Needing a break from reality?
Dreaming of eating fresh seafood on a white sand beach?
Seeking a little bit of luxury – you deserve it after all.
But also after a place that’s easy travel, no drama, no worries…..
Well, Stop Dreaming – we’ve got the perfect place for you!
We recently took a vacation to San Pedro in the Ambergris Cayes of Belize, admittedly we chose San Pedro as we had to do a visa run from Mexico and it was easy to get to. What we didn’t realise, is that we would step into a world that was honestly quite difficult to leave. The people, the beaches, the food, the chilled out way of life, the fascinating Ambergris Caye excursions and experiences like no other. This place swept us up – and left us wanting more.
What’s so Great about San Pedro Belize?
Imagine this: sandy streets, colourful wooden houses, beach bars, fresh seafood caught daily, water so blue it’s almost turquoise and all of this is easy walking distance from your luxury resort. This is what you getting staying in San Pedro the town on the southern part of Belize’s biggest island, Ambergris Caye.
San Pedro Belize is the perfect island holiday destination in so many ways. You can have the choice of what sort of vacation you desire from lazing by the pool all day sipping cocktails to exploring the island of Ambergris Caye and the many beaches, beach bars and restaurants or even get out on the water and experience some of the leading Ambergris Caye excursions available.
Best places to stay in Ambergris Caye – The Phoenix Resort San Pedro, Belize
Upon arrival by boat or airplane you grab a taxi to your resort where you are warmly greeted at reception with a refreshingly cold towelette (which is needed, trust me you’ll be dripping with sweat), you quickly check in and turn around to find a waiter holding a tray with local punch and a shot of very local rum. It’s your choice – you can make your drink a little boozy or not. But hey, you’re on holiday – drink the rum. It’s some of the best rum in the world.
Your bags are whisked away to your apartment and you have the choice of following them or heading to the complimentary happy hour at the upstairs lounge because it’s almost 5 pm and every day from 5-6pm drinks for guests are complimentary!!!!
This was exactly our experience arriving at The Phoenix Resort in San Pedro Belize. A resort that goes above and beyond to make sure your stay is perfection. Meeting the girls at the front desk wasn’t my first interaction with the Phoenix Resort staff. In the lead up to our arrival I’d received emails advising me about everything I needed to know in order to have the ultimate vacation. Advice telling me that the hotel provides complimentary transfers – which is actually the local taxi’s – you just tell them where you are going and the hotel covers all of the costs.
I knew before even setting foot on the island about where the most popular places to eat in town were, where the local shops were, how to get around (usually golf buggies), even what Ambergris Caye excursions are available to book and how much they cost so I could plan my budget accordingly. From scuba to snuba (yep it’s a real thing) and snorkelling trips, complimentary kayak rentals, to fishing adventures and everything in between I have never had a resort email me with so much information about their destination.
This planted one thing in my mind – they love San Pedro and want their guests to love it too.
Here are the Top 5 Things that we loved about staying at Phoenix Resort
The Staff – they’re absolutely were the BEST. I would find myself heading out to go somewhere and would spend at least 15 minutes chatting to the reception girls about the best local food to eat, where to eat it, what are their favourite things to do on the island, where they’ve travelled to and what they enjoyed eating there.
A funny fact – many people that live in San Pedro enjoy visiting our new hometown of Merida on vacation. This was super interesting to us and we found loads to talk about!
We also have to give a shout out to Ricky the bar tender at the upstairs lounge. OF COURSE, we were there everyday for Happy Hour (we don’t miss out on complimentary booze LOL), and Ricky was great to talk to, to find out about some of the more lesser visited foodie spots on the island.
One of the things that makes San Pedro, Belize such an ideal holiday destination is the fact that it is the only country in Latin America where the language spoken is English. Sure you’ll hear plenty of other languages being spoken including Creole and Spanish. But the primary language is English which makes it super easy to get around and interact with the locals – one less thing to worry about on vacation!
The Apartments – The rooms have everything you could possibly want. Including a jacuzzi in the main bedroom, a full kitchen and also a washer and dryer. If you want to stay in and cook for yourselves on your private balcony – you can do that. Being in Belize you will honestly sweat through a few pairs of clothes every single day – the washer is a god send. And the jacuzzi – well it’s the ultimate icon of luxury accommodation, isn’t it?
Our room also had a complimentary bottle of local rum with some mixers and a list of local cocktails and how to make them. Coconut cookies that were baked fresh that day. Room slippers that are yours to keep….I am wearing mine right now writing this post! (Well I hope I was allowed to keep them – eeep) Oh, and they also offer a mobile with some credit so you can call your family back home. Each room also has a stunning view of both the pools and the beautiful Atlantic-Caribbean coast. Phew! They offer a lot.
It’s Walking Distance to Everything Downtown – as I mentioned before the main form of transport on San Pedro is golf buggy, but The Phoenix is perfectly located where it is a breeze to walk anywhere downtown. But seriously wear sunscreen and a hat as that sun is brutal!
They offer classes every day – I loooooved this!!! One day it was a class on Belizian chocolate, the next it was a painting class, the day after it was early morning yoga. All complimentary – and all loads of fun. I think this is such a great thing to offer guests, and I had a blast! Plus I met other people staying at the resort by doing this. It’s a great way to make new friends and the classes often lead into Happy Hour…so do a class then finish up with a few drinks with new friends.
The Food is Delish- going to happy hour we got to know a few of the frequent visitors and unofficial cheer squad of Phoenix Resort who gave us some insights on the best things to eat at the house restaurant Red Ginger. As there was way too much to choose from we decided to go all out and experience their exclusive tasting menu. Be Warned: while we thought we would get ‘tastes’ of every dish – we pretty much got the full plate. You Will Be Full – and it will be completely worth it!
The Ultimate in Ambergris Caye Excursions – Tropic Air’s Great Blue Hole Belize Tour
If you are going to Belize there is one experience you simply can’t miss – seeing the Great Blue Hole. This world heritage site is a natural wonder that apparently was made famous by Jacques Cousteau who first went scuba diving into its depths back in 1971. It is obviously a bucket list experience for many scuba divers….but we thought “how do you get the absolute Best views of the Great Blue Hole?” when we realized, every picture we had ever seen had been from above. So that’s what we did! We booked a scenic flight.
There is only one way to book a Great Blue Hole scenic flight from San Pedro and that is with Belize’s very own Tropic Air. They offer flights every Tuesday and Thursday for 2-11 people. That’s right! You will be soaring through the skies in a cute Cessna – well I think they’re cute.
I decided to keep this trip a secret from Tommo as this was a pretty unique adventure for us – flying over the Great Blue Hole! What an experience!!! We turned up at the Tropic Air airport at 10:30 am ready for our 11 am departure and I just loved seeing the look on his face when he realised what we were doing. It really is a once in a lifetime experience and we were about to take off!
I know many people find flying a tad nerve racking – especially in a smaller aircraft. We spoke to a few people around the island that had expressed this concern. But there is honestly nothing to be worried about, it’s an amazing experience. Plus a time saver. To go see the Great Blue Hole by boat it would take you 2 hours each way…hope you don’t get sea sick! The round trip flight takes around an hour with a short stop off at Caye Caulker to pick up and drop off passengers there before and after the trip. And trust us you don’t get shots like this from a boat.
Watching the crystal clear water pass by below us, I was amazed that I could actually make out stingrays and nurse sharks gliding their way through the water. I was also in complete awe of the different shades of blue in the water. Depending on what’s beneath it i.e. sea grass, loads more water etc changes the colours, and this really fascinated me. The whole trip really is picturesque from start to finish…and I haven’t even told you about the main attraction yet.
Facts about the Great Blue Hole:
- It’s over 1,000 feet wide (305 metres) and 480 feet (146 meters) deep. Wowza!
- It’s a World Heritage listed site and protected area in Belize. In fact 1/3 of Belize is part of protected reserves.
- Apparently, it’s can be seen from space….don’t quote me on this one, Wiki says it’s true!
- There are actually other Blue Holes in the world; most are located in the Bahamas, Australia, Egypt and Guam. However, due to the sheer size and dimensions, the one found in Belize is ranked numero uno!
As the captain announces the Great Blue Hole in the distance, everyone instantly sat up in their seats with their faces pushed as close to the windows as possible. We had 7 people on our flight which meant that every single person scored a window seat, plus the pilot makes sure he does a couple of laps in each direction so that both sides get a good view on their side of the aircraft.
It was everything we’d hoped it would be – Great, Blue and a Hole. LOL. Jokes aside it was truly magnificent. I’ve seen pics of people that did the boat trips and it doesn’t really capture the majesty of this natural wonder. We knew we had made the right choice flying to the Great Blue Hole with Tropic Air – a truly awe-inspiring memory that will live with us forever.
Ambergris Caye Excursions from San Pedro
While lazing by the pool drinking cocktails is a pretty awesome way to spend your days – we do absolutely recommend you get out and about on some Ambergris Caye tours. Why? Well, the reef that lays just off the coast of Ambergris Caye is the second biggest barrier reef in the world, 2nd only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Here in Belize, you will find 4 different types of turtle species including Green, Hawks Bill & Loggerhead. Nurse sharks – yes you can swim with them! Coch, manatee, sting rays and so many varieties of fish it would take too long to list them all….plus it would get kinda boring too.
One of the best ways to experience the reef is to book one of the Ambergris Caye Tours departing San Pedro daily – this does, of course, depend on the weather! We teamed up with TuffENuff tours to spend a full day on a luxurious catamaran sailing the turquoise waters of the barrier reef, snorkelling with amazing wildlife and a bonus bit of rum punch fun at the end of the day.
Why did we choose TuffENuff over other Ambergris Caye Excursions? They have amazing Tripadvisor ratings. Plus we loved the idea of the catamaran…and good thing we did too. The first stop on the TuffENuff tour (and pretty much every other one of the Ambergris Caye Tours in the area) is Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a beautiful spot teeming with breathtaking wildlife and colourful coral. The reef here is pretty shallow and it has been a protected reserve since 1987, which means spotting wild life is a sure thing. But there is no regulation on a number of people that can visit…and things get busy.
We were so glad to be on a catamaran tour as the total amount of people on the boat was 10, including the Marvin the captain and Sherry our guide. That’s it! We saw plenty of boats just loaded with people all jumping into the water swimming about and then leaving again. What you get with a small group is a guide who grew up in the area, a guide who knows her stuff when it comes to the reef, the animals in it, how it’s being taken care of for future generations and the fascinating history of the area.
On the way out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve Sherry told us all about the barrier reef and its importance to the local people, what it was like growing up in San Pedro, and some of the history of the island back to the days when the British were still around (it was a former colony, that’s why they all speak English). When we arrived at the reserve we all were given our snorkelling equipment and jumped into the water – Sherry included. We’ve been on so many tours where the guides just stay on the boat and say “have a good time – hope you spot something cool” but Sherry actually took us around some of the best spots on the reef, she guided us to places where she had spotted interesting creatures in the past weeks in the hope that we could see them too, and gave us information about what the names of the fish were that we were looking at.
I love tours that teach you about the destination – and I was so impressed with Sherry and her knowledge. There’s nothing worse than going snorkelling and the only thing you can tell your friends back home is that your saw “some fish” or a turtle (don’t get me wrong swimming with turtles is freaking cool – but it makes you so much cooler if you can name the actual species).
With Sherry guiding you knew the proper names and could ask questions as you went along. Also being 8 people meant it was easy to stay together. I don’t personally know if other Ambergris Caye excursions offer this guided service….but with a number of people I saw in some of the groups, it would be hard to keep everyone together without everyone scoring a flipper to the face a few too many times. Just sayin.
After Hol Chan Marine Reserve it’s off for some real excitement – swimming with nurse sharks.
I know people freak out just by hearing the word ‘shark’ but there is really no need to be worried. Honestly more people are killed by cows or dogs each year than sharks. Nurse sharks are very docile and don’t have very big mouths, they mainly eat shellfish or small fish and these ones are very used to humans. That said it’s always best to be smart around any wild animal and remember to watch but don’t touch when in the water with them. The experience only lasts a short time as the boat drivers chum the water to get them to come to the surface….once the food runs out they will be off to the next boat looking for another free feed. So get in there, be in awe of these amazing creatures and enjoy – but remember don’t touch!
After all that snorkelling it was time for lunch on Caye Caulker. We all headed off to a local favourite the Happy Lobster to grab a feed. But there was no lobster…..Unhappy Lobster. Lobster is seasonal, as is much of the food on offer in Ambergris Caye and the surrounding islands. If you are after some tasty fresh lobster than you need to make sure you visit from around mid-June to mid-February. Otherwise, you’ll be like us and outta luck when it comes to a tasty lobster feast. But there’s plenty of fish in the sea and we had a fresh and tasty lunch of prawn and coconut curry and stuffed fish fillet.
You generally get about an hour and a half or so to eat lunch and explore the island of Caye Caulker, but we found that most of the time is waiting for lunch to be cooked…it’s freshly made and locals do tend to run on ‘island time’. Don’t be in a hurry, sit back with an icy cold beer or cocktail, relax and enjoy your surroundings.
After lunch it’s back on the catamaran and time to head home…..but home is about 2 hours away. Time to break out the rum punches and turn this into a real booze cruise – jokes it was all very relaxed and everyone had a great time and behaved themselves. Sherry also made us up some fresh ceviche for the trip back as well which was delish.
Top Tips for taking one of TuffENuff’s Ambergris Caye Excursions
- Water is supplied so no need to pack that – yay. So are beers and rum punch after you’ve finished snorkelling!
- Wear lots of sunscreen – but make sure it’s biodegradable sunscreen so you are not damaging the reef with toxins.
- Cover up! The sun is brutal and you will burn – I chose to wear my SirenSong wetsuit while snorkelling so I knew my arms and back was covered. That only left needing sunscreen on the backs of my legs – don’t forget your legs people! Sunburn behind your knees kills!
- Lunch is not included so make sure you pack some pocket money
- Transfers to and from your hotel are included. Woo Hoo one less thing to worry about!
As I said in the beginning, if you are looking for an island vacation that has it all – San Pedro Belize should be at the top of your wish list. Natural beauty, fascinating history, welcoming locals, amazing food, and the opportunity to have some genuinely monumental experiences – what more could you ask for?
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Disclaimer: We did receive our experiences with Phoenix Resort, TuffENuff and Tropic Air complimentary. All opinions remain our own – that they are awesome! This article may contain affiliate links, thank you for supporting us by using them.