1. Belize is a two hour flight from United States Gulf Coast
Belize International Airport (BZE) is just a short two hour flight from Houston Hobby Airport (HOU). Upon landing at BZE, you will continue on to Ambergris via a 15 minute flight with either Tropic Air or Maya Island Air. Once you land at San Pedro Airport on Ambergris Caye, you're immediately immersed in the sights, sounds, smells, and most importantly the beautiful Caribbean ocean air. Pro tip: Maya Island Air may have lower rates, but they also have a reputation for being a bit (sometimes more than a bit) behind schedule; you may want to keep this in mind if your itinerary is tightly scheduled for your first day in Ambergris.
2. Traveling around the island is as hassle free as renting a golf cart.
Sure, you can get a taxi or shuttle to most hotels, but why not get around like the locals? The main form of transportation on the island is by golf cart. Golf cart rentals are very affordable on the island and offer you the convenience to come and go as you please, and they're just cool as hell to ride around in! There are many golf cart rental companies, but two that are within a minute walk of San Pedro Airport are VIP Golf Cart Rentals and Rasta Golf Cart Rentals - both of which have five star ratings on Trip Advisor. Pro tip: the golf carts don't have gas gauges so you'll have to be mindful about how much you are driving and proactively fill up.
3. There are tons of attractions to see and things to do!
Ambergris Caye is home to some amazing natural attractions like The Great Blue Hole, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray alley and the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere, the Belize Barrier Reef, just to name a few. Approximately 180 miles long, the barrier reef protects Belize's coastline. Just a quarter mile from Ambergris Caye, it is home to an abundant array of marine life including sea turtles, dolphins, rays, sharks and countless tropical fish. Snorkeling and diving in these Caribbean waters are unlike anything you will ever experience.
Fishing charters and tours can also be booked for those wanting to catch their own lunch to grill on the beach! Speaking of beaches, you'll definitely want to check out Secret Beach, which is only accessible by boat. Back in the day, secret beach was only visited by locals... well today it's not so much of a secret anymore and tourists flock to this little lagoon side island to take in some sun while enjoying the white sand beach and crystal clear waters. Secret beach has certainly grown in popularity since the opening of it's first fully operating restaurant and bar in October of 2016. You can check out Pirates Not So Secret Beach Bar and Grill's website as a helpful guide on how to spend the day and what to take when you visit Secret Beach. Also head on over to Trip Advisor for a list of even more Ambergris Caye activities and pricing.
4. English is the official language of Belize and your U.S. dollars double
Quick history lesson: Belize was previously under British rule and known as British Honduras before fully gaining independence and being renamed Belize in 1981. For this reason, Belize not only has English as it's official language, the country's government is based on the British parliamentary system and the legal system is modelled on the common law of England. With that being said, Belize is known for being a melting pot of many people with various ethnic backgrounds and that is apparent in Ambergris Caye, where many locals are multi-lingual. Spanish, Creole, and English are most commonly spoken.
What's more to love? Your U.S. dollars double... in a sense. The exchange rate is 2:1- for every one U.S. dollar, you have two Belize dollars. There is no need to worry about exchanging your money unless you just want to have beautifully printed colorful money. Locals and merchants will gladly accept U.S. dollars for tips and services. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere as well. Pro tip: Check with your financial institution to confirm whether or not there are fees for international use, these can add up.
5. Caribbean hospitality at it's finest
The people of Belize are very warm and welcoming to visitors. They are a proud country and very much vested in the sustainability of their natural resources and protecting the marine habitat. They're well aware that is part of what makes Ambergris Caye paradise. Fortunately for us, they are willing to share it with international travelers. Over 70% of Belize's tourism revenue is generated by travel to Ambergris. The livelihood of many locals on Ambergris heavily depends on tourism. You can expect to be greeted with genuine smiles by everyone you come into contact with, from restaurants, resort staff, and shop owners in downtown San Pedro.
My first visit to Ambergris felt like a place I could consider living, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the growing number of expatriates who have made the move; some of which operate small businesses on the Island. This trend will definitely continue, and with that is the opportunity for developers to come in and pursue real estate endeavors to further heighten the Island's profile as a top global tourist destination. Two high profile projects currently underway are Margaritaville Resort Belize and Belize Marriott Residences Ambergris Caye Resort. Yes, Ambergris Caye will finally have a major hotel, large enough to cater to large conferences and weddings, with the familiarity and luxury accommodations of a Marriott branded hotel. Furthermore, the most amazing ocean front condos are available for sale at various price points starting in the low 300's. Anyone interested should inquire while units are still available, the option to participate in Marriott's rental program and have your condo generate income while you're away, has made ownership highly desirable.
If you'd like to learn more about Belize tourism, Belize Tourism Board is a great resource! And if you've been motivated to make your first visit to Ambergris Caye after reading my blog, please share your experience and pics with me at info@JosephineBarnes.realtor !