After another whirlwind month of globetrotting that began last month in Costa Rica, I have finally reached the last stop on Round-the-World #4.
And all initial signs indicate that I have chosen the absolute perfect place to relax and recover from accumulated jetlag.
Of course, I should start by saying that I had done almost no research on Belize prior to my arrival today.
Who had time? In fact, I just got around to booking my hotel while in Thailand two weeks ago.
Read More: Thai Beach Perfection – Phuket & Khao Lak
However, my limited research on Belize revealed that the best place to stay was the island of Ambergris Caye, just off the coast of mainland Belize. Kind of ironic that I’ve never been to Central America before and on this trip, I both started (in Costa Rica) and ended here.
(Update: Round-the-World 7 1/2 would later cover the rest of Central America in 30 days.)
So, I settled on Ambergris Caye for my visit to Belize and left the details to work out later.
Where is Ambergris Caye?
Located 35 miles east of Belize City, Ambergris Caye is Belize’s largest island and most popular tourism destination.
The island is just 25 miles long and one mile wide at its widest point. San Pedro, on the island’s south end, is the main town and home to the airstrip and the main concentration of shops and restaurants.
On the extended north end of the island, you’ll find a string of beachfront homes and a large concentration of ex-pats. In fact, Ambergris Caye is home to Belize’s largest concentration of ex-pats – many of those from the US.
The island’s laid-back atmosphere and relaxed lifestyle is its biggest draw. It’s not uncommon for someone to visit and never want to leave.
Where to stay on Ambergris Caye
While in Thailand, I realized that I better get to work on a place to stay or I’d be sleeping in a hammock on the beach for 5 nights.
In a sleepy place like Ambergris Caye, there are, of course, no options for using Marriott or Hilton points (my usual go-to). So I used the ever-reliable combo of Trip Advisor (for reviews) and Booking.com (for the best rates) to evaluate my hotel options.
My only real necessity is a room right on the beach for as little money as possible. Since this is the end of the trip, I’m getting more frugal by the day. Of course, it certainly can’t hurt to check out a few of the fancier properties, just in case.
Ultimately, I narrow down my search to 3 hotels:
- PUR Boutique Cabanas – Best reviews, luxury cabanas but no direct beachfront.
- White Sands Cove – A small condo-style property with one and two-bedroom apartments.
- Ocean Tide Beach Resort – Simple rooms with no frills, directly on the beach.
My frugality wins out and I decide on the Ocean Tide Beach Resort. It has decent reviews, it’s right on the beach, it has a cute pool, and at well under $100/night, the price is definitely right.
After my last stop in Tahiti, my round-the-world ticket gifted me with a very useful one-night layover at home in Atlanta (think laundry and packing a smaller back for this one final stop). From Atlanta, I arrive in Belize City after a quick 2 ½ hour flight.
How to Get to Ambergris Caye from Belize City
To get to Ambergris Caye, I have to take a puddle jumper flight on Tropic Air, one of two domestic carriers (the other is Maya Island Air).
I’ve never been on a plane this small (just 12 seats) so I’m a little nervous. But it actually turns out to be a lot of fun. The flight is very smooth and the views of the turquoise water below are stunning.
My only complaint is that one of the other passengers decided to hop into the co-pilot seat (apparently this is allowed and considered an extra passenger seat when the plane is full). He then proceeded to talk the pilot’s ear off the entire 13-minute flight.
I’m of the opinion that the (only) pilot should be focusing on the flight and not on entertaining a chatty passenger.
Regardless, we make it to Ambergris Caye in one piece.
When we land at the tiny airstrip on the outskirts of San Pedro Town, I decide to try to find my hotel on foot. Based on the map I got at the airport in Belize City, it can’t be far. Plus, there aren’t a ton of readily available transportation options at the “airport.”
Luckily, it turns out to be pretty easy to find and only takes me about 20 minutes.
San Pedro Town
Calling San Pedro a town is a bit of a stretch.
There are only 3 cobbled roads – the others are sand. The three “roads” run parallel through town and are called Front, Middle and Back Street.
Front Street is basically the beach. It’s an interesting layout but at least it’s next to impossible to get lost!
The Ocean Tide Beach Resort
When I get to the hotel, I am pleasantly surprised. I did not have high expectations for such an affordable rate on the beach.
My room has a lovely view of the beach and even comes with a free cat…her name is “Junkfood.” (Poor thing, I don’t know who named her that.) But she is cute and hangs out on the balcony on my floor nearly my entire stay.
The Ocean Tide Beach Resort is a small, family-run hotel and by day two I know everyone there, employees and guests.
It’s the kind of place where everyone keeps their doors and windows open to the ocean breezes during the day and hangs out on the communal balcony with a cocktail in the evenings.
Pure beachfront bliss.
Things to do in Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye is known as one of the top diving spots in the world. But since I’m not a diver, I’m not entirely sure what I will do with my 4 days here. I briefly consider getting certified while I’m here but then I remember that I am afraid of sharks.
Spoiler alert: I eventually overcome my fear of sharks in Mexico and follow it up with a diving course in Roatan.
There are numerous fishing, diving, and snorkeling trips departing daily to many of the outer islands. Or, there are the ubiquitous hammocks dotting the shoreline.
Operation Beach Bum
After 4 weeks of time-zone hopping, I opt for the hammock. Ambergris Caye is nothing if not the perfect place to recover from jetlag.
I do get out to explore with long walks every day to see more of each end of the island. I also go out to dinner with my hotel-mates a few times, but mostly I just adopt the life of a total beach bum for 4 days.
If you haven’t done that in a while, I highly recommend it. And Ambergris Caye is quite possibly the best place in the world for it. It’s literally the most laid-back place I’ve ever visited.
No one is on a schedule and the only traffic jams involve the islands’ numerous golf carts. Everyone seems to have a golf cart or a bicycle on this island and that’s all you really need. There are a few cars but the golf carts are much more practical considering the narrow and sandy roads.
After 4 extremely relaxing days on the Caye, it’s time for my Tropic Air flight back to Belize City for my final flight home.
This time I decide I’ll make a run at the co-pilot seat. If only to ensure that no one else causes any trouble up there. I manage to nab the seat and it’s a very cool experience to be in the cockpit of the small plane.
When our pilot, Philip, hops in the plane just before take-off he greets me with a cheerful, “Hello, co-pilot!” I reply with, “I assume the #1 rule is don’t touch anything?”
“Correct” he replied with a smile. No problem, Captain.
It’s another smooth flight and 15 minutes later I’m on the ground in Belize City and waiting for my last flight home to Atlanta.
Another wonderful trip has sadly come to an end. From Costa Rica and the Amalfi Coast to sunrise at Angkor Wat and Thailand to Tahiti, it’s been an absolutely incredible month. But I have to admit I’m ready to be home for a while after all.
Read More: Sunrise at Angkor Wat – Cambodia
Thanks again to all who followed along this year. Before you know it, it’ll be time for “Round the World #5.“