Third world maybe, paradise definitely!

Ambergris Caye

My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary (10 years ago) somewhere different. We had been to beautiful beaches, relaxing lakes, and romantic get-a-ways, and didn’t want to do-over any of those things. Friends of ours had just returned from Ambergris Caye, Belize and remarked about what a unique vacation experience it had been. We listened to their story, did some checking, and booked a vacation. I expected a tropical Caribbean experience, what I didn’t expect was that this small, understated island would have some of the finest restaurants in the Caribbean. On our first night in town, my husband ordered one of the acclaimed Rum drinks; rum drinks are widely noted throughout the Caribbean. I ordered my usual drink and after that night, began a contest on my own to search for the best Bloody Mary on the island.

Ambergris Caye is the largest of some 450 cayes off the coastline of Belize in the Caribbean Sea. The narrow island is about a half mile wide and 25 miles long. It is peppered with unassuming cabanas, beach villas and other potential lodging. Just off the coast lies 190 miles of Barrier Reef, the second largest living coral reef in the world, enticing diving and snorkeling enthusiasts to visit.

Today, there is only one inhabited town on the island, San Pedro, home to approximately 5000 Sanpedranos, whose main income is tourism. Sanpedranos have their own dialect which is a mix of Spanish, English, Creole, and Maya. Once primarily inhabited by the great Maya Indians, the country of Belize was a major source of trade for the surrounding countries of Mexico and Guatemala. The Mayans inhabited Belize from about 2000 B.C. to about 1000 A.D. During the Caste War, Mayan, Mexican, and European Pirates fled to the cayes to start a new life.

Coconut farms sprouted and the fishing industry became the major incomes for Ambergris Caye. To accommodate trading, the Mayans dug a narrow channel at the northern tip of Ambergris Caye, separating the caye from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. In the 1980’s, people began to flock to Ambergris and the other cayes to discover the amazing wonders of the Barrier Reef. Tourism exploded and remains the main income for Ambergris Caye today.

Islanders offer guided diving tours, charter fishing trips, a variety of water sports, unique shopping, and some of the finest dining experiences available today. Let’s not forget flora, fauna, fresh air, beautiful beaches and breathtaking vistas of the Caribbean Sea. The cayes are host to a variety of lodging selections including, privately owned condotels, vacation home rentals, time shares, beach front resorts, something to suit everyone’s needs.

Where you stay on Ambergris Caye might depend on what type of adventure you’re looking for. Looking for something secluded or romantic? Do you want to be close to San Pedro and the nightlife? Or perhaps a day of pampering after a long day in the surf and sun is more appealing. If you’re looking for privacy, head to the south end of the island. For a more remote stay altogether, head to the North. Family friendly accommodations are sprinkled around the center of the island and around the town of San Pedro. It’s hard to believe that there are more than 100 bungalows tucked in and about the island. These well hidden pearls are not visible on first glance; there are not tall signs or billboards shouting out there whereabouts on the island, and that’s the beauty of it.

Back to the food, yes, best I have eaten to this day in my lifetime. We ate in one restaurant with a dirt floor and that was probably one of the best meals. I did find the perfect Bloody Mary, and for some reason I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but if I ever went to the island again, I am sure I would discover it again.

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