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Ambergris Caye, Belize

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Running parallel to the mainland of Belize is a 200 mile-long chain of little islands referred to as "cayes", tucked in behind the barrier reef that range in size from tiny specs to 25-mile-long Ambergris Caye. Most lie within the protection of the Belize Reef (almost 200 miles long and second in the world only to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia) which parallels the mainland.

The main island most often visited is Ambergris Caye. There are multiple daily flights (approximately 20 minutes depending on stops enroute at other smaller cayes) from the mainland on varying size small aircraft (5 seaters to 20 seaters), offering spectacular panoramas of the cayes and barrier reef. There are also small wooden ferry boats that provide service between Belize City and Ambergris, taking between an hour and a half and three hours, once again depending on stops en route.

The main town on Ambergris Caye is San Pedro, a small village with gaily painted, mostly wooden, tin-roofed houses huddled close together, crisscrossed by a few sandy streets. There are few vehicles, and getting around is either by walking or by renting a golf cart.

The island has a rich history: in Mayan times it was a trading post; buccaneers and whalers are part of the past history, today it is primarily a fisherman’s enclave as well as one of the main destinations in Belize, offering a taste of old Belize. Best word to describe San Pedro is "funky" - that kind of laid back, I’ll-catch-up-some-day kind of place.

Main activities are snorkeling or diving the reef, glass bottom boat tours along the reef, fishing, relaxing by the pool and exploring the village’s ever growing array of shops, discos and bars.

There are hotels within walking distance to San Pedro, allowing you to partake of the village restaurants, bars and shops. Others, though in close proximity, require some type of transportation to get to town without over-expending your energies - golf carts are the preferred method. There are also a growing collection of resorts on the north end reachable only by boat that provide a more secluded water-sun-sand-surf vacation.

Do not expect wide, sloping white sand beaches as you find in the Caribbean. A few places have small sloping beaches but the majority have lots of palm studded sand areas that end at a seawall.