It used to be years ago I would mention vacationing in Belize and I’d get a blank stare…


Fast forward to 2013 and Ambergris Caye managed to nail the top spot in the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards, beating out some of the most notable islands in the world — Bora Bora, Santorini, and the US Virgin Islands to name a few.

Is Ambergris Caye that amazing?

Well, I am a little biased and I’d have to say, “Yeah, it’s that amazing.” And note, I’ve been to Bora Bora, Santorini, and the Virgin Islands.

Ambergris Caye captured my heart the first time I set foot on the island back in 2005. I vowed one day I would live there. And now I do, at least part-time.

It may not have the over-the-water bungalows like Bora Bora or the dynamic views of a volcano caldera like the cliffs of Santorini, but Ambergris Caye offers a unique paradise I have not found anywhere else in my travels.

Belize’s Barrier Reef System – a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Diving is certainly one of the main reasons travelers flock to Belize, and the proximity of Ambergris Caye to many of the top dive sites makes it a popular choice for die hard scuba divers. Even guests staying at some of the top luxury resorts further north will find that world class diving is just a short boat ride away. Snorkelers will enjoy swimming just off the shore, or taking one of the many tours to some of the top snorkel spots along the reef.

My Tip: Book an all day trip to Bacalar Chico that takes you around the entire island and through the hand-dug Mayan channel that split Ambergris Caye from Mexico.  Or splurge and hire a private boat to take you snorkeling to some off-the-beaten-path spots.

Sea turtle while snorkeling off coast of Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Sea turtle while snorkeling off coast of Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Belize’s Emerging Culinary Scene on Ambergris Caye

Belize may not be on the radar as one of the top countries when it comes to food, but it’s only a matter of time until it is. With a wealth of culinary talent spread out throughout the country, Belize’s food scene is definitely one to watch. And, Ambergris Caye is home to a number of the best restaurants in the country, offering diners a multitude of options — everything from local cheap eats to fine dining options.

My Picks: Head off the main drag and south of town to Casa Picasso for an unforgettable dinner — be sure to try the Lobster Sliders (when in season) and the Malaysian Rendang Ribs. Be sure to save room for dessert (especially the banana wontons!)

Want to bring a little romance back to your resort? Stop by Wine de Vine, which carries a large selection of imported wines from notable wine regions around the globe and be sure to check out their ever changing cheese and meat selections. Everything from aged Manchego to real Mortadella imported from Bologna.

Lobster Sliders at Casa Picasso in Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Lobster Sliders at Casa Picasso in Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Luxury Lodging for Less on Ambergris Caye

As far as Belize resorts are concerned, Ambergris Caye may be home to some of the more expensive options, but when compared to other islands on the TripAdvisor list, some rooms are a downright steal. As with other regions in Belize, you won’t find the abundance of hotel chains you are used to elsewhere in the world. Here, you are likely to stay at a family owned resort, many times with the owners onsite during yours stay. You can choose from no-frills properties in town that cater to the diving community, or splurge and head north to some of the most secluded and exclusive spots on the island.

My Recommendations: If you are looking for luxury accommodations and want to be in a private resort away from town, head north and check out Portofino or El Secreto. Portofino’s motto is “barefoot luxury” and the property owners, Sandra and Jan, will ensure your stay is an unforgettable one. Gorgeous rooms, excellent food and wine, and an onsite dive center make this a popular choice for travelers wanting a tropical island escape. El Secreto is the newest luxury resort on Ambergris Caye and once you set foot on the property, you may never want to leave…at all. From stunning room decor to the impressive open air design of the bar and restaurant, it’s no wonder the secret is out.

Portofino Resort on Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Portofino Resort on Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Cultural Events on Ambergris Caye

Without a doubt, Ambergris Caye is the place to party and a great spot for travelers to partake in cultural events all year long. With all night parties for holidays like New Year’s Eve, Easter, and Halloween, Ambergris Caye has rightfully earned itself the top spot for partying — both by travelers and many local Belizeans. Those looking to learn more about Belizean culture will want to schedule their holiday around one of the many events held throughout the year — events like Carnaval (Feb/rotates according to Lent), Lobsterfest (mid-June), Costa Maya Festival (Aug), September Celebrations (obviously in Sept), and Garifuna Settlement Day (Nov) are some of the most notable.

My favorites: Garifuna Settlement Day is an important holiday in Belize and is a great way to learn more about the Garifuna culture that is prevalent throughout Belize, especially in mainland villages like Hopkins and Dangriga. Pack your best costume and come for the annual Halloween party at Holiday Hotel or grab your grungiest of gear and come for Carnaval where you may wind up covered in paint from head to toe.  Foodies will want to mark June on their calendar for Lobsterfest time where you can sample everything and anything imaginable made with lobster!

Getting painted at Carnaval in San Pedro.

Getting painted at Carnaval in San Pedro.

Do Nothing on Ambergris Caye

Despite being the most “happening” of island spots in Belize, you can still kick off your shoes and do absolutely nothing but soak in the views from Ambergris Caye’s shores. Life moves at a slow pace with the primary mode of transportation being golf carts and bicycles, or you can just walk the small town of San Pedro. The island is tiny when compared to others on the TripAdvisor list, but what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in culture, beauty and my personal favorite — food!

My hangouts: Head north of San Pedro to the Boca Del Rio area and spend the day on the beach where many locals hang out. Swing by Sandbar and Wayo’s, both great spots to enjoy the view and have a drink. Continue north along the beach just before the bridge and stop by DJ’s for the best burger you have probably ever tasted.

Views from Wayo's Bar on Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Views from Wayo’s Bar on Ambergris Caye, Belize.

I’m blessed that I wake up to some of the most extraordinary views on Ambergris Caye. It is these views, an emerging culinary scene, the proximity to world class diving and, without a doubt, the friendliest locals I’ve met during my travels, that made me fall in love with Ambergris Caye and Belize as a whole. And I’m guessing those are many of the reasons why other travelers voted it the top island in the world on TripAdvisor. Congrats to my part-time home for earning such high praise — it’s well-deserved!

About The Author

Erin is a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including AFAR Magazine, Destination Belize, Viator, TripAdvisor, Trivago, and Roam Right Travel Insurance.

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