Ambergris Caye, which is pronounced key for the unfamiliar, is a small island located in the Caribbean. The island measures about 25 miles north to south and one mile wide, and there is one settlement called San Pedro Town. A white sand beach surrounds the island's mangrove interior, yet the beach is so narrow in most places there is hardly room to stretch out a blanket at low tide.
Swimmers off the beaches unmodified by any resort on Ambergris Caye will find barely 100 yards of water before reaching a good depth for wading, and the bottom is covered in sea grass protected by local order. Despite this seemingly inhospitable environment for tourism, Ambergris Caye is the most popular tourist destination in Belize and one of the more popular Caribbean destinations.
There are many activities for the casual traveler to enjoy on the island. Those staying at a beach resort will enjoy those unique activities as well as traditional island fun. Resorts have made several changes to the landscape to increase comfort for their guests. Many have widened the beaches, for instance, by constructing retaining walls to hold more of the island's fine, white sand. They have also built long piers to allow their guests access to deeper water and designated swimming areas. Beachside clubs and restaurants, umbrella-covered seats, and ocean-view rooms are all available with a beach resort on Ambergris Caye .
The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest reef in the world, and it is easily accessed by both divers and snorkelers. Sharks, manta rays, schools of tropical fish and a wide variety of flora and other fauna can be witnessed near the surface in many locations. Other places are best for diving enthusiasts. Two of the most popular places to see the action of the reef are the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley .
Another fantastic experience can be found in the Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve. The name of the reserve is in reference to a Mayan channel designed over 1,500 years ago. The park is located off the north side of the island, and the channel still separates the island from Mexico. Besides the opportunity to see many Mayan ruins, including Chac Balam and ancient ceremonial sites, there are also a wide variety of species endemic to the area. Visitors may have chance encounters with five wildcat species, crocodiles, and wild deer. All tours are led by experienced guides who can help facilitate the desired experience.
Besides being a central location for visiting many Mayan ruins and spiritual sites, visitors to Ambergris Caye should choose the timing of their vacation carefully to coincide with cultural festivals. Parties and other events can always be found, but these larger events are a one-of-a-kind experience. The International Costa Maya Festival in early August brings together performers and participants from across Maya Mundo to concerts, parades, pageants, games and water shows.
The weekend before Ash Wednesday brings an annual celebration reminiscent of Mardi Gras. Parades, performances, and dancing are all expected, yet San Pedro's version of Carnival also includes roving bands of local residents armed with paint bombs, eggs, and other combustibles.
More traditional opportunities for tropical relaxation are available for those staying at a resort on Ambergris Caye, but there are plenty of activities for anyone making it easy to see why this small island has become so popular.