Tell me about Ambergris Caye, including lodging ideas.
January 24, 2012 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Thinking of going to Ambergris Caye in mid-March. We were last there in 1998... how has it changed, for better or worse? And ideas of places to stay, preferably in or very close to San Pedro, with a kitchen?

My wife and I visited Ambergris Caye in 1996 and 1998 and loved it. Loved the sandy streets, relatively compact size, cool restaurants, great snorkelling and diving.

We're thinking of going back mid-March with our 13yo daughter. What is it like now? I'm sure things have changed, but what is better, what is worse? Is it significantly busier? I don't think cruise ships went to Belize City back then, but they do now? Does that bring crowds? And I understand there is much more development north and south of San Pedro - has that changed the character of the place at all? Are there still a multitude of options for snorkelling/diving - I seem to recall that we had no trouble finding somebody to take us out in a boat to wherever we wanted to go rather than being part of a big group.

Both times in the past we stayed at the Mayan Princess, which was great being right in the centre of town. I think we'd be happy to go back there, but would love to hear other suggestions. We would need a kitchen to a) save money on eating out all the time, and b) to accommodate my daughter's special diet for most meals.

While we've done the all-inclusive resort thing a couple of times in Mexico, we're ready for something different. We don't need nightlife or a pool. Somewhere low-key and walking distance to the town would be ideal.
posted by valleys to Travel & Transportation around San Pedro, Belize (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We stayed at the Hotel del Rio in 2009 and found it to be a good value. Some of their rooms have kitchens, although ours did not.
posted by amber_dale at 6:13 PM on January 24, 2012

Best answer: While we didn't stay overnight out on the Cayes, my boyfriend and I were just in Belize over the holidays, and we spent two days exploring Caye Caulker and San Pedro. The two islands are very, very different from each other, and it sounds like San Pedro itself may have changed quite a bit from your last visit. The newest edition of the Lonely Planet guide just came out in November and aside from one disappointing search for a blue morpho farm that seems to have evaporated, it laid out the options and feeling of each area quite well. The listings for resorts and their amenities were pretty extensive.

One major change is that (fairly?) recently, San Pedro has had a number of paved streets put down and so golf carts were somewhat of a major hazard for walking around, although I suspect it does make getting into the center of town much easier from the farther-flung resorts. It is quite built up, at least in the center, though the outstretches of the island are still protected and not accessible. Caye Caulker (okay, we thought it was incredibly charming and I wish we had spent a night there!) is still incredibly laid-back, with much smaller hotels and sandy streets. It does tend more towards college-aged kids and casual parties, I think, but it may be worth a look to see if there are additional options there; it's the stop twenty minutes or so before San Pedro on the water taxi. San Pedro has a multitude of inclusive and a la carte resorts, and I hope someone with better knowledge will step in with more options. There are definitely many, many snorkel and scuba diving tour guides, most of which do seem to offer the standard loop (partially due to conservation reasons/tour guide number restrictions, I think?) but we saw several shops which offered customized tours and even options for prescription snorkel masks and other accommodations, so your hotel should be able to arrange something tailored to your visit. If you're interested in taking a trip inland to see the ruins at all, there are also many guides which arrange package deals; we were staying closer to Belize City, but I would highly recommend a river trip to see Lamanai, even given the travel time.

There is at least one store which seemed like more of a health food/coop-style place, so it may be worth researching the options available for grocery ingredients. Not sure what you're looking for, but the average grocery stores did seem to be mainly made up of rum...

Sorry, this is quite long, but I hope you have a fantastic trip, and I hope this helped!
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:35 PM on January 24, 2012

Best answer: I was there in 2009. Stayed at Xanadu and loved it. Great little villas with character (and kitchen). Seems to fit your description.

I can't compare it to the 90's since I didn't go then, but in my week there I did not see any cruise ship crowds. It was not overcrowded at all (this was april). As for San Pedro, again I can't compare but it's by no means anything I'd call a city. There is a lot of stalled development around the area, it's interesting to look at. Snorkeling and diving are still huge, and we got boats to take us out several times, both in groups and for private excursions. There was never a problem finding a boat.
posted by malhouse at 1:29 AM on January 25, 2012

I was in Belize last August, but stayed on the mainland. There is a great place in Hopkins Village, Jaguar Reef Lodge/Almond Beach Resort. You can do day trips out to snorkle.scuba if you want, but there are a bunch of great trips internally, too - Mayan ruins, cave tubing, rain forest, and more.

It'd be a different view on Belize, but definitely low key and relaxing.
posted by rich at 5:21 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

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