The largest of the Belize Cayes is basically not an island at all, as only a narrow channel built in Mayan times separates Ambergris Caye from the Yucatec mainland.
After the Maya had left the narrow, elongated island, it remained uninhabited for half a millennium to become a pirate’s nest, whose inhabitants did not capture the wealth but could pick it up at Ambergris’ beaches.
Passing sperm whales gave them a treasure with the amber formed in their digestive tract and then excreted, which was finally washed up in thick lumps, a treasure that was weighed in gold in Europe.
It was not until Belize’s independence that tourism came into the country.
From now on, hotels and small family guesthouses started springing up like mushrooms and more and more fishermen started to rent their boats for fishing and diving trips into the surreal looking water world of the Belize Barrier Reef. By 1984, the population had grown to such an extent that San Pedro could claim the addition “Town”. The population of the island, estimated between 3000 and 4000 people, almost doubles during the high season between Christmas and Easter.
Hollywood celebrities such as Leonardo di Caprio or Madonna, who has set a musical monument to the island with her “Last night I dreamt of San Pedro”, are often among the guests.
In contrast to the neighboring Caye Caulker, whose touristic offer is mainly aimed at backpackers, Ambergris is considered an expensive pavement.
Diving and snorkeling tours
Thanks to the shallow waters inside the reef, many of the dive sites are also ideal for snorkelling, as you can actually see just as much with goggles and fins as you can on a dive.
Some of the most interesting snorkeling areas are “Hol Chan Marine Reserve”, “Shark Ray Alley” and “Mexico Rocks”.
The maximum 10 m deep waters of Hol Chan, a good 5 km southeast of San Pedro, resemble an aquarium in which tropical fish of all colours and shapes romp among beautiful coral formations. Of special attraction are also night tours here, where you can watch sleeping rays in the sand and large parrotfish, which have hidden in apparently way too small coral caves.
Hundreds of rays and nurse sharks are the protagonists of Shark Ray Alley, a shallow sandbank where fishermen have traditionally cleaned their nets, attracting large numbers of the two species.
Mexico Rocks and Tres Locos offer exceptional coral formations from stony corals or brain corals.