San Pedro, Belize
San Pedro is the perfect trifecta of sea, sun and fun. Measuring twenty-five miles long and just over a mile wide, Ambergris Caye is the largest of Belize’s two hundred offshore islands. The Maya used the island as a trading post; then came whalers looking for the once popular perfume ingredient ambergris, which is how the island got its name. After that, Mexican families fleeing the Caste War settled on the east coast of Ambergris Caye and called the town San Pedro, for Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishing.
San Pedro’s population has grown exponentially and with ethnicities from around the world. It’s now a town but that same welcoming, genuine hospitality lives on…everyone is treated like family.
San Pedro is divided into neighborhoods with names like San Pablo and San Marcos. The north and south ends of Ambergris Caye are split by the sea, but the bridge that spans the channel is open to vehicular traffic. The most popular vehicles of choice on the island are the bicycle and the golf cart. The once sandy main streets of the town are being replaced with cobblestones. Visitors to the island will find hotels designed to meet every traveler’s desires, whether it’s five star luxury or the basic essentials.
With the barrier reef less than a half mile away, San Pedro is a prime fishing, diving and water sports destination. But beyond incredible natural beauty, what really makes this island special is its authentic charm and relaxing atmosphere…a place to take off your shoes and make yourself at home.
What to do
Dive into another world: An abundance of marine life led to the creation of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Today, Hol Chan, “little channel,” is an ideal snorkeling and diving spot just off Ambergris Caye. Every time a boat arrives, the welcoming committee includes hundreds of the colorful fish that call Hol Chan home.
Swim with the Sharks: Fishermen once cleaned their catch in the area now known as Shark Ray Alley. Today the Nurse Sharks and Southern Sting Rays that still cruise through the crystal clear waters enjoy protected status. The popular snorkeling and diving spot is only fifteen minutes from San Pedro.
Fly the friendly skies: Parasailing is a serene experience but flying high above the sparkling blue-green waters of the Caribbean Sea and over the second longest Barrier Reef in the world is truly breathtaking. For a thrill, your guide can lower you just enough to dip your toes before sending you back up!
Feed the Tarpon: While you wait for your meal at the Sunset Grill, test your bravery by resisting the urge to pull your hand away from the four- foot tarpons trying to eat the baitfish dangling from your fingers. Tarpons don’t have piercing teeth but the sight of that big mouth is exhilarating.
What to eat
Ceviche: Few dishes highlight the natural taste of seafood like ceviche. Primary ingredients include chunky fresh onions and tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice with your choice of fish, lobster, shrimp or conch.
Maya Buffet: At Elvi’s Kitchen, the weekly Maya Feast menu includes handmade tortillas, adobo seasoned chicken, pork pibil, chaya or plantain rice and even hot coffee flavored with all spice and cinnamon.
Sushi: When fresh seafood is only a shell’s throw away, sushi is always a great choice. For original classics like the California roll and unique options like “Shred Head” try the Blue Water Grill at the Sunbreeze Hotel.
Shrimp, San Pedro Style: At Ramon’s Village, try the Pineapple Boat. Tasty shrimp, fried rice and fried noodles are piled high inside an actual pineapple.
Where to stay
Ambergris Lake Villas: 18 rooms. Views from the third floor of this condo complex offers lagoon and sea views. Only a five minute walk from the nearest beach. Guest amenities include private patios, spacious deck area and a pool. www.ambergrislakevillas.com
Caye Casa: 10 rooms. A ten minute stroll from the heart of San Pedro, these villas have a British colonial design, modern technology and tropical touches. Open your patio doors, step onto your private balcony and then sink your toes into white sand. www.cayecasa.com
Exotic Caye Beach Resort: 23 rooms. This property sits right on the beach and offers guests stunning views of the Caribbean sea, an open air bar, restaurant and a pool. The apartment style rooms include basic kitchen items but just ask for anything else you need. www.belizeisfun.com
Las Terrazas Resort & Residences: North Ambergris. 39 rooms. This beachfront property is accessible by water or by land. Escape to your private deck plunge pool, lounge by the pool bar or simply relax on the private pier as the staff caters to your requests. www.lasterrazasresort.com
Mata Rocks Resort: 17 rooms. Just five minutes from downtown San Pedro, every room is complemented by a view of the Caribbean Sea. The Squirrel’s Nest beach bar is an ideal spot to relax with a cocktail.www.matarocks.com
Mayan Princess: 23 rooms. Located on the beach, guests at the Mayan Princess have convenient access to the attractions of the downtown area. Enjoy your surroundings from your private balcony, a beach chair or hammock. www.mayanprincesshotel.com
Ramon’s Village Resort: 71 rooms. This hotel offers guests the choice of a presidential suite, romantic honeymoon hideaways, beachfront cabañas and rooms with a garden view. Soak in the lagoon style pool, swing in a beach hammock or hang out at the Purple Parrot. www.ramons.com
Sunbreeze Hotel: 43 rooms. Convenient access to the local airport. The property has a freshwater pool, massage studio, art gallery and the onsite restaurant, the Blue Water Grill, is right on the beach. www.sunbreeze.net
Sunbreeze Suites 20 rooms. Each of the suites include a private balcony, fully equipped kitchen and air conditioning. There’s also a private pool and pier. This property is located minutes from the center of town. www.sunbreezesuites.com
The Palms:13 rooms. It’s right on the beach and guests love the spacious rooms and well equipped kitchens of the Palms. The “casita” is a free-standing house that offers a serene view of a tropical garden and pool. Easy access to the local airport. www.belizepalms.com
The Villas at Banyan Bay: 33 rooms. An ideal vacation spot whether traveling on business or with the family. Be sure to dine at Rico’s, the restaurant on the beach. There’s also a dive shop and spa on site. Guests enjoy free bike rentals. www.banyanbay.com
Tranquility Bay: North Ambergris. 10 rooms. As the only resort located within the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, guests enjoy world class snorkeling and diving just beyond their room door. Enjoy scenic boat rides between the resort and San Pedro town. www.tranquilitybayresort.com
Victoria House: 42 rooms. This award winning resort offers casitas, plantation style rooms and suites and private villas. The word most often used to describe the Victoria House is “impeccable” for service and accommodations. www.victoria-house.com
Xanadu Island Resort: 18 rooms. The word xanadu means an idyllic, beautiful place and this resort does not disappoint. Near enough to the downtown area to be convenient but far enough away to feel like a secluded paradise. www.xanaduislandresort.com
Original Article: http://www.destinationbelize.com/destinations/san-pedro/
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