Located on Belize's largest island, Ambergris Caye, is Belize's most popular destination -- San Pedro. Thousands of visitors flock to this tropical paradise every year, so why does it seem like such a little known paradise? If you're familiar with Madonna's “La Isla Bonita,” then you've already heard of Ambergris Caye! San Pedro is just one of the many reasons Belize's tourism board boasts the country is unBelizeable
Why Visit San Pedro?
Popular with scuba divers and celebrities for decades, everyone is finally catching on to why San Pedro is such a perfect place to visit. The local currency is tied to the United States dollar at an exchange rate of 2 to 1, making for easy conversions. English is the primary language, with Spanish a close second. And there are plenty of flights to Belize City, the nearby capital, from many major U.S. and Canadian cities. Then just take a connecting flight or hop on the scenic ferry ride to Ambergris Caye
. The country is affordable and accessible.
San Pedro itself offers something for every budget. No matter your finances, a San Pedro getaway can easily be achieved. From hostels to luxury five star resorts, and every class of hotel in between, there is a way to afford a stay in San Pedro. The same can be said for restaurant options, with food costing from a few dollars a meal, to meals costing close to US $100 per person at the more exclusive resorts.
So now that you're here, what should you do? Here are the best things to do in San Pedro Belize:
Drive a Golf Cart
Ambergris Caye is about 25 miles from end to end. The town of San Pedro is only about 1.5 miles from north to south and a mile at its widest point. The golf cart is the most common mode of transportation in town. A golf cart rental costs about US $25-40 a day. Just like a car, a weekly deal is usually better. Golf cart rentals can be arranged through most resorts, grocery stores, and rental counters. With all this competition, you may be able to arrange a small discount, especially when paying with cash. Mind the speed bumps and the potholes though! The golf carts do not have good suspension and you'll need to hold on for dear life. It's good, clean fun!
Visit Secret Beach
Beginning as a locals only hangout, the not so secret Secret Beach is now the hot spot for visitors looking for a western-facing beach. Getting there is half the fun! Located about five miles north of town, you'll need the US $5 fee for each crossing of the toll bridge. After driving down a mostly dirt road, you'll know you've arrived once you see all the other golf carts and one of those cute photo signs popular on Instagram.
The beach is lined with several restaurants and bars, all with chairs and loungers. Several offer tables and chairs right in the water. This is the idyllic spot to enjoy chilling in the water for a few hours. Expect to pay for a few drinks and/or food to enjoy some of the amenities, though there are some areas where you can bring your own chairs as well.
Stop at the Truck Stop
Belize's first shipping container food park can be found just north of the bridge. Different containers offer cuisines, including arepas, Malaysian fusion, pizza, and ice cream; as well as a beer garden. Or cool off in the swimming pool with a swim up bar. Or try your hand at one of the outdoor games. Enjoy the weekly movie night or trivia night. Live music acts keep crowds entertained. This is a great place for visitors of all ages to have a great time out. More info on their website
Spend a Day in Caye Caulker
A fun day excursion involves a day trip to the island whose motto is “Go Slow,” neighboring Caye Caulker. Reach Caye Caulker
by taking the ferry from the terminal in downtown San Pedro or taking a tour. Caye Caulker is often included as an option with a snorkeling tour.
Meander down the main streets dotted with bars, restaurants, and shops. Spend a day at The Split, its most popular hangout, playing beach volleyball. Sip a Belikin or tropical beverage while relaxing and just enjoying the slower pace of life.
Snokel in Hol Chan Reserve
The world's second largest barrier reef lies just off the shores of Belize. UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 1996. Since then, conservation efforts have been strengthened to protect this ecosystem. The Hol Chan Reserve is one of the most popular areas for visitors to snorkel due to the protected marine life. Tour guides ensure both swimmers and non-swimmers are well at ease as they point out angel and lion fish, while a sea turtle swims by.
Swim with Sharks at Shark Alley
Swim with nurse sharks? Yes! Fishermen returning from their day at sea would stop just inside the reef to clean their catch. The sharks became used to it and now happily wait for boats to come to the area to feed them some chum. Tour boats continue the tradition by chumming the waters and then goading tourists to get in the waters with our snorkel gear on. Wait, what?! Yes! A unique experience not to be missed!
Dive (or Fly Over) the Blue Hole
While part of the Barrier Reef, this place is worth its own separate mention.Divers explore this 1,000-foot wide marine sinkhole for the rich marine life found in its depths. Visitors can spend a day observing Caribbean species while swimming among stalactites. If you're not a certified scuba diver, the best way to see the Blue Hole is to fly over it. True daredevils can even parachute into the Blue Hole.
Sample Great Belizean Food
You won't find a single Starbucks, McDonald's, or Pizza Hut on the island, or in the country, for that matter. This is your opportunity to enjoy fresh seafood and to try Belizean and creole dishes! The island has great restaurants
to suit every budget.
Fans of lobster will want to visit during the lobster season -- between June 15 to February 15. Enjoy lobster tails on the grill for every meal if you'd like, which can be yours for about US $7. Lobster in other forms, such as in a ceviche, burrito, and countless other preparations, are also available. Elvi's Kitchen
offers a Mayan Feast on Fridays if you'd like to sample some traditional Mayan foods in a buffet style.
Learn About Chocolate
Using seeds from the cacao trees, the Mayans created chocolate as a food for the gods. Today, Belize produces some of the world's best organic chocolate. The Belize Chocolate Company, located on the waterfront, offers chocolate making classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, though pre-booking is required. Guests have an opportunity to learn about the history of chocolate, grind some cacao, and, of course, sample some product. Plus the store is worth a visit.
Go to the Chicken Drop
Every Thursday night, the Wahoo Bar
located at the waterfront downtown, hosts the infamous Chicken Drop. You'll find signs pointing you in the right direction and tour people will tell you about this activity throughout the week. Think of the chicken drop like bingo where the number is chosen by the square where a chicken poops. A $1 bet earns $100, and a napkin for the honor of cleaning up the mess. The event lasts for hours and you need to place bets ahead of time. It is a rather long event with a festive atmosphere (read - drunken mess) in case you're planning on bringing children.
Or Cheer at the Hermit Crab Races
Every Tuesday night, Crazy Canucks hosts hermit crab races. This family-friendly activity sees adults and children crazily cheering these little shy guys to race from a central point through some obstacles to be the first to make it to the outside of the bullseye course. This is good, clean fun for everyone.
The island is dotted with bars owned by both locals and expats who came and fell in love with San Pedro. Some of the more popular bars like Crazy Canucks, Sandbar Hostel, and Average Joe's, to name but a few, should not be missed. Look for special events like live music, trivia, or sports events. You'll find many other visitors from other countries. Many dreams start at these bars, including those of relocating full time to Belize.
Explore Mayan Ruins
Once home to the Mayans, reminders of their empire remain on the mainland. Day tours travel from San Pedro to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai and Altun Ha. Some also combine trips with zip lining and/or cave tubing and/or the Belize City zoo. Tours to the mainland involve approximately an hour travel by boat to and from the island to Belize City (once everyone is collected) plus additional time traveling by bus. Some visitors combine such tours with their arrival or departure from Belize City to avoid the travel time from San Pedro.
As Belize's tourism board likes to boast, Belize is unBelizeable
! With so many things to do in San Pedro
, it is easy to see why visitors come back time and again. San Pedro is a great town to enjoy a relaxing getaway. As you ride your golf cart down the streets, seeing all the businesses owned by expats, you too come to understand why so many others have decided to make it their permanent home, and why Madonna wrote a song about it.