The Ultimate Travel Guide to Belize Cayes

Belize Travel Guide

Belize is compact, occupying only 9,000 square miles. But don’t let its size throw you off. Belize is home to the worlds second largest Barrier Reef at where swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers alike will discover paradisiacal spots like Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray Alley, and the Great Blue Hole. The Belizean Barrier Reef is comprised of more than 70 species of hard coral and is home to more than 600 species of fish and invertebrates. If it’s magnificent coastline and cayes start to bore you, wildlife-seekers can go inland to meet jaguars, pumas, howler monkeys, parakeets and keel-billed toucans at the Belize Zoo. In need of some history and culture? Explore the impressive Mayan archeological sites like Corozal, Altun Ha, and Lamanai.

With such a range of activities, it can be difficult to decide where to begin your travels. So the first logical step should be to grab your swimsuit, slap on some sunscreen and slurp down a Pina Colada beachside on one of Belize’s 127 cayes.

This guide is about the tourist mecca of these cayes, Ambergris Caye. The island offers a range of places to stay from luxurious resorts to quaint Airbnb’s. San Pedro Town offers three main sandy streets that will take you just about everywhere you need to go. The center of the island is a mangrove swamp which is otherwise surrounded by white beaches. The once sleepy fishing village is said to be the inspiration for the Madonna song “La Isla Bonita”, evidence can be found in the lyrics, “Last night I dreamt of San Pedro”. Ambergris Caye is a great jumping off point for both adventure seekers and sun lovers alike.

Belize CayesAmbergris Caye

The Essentials

Settled in on the eastern coast of Central America, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala. International Flights all arrive at the Phillip Goldson International Airport (BZE) just minutes from Belize City. American Airlines, US Airways, Avian, Copa Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Tropic Air and United all service BZE. 

IMMIGRATION

Passport: Visitors must possess a passport valid for at least three (3) months after the date of arrival and a return ticket with sufficient funds to cover their stay. Visitors are given a one-month stay, after which an extension can be applied for with the Immigration Department.

Visa: Visas are not required for citizens of the United States and its territories, Canada, United Kingdom, European Union, Caribbean and Central American countries.

IMMUNIZATIONS

You should be up to date on all routine vaccinations. Recommended vaccinations include Hepatitis A and Typhoid. For more information, click here.

GETTING AROUND

Travelers can navigate the country by plane, bus, car or boat.

Travel via local airlines is the fastest and most popular means of transportation throughout the country. Flight schedules are coordinated with the arrivals and departures of international flights. This means more convenient traveling for us!

Boats (or water taxis) are the main mode of transportation between the cayes (islands) and to/from the mainland. They also service barrier reef attractions. Regularly scheduled water taxis operate between Belize City, Caye Caulker and San Pedro (Ambergris Caye).

LANGUAGE

English is the official language of Belize, a former British colony. However, the majority of Belizeans, regardless of ethnicity, speak Belizean Creole.

FINANCIALS

The Belizean Dollar (BZD). | Currency Conversion: 1USD = 2BZD

TIPPING

Tipping, in large part, is expected in Belize so don’t forget to tip your server, hotel staff, tour guides, etc. You do not need to tip cabs because, contrary to the US, they largely are self-employed and determine their own rates. 10-15% is standard but you can tip more if service is exceptional. Cash is preferred.

MEDICINE

Mosquitos are aplenty in Belize so make sure to lather up with bug repellant. I’ve found that Repel 100 (100% Deet) works really well.

ELECTRICITY

Same as the United States. Standard service voltage is 110 and/or 220 volts, 60 cycles.

Explore

AMBERGRIS CAYE

The tourist mecca of the cayes is Ambergris Caye. The island offers a range of places to stay from luxurious resorts to quaint Airbnb’s. San Pedro Town offers three main sandy streets that will take you just about everywhere you need to go. The center of the island is a mangrove swamp which is otherwise surrounded by white beaches. The once sleepy fishing village is said to be the inspiration for the Madonna song “La Isla Bonita”, evidence can be found in the lyrics, “last night I dreamt of San Pedro”. Ambergris Caye is a great jumping off point for both adventure seekers and sun lovers alike.

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THE GREAT BLUE HOLE

The Great Blue Hole is a giant submarine sinkhole that was formed a lonnnnng time ago when sea levels were a lot lower. Researchers found limestone stalactites (an icicle-shaped formation that hangs from the ceiling of caves, hot springs, or manmade structures by precipitation of minerals from water dripping through) in the Great Blue Hole that were formed anywhere from 153k to 15k years ago. The Great Blue Hole lies at the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll (a ring-shaped reef, island, or chain of islands formed by coral) 70km from the mainland. The hole is circular, over 300 (984ft) meters across and 124 meters (407ft) deep. Although scuba diving is the main way to explore the Great Blue Hole, I chose to view it from a different perspective. For more information on my excursion, click here.

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SAN PEDRO TOWN

Located in the southern part of Ambergris Caye, San Pedro Town has become a tourist mecca of Belize. The town itself is about a mile long and lined with wooden houses. The sandy streets allow for golf carts and bicycles to be the main mode of transportation. San Pedro town offered a variety of hotels, bars, and restaurants for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

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HOL CHAN MARINE RESERVE

Mayan translation “little channel”, this snorkel zone is Belize’s first protected marine reserve (1987). Hol Chan Marine Reserve is located about 4 miles south of San Pedro, spans a total of 13,632 acres of marine waters and includes 4 “zones”.

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SHARK RAY ALLEY

Shark Ray Alley is listed as “Zone D” of Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Once a place where fishermen would clean their catches, this 1,280-acre protected region, has evolved into a top snorkeling location!  Shark Ray Alley offers you the rare opportunity to snorkel beside stingrays and nurse sharks and turtles. Although, sadly there were only stingrays to be seen during my snorkel trip.

DCIM100GOPRODCIM100GOPROShark Ray Alley

CAYE CAULKER

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ISLAND HOPPING

Rent a boat (or find a local who wants to take you) and explore some of the remote and uninhabited islands and reefs Belize has to offer.  

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Stay

AMBERGRIS CAYE

I stayed at White Sands Cove Resort just 2.5 miles north of San Pedro. It was a little slice of paradise, located conveniently near a dock with water taxi access. You could also rent a kayak or go swimming just off the dock (but be careful about being in the path of the boats). The grounds were lovely and well kept. There were two hammocks next to the pool that was amazing to curl up in with a cup of coffee and a book. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful. Terri, at reception, was prompt in booking all of our daily excursions, even coordinating rides to and from the airport. Ruth, behind the bar, is the smiliest woman ever and a helluva good drink maker. Lastly, their in-house chef, Migela, whipped up some of the best Belizean food I had throughout my entire trip — the curry and ceviche were my personal favs. They offer lunch and dinner service only but there were two young boys that would come to the grounds at around 8-9am with breakfast burritos and tamales for breakfast.

Perks: Complimentary bike rentals, complimentary coffee in the morning, dock just off the property (easy access to water taxies)

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Dine

SAN PEDRO, AMBERGRIS CAYE

WILD MANGO’S: (Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence) Situated alongside the beach in San Pedro, Wild Mango’s offers both inside and deck dining, as well as a mix & match ceviche trio that is delish! I ate here for three different meals, ordering the ceviche trio every time. Friendly staff and mellow Caribbean atmosphere make Wild Mango’s a great spot to grab a bite to eat. Wild Mango’s is conveniently located just south of the ferry stop.

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ELVI’S KITCHEN: (Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence) I received several recommendations for Elvi’s Kitchen from multiple friends so I knew I’d be making a stop here and I wasn’t disappointed. I was also told that there is often a wait for dining at Elvi’s so we walked in just after the lunch rush and were sat immediately. We ordered FRESH mango margaritas, the garlic chipotle fish, and a fried avocado appetizer special. They had air conditioning (always a plus) and a lovely staff that was both friendly and informed, offering great recommendations for our party.

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TRUCK STOP: Truck Stop is a unique dining location in San Pedro that has a “Hipster meets Caribbean” vibe. Made of converted shipping containers, Truck Stop offers different dining truck options including Arepas (Cuban fusion), Rasa (Asian fusion), ice cream/dessert and of course, a bar. Head to the back of the property to eat on their covered veranda dock, overlooking the lagoon to watch the sunset. In the back, they offer corn hole, a movie night on Wednesday’s, and a pig roast on Sunday’s.

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PALAPA BAR AND GRILL: Located on Wet Willies dock, Palapa Bar is a great place to enjoy laid-back island life for a while. Palapa Bar not only offers food and drink, but an abundance of activities as well. From soaking in some live music to lounging in inner tubes to playing a giant game of Jenga on the deck, Palapa Bar is entertaining for guests of all ages.

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CAYE CAULKER

LAZY LIZARD: Located on the split, I recommend the Lazy Lizard not because of their food or drinks (it was all pretty mediocre, to be honest) but because of it’s location and atmosphere. If you’re disappointed in the quality of anything, just know that your paying for the location. Lazy Lizard has a young crowd with good music and a “happening” atmosphere. Several patrons enjoyed large and brightly colored blended cocktails (aka a sugary headache in a fun glass). Lazy Lizard has many options for just hanging out, with a covered area, deck, in-the-water tables, and, of course, a bar area. Free wifi is included with a purchase of a drink or food. Overall, worth spending some time hanging out with a drink at but eat elsewhere! 🙂

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ERROLYNS HOUSE OF FRY JACKS: (Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence) “What exactly is a Fry Jack?” is probably your first question. I know, I asked myself the same thing when a friend recommended this eatery to me. Well, I’ll tell you: It’s essentially a deep fried flour tortilla filled with your choice of eggs, cheese, beans, ham, bacon, chicken, etc. One Fry Jack will set you back about $2USD which makes this place one of the cheapest (and best) places to get a meal on all of Caye Caulker. Keep in mind, they close around 2pm daily. To complete your meal, stop by the juice stand next door and grab a watermelon juice for $2.50 USD. Best $2.50 USD spent throughout my entire trip (I went back for a second!). Trust me on this one.

 

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