Ambergris Caye, Belize


Ambergris Caye

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Belize is a small country, only 325,000 people in an area less than 9,000 square miles sandwich between Mexico on the north, Guatemala on the west, and Honduras on the south.  It was formerly British Honduras before independence in 1981.

Off the Belize coast are Cayes with dive shops, hotels, restaurants, and bars that cater to tourists fleeing winter blizzards.  A major attraction are Caribbean atolls and the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere that stretches from Mexico’s Yucatan to Honduras.

Modern villa near Tranquility Bay

Modern villa near Tranquility Bay

 

'Streets' of San Pedro

‘Streets’ of San Pedro

When we began planning out trip to Belize, a friend and veteran Central American traveler told us to check out Tranquility Bay, a remote resort in the far north of Ambergris Caye with long, sparsely populated beaches and only 300 meters from the reef.

The journey from Belize City to Tranquility Bay involves an hour bumpy boat ride to San Pedro, a bustling town with cafes, bars, dive shops, hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.  The roads in San Pedro are so narrow that golf carts are the main means of transportation.

We spent two nights at the Corona del Mar hotel on the beach with a dock, pool, and small bar.  But we were eager to get to Tranquility Bay for swimming and snorkeling.

San Pedro souvenir shop

San Pedro souvenir shop

This means another boat ride, about 30 minutes jetting north along Ambergris Caye lined with resort hotels, villas, dive shops, and stretches of  pristine beaches.

Tranquility Bay 

Abandoned beach shacks near Tranquility Bay

Abandoned beach shacks near Tranquility Bay

One of the many attractions of Tranquility Bay is it’s remoteness, beautiful beaches, coral reefs offshore, and the Belize barrier reef just 300 yards from the beach.

Jaguar, our Tranquility Bay casita

Jaguar, our Tranquility Bay casita

Dive shop and restaurant at Tranquility Bay

Dive shop and restaurant at Tranquility Bay

Tranquility beach

Tranquility beach

We loved the convenience of Tranquility Bay, walking a few yards from our modern, comfortable casita to the crystal green warm water.  Mornings were windy as they are in wintertime, with high tides covering the barrier reef off shore.

Morning cuppa for morning beach walk

Morning cuppa for morning beach walk

Rest stop

Rest stop

As the tide receded later in the morning, 2 meter high breakers crashed over  the reef the rest of the day into the evening.  There was a steady soft roar as the breakers rolled over the reef creating waves that lapped up on the beach.

Tranquility Bay

Tranquility Bay

The atmosphere at Tranquility is very casual.  Some days, we never wore shoes or sandals.  Bathing suits were acceptable all day, even at meals in the restaurant on the boat dock that featured a deck where we and other guests had drinks before dinner and watched fish swimming under the dock lit up by underwater lights.  Every night we saw tarpon swimming circling the deck, waiting for fish to come out.

Apres snorkeling off Ambergris Caye

Apres snorkeling off Ambergris Caye

Deck off restaurant dock; underwater lights at night revealed fish feeding below

Deck off restaurant dock; underwater lights at night revealed fish feeding below

 Tropical fish 

From the shore, we could swim out a hundred yards and snorkel among coral reefs where we saw beautiful tropical fish, blue tangs, grunts, sergeant majors,  spade fish and many species we couldn’t identify, including tiny grey stripped fish like those found in home aquaria.

Beach house for budget travelers

Beach house for budget travelers

One afternoon snorkeling, we saw a large green moray eel nestled in a crevasse.  When I raised my head to motion to a fellow snorkeler, the moray disappeared.  Looking around, I spotted him several yards away on the sand against a reef. I swam closer and watched as his head and long neck protrude about a meter from a smaller coral formation.  I was so close I could see his tiny sharp teeth in his gaping mouth. I estimated he was about four feet long, round as a small car tire.  Pretty awesome.

Abandoned shacks and villas

Abandoned beach shack on Ambergris Caye

Abandoned beach shack on Ambergris Caye

Morning walks at Tranquility Bay were pleasant with bright blue skies, light clouds, and a stiff breeze.  The sand was hard packed, easy for walking.  Tall palm trees waved in the breeze, fronds slapping against each other.

Belize barrier reef off Ambergis Caye

Belize barrier reef off Ambergis Caye

On morning beach walks, we saw several villas and abandoned shacks, some with rickety docks, others with small boats tied up.  Many villas seemed vacant, waiting for their owners to visit from Central America or the US or Canada.  Many shacks looked abandoned, weather-beaten, coconuts and dried palm fronds lying around them.  Each one probably had a story, some simple, owners coming down occasionally during winter, others abandoned for reasons unknown.  Intriguing.

Abandoned beach house near Tranquility Bay

Abandoned beach house near Tranquility Bay

After five nights at Tranquility, we departed on a boat to San Pedro, another boat to Belize, a 45 minute taxi ride to Belize airport, a flight to San Salvador, followed by a second flight to San Jose, Costa Rica for the next where our Central American adventure.

Sunrise on Ambergris Caye

Sunrise on Ambergris Caye

* * * *

We’re spending a month in Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama with a side trip to Tikal Mayan site in eastern Guatemala.

Next:  Tikal Mayan ruins in Guatemala

In addition to writing this travel blog, I write international thrillers, mysteries, and suspense novels.

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11 responses to “Ambergris Caye, Belize

    • Yes, Ambergris Caye was lovely, but a tad windy in the AM and evening. We just spent five days in Costa Rica and swam everyday in warm Pacific waters w/ no wind. You understand why early explorers named it ‘pacific’; the surface was flat as a board, navy blue waters, and gorgeous skies. A real tropical experience.
      Jack

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  1. What fun even if one of you got too much sun. See you found a fixer uppper for us.
    You’re destined to be “On the Road.”

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    • Karen –
      A good idea; you could have Fred fix up one of the beach shacks while you beach comb or look for tropical birds. Get a snorkel and mask and come see the coral reefs offshore.
      Jack

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  2. Beautiful. You posting makes me consider this place as a possibility. Our favorite beach place is Tamarindo, Costa Rica, which used to be a little like this place in Belize. Tamarindo is now a little more lively – the good and the bad of that. Hope you are having a wonderful time.

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    • Thanks for your note, Gay. By coincidence, we heard a lot about Tamarindo when we were driving in a shuttle van to Manuel Antonio further south on the Pacific Coast. Loved that experience, a small hotel on the beach, walk into town for supplies and a meal or two, and wonderful warm waters. Swam every day for five days. Just arrived in Panama where we have another ten days, will explore both Caribbean and Pacific beaches.

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    • More beaches coming, Holly. Just left Costa Rica where we had five days on the Pacific, warm, gentle waters, sunny and blue skies. Had a catamaran trip out about five miles and swam in the Pacific near dolphins.
      Jack

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  3. Ah Lovely Jack and Marilyn. I wish you’d packed ME in your suitcase. Miss you two, can’t wait to see more pictures

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    • Lots more pictures and adventures stories coming, Vanessa. Just left Costa Rica where we traveled from northern mountains to Pacific Coast where we had five days on the beach. Warm, gentle water, best swimming so far. Stay tuned!
      Jack

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  4. Wow, I’ll keep those abandoned shacks in mind! Thanks for the aquamarine break—sitting now in a thunderstorm in a library in Ann Arbor MI, kinda exciting actually. Glad the eel didn’t bite your nosey nose off!

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