Ambergris Cay: Beach Bum Central

Ambergris Cay in Belize has some of the Caribbean's top diving--then again, the scruffy island is also one of the world's best spots for doing nothing at all

Back on the Cari'Bean, Ernesto completes our luncheon menu by free diving 20 feet to catch a lobster with his bare hands--doing it with gloves damages the coral--and four more with a hook. He dips the cutting board into the ocean to clean off our morning bait, rinses off the fish, and slices delicate fillets. We anchor at an isolated beach, and Ernesto dumps the fish and lobster into foil, along with a few dollops of butter and barbecue sauce, a can of salsa, green pepper, onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. It takes all of five minutes to cook on the fire. By the time it's ready, we all have rum punches and fresh tortillas in hand.

I'm as content as a nurse shark with a belly full of sardines, yet somehow I'm feeling a little jealous--of Ernesto, Oliver, even the manatees. After all, they come here every day.


  • The Tides Beach Resort 011-501/226-2283,, from $65
  • Xanadu Island Resort 011-501/226-2814,, from $100
  • Food

  • Estel's 011-501/226-2019, breakfast platter $7.50
  • Elvi's Kitchen 011-501/226-2176, Pescador Dr., Mayan fish $14
  • The Pier Lounge 011-501/226-2002, Barrier Reef Drive
  • El Fogon 011-501/206-2260, #2 Trigger Fish St., stew beans $1
  • Activities

  • Patojo's 011-501/226-2283, Hol Chan snorkeling excursion $35 plus $10 park fee
  • Grumpy and Happy 866/771-3159,, snorkeling trip for eight $400
  • Cari'Bean Tours 011-501/601-8586,, full-day manatee tour $150
  • Ambergris Cay basics

    Between Tropic and Maya Island airlines, there are 20 flights a day from Belize City to San Pedro. The 10-minute flight costs about $100 round trip. A water taxi is $15 each way, though the ride takes an hour and the marine terminal is a 30-minute cab ride from the airport.

    Hotels in San Pedro are simpler and smaller than the isolated, upscale northern resorts. The hotels and resorts south of San Pedro fall somewhere between the two extremes.

    There are limited street addresses in San Pedro. The two main drags, Barrier Reef Drive and Pescador Drive, are universally referred to by their former monikers: Front Street and Middle Street, respectively. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere, but traveler's checks are still a good idea. Only one ATM in town (at the Belize Bank on Barrier Reef Drive) accepts foreign cards, though all the banks will process credit-card cash advances.

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    Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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