Ever since our trip to Costa Rica in 1999, I've been dying to go back to Central America. But this time around, we just wanted to stay in one place the whole time and relax, somewhere that wasn't touristy. So we headed for San Pedro, Belize, on Ambergris Caye.

Ambergris is Belize's largest island, just off the Northeast coast on the beautiful Caribbean. As with all the cayes, it's protected by Belize's spectacular barrier reef. We flew in via El Salvador and it actually wasn't too long of a trip -- just under 7 hours total flying time, plus a 15-minute hop to the island in a 14-passenger Cessna Caravan.
We stayed at the Banana Beach Resort (about a mile south of San Pedro) and chose a room with an ocean view, which was more than worth it. We had our own private balcony where we could spend hours just watching the boats go by. Below are our views looking north and south down the beach.
San Pedro is pretty much your typical little Central American town, with no paved roads and lots of little bars and restaurants. This is the main street. A lot of the places are right on the beach so you can watch the ocean as you eat or sip your drink. Of course you'd be drinking either a Belikin (Belize's national beer) or something with rum in it!
We were big on Pina Coladas or the local favorite, Rum Punch.
The town is on the south part of the island, but if you want to get to some of the more secluded resorts on the north side, you have to cross the river that cuts through the island on this little ferry. It's pulled across by hand using a rope that's tied to both banks. And yes, we did see a car get on! There aren't too many cars on the island though -- some people use golf carts, but most just get around by boat.
Our first couple days in Ambergris it was too overcast for snorkeling, so we took a tour to the mainland to see these Mayan ruins at Altun Ha. We met some fun people on the trip, but there was a real killjoy couple who just kept complaining about the weather -- our attitude was, hey, it's raining, but at least we're in Belize!!

Our tour included a stop at the luxurious Maruba Resort, where some people had lunch at the restaurant or got a massage in the spa. We were happy to get this secluded jacuzzi all to ourselves, and relaxed with some Rum Punch while the warm rain fell on our faces!

It was fun, but we were very glad when we woke up the next morning to sunshine! That meant we could finally head out to the reef.

First we went south a bit to do some manatee-watching. We saw five of them but my pictures didn't really come out. After that we cut across to the reef and arrived at Goff's Caye... quite possibly the most spectacular place on the planet. It's only about 200 feet across.
We started out by snorkeling on the reef that surrounds the island. Afterward, we swam and sat on the beach while our guide made us a delicious Caribbean lunch.
"Don't make me leave!"
The next day it was back to the reef for more snorkeling off the north side of the island, at Mexico Rocks and Tres Cocos. It was truly spectacular. I couldn't possibly count all the beautiful tropical fish and other animals we saw, including the fantastic coral formations. It's easy to see why Belize is considered one of the top scuba diving destinations in the world.

 

One of the favorite things we saw at Tres Cocos was this school of squid swimming in formation. You can't see their interesting colors in this photo, but they were iridescent purple with giant, green eyes. To the left is a school of Blue-Striped Grunts.

The next day we snorkeled at the amazing Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which was packed with tourists but was still worth it. The variety of species made it the best place we snorkeled all week. We saw four very large Moray Eels -- this one charged Stacy when he unknowingly swam past it! At least we got to see it come all the way out of its cave!
Hol Chan is also home to the one-of-a-kind Shark Ray Alley, where rays and nurse sharks congregate to be fed. There were dozens of them swarming around. They're not very dangerous to begin with, and these are tame from contact with people (or at least you have to hope so!). Here Stacy is giving a sting ray a pat on the head.
We spent our last full day on the island renting bikes and checking out the North side. It was very lush and beautiful. Even though it's more inaccessible, I think next time we'll stay on this quieter and more secluded part of the island. (That's Stacy waving.)
Sunday, our flight to Belize City didn't leave until 3pm, so there was time to catch a few more rays on the hotel beach and have one last Rum Punch for the road. It was hard to leave, but I know we'll be back!

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