San Pedro Town is in the south part of Ambergris Caye, in northern Belize. Its sandy streets are lined with colorful wooden houses, quaint seafood restaurants and lively beach bars. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a channel in an offshore reef. It features dive sites with parrotfish and moray eels, plus nurse sharks and stingrays at Shark Ray Alley. As of 2015, the population is estimated to be about 16,000. The island has the most visitor accommodations in Belize, ranging from fine luxury hotels, 5-story resorts, quaint cottages, family-size beachfront condos, budget-conscious hostels and dormitories, anything from modest to magnificent houses that sleep 20+. The houses and hotels are all blooming year round with many palm trees, tropical flora, bougainvillea, hibiscus, etc.
Ambergris Caye is a comfortable, shorts-and-sandals seaside vacation spot. It is just a bit off the beaten path, where the seafood is cold and plentiful, the local beer, Belikin is delightful, and the people are very friendly and helpful. The tap water won't make you sick and modern conveniences like air conditioning and wi-fi are in most accommodations. Bring shorts, t-shirts, swim suits, sun block, sunglasses, sandals, and a hat. That is all you'll need. Nowadays, Front Street (the original name) is Barrier Reef Drive. Middle Street is now Pescador Drive and the 3rd major street is Back Street. That's where you'll find fresh fish for sale from the local fisherman, fruit and vegetable stands and the Artisans Craft Market.
Recreational activities include scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, fly fishing, deep sea fishing, and all kinds of water sports. And the best part is that you never have to worry about sharing any of it with hoards of cruise ship passengers because the nearby reef prevents any cruise ships from docking on the island. Tourism is the number one industry in what once was a fishing village. Fishing is still excellent. The water is really warm, averaging about 82 degrees year round.
There is a great variety of reef types and diving & snorkeling experiences in Ambergris Caye. The Barrier Reef is 185 meandering miles (298 km) of unspoiled beauty. It varies from 8 to 16 miles (13-26 km) from the mainland to less than one mile (1.6 km) offshore from Ambergris Caye. Much of it is totally unexplored and all of it is easily accessible by boat. The reef is like a gigantic wall running parallel to the coast. Between the mainland and the reef are shallow, sandy waters with numerous mangrove-covered islands (cayes). Hard corals, gorgonians, sea fans, tunicates, and shellfish of amazing variety populate Belize coastal waters. The manta ray, nurse sharks and spotted eagle ray are fairly common. Hammerhead shark, Caribbean reef shark and even the oceanic white tip shark are seen occasionally, but these lucky sightings are rare. Visibility ranges from 50-100+ feet. Water is warm year round. You might not even need a wetsuit. Most dive in a bathing suit. Lighthouse Reef, Turneffe Islands, and the Blue Hole, all make for great 3-tank, all day dive trips.
RECOMMENDED DIVE SHOP: Ecologic Divers
Ask to dive with Charlie and tell him the Tidwell family sent you.
Golf carts and bicycles are the main mode of transportation. Stroll thru the town barefoot, casually making your way through shops and restaurants. Relax and start a conversation with a local. Most of them love to chat. A familiar sign in town states, "Welcome to San Pedro where you won't be a stranger for long."
Much of the island is covered with a forest that attracts much wildlife, including alligators and many birds. The Bacalar Chico national park and marine reserve is a large, undeveloped area, north of town. The park, which opened in 1996, comprises 12,000 acres of land and 15,000 acres of water. At present the park is accessible by boat from San Pedro, from the Belize mainland at Sarteneja and elsewhere and from the Mexican port village of X'calak. The park is home to a surprisingly large population of birds and wildlife, and there are a number of Maya sites. Other Maya sites on the island, which you can visit on boat tours to the North End, include Chac Balam and Santa Cruz.
Getting to San Pedro is a quick, 20 minute flight from Belize City, where flights occur on the hour. Ferry service is also available.
RESTAURANTS & DINING
Ambergris Caye has Belize's widest selection of restaurants, bars, and lounges. These range from inexpensive local spots and pizza joints to a few that are rated among the finest in the world. The emphasis is on seafood, of course, but many restaurants also serve chicken and pork. Lobster is usually the most-expensive item on the menu (in-season mid-July to mid-February), at around US$20. Pasta and Mexican-style dishes also are popular.
Not in the mood for pricey seafood? An honest plate of stewed chicken, Belizean beans and rice will taste real good. Dress is very casual, even at the nicest places.Conch season is September 30-July 1st, and shrimp doesn't really have a season but very hard to get from June-August.
(Recommendations from Wren Tidwell, owner of BeachHouse.com, who has vacationed on San Pedro 3 times)
Caramba's - BEST seafood with the most options
Mata Chica - Upscale and worth the long drive up north
Caroline's Kitchen - Home cooking like Grandma made it
Sandy Toe's Beachfront - BEST fish tacos EVER!
Estel's by the Sea - Beachfront
Palmilla's at the Victoria House Resort - ooh la la luxury and A/C
Elvi's Kitchen - Classic and lively with sand floors
Blue Water Grill - Tues & Thur is sushi night
The Dive Bar - Country music and sand floors, on the beach
Rojo Beach Bar - worth the drive north, nice nice, but $$$ appetizers and pizza, fun beach front bar
Stella's - lagoon side, go for the sunsets!
The Truck Stop - most fun place on the island - live music - food trucks
Your island adventure awaits.