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San Pedro on Ambergris Caye would become my first official stop in Belize. I was eager to experience that familiar tropical island paradise life I always seem to be craving.
But first I needed to get there. From Mexico we planned out our trip perfectly, travelling by bus from Tulum to Chetumal.
In Chetumal – the Mexican border town, I would spend a sweaty 4 hours in a prison cell hotel room before crossing the border into Belize.
Once in Belize, we would travel straight to Corozal just in time for sunrise and to catch the Thunderbolt ferry to Ambergris Caye.
Let the Caribbean island living commence.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
The simplicity of Caribbean living mixed with Latin culture is something I found speaks directly to my soul.
If you haven’t experienced it first hand, it’s hard to imagine such a perfect mix of cultures blended together by centuries of partnership.
After spending a week in each of those destinations, my regret for skipping Belize was only worsened. So, when I planned my recent Mexico trip it gave me the perfect opportunity to make Belize my country number 33.
Travel to Belize
Belize is the youngest of the Central American nations. The official language here is English unlike it’s Spanish speaking neighbours. However most people speak Spanish too.
The official currency of Belize is the Belize dollar. $1 Belize Dollar is $0.50 US so working out your budget and currency is pretty easy.
The climate in Belize is mostly tropical with it being a long coastal country facing the Caribbean. Temperatures are high all year round, but like most tropical places expect a rainy season.
The high season in Belize is between September and March, meaning these months are the busiest and priciest to visit Belize in.
Mexico to Belize Border
Crossing the border from Mexico into Belize via the Chetumal border crossing is relatively easy.
You’ll need to take a taxi from Chetumal to the actual frontera. Taxis take around 20 minutes and shouldn’t be too expensive. Taxis will drop you right at immigration once you stamp out of Mexico.
The border is open 24 hours, when leaving Mexico ensure you have the small piece of paper give to you at immigration when you arrive. You’ll get another if you plan on returning to Mexico.
Like Mexico, and the rest of Central America there is no visa required for UK citizens travelling to Belize. You’ll get 90 days entry on the border and receive a passport stamp.
When leaving Belize all tourists must pay a $20 (US) exit fee. There is no ATM at the border so ensure you have this on your before arrival.
Do this, otherwise you’ll find yourself in a tricky situation. I speak from experience on this one.
Getting to Ambergris Caye in Belize
The Thunderbolt Ferry
Getting to Ambergris Caye isn’t difficult, but it isn’t easy either. You can take the ferry from Corozal in Belize like we did.
The Thunderbolt is probably one of the better options for getting to Ambergris Caye, but it only runs once per day and if you miss it that’s it.
If you want to use the ferry service for getting to Ambergris Caye you’ll need to be in Corozal early, so it’s recommended when travelling over land to spend the night in Corozal or Chetumal.
After spending the night in Chetumal and crossing the border into Belize, I would recommend staying in Corozal especially during the high season.
Flights to Ambergris Caye
You can also use the regular flights between the island of Belize and mainland Belize for getting to Ambergris Caye.
Maya Air and Tropic Air operate regular flights between Chetumal in Mexico and San Pedro in Ambergris Caye. You can also do this journey to/from Caye Caulker.
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
San Pedro on Ambergris Caye became our Belize destination of choice. We chose San Pedro based on very popular online reviews and of course dreamy photos of the ocean and beach bars.
Despite not looking much like an Island or ‘Caye’ from the above map San Pedro is actually an island. With a small body of water separating this sandy utopia from the main Caye.
Although not as barefoot as Caye Caulker, the sandy shores, wooden beaches and year round good vibes make San Pedro the perfect island getaway.
For anyone looking to experience that unique mix of lively-Latin meets Caribbean-go-slow San Pedro is the perfect Belize destination.
The mix of English, Spanish and Kriol make the vibrant culture even more infectious with almost all locals speaking all three languages.
There are a wide range of backpacker favourites in San Pedro which is partly why we chose to stay here before visiting Caye Caulker.
The early start in getting to Ambergris Caye was totally worth it once we reached the sandy shores.
Places to stay in San Pedro Belize
Once you’ve figured out how to get to Ambergris Caye you’ll want to know where to stay.
There are a wide range of places to stay in San Pedro Belize. Some budget friendly, but most not so budget friendly.
As with all destinations in Central America it’s more cost efficient to travel in the off season as prices are often discounted.
As we visited in the low season we did find it was easier to find budget accommodation however, even at a reduced rate our accommodation was still quite pricey vs. Central American alternatives.
We stayed in Pedro’s Hotel a Lonely Planet recommendation and budget fave on the island. Pedro’s Hotel isn’t my least favourite hotel, but it certainly isn’t my favourite either.
There are definitely better places to stay in San Pedro Belize some of the other highly recommended hotels and hostels are below;
Popular places to stay in San Pedro Belize
Things to do in San Pedro Belize
Along with spending 15 hours in the sun drinking rum based cocktails there are loads of things to do in San Pedro Belize.
It goes without saying but when you are on the ocean there is an abundance of water based fun to be had. You can snorkel from San Pedro, Scuba Dive or take any of the boat trips on offer.
Along with any of the water based things to do in San Pedro Belize there are plenty of things to do on the island too.
Rent a golf buggy
On the islands in Belize, the only real way to get around is by golf buggy. If that’s what the islanders then that’s what I shall do too.
Loaded with this info, during our time on ambergris Caye we decided to rent a golf buggy.
I don’t think I qualify as a good driver or a driver at all for that matter so Hannah rented it and let me have a go because I was well behaved.
If you rent a golf buggy petrol is usually included and prices cost around $100-$150 (US) for the day. Like most things, rental prices in low season are lower so expect these to be higher during peak.
High on island life, we decided to rent one for the whole day and headed off to ‘Secret Beach’ one of the must see places on San Pedro.
Visit Secret Beach
One of the best things to do in San Pedro Belize. Any tourist or local you meet will reference Secret Beach which probably makes it not much of a secret.
It will take you roughly 20 minutes to drive to Secret Beach from San Pedro town centre. You can also taxi (usually a golf buggy) here too for a small cost if you don’t want to rent.
There are a couple of popular beach clubs on the small stretch of sandy beach and the swimming is literally perfect.
The shoreline is mostly a sandbank that goes out for several miles meaning you can swim in warm Caribbean waters without ever not being able to touch the floor.
Secret Beach isn’t really a secret but it does live up to expectations as one of the best things to do in San Pedro Belize.
More of the best things to do in San Pedro Belize
- You guessed it – water sports. Don’t be shy rent a snorkel or a paddle board and hit the water.
- The beaches here are so peaceful, the waves break at the reef which is far from the shore so you can swim and sunbathe all day long.
- Experience the lazy town square where the Latin vibe is like that of an Zocalo from Mexico to Argentina.
- Enjoy an evening cocktail on the beach and catch up with the locals bringing in the catch of the day.
- Eat lobster – it’s an island law.
- Enjoy the local nightlife!
San Pedro Belize nightlife
Another of the tourist favourite things to do in San Pedro Belize is experience the nightlife.
Wherever I am in the world I’m always keen to check out the local nightlife so I was definitely up for a big night in San Pedro.
There are so many beach bars and restaurants in San Pedro that you’d struggle to see them all during a one week stay. Two of my absolute faves are Gill-E’s Pour House and Palapa Bar.
- Gill-E’s Pour House: An extremely laid back bar and restaurant with amazing cocktails and some of the friendliest locals and staff you’ll meet. Arrive just after sunset for the best vibes – happy hour is pretty much round the clock
No mention of San Pedro Belize nightlife is really complete without a little not to Palapa Bar. We spotted this location online before arriving in Belize and it did not disappointing.
Through the day Palapa Bar is the ultimate chill spot, where you can lounge on the deck or chill in a tube. There’s great food, live sport (mostly American) and the drinks never stop flowing.
At night this place fills up and livens up and becomes one of San Pedros most popular destinations to party. If you spend any time at all in San Pedro then do not miss out on Palapa Bar.
San Pedro Belize backpackers
You may have noticed that throughout this post I’ve specifically avoided using my typical backpacker tips and references.
There’s a reason for this, because to me San Pedro isn’t really your typical backpacker destination. There are a lot of San Pedro Belize backpackers coming and going.
However, the bulk of the tourists that visit San Pedro are mostly Americans. Or it was certainly this way in the low season.
There are places to stay in San Pedro Belize that do cater to backpackers but the backpacker vibe here is much less noticeable than that of Caye Caulker.
I absolutely adored my time in both Caye Caulker and San Pedro, so I would recommend visiting both islands.
If you only have time for one and are looking for a backpacker vibe rather than a resort vibe then Caye Caulker is probably more suited.