After arriving in Belize, our adventure had just begun. We spent part of the day exploring Belize City before taking the hour and a half water taxi to Ambergris Caye. We could have taken a single engine turbo-prop plane, but we were in no hurry. So, we decided to enjoy the trip by water.
The ride was a bit bumpy at times. However, the views are fantastic and the water is crystal clear. We have visited many places with beautiful water and Belize’s is right there in our top ten. We made a brief stop at Caye Caulker to let people on and off the taxi. Caye Caulker will be another adventure to tell about in an upcoming article. Shortly after our stop, we arrived at Ambergris Caye’s dock. We collected our back packs and headed down the beach in search of some food, drink and our condo.
Our first stop was Caroline’s Cookin’. Caroline’s is just down from our condo and with not having anything to eat since breakfast, it was our first choice. We ordered a fish sandwich, ceviche and a few of adult beverages. We then proceeded down the beach to find our next three weeks residence.
We found our beach front condo and immediately fell in love with it. After a long day of traveling, we put on more appropriate clothing and relaxed for a while.
The view from our lounge area is filled with sugar-fine white sand, beautiful blue skies and glistening Caribbean waters. We are close to everything we need for our extended stay. There is a dive & snorkel shop in front of our condo, a grocery store a few blocks away, and a bank just behind us. There are also plenty of bar & grills up and down the beach. We have a good feeling this is going to be to great location. We spent our mornings snorkeling and then relaxed in the padded lounge chairs until lunch time. It was a great way to start the day!
After getting settled in, we needed to find a place to have our first night’s dinner. While walking down the beach, we found one of many food boards that are scattered along the sandy walkway. The one shown to the right is advertising a special that you normally wouldn’t see on a tropical island known for its seafood. I found out later that there are white-tail deer on the island. Their population is closely controlled by limiting hunting permits.
We settled on a beachfront restaurant that has lots of history on Ambergris Caye. Fido’s (pronounced Fu-doos’) is one of San Pedro’s oldest dining establishments. Fido’s originally started out as a hotel and eventually turned into a restaurant. They serve a variety of sandwiches, fresh seafood, complete dinners and other island dishes that are accustom to the area. The prices are reasonable and they do have a happy hour that runs from 4 to 6 every evening Monday through Thursday. It became one of our favorite hangouts.
The monetary exchange rate is two Belizean to one US dollar. The one downside they inflate their retail prices and half it when you paid in US dollars. With that said, you can find a mom and pop outdoor eatery in downtown San Pedro to stretch the value of your dollar. San Pedro is one of Ambergris Caye’s only real towns with an infrastructure and organized community. There are three main thoroughfares and they are Front Street, Middle Street and Back Street. I don’t have the exact stats, but I would say the town is a couple miles long and a mile wide.
After a good nights sleep, the first thing we would do is go snorkeling. There is a resort a couple doors down from us called Ramon’s Village. They have a dock (shown right) that is snorkel friendly. It has two strong ladders on each end that makes is easy to access the clear turquoise water. Here is where we snorkeled almost every morning. The water temperature was a perfect 86 degrees and the marine life is abundant. The multi colored fish were as curious about us as we were about them.
After our morning’s snorkeling, we would head down the beach to our favorite breakfast spot called Estels. They have a fantastic breakfast in a casual setting. They also serve a great Bloody Mary, along with a gorgeous view of the Caribbean Sea.
We would spend most of our days exploring the town’s shops, points of interest, and local cuisine. Then there were other days we would hang on the beach and work on our tans. You can’t beat island life!
The local shops that line the busy streets gave us a look at past traditions and craftsmanship. There are quite a few expats who call San Pedro and Ambergris Caye home. Some expats have started small businesses with the trades they used stateside, and others moved to Ambergris Caye to enjoy a carefree island lifestyle. Many of them get together once a day to enjoy a beverage and listen to their favorite music.
The goose neck shaped palm trees growing out from the shore, dockside eateries, and various shops are a plus for Ambergris Caye’s ever growing tourism. As the Baby Boomer generation retires, Belize will benefit in so many ways.
When staying on a Caribbean island for any length of time, you need to establish a place to purchase fresh seafood. We walked the beach until we found several fisherman (pictured below) who sale their morning catch directly off the boat.
There are also a few local fish markets (pictured above) on ‘Back Street’. There is also a small dock where you can buy fish right off the boat. However, you have to show up early with cash and compete with the everyday buyers. Either way, there is nothing like fresh seafood.
As I mentioned earlier, there was a Dive & Snorkeling shop in front of our Condo. We booked a snorkeling trip to Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The park is part of the Mesoamerica Barrier Reef which lies a half mile off Ambergris Caye’s shore. This iconic landmark is the largest reef in the western hemisphere and borders four countries. This was a excursion I was looking forward to.
We began our snorkeling trip in Hol Chan Reserve and finished in Shark Ray alley. The clear Caribbean turquoise water has a plethora of beautiful aquatic life . The Nurse Sharks were in abundance after our guide chummed the waters.
The Stingrays came up and cuddled our chest waiting to be fed and gently stroked. It is amazing how docile these incredible creatures can be. The day was a complete success and filled with lots of fun and adventure. This trip definitely got me hooked on snorkeling.
Our last few days on the island enticed us to checkout some of the places we had been putting off or only visited once. One of those establishments Hurricane’s Bar & Grill was a short walk from our condo. They offered a relaxed setting, friendly service and beautiful views of the Caribbean. We made a few friends while staying in San Pedro and shared one of our last nights with them. We all met at Hurricane’s for few happy hour cocktails and appetizers. It was a good time!
After enjoying our libations and talking about past travel experiences, we decided to dine at one of the island’s popular eateries. Many Locals, as well as tourist have raved about how delicious Wild Mango’s cuisine is. The service was exceptionable, the presentation was appealing, and the taste was a step above most of its competitors. However, I gave them only a four star rating because of a few undisclosed reasons. But all in all, its was very good.
The weather in Ambergris Caye during the summer months gets rather warm. The island’s sea breeze is a welcome comfort. Overall, our months stay was a pleasant one. Visiting seasonal destinations in their off season is recommended. Its less crowded but again, its a bit hotter.
In summary, Being in a foreign country like Belize does required some common sense, safety precautious, and moderate research. There are a good amount of north American expats living in San Pedro. If possible, find out where they hangout and visit these establishments. The advantage to this they will offer some insight. In Belize, the Wahoo’s Lounge is one of the places that expats hangout on Friday evening. Places like this will offer an opportunity to get the local scoop!
Ambergris Caye is a great place to vacation. It’s tropical climate, gorgeous water, and a laid back atmosphere make for a great time! However, setting up permanent residence verses vacationing are two totally different worlds. If you are thinking about relocating out of the country, do your research. Then spend a month or two living the day-to-day life in the city you are considering. Don’t be afraid to visit with the locals and expats.
Our final word is this, “Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.” You only live once and you should make the most of it! We sure have.
Photography: Anthony & Maureen Scopel
Article Creator & Formatting: Anthony Scopel
Scopel & Matt Kemper
Associate Editor: Maureen Scopel
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