San Pedro (Ambergris Caye)
Travel Guide

Ambergris Caye (San Pedro Belize)
Travel Guide

Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize. San Pedro is the only town on Ambergris Caye and the main destination for travellers to Belize. Ambergris Caye is ‘La Isla Bonita’ (The beautiful island), the star of Belize’s tourism industry. Its main attraction is the Great Barrier Reef which lies parallel to its coast at a distance of only half a mile (750m) from its land.
 
The Great Barrier Reef can be accessed easily with a boat from Ambergris Caye in a matter of minutes. There are plenty of tours and boats ready to take you to the best spots for snorkeling and diving including Shark Ray Alley where you will be able to snorkel with sharks and the Lighthouse Reef that contains the famous and breath-taking Great Blue Hole.

Top Things to Do – Ambergris Caye (San Pedro)

Great Blue Hole - Travel in Belize cheaply and in style

Dive the Great Blue Hole

San-Pedro,-Ambergris-Caye,-beachfront

Walk on the Beachfront

Shark-Ray-Alley--swimming-with-sharks-Wildlife-belize

Visit Shark Ray Alley

Street parallel to coastline in Caye Caulker

Take a boat to Caye Caulker

Main-square-in-San-Pedro,-ambergris-caye,-belize

See the Town Square

san-pedro-belize-dock and-road-on-beach

Relax on a Dock

Other Places to Visit

Ambergris Caye is a small, relatively uninhabited island. The first things you can do is see the town of San Pedro and walk or bike around the island. For the rest you will have to take a boat to get to any other destination.

Luckily The Great Barrier Reef is just some minutes away. If you don’t like to be for a long time in a boat, you can snorkel in any of the popular diving spots along the Great Barrier Reef such as Shark Ray Alley, Tres Cocos, Mexico Rocks or Coral Gardens. They are impressive and full of corals and fish.

For those who prefer scuba diving rather than snorkeling or can be longer in a boat, visit any of the 3 atolls (rings of corals): Lighthouse Reef (has the Great Blue Hole in it), Turneffe Atoll and Glovers Reef.

Budget Travel – Ambergris Caye (San Pedro)

Typical Costs

The prices in San Pedro are the highest of Belize and prices are similar to prices in Europe or the US. The good news is that all of Belize including San Pedro are great to travel on a budget. San Pedro has plenty of low cost travel options in accommodation, transport, food and activities.

Budget Accommodation – San Pedro

San Pedro has just one hostel, but it’s one of the cheapest hostels of all Belize and perfectly located on a nice stretch of beach in the middle of San Pedro.

A bed in a dorm in this hostel of San Pedro costs around 15 USD per night while private rooms range between 35-70 USD.

In Airbnb there are no shared rooms in San Pedro, a private room will be around 50-170 USD (more expensive than in other places of Belize) and a whole house between 50-300 USD.

When staying long term, the best option is to rent directly from locals.

san-pedro-belize-hostel San Pedro’s only hostel. Right on the beach.

Food

Breakfast in touristy places it will be around 15 USD in the main roads but especially if they are on the first row on the beach with views to the sea.

In local shops a local breakfast of great tacos, burritos and a large coffee will cost around 3 USD.

A warm meal (such as chicken and rice) at a food stall will cost around 5 USD, while in touristy places or higher end local places it is usually from 25 USD onwards.

San Pedro is well known for having the best restaurants of Belize but they are highly priced.

Belize-food-cheap-tacos-in-square-of-San-Pedro
Best tacos you may ever taste, in San Pedro’s Town Square

Transport

Getting to San Pedro
FERRY

The cheapest option to travel to San Pedro is by ferry. If you arrive from Belize City it takes 1 hour and 30 minutes and from Caye Caulker 30 minutes. If you arrive from Mexico you can take a boat from Chetumal to San Pedro (1 hour and 30 minutes).

How much is the Ferry from Belize City to San Pedro?

There are 2 main ferry companies in Belize, the locally owned Ocean Ferry Belize and the Chinese owned Belize Water Taxi. Both take the same time to arrive, but Ocean Ferry is cheaper. Ocean Ferry ticket cost me 10 USD for a single one-way ticket, while Water Taxi tickets cost 28 USD.

How long is the Ferry from Belize City to San Pedro?

This ride takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes and makes a 5 minute stop in Caye Caulker.

Ocean-Ferry-from-Belize-City-to-San-PedroInside the Ocean Ferry from Belize City to San Pedro (Belize)

Transport

Getting to San Pedro
FERRY

The cheapest option to travel to San Pedro is by ferry. If you arrive from Belize City it takes 1 hour and 30 minutes and from Caye Caulker 30 minutes. If you arrive from Mexico you can take a boat from Chetumal to San Pedro (1 hour and 30 minutes).

How much is the Ferry from Belize City to San Pedro?

There are 2 main ferry companies in Belize, the locally owned Ocean Ferry Belize and the Chinese owned Belize Water Taxi. Both take the same time to arrive, but Ocean Ferry is cheaper. Ocean Ferry ticket cost me 10 USD for a single one-way ticket, while Water Taxi tickets cost 28 USD.

How long is the Ferry from Belize City to San Pedro?

This ride takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes and makes a 5 minute stop in Caye Caulker.

Ocean-Ferry-from-Belize-City-to-San-PedroInside the Ocean Ferry from Belize City to San Pedro (Belize)

 

AIR – Ambergris Caye Airport

The most expensive but quickest option is to arrive Ambergris Caye by plane with local airlines Tropic and Maya Air. The cost is around 85 USD and it takes 15 minutes.

When you fly into Ambergris Caye you land on a small airport (John Greif II Airport) close to San Pedro which has daily flights landing in San Pedro from various other locations in Belize. The average price of a ticket from Belize City Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport to San Pedro is 85 USD. A flight with a great view!  

How to get from Belize City to San Pedro -Airport-of-San Pedro BelizeAirport of San Pedro (Ambergris Caye)

Getting around San Pedro

The best way of getting around in San Pedro and the island of Ambergris Caye, is walking or renting a bike. Many people rent golf carts to move around (see image right) and so more paved roads with cement are appearing.

Streets-and-traffic-in-San-Pedro,-ambergris-caye,-belize
Golf Carts on the main road of San Pedro (Ambergris Caye)

Activities

National Marine Parks

The entrance fee of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve itself costs 10 USD and gives access to Hol Chan Cut and Shark Ray Alley.

Bacalar Chico, the other Marine Park also costs 10 USD and is on the north end of Ambergris Caye on the channel that separates the island from Mexico. People often go to Bacalar Chico to see manatees. The water less transparent and more green in Bacalar Chico.

Depending on which tour operator, some will include the entrance fee of the marine park in the tour price and others don’t include it, so ask them.

The entrance fee is valid for the time that you keep the armband around your wrist. So keep it on if you are unsure and think that you might snorkel tomorrow again.

    Snorkeling the Reef in front of San Pedro

    Half a day snorkeling is around 45 USD (in for example, Hol Chan Cut, Shark Ray Alley, Mexico Rocks, Tres Cocos and Coral Gardens which are currently the most popular dive spots in Belize).

    I went with Chuck and Robbie’s scuba diving school and they were very eco-friendly and knowledgeable of the sea and its life.

    Shark-Ray-Alley-San Pedro Belize-Wildlife-belizeShark Ray Alley – Swim with friendly sharks (that don’t bite)

    Parrotfish relaxing in the Hol Chan Cut area Vieja Fish in Hol Chan Cut (Hol Chan Marine Reserve)

    Great Blue Hole Excursion

    A full day trip to the Great Blue Hole (Lighthouse Reef) is around 300 USD. This includes diving (or snorkeling) the Blue Hole, 2 other dives in dives in Lighthouse Reef and lunch on Half Moon Caye.

    A girl from Canada doing the diving trip with me had moaned and bargained merrcilessly, so the dive center staff  decreased the price for her by 30 USD.

    A full day scuba diving in in Turneffe Atoll is cheaper at around 200 USD (also including also 3 dives). I went with Amigos del Mar and think they did a great job.

    Great_Blue_Hole of Belize Blue Hole of Belize (copyright US Geological Survey – USGS)

    Money Saving Tips

    How can my trip to San Pedro be cheaper?

    Accommodation

    • Bargain prices – especially if you are going to stay a couple of days in accomodation in low season (from April to November).
    • Couchsurfing –  is great to find a place to stay with a local host to show you around but you will need to plan ahead. The are currently 20 hosts throughout Belize.

    Transport

    • Travel off-peak – (between April and November) to reduce prices for accommodation and flights.
    • Take the Ocean Ferry – instead of the Water Taxi to get to San Pedro. It will save you 10 USD per single one way ticket.

    Activities

    • Don’t scuba dive – as it is a very expensive activity. If you want to explore underwater, snorkel of freedive instead. It will save a lot of money. You can also bring your own mask and snorkel like I did.
    • Walk or rent a bike – San Pedro is not big so it’s ideal to walk everywhere or rent a bike.
    • Shop around – to find the best prices to go scuba diving or snorkeling tours as they can vary widely.

    Food

    • Tacos in Town Square – Go to the central square of San Pedro in the evenings. At a street stall with a blue ‘roof’ they sell the best tacos I ever tried. Big chunks of perfectly cooked meat  with cheese, beans and sauce, made right in front of you for less than 2 USD.
    • Avoid drinking alcohol – as it’s pretty expensive. A beer is 1.70 USD and a cocktail around 6 USD. If you still want to drink find happy hours. Buying alcohol in the Chinese supermarkets that dominate all of Belize (and also San Pedro) will not save you much on beer but will save you on rums as the local brands can be very cheap and ok to drink.
    • Eat in Backstreets – Especially in touristy places such as San Pedro, go to back streets to have breakfast or lunch. You might not have the first class view to the sea, but you will be saving a lot of money on food.
    • Street stalls – Buy warm food in street stalls and eat it on the way. Normally places where you sit down to eat will cost more. There are great budget options to try food with Mexican roots (tacos, garnachas, tamales) but also food with Caribbean roots (bbq chicken with beans). Buy it and eat it on the beach! Non- alcoholic drinks usually cost around 1 USD.
    • Eat plenty of fruit – You will find it everywhere and in all forms (natural, smoothies, juices) and it’s cheap and delicious.

    Suggested daily budget

    Average cost per day is $40-90 USD (if you don’t scuba dive)

    This suggested budget is only possible when you sleep in hostels or cheap guesthouses, eat in street stalls and use local transport. Try the Money Saving Tips to lower this daily amount.

    Ecotourism – Ambergris Caye

    • Start of Tourism – Ambergris Caye has been for centuries the hub of maritime trade in the region. Fishing, coconuts were the main means of islanders support. Tourism began in Ambergris Caye in the 1970s and the last thirty years have led to a large growth in both the dive, scuba trade and ecotourism. If you are passionate about water sports, San Pedro will seduce you.
    • Legislation – Despite complaints about over-development, San Pedro is taking measures to protect its most valuable asset, the barrier reef, which is only a half-mile offshore. The Belize government has recently announced bold legislation to end oil activity in all of its waters to protect the reef, oceans and marine life.
    • Less Fish – The amount, size and types of fish all around Ambergris Caye has decreased dramatically over the last two decades so this is a good initiative of sustainability of the government of Belize. All the locals I spoke to in Ambergris Caye agreed that the bigger fish had disappeared and only smaller fishes remained.
    • Seafood Guide for Belize – San Pedro is home to the country’s most appetizing dining scene of Belize. The government of Belize has created a ‘Seafood Guide for Belize’ in which it lists the sea species that are totally banned as they are near extinction, those that need a special permit to fish them, and those that can be caught and eaten without restriction.
    • Banned Species – There is a total ban on fishing parrot fish, blue tang, surgeon fish, doctor fish, permit, tarpon, bone fish, marine turtle (all species), whale & nurse sharks, all marine mammals, crocodile, diced conch and diced lobster.

    • Invasive Species – On the other hand, eating of lion fish is encouraged as it is an invasive species new to this region that eats commercial fish and has no predators.
    San-Pedro-Belize---Lion-fish-is-Invasive-Species-bad-for-ecosystem Lion Fish (invasive species) – not good for the ecosystem

       

    • Choose your Dive Center Wisely – Dive instructors should know all about marine species and leave them undisturbed, for example not taking out sea stars so tourists can touch them. I went to Mexico Rocks, Tres Cocos and Hol Chan Marine Reserve with Chuck and Robbie’s scuba diving school. To the Great Blue Hole and Turneffe Atoll I dived with with Amigos del Mar dive centre. They were both very eco-friendly and knowledgeable of the sea and its life.
    • Be careful when Snorkeling or Diving – Remember to dive carefully so you don’t harm the ecosystem. Coral often breaks by divers not controlling their fins enough. Also turtles and other marine life should not be touched.

    Travel Tips – Ambergris Caye

    • ATMs trouble accepting foreign bank cards – ATMs in San Pedro have trouble accepting foreign bank cards because they can’t read the metal chips on European and American bank cards.
    • Maximum 250 USD
      – ATMs allow you to take out maximum 250 USD every time. You can do it 2 times maximum per day, so that is 500 USD maximum per day.
    • Check with your bank – if they cover Belize and ask about the ATMs. I was only lucky with the Hermitage Bank, but most people are lucky with the Scotia Bank (next to San Pedro’s tiny Airport).

    • Is it safe to travel to Ambergris Caye? I was by myself in Ambergris Caye and slept in San Pedro. The town and island are totally safe. I actually had a converstion of a couple of hours with the local policeman (Hecor, see pics below) in the town square one evening. He told me about things happening in San Pedro, ranging from drunk tourists to disputes between locals as anywhere else. Just use your common sense. Locals were all very friendly and willing to help.
    • Take boats to the Great Blue Hole and the Atolls from San Pedro – San Pedro has by far the biggest number of diving centres and best boats for diving of all Belize. If you are short on time and happen to be in a destination that has less diving centres, you may miss the experience as sometimes boats depart when there are enough passengers/divers. So if you want to make sure you do the excursion to the Great Blue Hole or scuba dive to a far away atoll (like Turneffe Atoll) take a tour from San Pedro.

    People of Ambergris Caye

    Images of Ambergris Caye

    mangrove tree on Walk-to-North-Caye-Caulker--things-to do in Caye Caulker

    One of the best snorkeling spot in world - Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    One of the best snorkeling spot in world - Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    One of the best snorkeling spot in world - Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    One of the best snorkeling spot in world - Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    One of the best snorkeling spot in world - Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    One of the best snorkeling spot in world - Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    mangrove tree on Walk-to-North-Caye-Caulker--things-to do in Caye Caulker

    Mangrove Tree - Walking in North Caye Caulker

    Mangrove Tree - Walking in North Caye Caulker

    Beach front of San Pedro with many dive centres

    mangrove tree on Walk-to-North-Caye-Caulker--things-to do in Caye Caulker

    Town square of San Pedro

    Town square of San Pedro

    Town square of San Pedro

    mangrove tree on Walk-to-North-Caye-Caulker--things-to do in Caye Caulker

    Grunts in Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    Grunts in Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    Grunts in Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    Snorkeling Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    Snorkeling Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    Snorkeling Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    Dock in the evening in San Pedro

    Dock in the evening in San Pedro

    Dock in the evening in San Pedro

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    Bikes on a dock in San Pedro

    Bikes on a dock in San Pedro

    Bikes on a dock in San Pedro

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    Coral in Hol Chan Cut

    Coral in Hol Chan Cut

    Coral in Hol Chan Cut

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    Small Beach - West side of Caye Caulker

    Small Beach - West side of Caye Caulker

    Hostel seen from dock of Chuck & Robbie's dive centre

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    La Palapa, a popular bar on a dock

    La Palapa, a popular bar on a dock

    La Palapa, a popular bar on a dock

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    Breakfast at local shop in San Pedro

    Breakfast at local shop in San Pedro

    Breakfast at local shop in San Pedro

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    Golf cart on San Pedro's beachfront

    Golf cart on San Pedro's beachfront

    Golf cart on San Pedro's beachfront

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    Boys fishing on a dock of San Pedro

    Boys fishing on a dock of San Pedro

    Boys fishing on a dock of San Pedro

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    San Pedro on the lake side

    San Pedro on the lake side

    San Pedro on the lake side

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    Fisherman on his boat in San Pedro

    Fisherman on his boat in San Pedro

    Fisherman on his boat in San Pedro

    walk-to-north-caye-caulker-things-to-do-in-caye-caulker

    Dock on San Pedro

    Dock on San Pedro

    Dock on San Pedro

    Belize-people-shop-owner-of-San-Pedro-in-Ambergris-Caye

    Back street of San Pedro

    Back street of San Pedro

    Back street of San Pedro

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