After arriving in mainland Belize, our adventure began. We took the hour and a half trip via the water taxi to our island destination. You can also take a single engine turbo-prop plane. But being in no hurry, we decided to enjoy the trip by water.
The ride was a little bumpy at times, but the views are fantastic and the water is crystal clear. I have visited many places with beautiful clear water, but Belize’s seemed to be just a bit more transparent. We made a brief stop on Caye Caulker to let people on and off the water taxi. Caye Caulker will be another adventure to tell about in an upcoming article. From there we arrived at Ambergris Caye’s dock shortly after our stop. We collected our over stuffed back packs and headed down the beach in search of our condo and some food.
Our first stop was Caroline’s Cookin’. 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.
The beaches were blanketed with soft white fine sand and lined with swaying palm trees dancing in the wind. We found our beach front condo and immediately fell in love with it. We went up to our studio styled suite and relaxed for a bit.
The view from our lounge area is filled with beautiful blue skies and glistening Caribbean waters. We are close to everything we will need for our extended stay. There is a dive & snorkel shop in front of our condo’s entrance, a grocery store and bank just behind us and plenty of bar & grills up and down the beach. We have a good feeling that this is going to be to great location. We relaxed in the padded lounge chairs for awhile and took in the enchanting scenery.
We needed to find a place to have our first night’s dinner on the island. While walking down the beach, we found one of many food boards that are scattered up and down the sandy walkway. The one shown to the right seems to be advertising a special that you wouldn’t normally see on a tropical island that is known for its seafood. I found out later that there are deer on the island. They are smaller in size and are protected by hunting permits that are sparsely handed out.
We found 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 started out as a hotel and eventually progressed into a restaurant later on in time. They have a variety of sandwiches, fresh seafood, complete dinners and other island dishes 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.
The monetary exchange rate is two Belizean to one US dollar. But its seems like they inflate their retail prices and half it when you pay in US dollars. With that said, you can find a mom and pop outdoor eatery in downtown San Pedro and further stretch the value of your dollar. San Pedro is one of Ambergris Caye’s only real towns with an infrastructure and organized community. It has three main roadways. They are Front street, Middle street and Back street.
After a good nights sleep, we would get up and go snorkeling in our favorite place before breakfast. There is a resort just a couple doors down from us called Ramon’s Village. They have a dock (shown right) that has an extended deck at the end of it. It is designed to accommodate people who want to snorkel or swim. 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 is 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 excursion, we would head down the beach to our favorite breakfast spot. Estels offers a casual setting that cooks up a fantastic breakfast, serves a great Bloody Mary and has gorgeous views of the Caribbean Sea. You can’t beat the amenities!
We then would spend our days exploring the town and walking along its crowed streets. The unique shops that line the busy thoroughfare gives us a sense of past tradition and craftsmanship. We would stop and visit with many of the expats that call San Pedro and Ambergris Caye their home. They enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and carefree island life style they have become accustomed to. Most of them have started businesses with the trades they learned stateside.
While strolling down the picturesque beaches, we happen upon a story book image. The Mississippi River styled house boat floating along side one of the many docks portrays a piece of US influence. The goose neck shaped palm trees growing from the shore, dockside eateries and various shops are a plus for Ambergris Caye’s ever growing tourism.
When staying for any length of time on the island you need to establish a place to purchase fresh seafood. We walked the beach and found several fisherman (pictured above right) who offer their daily catch directly off the boat. There are also a few local fish markets (pictured above left) in downtown San Pedro. However, you have to show up early with cash and compete with the everyday buyers.
We booked a snorkeling trip to Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The park is part of the barrier reefs that lie a half mile off Ambergris Caye. They are the largest reef in the western hemisphere and only second to Australia’s barrier reef. We booked our snorkeling trip through Mystical Aventures, which were right out our front door. We began our snorkeling tour in Hol Chan Reserve and finished in Shark Ray alley. The clear turquoise water is full 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 stroke. It is amazing how docile these incredible creatures can be. The day was a complete success and filled with lots of fun and adventure.
Our last few days on the island pushed us to visit some of the places we had been putting off. Hurricane’s Bar & Grill was a short walk from our beachfront condo. They offered a relaxed setting, friendly service and beautiful views. We made a few acquaintances while staying in San Pedro and shared one of our last nights with them. We all met at Hurricane’s for a few happy hour cocktails.
After enjoying our libations and talking about past travel experiences, we decided to dine at one of the island’s popular eateries. Locals, as well as many of the tourist exclaim its delicious bon appetite flavor. The service was exceptionable, the preparation was visually appealing and the taste was a step above most of its beach competitors. However, I have to give it only a four star international rating because of a few undisclosed reasons. But all in all, its was very good.
We said our goodbyes to the friends we made throughout our stay. The weather in Ambergris Caye during the summer months gets rather warm. The island breeze was a welcomed comfort when it decides to make its presence. Overall, our stay was very pleasant. Its nice to visit new places in the off season when you don’t have to deal with all the tourist.
Being in a foreign country like Belize does take some common sense, safety precautious and moderate research. There are a good amount of north American expats living in San Pedro. However, they do have their specific hangouts and stay mostly within their own communities. Wahoo’s Lounge is one of the few places that expats hangout on Friday evening.
Ambergris Caye is a great place to vacation. It has fantastic weather, gorgeous waters and a laid back island atmosphere. But remember, vacationing and setting up permanent residence are two totally different worlds. If you are thinking about relocating anywhere out of your home country, do your research. Then spend a month or so living the day-to-day life and visit with the local expats. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
Love, Laugh and Travel Lots!