Ambergris Caye Attractions
Of the some 200 cayes that dot the coast of Belize, Ambergris Caye is the largest. Ambergris is 25mi/40km long and a little over 1mi/1.6km wide in some places, and is located in the clear shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea just off the tip of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.
Most of the island's 4,500 residents live in the town of San Pedro, near the southern tip of the island. The people of the island are called "Sanpedranos" and speak English, Spanish, Creole, and Maya all at the same time, creating their own island dialect.Since Ambergris Caye's coastline is protected by the Barrier Reef, the island is good for all water sports. Several nearby snorkeling and scuba sites offer excellent opportunities for coral and marine life viewing. Ambergris Caye was once a part of Mexico and therefore its wildlife is vastly similar to that found in northern Belize and southern Mexico. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded on Ambergris Caye, and other wildlife includes peccaries, raccoons and white-tailed deer. Ambergris enjoys life at a relaxed pace and is one of Belize's top destinations.Following the Maya came European whalers and buccaneers, followed by the ancestors of present day residents who were fishermen and workers in British-owned coconut plantations. The island became significantly populated when the Yucatán's War of the Castes forced Mestizos and Mayans onto Ambergris. Eventually, lobster fishing became the island's main industry, which has been replaced by tourism in the present day.The history of the island goes back to the days of the Maya, European pirates and Mexican refugees who fled during the Caste War. Originally, Ambergris Caye was a Mayan trading post and was part of the Yucatán Peninsula. Around 1,500 years ago, Mayans dug a narrow channel separating Ambergris from Mexico in order to create a better trade route to mainland Belize. Archaeological sites on Ambergris reveal a former Mayan population of approximately 10,000 inhabitants.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Hol Chan (Mayan for "little cut") Marine Reserve is Belize's most popular snorkeling and dive site. The park encompasses 5sq.mi/8sq.km of protected area made up of coral formations, sea grass beds and mangroves. The main attraction is the cut in the reef, which is a 30ft/9.5m deep and has steep, coral-lined walls. Another main feature of Hol Chan is a crescent-shaped sinkhole known as the Cat's Eye.Numerous species of fish, crustaceans and corals can be viewed at Hol Chan Marine Reserve. These species include black groupers, eels, spadefish, spiny lobster, finger and brain coral. Visitors will not be disappointed since several schools of colorful fish are always present, however the reserve is often crowded.
Shark Ray Alley
Shark Ray Alley offers close encounters with gentle nurse sharks and southern sting rays, the latter having a great tolerance for divers and seem to enjoy human interaction. The rays have a "wing-span" between 2ft/.61m and 4ft/1m, while nurse sharks average 5ft/1.5m. Both divers and snorkelers will enjoy the 6.5ft/2m deep Shark Ray Alley, and boat operators create a spectacle by feeding the fish.
San Pedro, Belize
Marco Gonzales Archaeological Site
Found on the southern end of Ambergris Caye, this Mayan site dates from the Pre-Classic era and was a sea-trading center. Dr Elizabeth Graham and Dr David Pendergast first recorded the site in 1984 and named it after their local guide, Marco Gonzales. Graham and Pendergast excavated the site, which is surrounded by dense jungle, from 1984 to1994 and excavations are still underway.At least 49 structures and walls have been mapped to date and the site is littered with enormous amounts of broken pottery and conch shells. Unlike other Mayan sites, the structures seem to be low platforms or building foundations rather than pyramids. Some artifacts discovered here include jade and obsidian blades as well as grinding tools and pottery.
Bacalar Chico National Park & Marine Reserve
The Bacalar Chico National Park is found at the northern tip of Ambergris Caye and is comprised of a littoral forest, mangrove, reef and sea grass habitat. It is the site of the channel dug by Mayan traders 1,500 years ago, separating Ambergris Caye from Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. A nature trail runs through the park, offering sightings of manatees, turtles, crocodiles and several bird species.Also within the boundaries of Bacalar Chico is Rocky Point, one of the only places in the world where land meets reef. Rocky Point has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Good snorkeling in the reserve offers sightings of marine life and coral formations.
Chac-Balam Archaeological Site
The ruins found in Bacalar Chico, in Bacalar Chico National Park & Marine Reserve, are of a Mayan residential and sea-trading post. More information on the site has yet to be discovered, as excavations of Chac-Balam continue.
Diving & Snorkeling from Ambergris Caye
Several island tour operators offer excursions to numerous snorkeling and scuba diving sites within close proximity to Ambergris Caye. Many sites feature canyons or cuts; large grooves cut into the coral reef by the surf, as well as caverns and tunnels that form when corals on either side of the canyon grow together.Marine life that can be spotted on such excursions includes large schools of fish, several varieties of coral, turtles, as well as nurse and reef sharks. Another popular site is Amigos Wreck, a 60ft/18m tug boat intentionally sunk to provide a marine habitat.
La Diosa Day Spa
La Diosa Day Spa offers a variety of treatments in a peaceful environment. Apart from salt scrubs and facials, acupressure, Swedish, and other types of massage are available. Also featured is an aroma bar and soap deli, where custom-blended items are sold based on mood and skin type.
People Perch Observation Tower
The owners of the Caribbean Villas Hotel, Wil and Susan Lala, have built a large multi-leveled birding tower called the People Perch. The three-story high observation tower rises above the surrounding jungle and offers various vantage points for viewing birds.
Address: Box 71, Belize
Little Iguana Caye
The Little Iguana Caye is a mangrove island reserve managed by a non-profit organization called Green Reef. The caye is great for birding and offers sightings of blue herons, roseate spoonbills, great frigate birds, reddish egrets and other coastal zone birds.
Rosario Caye is a mangrove island reserve managed by a non-profit organization called Green Reef. The caye is great for birding and offers sightings of blue herons, roseate spoonbills, great frigate birds, reddish egrets and other coastal zone birds.
Fishing around Ambergris Caye
Anglers are drawn to Belize's tarpon flats, covering 200sq.mi/324sq.km. Fishing on a catch and release basis offers a chance at species such as wahoo, snailfish, snook, grouper, snapper, barracuda and bonefish.
Rum Punch II Sailboat
Rum Punch II is a wooden sailboat offering sunset cruises and snorkeling trips to Caye Caulker.