Peter, this place is now a hub for visitors who come to enjoy the slow-paced lifestyle and delights that can only be offered by a sleepy island in the Caribbean.
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It should come as no surprise that Ambergris Caye is a beach-goer’s paradise. By its definition of “caye” (pronounced “key”), the sandy island atop a reef evokes images of white powdery beaches and soft rolling waves akin to a Beach Boys song.
The easy-going climate is thanks to the island’s warm Central American location along with the Belize Barrier Reef that runs parallel to this tiny island making for amazing snorkeling, fishing, and diving.
The island is widely regarded as being friendly to tourists without being touristy. There are plenty of resorts, water sports, and restaurants for visitors to enjoy. The island is only accessible by boat or aircraft with regular trips from Belize City (on the mainland) to San Pedro (Ambergris Caye) so it should come as no surprise that the people who want to be there make the effort to visit.
Getting from mainland Belize to San Pedro is a common affair. There is a small municipal airport in San Pedro with regular flights coming and going from Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (BZE). The flight is roughly 20 minutes long and is the preferred method of travel for visitors. If flying in small planes does not sound like a great time, then a water taxi is an excellent alternative. There are regular crossings from the mainland to San Pedro. However, travelers connecting from the international airport will need to take a taxi to the port. The water taxi takes roughly 75 minutes one way. Be sure to check schedules to ensure that everything coordinates with the different timetables that will be in play.
Vacationing to San Pedro Belize is a great option for travelers who want an exotic experience without crazy amounts of culture shock.
Many of the residents speak Spanish and English, the tap water is potable and the street food is considered safe. Obviously, take proper precautions if a place looks dodgy or if there are notifications about the safety of tap-water.
Electrical outlets in Belize are the same as the United States with 110 volt, 60 hertz electricity. Bring an adapter if any electronics require a third, grounding prong. The currency conversion is roughly 2 Belizean dollars to 1 USD. As for general safety in Belize, travelers should follow all the normal precautions a traveler should take when visiting any country; such as not being out alone after dark, being vigilant around ATMs, and not flaunting wealth.
After the hustle and bustle of getting to the island, life slows down considerably. Most people get around in San Pedro either by foot, bicycle, or golf cart. Bicycles and golf carts rentals are available throughout the island. While Ambergris Caye is technically Belize’s largest island, clocking in at 25 miles in length and 1 mile in width, it should come as no surprise that cars are not a primary mode of transportation. In fact, cars are tightly controlled commodity on the island and are not available to visitors. Plan on having a bike or golf cart as the main mode of transportation.
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San Pedro, Belize is more or less the main hub of Ambergris Caye. It is popular without being overly touristed and has plenty of amenities without urban sprawl.
The town strikes that perfect balance of a remote destination without any of the inconveniences of being far away from civilization. San Pedro is a great little town to use as a base for all sorts of adventures!
In addition to the small municipal airport, the town itself has plenty of gear rentals for any and all adventures the island has to offer. There are restaurants, bars, grocery stores, vacation rentals and resorts all within the general vicinity of San Pedro, all within walking, biking, or golf carting distance.
While the general appeal of a small island vacation is sitting on the beach and eating fresh fish tacos and drinking margaritas under a palapa during the heat of the day, there are plenty of other diversions to make for a memorable getaway.
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Watersports are a given on an island such as Ambergris Caye. World-class snorkeling and diving are a hop skip and a jump away thanks to the Belize Barrier Reef which is classified as one of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage sites. Within the reef (second to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef) there are several marine reserves that are sought after by many adventurers including the Blue Hole which was beloved by famous Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.
Hol Chan Marine Preserve and Half Moon Caye is a popular option with snorkelers. These adventures are typically full-day trips that are hired with a guide and a boat. There are plenty of reputable tour guides available that take reservations online. Plan to and have these excursions booked ahead of time. Thanks to the world of online research it is easier than ever to have a spot reserved with a reputable tour guide.
After a few days of exploring the reefs and abundant marine life take some time to dry off by exploring the un-excavated, ancient Maya ruins of Chac Balam. This site is only accessible by boat, but once there, visitors can explore the sites on foot. No official tours are going to Chac Balam. There are, however, plenty of local “guides” who would be willing to take travelers to the site.
There are a few beaches on Ambergris Caye that offer good swimming and snorkeling without the commitment of lengthy day trips on a tour boat.
The best ones are next to some of the major resorts such as the Tranquility Bay Resort, Ramon’s Village Resort, as well as Paradise Village. Due to the nature of Ambergris Caye being tucked behind the Belize Barrier Reef, seagrass peppers the water just offshore. This shouldn’t be a deterrent, just something to be aware of. While there might not be amazing opportunities for surfing near San Pedro due to the waves breaking on the reef, conditions are prime for sea kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding with rentals readily available in town.
It is well worth the effort to visit San Pedro, Belize. The dreamy palm trees and nostalgia of a fishing village perched next to a UNESCO World Heritage site makes for an epic vacation spot.
Whether travelers are coming to sit on the beach or snorkel with the fish that call the reef home San Pedro Belize is sure to not disappoint the wayfaring traveler who visits this beautiful island.
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