Family Vacations to Ambergris Caye, Belize

Overview - Ambergris Caye, Belize
Ambergris Caye, Belize (courtesy, Victoria House)

Ambergris Caye Family Travel Tips

Belize has many attractions, but its reefs attract most visitors. Belize's 185-mile-long barrier reef ranks as the longest chain of coral in the Americas and the second longest in the world (Australia's being the longest). The colorful underwater gardens have 65 types of hard coral alone, and the caves and walls harbor more than 500 species of fish.

Although Ambergris Caye lacks substantial beaches, it is located relatively close to Belize's spectacular reef, making the caye a popular access point for the reef. Travel to Ambergris Caye, an offshore island 35 miles northeast of Belize City, either by a 75-minute ferry ride or a 20-minute flight from Belize City. Ambergris, population of about 10,000 people, offers more lodging than the other cayes.

The must-do from Ambergris: Snorkel or dive the Hol Chan Marine Reserve ( Located about four miles from the caye's southern town of San Pedro, Hol Chan can be reached by a 30-minute boat ride. Along with schools of rainbow colored fish, the reserve is known for its turtles, large groupers, moray eels, and giant barrel sponges, and you'll likely spot parrotfish and barracudas too. Most guided outings to Hol Chan feature a stop at Shark-Ray Alley, a sandbar in eight to 30 feet of water frequented by nurse sharks and stingrays. Snorkel and dive among these fascinating creatures.

Mexico Rocks, part of the Bacalar Reef Marine Reserve northeast of Ambergris Caye, also has excellent visibility. View colorful coral and look for lobsters, spider crabs, and sand sharks near the underwater cave.

Divers can arrange boat trips from Ambergris Caye to the more distant but celebrated dive sites of Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, and Turneffe Islands Atoll. Boats also take you to Caye Caulker.

Back on land, life is laid back. In San Pedro, Ambergris Caye's only town, stroll the three primary streets that parallel the water and browse galleries and souvenir shops selling T-shirts ("You better Belize it" is a popular one) and crafts. Most people get around town by walking or renting a golf cart. For restaurants, try Elvi's Kitchen. While the kids chow down on burgers, you can savor the simple yet tasty fresh fish, Belizean style.

During the Costa Maya festival ( in early August, sleepy San Pedro comes alive as Maya natives from Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras come together to celebrate their culture.

Tip: Plan to leave for both Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark-Ray Alley early to avoid the bulk of the crowds.
('s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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