Why we would not recommend visiting Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye, located just off the coast of Belize, is one of Belize’s most popular destinations. Just a 30 min flight on a small 12-seater plane from Belize international airport, you will spot its turquoise waters and beaches lined with hotels and restaurants. 

Due to its proximity to the Belize Barrier Reef, and the surrounding protected marine reserves, Ambergris Caye also draws tourists from all over the world wanting to enjoy the marine life. Whether seeking to dive into its crystal clear waters or simply relaxing on the beach, the main town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye has a multitude of activities on offer. 

However, as with any destination, there are positive sides and negative sides. Despite its popularity, we actually believe Ambergris in Belize isn’t worth visiting. Why we would recommend skipping this popular island on your Belize itinerary?

Continue reading for a discussion on the top reasons why tourists visit Ambergris Caye as well as the negative sides that make it a destination one may want to skip. Finally, if Ambergris Caye is not for you, several alternative options are provided to help you fulfill your vacation dreams! 

Let’s dive into it!

Belize Ambergris

contributed by Ryan from 

The positives sides of Ambergris

One of Ambergris Caye’s main draws is its proximity to the Belizean Barrier Reef as well as the protected marine parks. Once there, you have the opportunity to scuba dive or even snorkel the marine reserves. What is great is that the dive sites are quite close to the shore, so only require a short 10-minute boat ride away. 

In these marine parks, you will have the opportunity to dive with sharks, rays, and a countless variety of fish. One of the marine parks is even called Shark Alley where you get to dive in very shallow waters surrounded by sharks attracted by the sounds of the boat motor. Fortunately, this activity is entirely safe as nurse sharks are harmless.

Ambergris Caye Belize

Another draw is the luxury hotels of Ambergris Caye. Along almost the entire coast are countless hotels and resorts providing guests with direct access to the ocean and many luxuries. Whether you want to soak in the pool, have a drink at the waterfront bar, or end the day with a massage, many guests come to these resorts to unwind.

One of the most popular resorts in Ambergris is Victoria House Resort & Spa with its large outdoor pool with sunbeds and swaying palm trees, surrounded by a green garden. Another equally popular choice is Ramon’s Village Resort for ultimate luxury in a tropical setting with sandy paths, thatched roofs, sea views, palm trees, a jungle garden, a beautiful pier in the sea and a picture-perfect outdoor pool.

As with most islands in the Caribbean, there are also countless water activities to be found on Ambergris Caye. These range from kayaking, catamaran, chartering a fishing boat, or even renting a watercraft. As the town of San Pedro is quite small, reaching the starting point of these activities is very convenient. The shops are also very accustomed to welcoming tourists so the booking and reservation process should be a breeze. 

What’s more is that in Belize the official language is English – though most of the population speak Creole patois. This is another reason why many tourists love visiting Belize due to the ease of communicating in English.  

Finally, since Ambergris Caye is an island, it has access to the freshest seafood. From the catch of the day fish to lobster and conchs, the many restaurants you find in San Pedro will serve you a delicious meal. On the main streets, you will find a variety of restaurants from Belizean cuisine, El Salvadorean, to Caribbean, and some American options.  

Belize Ambergris San Pedro

Negative sides of Ambergris

Although Ambergris Caye may seem like an ideal beach destination, we believe other factors outweigh these positive sides of the island.

First of all, is the pricing. In Ambergris Caye, they accept both the Belizean dollar as well as the American USD, at a 2:1 ratio. Due to its popularity with American tourists, the prices have gradually risen to the point that it is no longer considered a budget destination. 

For restaurants, on average you can spend 15 USD for a plate of tacos, 30-35 USD for a lobster kebab, 12 USD for a ceviche, 11 USD for a burger, and 10 USD for a simple cocktail. Compared to the surrounding islands and Central American destinations (such as Guatemala, and El Salvador), the pricing is considered fairly high. 

For accommodation, a very budget hotel room costs around 80USD and when looking at the resorts, the price can quickly rise to 300-400USD per night. This is especially the case if you are waterfront. 

Activities are also fairly pricey. Renting a golf cart, which is their primary means of transportation, costs around 35-40 USD per day. Scuba diving costs around 90 USD for a single-tank dive with equipment. If you want to join a sunset cruise, the price will be around 80 USD per person. 

Overall, Ambergris Caye’s pricing can be considered fairly comparable to the average in the United States. 

Moreover, the island has over the years become over-touristic. Along the beaches, you will find countless waterfront restaurants and bars. Throughout the day, the bars will be blasting loud hip-hop music to the point that it disturbs those relaxing on the beach. In the evening, there are several hosted drinking activities, once again drawing in partying crowds.

Most of the shops along the main streets of San Pedro are selling clothing and souvenirs, again making it feel very geared to tourists. In the past decade, the cultural element of this Belizean island has diminished with the rise of each new condo and luxury resort. 

Ambergris Caye Belize

Another aspect is the aspect of food. Although there is a lot of fresh seafood, the remaining options are often deep-fried items. From the common fries, and empanadas, to Fry Jacks, one of their specialties, it can be quite challenging to find something more balanced and healthy.

Also, as mentioned above, the pricing can be quite expensive, costing you around 100 USD per meal for two if you also purchase some cocktails and eat seafood. Unfortunately, if you are tired of eating taco, or taco-like dishes, you will not find many alternatives.  

Belize Ambergris

Also, the island of Ambergris Caye has very minimal vehicles and instead replaced them with golf carts. In theory, this should provide a very peaceful environment to walk through. However, since the golf carts are gas-powered, they make a lot of noise as they drive by in the narrow streets. You will spend a lot of time inhaling the exhaust fumes from the countless golf carts driving by.

Overall, this does not provide for a peaceful strolling experience, which is what would be expected on a quiet Caribbean island. Due to this fact, you are somewhat forced to walk along the beachfront to get to your destination.   

Unfortunately, other than scuba diving, there are not many other nature activities to do. If you are coming for diving, then there is enough to keep you entertained for about 2-3 days. However, if you are seeking on-land nature activities such as hiking, then there are only a few options available. The activities in San Pedro are mainly focused on diving, relaxing on the beach, and restaurants. 

Ambergris Caye Belize

Finally, if you are coming to Ambergris Caye for scuba diving, you may be slightly disappointed. Although they do provide protected marine reserves, most of the corals in the area are brownish rather than a rainbow of colours. The corals are relatively healthy but do not provide the tropical colour experience that other surrounding islands may, such as Cozumel.

The water visibility is decent, and the variety and number of fish would also be considered average. For those who are new to diving and snorkelling, it may still provide a very enjoyable experience. However, if you have already dived many destinations, the Belize Barrier Reef may not live up to the hype.  

Ambergris Caye Belize

So is Ambergris Caye in Belize worth visiting?

If you are looking for a more Americanized luxury resort-type experience where the culture, food, and language are more familiar, then Ambergris Caye might be for you.

If you are looking for an exotic destination, where you can discover the local culture and cuisine, and be immersed in a language and people that are different from home, then we recommend skipping Ambergris Caye. In addition, if you are going to Ambergris Caye primarily for scuba diving, there are better options around. So overall, due to these drawbacks, Ambergris Caye may not be a destination worth visiting. 

Ambergris Caye Belize

Great alternatives to Ambergris Caye 

If you are looking for some alternatives to visiting Ambergris Caye, this section is for you! The choice of alternative options depends on what you are seeking from your vacation.

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly island experience in Belize, you should opt for Caye Caulker, a backpacker’s favorite and Ambergris’ island counterpart. The ferry from Belize City to Ambergris Caye actually first stops at Caye Caulker, making this a convenient nearby alternative. It is known for its back-to-basic atmosphere and accommodations. The relaxed atmosphere, idyllic sunsets and beautiful marine life attract many tourists to the island. Caye Caulker’s motto is ‘go slow’, creating the perfect place to do absolutely nothing for a few days.

If you want nature activities, the obvious choice would be the nearby Costa Rica. There you will find lush forests, some of the most diverse fauna and flora, and some amazing surfing coasts. They are also a very English-speaking country and have a strong tourism infrastructure, so travelling there is a breeze.

If you want to do scuba diving, then the nearby islands of Bonaire and Turks and Caicos can provide top-level diving as well as beautiful beaches. What’s more is that in Bonaire, you can do scuba diving right from the shore. You can rent the equipment for a week and simply walk into the water to discover the beautiful surrounding reefs! No more needing to go on those wavy and bumpy boat rides. 

If you are seeking more culture, then Guatemala would be a top pick! In Guatemala, you can discover the ancient Mayan ruins at Tikal and Yaxha, learning about their culture, architectural achievements, and ingenuity. While there, you can also climb one of the many active volcanoes, and witness a live volcanic eruption. 

Overall, in case Ambergris Caye is not for you, South and Central America are filled with incredible destinations. 

contributed by Ryan from