With so many things to do on the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize, ever wonder which things you should do first? Here are our top 10 best things to do in Ambergris Caye. Don't get me wrong - there are tons more things to do in Ambergris Caye than this list of 10 - these are the things that stick in my head a month later...... as well as things that were highly recommended that we didn't have time to do, and things in the area of Ambergris Caye.
Also, it is important to note these aren't ranked in any particular order. For me, chocolate would probably rate higher than..... well, almost anything. For Papa Joe, learning about the people is always #1. Either way, Belize has a vibrant culture. With its strong cultural ties, it shouldn't be any surprise food is high on our list.
Ice Cream at Manellys. Hands down THE BEST - don't knock it until you've tried it.
This place, with its homemade flavors, is such an icon, even Fodors has reviewed it. Imagine it - warm humid day, strolling down a crowded street. Little to no breeze, almost sweltering. And then to your surprise, you see ice cream cone-shaped chairs outside an ice cream shop. You just have to go in, right? The selection isn't huge, but it is homemade. And, for the experience to be even better, the flavors are influenced by the local flavors. Yummy!!!
People watching has become our new second most favorite thing about Belize. Whether it be watching folks playing on the beach, the endless parade of golf carts, or checking out the local craftsmen - people watching was definitely one of our favorite things to do on the island.
I do! Now - this is only #3 because I want to talk about the places we enjoyed the most, and why. But really - OMG.
We discovered Briana's Deli and My Secret Deli after asking our tour guide where he liked to eat. My Secret Deli was first on our list, and worth every minute of the long wait to get our food. Word to the wise - food is made fresh at both destinations, which means you will wait for your meal, and liquor selection is limited. Service is slow - you are on Belize time...... but if you can wait and want to eat like a local, these are definitely on the list.
We found Gill-Es Pour House in much the same way, but the experience was a little different. While still serving local favorites, this restaurant on the beach was more used to serving tourists. Which meant service was quicker, the staff was more friendly, but prices were still more affordable than the chain-type restaurants. This place is highly recommended - we only had 2 regrets - first that we weren't more hungry when we ate there, and second that we didn't have time to go back.
The best advice about food at any destination - check out the local recommendations. San Pedro Scoop is a blog written by a San Pedro resident and includes numerous food recommendations, most of which we agreed with.
This brings us to the Water taxi - now, you may think this sounds weird but taking the water taxi was a great activity - both transportation and a great way to view the coastline. Fare is paid based on your destination, and then sit back and enjoy the widely varied Ambergris Caye coastline. Resorts, private homes, groomed beaches, and deserted lots. You may even be lucky enough to spot an eagle ray. Or not. Either way, this was a relaxing way to get back and forth to San Pedro from our resort, especially after hanging out at Palapas for the day......
Stick with me here..... The road north out of San Pedro crosses a raised bridge, and just outside that bridge is a marshy area. So, on our first day in Belize, heading out to our resort, our guide points to this area and shouts "Croc - Croc!". And yeah, maybe there was one there. And maybe there wasn't. He goes on to tell the story about the Grandaddy of them all, which must is the one he just pointed out to us. Sure - but believe me, we looked for that Grandaddy Croc every time we passed the bridge.
Either way, the crocodile population is dropping, which is why the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) is on our list. Not only are they actively working to preserve the population, but the sanctuary is also open for visitors. Located just south of San Pedro, if you have a croc love in the family, this might be their best chance for a sighting.
Really, anything at Palapas, which is why it isn't on the restaurant list, even though the food was pretty good. is the last on our list, and a bit of a contradiction. The restaurant isn't locally owned, but man do they know how to throw down a party. From the "Conch.... in a conch shell"..... to the inner tube floats off the dock, this place really is a one-stop-shop. This is also where we enjoyed the Christmas Boat Parade. And live music. You name it - they do it here.
The Truck Stop - games, food, sunset. You name it - this place does it. We enjoyed a fun-filled evening here, playing trivia, sipping a local specialty beverage, and eating some of the most delicious affordable food on the island. This place is owned and managed by a couple of self-described expats, and referred to as previous market specialists. Whoever they are, they do it right. Shipping container food courts. Great spot to catch the perfect sunset. Parlor games most nights of the week. Entertainment for adults and teens. What more could you want??? We were told by everyone to go there, and we were right to go. Just do it!
Out traveling companion Ms. K found the most charming young man skipping kindergarten for the day to sell bracelets his grandmother had made for tourists. We spent quite awhile talking to him and his grandmother, and our stay on the island was enriched by that experience.
Ms. K couldn't help but measure every other vendor up against him - and sadly, nobody else measured up. The point is - take time to talk to people while buying their goods. Meeting people is one of the things Papa Joe and I enjoy most about traveling, and what better way to hear about everyday life.
Hang out on the beach. The surprise is that the beach is #9. Again - if you read my stories you know how much I love the beach..... which tells you how great things 1-8 are! The things we enjoyed most on the beach were food vendors, selling empanadas and burritos from coolers balanced on bicycle handlebars, tables of brightly colored fabric bags, and hand-carved wooden items. No "made in China" here. Watching the youngest generation playing under the tables of goods. Man - can I go back? If you get a chance to sit at a local restaurant like Estel's and Gill-Es Pour House and relax while watching local life pass by - DO IT. The locals like this place called Secret Beach, which was no secret. Blue Bayou was our favorite spot here, a little off the beaten path but more than worth the trek.
Chocolate Company may not sound like anything special, but you are missing a treasure if you don't check it out.
Not to mention how amazing the chocolate itself was. Both after we got home and wandering down the San Pedro streets. With a typical counter demonstrating delicacies that are truly works of art, hot and cold chocolate drinks, and all the paraphernalia for cooking with chocolate, this place really knows how to do it up.
Well, that's the intent. And I only wanted to include things we had experienced ourselves. Anyone can read an article and pass on the info, but I wanted to give you the stories. Feel the cold ice cream on a hot day. Understand why buying local matters. But you are right..... there is MORE!
We were on Ambergris Caye for a week - and there was lots more we could have done if there were only more time (insert heavy sigh here......). I could have tried a dozen more restaurants. Explored the local markets more. Shopped the stores up and down San Pedro's streets. Spent more time at Secret Beach - it may have made the top 10 activities if we spent more time there.
Offshore - try parasailing, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba, and kayaking. We did snorkel and kayak, and both were amazing. Belize is known for its water sports, for good reason.
And, I challenge you to come up with your own Top 10 Ambergris Caye activities list. Live on the wild side. Be daring. Try something nobody else has written about. And enjoy every minute, every breath of your time on the amazing tropical island paradise that Ambergris Caye is widely known to be!