A long weekend guide to Ambergis Caye
This is a question I’ve been asked several times as it seems to still be an up and coming destination. To be honest, I don’t have an exciting answer. Several months ago as I began brainstorming ideas for a family trip, I knew that a few of the parameters were as follows: (1) A trip that could be completed in 5-6 days (2) Not a crazy long flight time (3) Similar time zone if possible (4) Overall safety and ease of communicating/getting around once we arrived. After narrowing down several options, Belize was the winner.
Belize is located conveniently about 3.5 hours from Atlanta and approximately 6 hours from Washington D.C. The island of Ambergis Caye is only 25 miles long and it is easy to get around and is generally safe with a majority of the population being English-speaking.
The kick off to our trip was eventful to say the least. With the longest government shutdown in history taking place and security lines snaking out to the baggage claim, our 7:00AM flight meant a 4:00AM wake-up call. They say that things happen in threes and this was certainly the case on this chaotic morning. I figure these learning lessons might as well be shared and benefit others.
Learning Lessons (partially for my fellow ATL travelers):
- If you are flying Southwest Airlines, even if your final destination is international, you will still need to check-in at the domestic airport. You can still check-in on your mobile app or online 24-hours early for a good spot but you’ll have to check-in at a kiosk to scan your passport and receive your boarding pass.
- If you plan accordingly, you can park in the Park-and-Ride lot at the Domestic airport ($10/day) or International ($13/day)
- If you travel often, invest in Global Entry or TSA-Pre-check. It literally makes a world of a difference; especially in the unforeseeable circumstances (i.e. government shutdown). The pre-check line was my saving grace to make the first leg of our flight.
We chose to fly on Southwest Airlines even though it wasn’t the quickest way to get there, it was the cheapest. It only required ~22,000 points for each of us however it required us to stop in Fort Lauderdale which made for two long travel days on both ends.
After landing in Belize City, you will go through their Customs process. We were some of the first people off the plane so we got a good spot in the Customs line making the process go a lot faster. I’d recommend sitting towards the front or back of the plane if possible as they de-board from both ends.
Once you get through Customs, you’ll bring all your luggage to the Check-in counter at the appropriate airline. When flying from Belize City to Ambergis Caye island, you have a few options. There are two domestic airlines, Maya Island Air and Tropic Air Belize. We went with Maya Island Air and had a great experience. These are quick 15-20 minute flights on small 10-12 person hopper planes. The moment you walk outside on the tarmac to your small plane, the vacation truly begins. The views below of the crystal clear water and reefs is absolutely stunning all the way to San Pedro airport. If you’d rather not take a plane and have more time, you can also take the longer route on the ferry.
FINALLY! At this point, you’ve arrived to the final destination in San Pedro. This is the most visited island by tourists and is a mere 25 miles long.
One of my favorite bonus parts about staying on the island was the simple way of getting around. The main modes of transportation are either by golf carts or water taxi.
We rented a 6-person golf cart from Avis cart rentals. I wouldn’t say it was the most organized process and now that I have a better idea of the layout once you land, I would recommend getting off the plane and walking over to a few of the cart rental shops to compare costs. ** If you are staying at a resort or even an AirBnB with a helpful host, you can take a taxi-cab to your accommodations and then have your host/concierge get you set up with a golf cart.
Groceries / snacks / water bottles – besides the breakfast and the 2 water bottles stocked daily in your room: there’s a super market about .4 miles down the road past the truck stop and it will be on your left!
Where to Stay:
There are a lot of options on where to stay and it can be overwhelming without any knowledge of the island itself. We ended up at an AirBnB called Daydreamin’ Bed and Breakfast which was located on the northern part of the island about 5 miles from the San Pedro airport.
I could not recommend this place enough. If you are looking for a large resort, this is not your spot. Instead I would check out Grand Caribe Belize hotel which is right down the road from where we stayed OR if you are going more for an isolated hotel or honeymoon destination, check out Matachica Resort and Spa.
Daydreamin’ was the perfect spot for our family stay. There were 5 villas total; each with a Queen or King bed, full bath, and porch.
The owners, Rob and Mar, were just the right amount of attentive and helpful. The daily breakfast delivered steps outside our door was a highlight of our stay as well.
The location was ideal for us as we wanted something a bit more quiet but also a convenient golf cart ride to nearby restaurants, bars and attractions.
Every Thursday evening the pool front fills up with locals and visitors alike for a night full of complimentary wine tasting, appetizers and live music!
Another bonus of our stay was the nightly security guard on-site. We had the sweetest man who came around 6PM each evening and didn’t leave until 6AM the next morning.
BONUS #2: If you’re a dog lover, Rob and Mar have the sweetest dogs. Massive dogs. This is another nice security measure as they definitely make their presence on the property known yet they are gentle giants to the guests staying there!
Where to Eat and Drink:
- Truck Stop: One of our favorite go-to spots as it was a quick walk from our AirBnB and the large variety of food options made everyone in the group happy. The pepperoni and ham pizza was a hit, the Asian shipping container had great pad Thai and peanut soup, the Latin fusion had good steak and vegetarian tacos and last but not least; the ice cream shop was a must. The flavors change daily but loved the peanut butter cup, salted Carmel, chocolate brownie and white chocolate cheese cake.
- Side note: Friday nights are Family Feud night and the place gets packed out! Check it out for easy entertainment.
- Marbucks Coffee House: Ah, Marbucks. If you are sick of me talking about Marbucks and our awesome accommodations already, I apologize! This coffee house was the perfect addition to our Bed & Breakfast stay and one of the most popular stops for locals and tourists around town. Daily breakfast served from Rob & Mar’s kitchen are hard to beat; think lemon-ricotta blueberry pancakes, egg benedicts, bacon and eggs, fresh fruit, fresh squeezed OJ… Mmm mm. Try out one of their Americanos, Lattes, or Cappuccinos for a special caffeine treat!
- Ak’Bol Yoga Resort: Craving plant-based dishes or healthier options during your vacation on the island? Ak’Bol has a nice balance of tasty menu items to accompany their zen-like yoga retreat atmosphere. A falafel burger, rice bowl, and a frozen creamy coconut mojito were my go-to items.
- Croc’s Sunset Sports Bar & Grill: Visiting Ambergis Caye during football season? (Or basketball, soccer, etc.) Croc’s Sunset Sports Bar should be one of your go-to spots to watch your favorite games while enjoying yummy bar food surrounded by gorgeous sunset views. Check it out for yourself on the link above!
- Blue Bayou: Located to the left of Secret Beach; this place came recommended. However, I can’t speak to the quality as we didn’t end up eating or drinking from the Secret Beach bar area. You can likely expect over-priced food and beverages given you are isolated and it is considered a tourist trap. All that being said, if you are to get hungry or thirsty and you didn’t BYOB, I heard good things about the atmosphere at Blue Bayou!
- Robin’s Kitchen: We were so bummed we didn’t make it here! It came highly recommended from a friend and rumor is, you can’t go wrong with their jerk chicken!
- Dive Bar: Located on the northern part of the island after you cross the bridge, this spot has occasional live music and it’s a great spot to finish off your day with some happy hour drinks and swinging the day away over the ocean waters!
- Estel’s-by-the-Sea: We passed this crowded spot when we were wandering around the town of San Pedro so sadly we were unable to get a table but Estel’s is beach-front restaurant supposedly has wonderful breakfast and an amazing home-cooked BBQ for lunch.
Located a stone’s throw away from Daydreamin’ AirBnB; one of our favorite spots, Truck Stop!
Sorry for the large amount of photos from Truck Stop. This ended up being a regular stop of ours. Pizza? Check. Margaritas and rum floats? Check. Thai food? Check. Latin fusion? check.
Delicious Rum Float pictured above made fresh with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. It’s 5 o’clock somehwere!
Secret Beach or ‘Not-so-secret-beach’ pictured below. This photo is a bit deceiving as the beach itself is small and packed out with tourists alongside an overpriced bar. We made our own fun!
Tip: BYOB (and snacks) It will make your visit more enjoyable and less $$
Sunsets at the Dive Bar below are hard to beat.
What to Do:
- Fishing: Seakurus Tours Belize is the company we chose to book with; however, there are a ton of different companies depending on what you are looking for! Seakurus has two main-day tours. We did the adventure packed Survivor Tour which kicked off at 9:00am. The first stop was right off the coastline in search for live bait. Once we had the bait, we took off to catch our ‘lunch’. The guys were immediately suited up with their fishing rods and within minutes we were reeling in enough Snappers for our meal. Once we had enough food for our beach BBQ, we drove out a bit further where we had the opportunity to catch larger fish including Barracudas! The day continued with diving for conch shells, the captains making fresh conch ceviche, spear-fishing for lobsters and snorkeling with nurse sharks and eagle rays. At last, the Survivor tour ends with a beach BBQ prepared by the captains over an open fire and frozen mojitos at the Tranquility Bay Resort’s infinity pool. Phew… Long-winded description but it was a full, eventful and wonderful day that we would all 100% highly recommend!
- Snorkeling: Belize is known for it’s amazing coral reefs located right off the shore and some of the best snorkeling and diving on this side of the world. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is located right off the tip of Ambergis Caye. Sharks, rays, manatees, baracudas, you name it; there is a chance you will see it!
- Scuba Diving: I wish we had the opportunity to (1) become certified and (2) scuba in the stunning waters of Belize but maybe next time! If you are a diver, this place is supposed to be a scuba-divers dream!
- Take a day-trip to Caye Caulker: We would have loved to make a day trip over to Caye Caulker but our time completely ran out. You can take a ferry over to Ambergis Caye’s sister island multiple times throughout the day. If you think Ambergis Caye is living on island time, just wait until you go to Caye Caulker. Their motto is “Go Slow”. If you are looking for cheaper accommodations then it is definitely worth taking a look at the hotels and hostels located on this island.
- Yoga: 100% recommend a morning yoga session at Ak’bol Yoga Resort. It is an easy 5-10 minute walk down the beach from Daydreamin’/Marbucks. During the week, there are flow sessions at 9:00AM. If you are looking for some vacation zen, look no further. You’ll spend about two hours on the end of a shaded pier over the sparkling ocean water with the view of palm trees in the backdrop.
- Walk-in’s are almost always welcome but get there ~10-15 minutes early at least to secure a spot. You sign up at the restaurant bar and they provide the mats, blocks and blankets. Occasionally there will be large retreats taking place and the classes may be completely full but otherwise you’re looking at just $15 per person.
Fishing day! The photo below is just a perfect example of the crystal clear blue waters surrounding our boat at all times during the day.
The final stop of the day was at Tranquility Bay Resort. This gorgeous infinity pool above was where we spent our time post-beach BBQ enjoying frozen mojitos while the sun set behind us.
Below: Street views during our afternoon walks in San Pedro. Lots of colors, restaurants and bars galore.
The water was just too gorgeous not to take what felt like hundreds of photos….
If you want to see more highlights from our visit to Belize, keep on scrolling!
Snorkeling with nurse sharks and eagle rays after a successful day of fishing (ahem.. baracuda a little too close for comfort below), lobster hunting and searching for conch shells.
Rum punch and fresh cut star fruit with a not-too-shabby blue water backdrop.
Post-yoga views from the pier.