Hanging on the Beach in San Pedro, Snorkeling in the Great Blue Hole and Other Stories
If you are planning a visit to Belize you should book a week in Ambergris Caye and another in the jungle in the Cayo-district. While in Ambergris Caye don’t miss the Great Blue Hole – it is beyond amazing!
Map of Belize • San Pedro • New Year’s Eve in San Pedro • Hotel Portofino • Hotel in Ambergris Caye • Restaurants in Ambergris Caye • Night Club • Yoga • The Great Blue Hole • Half Moon Caye National Monument • Bye, Belize! • Facts about Belize
Map of Belize
A week in Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize and it is propably here most people book their trip when visiting Belize. Even so, Ambergris Caye doesn’t have an overexploited feel to it so you may indulge those Caribbean vibes with no effort.
San Pedro is the only town on Ambergris Caye and has c. 8 500 inhabitants.
Cars are almost non-existant on Ambergris Caye. You ride a bike or drive a golf cart and if you want to move between the northern and the southern parts of the 25 km long island you crab a water taxi.
New Year’s Eve in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
Everybody will gather by the San Pedro square when the clock strikes twelve to watch the fireworks.
The festivities start long before midnight; every single restaurant is fully booked and you can dance barefoot on the beach to the Caribbean rythms or house music.
By two am, everybody ends up at the night club Jaguar.
We had a dinner at our hotel Portofino (big mistake!) and took a boat to San Pedro afterwards. Portofino offers free shuttle service to town but the return is rather early so you might want to consider other options if you want to stay up late.
We stayed at the Hotel Portofino and to be honest we were rather disappointed when we checked in after our amazing week in the highlands.
Portofino Beach Resort: Pros
- Our Jaguar suite was nice and spacious (although – don’t look too close).
- The hotel was a little off and you could lay on the beach and swim/snorkle in the ocean quite undisturbed. It gets more hectic closer to San Pedro and since all the beaches are public it may be a bit annoying with all the people jogging or riding a bike while you are sunbathing. You can take a water taxi to get to San Pedro or ask for a lift on one of Portofino’s boats. The trip takes approximately 20 minutes.
- There are plenty of nice snorkeling spots close by. We did snorkle with sharks (well, reef sharks, but still…) and saw lots of other fish as well as manta rays.
- You can borrow a canoe or a bike free of charge.
- You can take long walks or go jogging on the beach.
Portofino Beach Resort: Cons
- We had actually booked the Treetop Suite but when we pointed this out the staff had a bad attitude.
- You could walk away with the so called safe under your arm.
- The reception area with the bar was extremely boring and ugly.
- Neither food nor drinks measure up, and mind you – this place is not cheap.
- There are very few restaurants close by. However, if you make booking at a restaurant they will send a boat to pick you up.
In conclusion, you don’t get what you pay for and the service is bad.
It is rather shallow and the seabed – well… But the water is really clear so if you take a boat a little further you will find some great spots where you can snorkle.
You stop a water taxi by standing on the pier and waving your arm.
Other hotels in Ambergris Caye
- Matachica Resort and Spa Smart, lovely, sophisticatd.
- Cayo Espanto Seven private villas on an island for those looking for a super luxorious stay in total privacy. However, a small island is always a small island and if you want to see something else it requires some planning.
- Las Terrazas We met a nice couple who stayed at Las Terrazas and they really recommended the hotel. We walked by and yes, it looked pretty classy.
- Portofino I am a little confused about Portofino. On the other hand, I liked it’s location a little further away from the crowds and our suite was both nice, spacious and tidy. On the other hand, the food was just mediocre at its best and way too expensive, the service was poor and the public areas dull. It does not give value for your money and therefore, I would not recommend this hotel.
X’Tan Ha Too big, the interior design sucks and the clientel is boring.
Restaurants in Ambergris Caye
- Mambo at the hotel Matachica. Good food and a little more stylish than in other places in San Pedro.
- Soul Kitchen by Akbol Yoga
- Fido’s Courtyard and Pier – an institution in San Pedro where everyone finds herself having a drink sooner or later.
- Elvi’s Kitchen – most propably the most famous restaurant in Ambergris Caye. The food is good but a little sloppy but still, the restaurant is well worth a visit.
- Blue Water Grill is an extremely popular restaurant by the ocean and you want to order some lobster here.
- Rum and Bean – coffee or drinks.
- Wild Mangos (link to Facebook) is a perfect place for all the vegetarians, vegans or basically everyone who wants to have a Mexican inspired meal cooked by an award winning chef. Their veggy burgers are so yummy!
The Night Club Jaguar’s
The Jaguar’s is the only night club in San Pedro and propably not the hottest place on earth but you might end up having a good time if you feel like dancing.
Belize Chocolate Company– yummy!
The Great Blue Hole
You have propably seen aerial photos of the Great Blue Hole showing a giant blue hole in the ocean surrounded by coral reefs. The hole measures approximately 300 meters in diameter and is approximately 126 meters deep.
The Great Blue Hole sould be one the best places on earth to go scuba diving.
If you are not into scuba diving (like me) you you can still go snorkeling in the Great Blue Hole. Be careful, though, because the coral is so sharp and it is easy to float with the underwater currents against them (take my word for it).
The shark lovers give a big thumbs up because both the hammerhead shark and the bull shark are quite a regulars here.
However, we didn’t meet any.
Early, early rise.
The snorkeling in the Great Blue Hole is fantastic. There are lots of fish, beautiful corals and when you see all the scuba divers below you and the air bubbles coming out from the tubes it is just mind blowing. Don’t miss!
The sea was a little rough, to put it mildly. Your eyes don’t leave the horizon and the complimentary rom drinks remain untouched while everybody is getting greener and greener in the face.
The tour was organized by Amigos del Mar and I can easily recommend them. Lunch and fruit was included as well as a visit to the Half Moon Caye National Monument, please see below.
Half Moon Caye National Monument is a teeny, tiny island and a natural reserve and also one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. This atoll is surrounded by coral reefs and is also a very popular place for scuba diving and snorkeling.
But above all, Half Moon Caye is a bird paradise.
Over 90 different species of birds have been seen here, including the frigatebird and the redfooted booby. The breeding season starts from mid-December, the chicks begin hatching around March.
The best and easiest way to get to the Belize International Airport from Ambergris Caye is by an aeroplane (stopover in Caye Caulker).
Di Big Kahuna Stress God
Tek Mi Picha & I Wan Tek Yu Stress
(Take my picture and I want [to] take your stress.)
I didn’t bring the great stressgod back home with me (my husband made me choose between him and the god) – but who knows, it might still be on sale on the ToucanTuTuTango Store. If you want to bring a small souvenir back home, I mean.
Facts about Belize
- Formerly known as British Honduras. Belize was a British colony till 1973 but didn’t become independent until 1981. Belize is a member of the commonwealth realm and has Elizabeth II as the head of state. She is represented by a Belizian Governor-General.
- Inhabitants: 387 879 (2017)
- Currency: Belizian dollar (BZD). USD is accepted almost everywhere as well as credit cards. You will find plenty of ATMs in cities and in Ambergris Caye.
- Temperature: Rainy season between May and November. The best time to go is between the end of November and April when temperature rises to 28 celsius during the day. The temperature in the Higlands is a little lower.
- Language: English, Spanish, Belizian Creole, Maya.
- Time zone: UTC/GMT -6 hrs
- Belize has the second-largest coral reef in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef). The coral grows only c. 5 cm a year – be sure not to harm it.
- Shopping: Not so much.
- Mennonites. There are a few mennonite communities in Belize you can visit, inter alia in the Spanish Lookout. The mennonites are known for their old-fashioned lifestyle and they have their own church , school, financial institution and land management. You see men driving horse-drawn buggies wearing an overall and the women performing household chores wearing long dresses with aprons and hats.
- The jaguar is the largest cat in the Western Hemisphere and is a regular in the lowland woods and the coast. She hunts during the night so if you are interested in making her acquaintance plan a trip into the forest after sunset.
- Conch is served in almost every restaurant and at least I didn’t know what it was before. It is the sea snale that resides in the large, beautiful shells you want to bring home with you. I did not try the conch, hoewever, my husband did and I don’t think he was too impressed.
- Skip Belize City. Generally speaking, it is quite safe in Belize but not in the biggest city of Belize, especially if you visit certain areas. I remember when we were waiting for our ferry to leave for Ambergris Caye – I wanted to explore and photograph the area outside but was adviced not to do so due to safety reasons. Be sure to lock your car doors if you are driving in this area.