Planning a Trip
Getting There & Departing
You've got two options for getting to and from Ambergris Caye: sea or air. The trip is usually beautiful by either means. When the weather's rough, it's bumpy both ways, although it's certainly quicker by air, and you're more likely to get wet in the boat.
By Plane -- There are dozens of daily flights between Belize City and San Pedro Airport (airport code SPR) on Ambergris Caye. Flights leave from both Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport and Municipal Airport roughly every half-hour. Most stop en route at Caye Caulker to drop off and pick up passengers, and at Caye Chapel when there is demand. If you're coming in on an international flight and heading straight for San Pedro, you should book a flight from the international airport. If you're already in Belize City or in transit around the country, it's cheaper to fly from the Municipal Airport, which is also closer to downtown, and quicker and cheaper to reach by taxi. During the high season, and whenever possible, it's best to have a reservation. However, you can usually just show up at the airport and get a seat on a flight within an hour.
Both Maya Island Air (tel. 223-1140 in Belize City, or 226-2435 in San Pedro; www.mayaairways.com) and Tropic Air (tel. 800/422-3435 in the U.S. or Canada, 226-2012 in Belize; www.tropicair.com) have 11 flights daily between Goldson International Airport and San Pedro Airport, and they both follow the same schedule. The flights depart every hour beginning at 7:40am, with the last flight at 5:40pm. Flight time is around 15 minutes; the fare is BZ$114 (US$57/£30) each way. These flights actually originate at the Belize City Municipal Airport 10 minutes earlier. From the Municipal Airport, the fare is just BZ$63 (US$32/£17) each way. These flights take around 30 minutes, because they stop en route to pick up passengers at the international airport, and then at Caye Caulker to drop off passengers. When you're ready to leave, flights from San Pedro to Belize City run from 7am to 5pm. Most of these flights stop first at Caye Caulker and then at the international airport before continuing on to the Municipal Airport.
Almost any of the above Tropic Air and Maya Island Air flights can be used to commute between Caye Caulker and San Pedro. Flight duration is just 10 minutes, and the fare is BZ$63 (US$32/£17) each way.
Tropic Air has five daily flights between Corozal Town and San Pedro, leaving Corozal Town at 7:30, 9:30, and 11:30am, and at 1:30, 3:30, and 5:30pm. Flights from San Pedro to Corozal Town leave at 7, 9, and 11am, and at 1, 3, and 5pm. The fare is BZ$86 (US$43/£23) each way.
Maya Island Air (tel. 223-1140 in Belize City, or 422-2333 in Corozal; www.mayaairways.com) has daily flights between Corozal and San Pedro, leaving San Pedro at 7am, 10am, 2pm, and 4:30pm, and returning at 7:30 and 10:30am, and 2:30 and 5pm. Flight duration is 25 minutes. The fare is BZ$82 (US$41/£22) each way.
Connections to and from all the other major destinations in Belize can be made via the municipal and international airports in Belize City.
Add It Up -- Because a taxi into Belize City from the international airport costs BZ$50 to BZ$60 (US$25-US$30/£13-£16), and the boat to Ambergris Caye costs BZ$20 to BZ$30 (US$10-US$15/£5.30-£7.95), it is only slightly more expensive to fly if you are heading directly to the cayes after arriving on an international flight.
By Boat -- Regularly scheduled boats ply the route between Belize City and Ambergris Caye. All leave from somewhere near the Swing Bridge. Most boats leave directly from the Marine Terminal, which is located right on North Front Street just over the Swing Bridge; and the boats are associated with the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association (tel. 223-5752; www.cayecaulkerwatertaxi.com). Most are open speedboats with one or two very powerful engines. Most carry between 20 and 30 passengers, and make the trip in about 75 minutes. Almost all of these boats drop off and pick up passengers in Caye Caulker on their way, and on St. George's Caye and/or Caye Chapel when there's demand. If you're going to Ambergris from Caye Caulker, or either St. George's Caye or Caye Chapel, these boats will pick you up. Find out at the Marine Terminal just where and when they stop. The schedule is subject to change, but boats for Ambergris Caye leave the Marine Terminal roughly every 90 minutes beginning at 8am, with the last boat leaving at 4:30pm. The fare is BZ$20 (US$10/£5.30) one-way, BZ$40 (US$20/£11) round-trip between Belize City and Ambergris Caye; and BZ$15 (US$7.50/£4) one-way between Caye Caulker and San Pedro.
It is possible to purchase a seat in advance by visiting the Marine Terminal personally. This is a good idea in the high season, although in most cases, you'll need to purchase the ticket in cash upfront. Some Belize City hotels provide this service or can get you a confirmed reservation by phone.
In addition to the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association, the Triple J (tel. 223-3464) leaves from Courthouse pier near the Marine Terminal every day at 8 and 10:30am, noon, and 3 and 4:40pm, returning from the Texaco dock on Ambergris Caye at 7, 8, and 10:30am, and 1, 2:30, and 3:30pm. The rates for the Triple J are similar to those listed above.
All the boats dock on Shark's Pier, near the center of town.
The downtown section of San Pedro is easily navigated by foot. Some of the hotels located on the northern or southern ends of the island can be quite isolated, however.
Most hotels arrange pickup and drop off for guests, whether they are arriving or departing by air or sea. Taxis are waiting for all flights that arrive at the airport, and are available for most trips around the island. If your hotel can't call you one, try Amber Isle Taxi (tel. 226-4060), Felix Taxi (tel. 226-2041), or Island Taxi (tel. 226-3125). Fares run between BZ$4 and BZ$15 (US$2-US$7.50/£1.05-£4) for most rides.
Ubiquitous golf carts are available for rent from several outlets on the island. Rates run around BZ$120 to BZ$160 (US$60-US$80/£32-£42) per day for a four-seat cart, and BZ$160 to BZ$240 (US$80-US$120/£42-£64) for a six-seat cart. Hourly rates are between BZ$20 and BZ$40 (US$10-US$20/£5.30-£11). One of the largest and most dependable outfits is Moncho's Rental (tel. 226-3262; www.monchosrentals.com). Other dependable options include Cholo's Golf Cart Rental (tel. 226-2406) and Ultimate Cart Rental (tel. 226-3326; www.ultimaterentalsbelize.com).
For a more distinctive ride around town, head to Segway of Belize (tel. 226-3344; www.segwayofbelize.com). Rates run between BZ$56 and BZ$70 (US$28-US$35/£15-£19) per hour, and include free delivery to your hotel.
You can also rent scooters. Island Scooters (tel. 226-4152) has a couple of stands and outlets around the island. A scooter should run you around BZ$90 to BZ$120 (US$45-US$60/£24-£32) per day.
I personally think the best way to get around is on a bicycle. Most hotels have their own bikes, either available for free or a small rental fee. If your hotel doesn't have a bike, call or head to Joe's Bike Rental on the south end of Pescador Drive (tel. 226-4371). Rates run around BZ$20 to BZ$30 (US$10-US$15/£5.30-£7.95) per day.
Depending on where your hotel is located, a water taxi may just be your best means for commuting between your accommodations and the restaurants and shops of San Pedro. San Pedro Water Taxi (tel. 226-2194) and Island Ferry (tel. 226-3231) both run regularly scheduled launches that cover the length of the island, cruising just offshore from north to south and vice versa. The launches are in radio contact with all the hotels and restaurants, and they stop to pick up and discharge passengers as needed. Rates run around BZ$10 to BZ$40 (US$5-US$20/£2.65-£11) per person for a jaunt, depending on the length of the ride. Chartered water taxis are also available, and usually charge around BZ$80 to BZ$240 (US$40-US$120/£21-£64) depending on the length of the ride and size of your group.
San Pedro (the only town on the island of Ambergris Caye) is just three streets wide. The streets, from seaside to lagoonside, are Barrier Reef Drive (Front St.), Pescador Drive (Middle St.), and Angel Coral Street (Back St.). The airport is at the south end of the busy little downtown. The island stretches both north and south of San Pedro. Less than a mile north of San Pedro there is a small channel, or cut, dividing the island in two. The northern section of the island is much less developed, and is where you will find more of the higher-end isolated resorts.
A bridge connects the north and southern sections of Ambergris Caye. Pedestrians and bicycles can cross the bridge for free, but golf carts and other vehicles must pay a toll of BZ$5 (US$2.50/£1.35) each way.
Fast Facts -- For the local police, dial tel. 911, or 226-2022; for the fire department, dial tel. 226-2372. In the case of a medical emergency, call the San Pedro Health Clinic (tel. 226-2536).
Atlantic Bank (tel. 226-3527) and Belize Bank (tel. 226-2482) are both located on Barrier Reef Drive in downtown San Pedro. The post office (tel. 226-2250) is located on Barrier Reef Drive; it's open Monday through Friday from 8am to noon and from 1 to 5pm. There are plenty of Internet cafes on the island, and most hotels provide connections. One of the best and longest standing Internet cafes on the island is Caribbean Connection Internet Café (tel. 226-2573), at 55 Barrier Reef Drive.
Most hotels also provide laundry service, but pricing varies widely, so ask first. Nellie's Laundromat (tel. 226-2454) is located on Pescador Drive toward the south end of town. They charge around BZ$15 (US$7.50/£4) per load, and they even offer pickup and delivery service.