Every once in a while, you find a place that gets to your soul.
Where things feel easy and light.
Where wildlife abounds, above and below the shoreline.
Where the catch of the day is served steps from the sea.
Where the rhythm of the culture moves you.
The town of San Pedro on Belize’s Ambergris Caye is one of those unassuming gems.
Sharing a border with Mexico, and otherwise surrounded by Guatemala and the Caribbean coastline, Belize is still slightly “the road less travelled”—in the best way possible. And still but a speck in the sea, Ambergris Caye is Belize’s largest island, personified with an outsized, endless vibe. It’s a place bursting with culture and fun, where golf carts outnumber cars and life moves at an unhurried pace.
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
For travellers, San Pedro is a jump-off point for what’s arguably considered some of the best diving in the world. From its nearby barrier reef (Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest reef system in the world) that teems with colourful marine life by day and predators come nightfall, to full-day excursions that bring divers further afield, eco-diverse Belize has something for everyone.
From the SunBreeze Hotel dive shop, travellers easily make the day trip to an incomparable UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Great Blue Hole. In just over two-and-a-half hours, divers arrive to marvel at the giant marine sinkhole adorned with stalactite formations that date as far back as 15,000 years. Of course, while the Blue Hole is mind-blowing in its own right (Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the top five scuba diving sites in the world), it’s just one stop on a day trip that includes some other must-dive attractions including Lighthouse Reef Atoll and a stop at Half Moon Caye. The island is full of life above and below ground—you don’t even need to dive to observe the diversity of wildlife that call this place home. (To be clear, we do recommend diving or at the very least, snorkeling.) Admire spotted eagle rays as they seemingly fly underwater, hypnotizing you with a pattern so mesmerizing it's hard to believe it's painted by the all-natural hand of nature. Nearby, reef sharks circle, unphased by the presence of divers, giving you the bone-chilling feeling that you’re in their world now.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll
Above land on Half Moon Caye the ground is crawling. Giant hermit crabs scurry off the trail as you walk by and massive iguanas patrol the area leading to a red-footed booby nesting area. It all lends to the feeling of living through an episode of the David Attenborough-narrated show Planet Earth.
Back in San Pedro, it’s time to wash the taste of salt water out of your mouth. From SunBreeze Hotel and SunBreeze Suites you are walking distance away from many great eateries serving the freshest catch. For the best seafood, head to Caramba. Before getting seated, select your catch-of-the-day from a display of fresh-caught tropical fish and seafood (including live crab and lobster). Caramba is one of the longest-standing, family-owned restaurants on Ambergris Caye, owned by Rene Reyes Sr. and his wife Patty. The conch fritters are a must, as is the stone crab.
Speaking of stone crab—the best you’ll find on-island are the claws at Elvi’s Kitchen. This local favourite is owned by Mrs. Elvia Staines (aka Doña Elvia) who started Elvi’s with as take-out window in 1974. Snack on stone crab with chipotle garlic butter while you sink your toes into the restaurant’s sand floors. The menu also serves up plenty of traditional Mayan and Caribbean foods such as conch soup, pibil, fried green plantains, mojo de ajo and street corn.
Blue Water Grill
The coconut shrimp curry is the chef’s favourite. If you prefer your seafood expertly tucked into a roll, Blue Water Grill is popular for its Tuesday and Friday sushi nights and open-air, beachfront dining.
When you go
Getting to Belize
Getting to Belize from Canada is quick and easy. In November, WestJet launched direct flights from Calgary and Toronto to Belize City’s Philip Goldson International Airport.
To reach Ambergris Caye, board a quick flight to San Pedro (with Tropic Air or Maya Island Air which depart multiple times a day) or travel by boat with Belize Water Taxi which offers about seven departures per day. By air, it's a scenic 20-minute flight; by boat it’s approximately 90 minutes.
Once in San Pedro, get around like islanders do: rent your own golf cart from Budget Golf Cart Rental or hire them like taxis as needed. Realistically, you can get around most of the island on foot when staying at SunBreeze.
Travel to Belize during COVID-19 times
Effective August 9th, 2021, all foreign travellers arriving in Belize via Philip Goldson International Airport must present a negative COVID-19 test result: a PCR test valid within 96 hours or a rapid antigen test taken within 48 hours of arrival. If no test is presented, one will be administered at the airport for a fee of $50 USD per passenger.
In addition, travellers should book a hotel that is part of the new Tourism Gold Standard Program—SunBreeze is an approved Gold Standard hotel. The program aims to enhance the tourism industry’s health and safety standards by adopting new behaviours and procedures to give confidence in the hygiene and safety of Belize’s tourism product.
This article is sponsored by SunBreeze; all opinions belong to the writer.
SunBreeze Hotel and SunBreeze Suites are conveniently located in San Pedro town on Ambergris Caye. Right now, save 10% on all seven-night Honeymoon, Adventure, Dive and packages. Packages include accommodation, tours, activities, round-trip and on-island transfers, resort taxes and service charges.