Guide to Ambergris Caye, Belize: Things To Do & When to Go!

Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye is Belize’s largest island, a fascinating place to explore, and a popular tourist spot. What should you know if you’re planning a trip to this exquisite island?

Ambergris Caye has a rich Mayan history and culture, tropical beaches, and the largest barrier reef system in the Northern and Western Hemispheres. It’s only a 20-minute flight from Belize City and offers plenty of accommodations, great restaurants, and fantastic leisure activities.

In this article, I’ll discuss Ambergris Caye’s history, location, and how to get there. I’ll also describe the unique foods you can try there, what to do and where to stay. Finally, I’ll advise the best time to visit this exquisite island.

History of Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye has a long and exciting history. Between 2000 BC and 1000 AD, a thriving Mayan population made a living by farming, fishing, and trading with other populations in Central America.

The Mayans conducted a bustling trade using the following products:

  • Fish
  • Cacao
  • Pottery
  • Handmade tools
  • Tobacco
  • Cotton
  • Vegetables

After 1000 AD, the Mayan population gradually started to decline, which was exacerbated by the arrival of European explorers in the 16th century. Though the newcomers used the island primarily as a rest stop for Caribbean voyages, the Mayans weren’t keen on the new strangers, leading to many inhabitants leaving the island.

In the 17th century, European pirates discovered that Ambergris Caye was the ideal place to stash their plundered treasures, and it was at this point that the special island got its name.

The pirates soon realized that the island was home to the sperm whale, which secretes ambergris, a traditional ingredient from the whale’s intestines that can be used to make perfume. This allowed them to trade lucratively until tensions started rising between the European settlers and the Mayans, resulting in the Caste War of Yucatan, which started in 1847.

In 1901, after the war, Ambergris Caye saw an increase in settlers from the mainland, which coincided with the formation of its largest town, San Pedro.

Ambergris Caye was under British control during this time and was called British Honduras. A large coconut plantation was started, which grew the island’s economy extensively, but a series of severe hurricanes in the 1950s sadly destroyed the industry.

In 1973, British Honduras gained independence and became the Belize we know today. Around this time, the local authorities also decided to promote tourism to the island, and scuba diving and exploring the beautiful barrier reef became a major tourist attraction.

Today, Ambergris Caye is a thriving tourist destination but still maintains a laid back island atmosphere.

Where Is Ambergris Caye?

Ambergris Caye lies to the northeast of Belize’s mainland, is the Yucatan Peninsula’s southernmost tip, and juts out into the Caribbean Sea. It is the largest of the country’s 450 islands (or Cayes) and consists mainly of marshy swamps and white sandy beaches.

Ambergris Caye - Franko Maps

How To Get to Ambergris Caye

Although Ambergris Caye doesn’t have an international airport, getting to the island is relatively easy.

Ambergris Caye is 35 miles from Belize City, the country’s capital. At Belize City you can take flights from the Belize City Municipal (TZA) or a water taxi.

The Phillip S.W. Goldson International Airport found in Ladyville (neighboring Belize City) also has direct flights from many destinations, including:

  • Los Angeles
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Houston
  • Denver
  • Toronto
  • Chicago

After arriving in Ladyville, you can reach Ambergris Caye by taking a short flight.

Mayan Air and Topic Air serve the island’s small airstrip in San Pedro with several daily flights. The flight is only twenty minutes and gives you spectacular views of the island’s white beaches and the barrier reef.

If you’d rather use a water taxi to Ambergris Caye, you’ll need to leave the airport and take a cab to the water taxi terminal in Belize City. It takes an hour and fifteen minutes to reach the island, and the ride is relaxing and offers a beautiful view of the horizon.

Getting Around Ambergris Caye

San Pedro Streets

Ambergris Caye is Belize’s largest island but is still only 25 miles (40.23 km) long and one mile (1.6 km) wide. The island has only one primary road that runs from San Pedro to the island’s southern tip, and the minor roads are either paved or sandy.

You have various options when it comes to getting around:

  • Walking. If you’re staying in San Pedro, which has most of the island’s amenities, you can easily walk to restaurants, stores, and other attractions. If you’re staying out of town, however, you might consider another mode of transport.
  • Renting a Golf Cart. Most Ambergris Caye locals don’t own a car, and renting one is sadly not an option. Renting a golf cart is an excellent idea, and many golf cart rental companies are on the island. However, it’s worth comparing deals to avoid being taken advantage of.
  • Renting a Bicycle. If using a golf cart isn’t your cup of tea, you could always rent a bicycle. Like golf carts, renting one is easy, with many bicycle options available.
  • Taking a Taxi. Taking a taxi is sometimes best if you need to get from one side of the island to the other. Ambergris Caye has a basic, local taxi service.
  • Taking a Water Taxi. Northern Ambergris Caye doesn’t have a well-developed road infrastructure. If you need to get to the north, taking a water taxi is inexpensive and fast.

What To Do in Ambergris Caye

Whatever your tastes or hobbies, there is always plenty to do in Ambergris Caye. Here are the island’s main attractions:

Explore the Belize Barrier Reef

Ambergris Caye Belize Diving

The jewel in Ambergris Caye’s crown is the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is the second-largest of its kind in the world and the largest in the Northern and Western Hemispheres.

The Belize Barrier Reef consists of various reef types and coral that are home to over 1,400 sea creatures, including:

  • American marine crocodiles
  • West Indian manatees
  • Sailfish
  • Loggerhead turtles

Popular ways to explore this special reef system include snorkeling, diving, or taking a scenic air tour.

Explore the Island’s Culture

Exploring Ambergris Caye’s rich culture will keep you entertained for hours. You should visit the Marco Gonzalez Reserve if you’d like to learn more about its Mayan history. It features relics of ancient Mayan culture with clear signage and explanations.

Checking out the Xunantunich Ruins, an ancient ceremonial center with two temples, will also give you insight into the island’s Mayan heritage. Visiting the many art galleries in San Pedro allows you to explore its contemporary culture.

San Pedro Belize Sign


As a long and thin island, it’s only natural that Ambergris Caye offers many options when it comes to watersports:

  • Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • Jet skiing
  • Scuba diving
  • Snorkeling
  • Sailing

Many local businesses offer watersports excursions, boat trips, and equipment rentals, making it easy to have fun in the water.


If you’re a fishing enthusiast, you can rent some fishing gear and go fishing in the reef for some interesting species. Bear in mind that you’ll need to buy a fishing license beforehand. This can be done by visiting the Coastal Zone Management Authority & Institute website and purchasing one online.

Here is a taste of what you can expect to find in Ambergris Caye’s waters:

  • King Mackerel
  • Barracuda
  • Grouper
  • Tuna
  • Bonefish

Whether you choose to go reef or deep sea fishing, there are many fishing charter companies to take you to the right spot. If your fishing venture is successful, you can ask the skipper to barbecue your catch for you on the beach for dinner.


Hiking is an excellent way to explore Ambergris Caye inland, where the jungle is located. It’s easy to lose your direction there, so locals recommend hiking with a tour operator who knows the way.

Although much of the island consists of mangrove swamps, there are several boardwalks to make hiking a fun way to explore the wildlife and tropical birds.

Adventure Sports

Ambergris Caye has a laid back atmosphere, but if you’re feeling a little too relaxed, you might consider a day of adrenaline-filled sports. Ziplining will have you racing over the treetops in the jungle, while cave tubing will leave you soaking wet but wanting to try it over again.


The best place to go shopping in Ambergris Caye is in the largest town of San Pedro. Here, you can stock up on essentials and also find something special to remind you of your stay on the island.

There are various independent gift and craft stores where you’ll find hand-crafted ceramics, textiles, and souvenirs. The San Pedro Artisans Market is a particular favorite, with many stalls and excellent prices.

Enjoy the Nightlife

Although Ambergris Caye is a small island, it has a vibrant nightlife scene. If you’d like to party the night away in a club, cocktail lounge, or bar, head to San Pedro, where there is a vast offering.

You can’t go wrong with Jaguar’s Night Club or Maruba Beach Klub for dancing, while Coco Loco’s Beach Bar and Level Up Barcade are great choices to have fun with friends.

If you’re interested in a more low-key kind of evening, you could always enjoy the excellent Belizean cuisine at one of the many restaurants or take in the sea breeze with a barbecue on the beach.

Attend a Festival

Lobster Fest Belize

If you’re lucky enough to be in Ambergris Caye during one of its colorful festivals, you’re in luck! The main festivals to look out for include:

  • Costa Maya Festival: Held in July or August, the Costa Maya Festival celebrates the local culture with street entertainers, live music, and impromptu market stalls.
  • Lobster Fest: The annual Lobsterfest celebrates the lobster harvest with countless dishes containing this tasty delicacy.
  • San Pedro Carnival: Similar to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, the San Pedro Carnival takes place in the week before Ash Wednesday. It has parades, special events, and dances.
  • San Pedro Day: San Pedro Day takes place on June 27th and commemorates the Mayan people who had to flee the island during the Caste War. It features concerts, parades, and activities for the whole family.

Where To Stay in Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye offers a wide range of accommodation options, regardless of your budget. Las Terrazas Resort and Belizean Shores Resort are examples of fantastic all-inclusive resorts, while the SunBreeze Suites and Alaia Belize are excellent hotels.

A good mid-range budget option is an Airbnb or a hotel offering affordable rates, such as the Belize Budget Suites. There are also many hostels if you want a low-cost vacation.

The Best Time To Visit Ambergris Caye

With its subtropical climate, Ambergris Caye is pleasantly warm throughout the year. However, like other Central American countries, it has a rainy season, starting in May and ending in November.

Although hurricanes are uncommon on Ambergris Caye, the season runs from June to November.

If you’re on a budget, the best time to visit Ambergris Caye is during the wet season, when you can take advantage of off-season rates. However, it doesn’t constantly rain during this period, and rainy spells typically only last for a couple of days.

If money isn’t a huge factor, visiting Ambergris in the dry season (from December to April) can be more pleasant. The Belizean weather isn’t as humid during this time, and you can enjoy back-to-back sunny days.

Unique Foods in Ambergris Caye

If you enjoy trying unique food and languishing over a gourmet meal, you are spoiled for choice in Ambergris Caye.

Seafood, particularly lobster, conch, and ceviche, are incredibly popular on the island, with most restaurants serving them. With its proximity to Mexico, Ambergris Caye is also well-known for its tasty Mexican food.

After having your fill of the island’s delicious seafood and Mexican food, there are plenty of restaurants serving steaks and Italian food.

Of course, you shouldn’t leave the island without trying one of the fresh salad bars or casual street food vendors.

What Are the Must-Do Activities at Secret Beach, Ambergris Caye?

When visiting Secret Beach on Ambergris Caye, be sure to try activities like paddleboarding, snorkeling, and jet skiing. Indulge in delicious seafood at the beachfront restaurants and enjoy stunning sunsets. Don’t miss the chance to relax on the pristine white sand and swim in the crystal-clear waters.

– What Are the Similarities and Differences Between Stann Creek District and Ambergris Caye in Belize?

Stann Creek District and Ambergris Caye in Belize both boast stunning beaches and rich marine life, making them popular tourist destinations. However, the two regions differ in their offerings. While Ambergris Caye is known for its luxurious resorts and vibrant nightlife, Stann Creek District offers a more relaxed atmosphere and a deep connection to the history and culture in Stann Creek.


Ambergris Caye is a beautiful vacation spot offering plenty to do, regardless of your tastes or thoughts on what makes the perfect island break.

There are several daily flights to San Pedro from Belize City Municipal (TZA) and frequent water taxis in Belize City to the island.

When you arrive in Ambergris Caye, you can relax on the white, sandy beaches and enjoy participating in various activities:

  • Watersports
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Extreme sports
  • Shopping
  • Nightlife
  • Festivals

I hope you have a pleasant stay in Ambergris Caye!

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