Ambergris Caye Is Your Sailing Paradise
With its beautiful beaches and excellent location, Ambergris Caye is the largest of over 200 cayes that lie off the coast of Belize near its border with Mexico. In addition to the sights contained on and around the island itself, it also sits less than half a mile from Belize’s Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world.
It’s surrounded by a whole host of deserted islands to explore, scuba diving options for all skill levels, and some of the world’s best fishing. The wealth of options makes Ambergris Caye a great central hub for enjoying a number of aquatic adventures. And there’s no better way to get from one attraction to the next than on a chartered sailboat.
Sailing Conditions and Options
The area around Ambergris Caye is cooled by trade winds throughout most of the year, so it’s not as hot as you might expect. The Barrier Reef provides relief from the large swells of the open ocean, so the sea is generally quite calm. In fact there’s only one place on the island, Mar De Tumbo, where the waves actually crash onto the beach due to a small cut in the reef.
Navigation is also made easier by the many islands that serve as landmarks. A few of the other cayes may have places to pick up a few necessities, but San Pedro is the best option for stocking up on provisions.
Boats, ranging from catamarans to crewed yachts, can be chartered for almost any length of time, including day cruises. While a week is enough time to enjoy almost everything the waters have to offer, adding a few extra days onto your trip gives you the option of exploring the island’s interior as well.
San Pedro Town
San Pedro, the only town on Ambergris Caye, offers great options for lodging, as do a few towns on the surrounding islands. You can also sleep aboard the boat for the ultimate sailing experience. Local restaurants serve up the freshest seafood, including lobster and conch. You can also try the spicy stewed chicken, served with rice and beans cooked with coconut milk, that serves as the national dish of Belize.
San Pedro’s seaside is dotted with piers, cafes, and gift shops. Its vibe is laid-back, and T-shirts and bare feet are perfectly acceptable everywhere. The stores sell most of the same foods you might buy in the U.S., plus fresh tropical produce and plenty of Belikin beer.
Within a few minutes of leaving Ambergris Caye, you can reach a number of exotic locations to fish, swim, or dive. Zaak Ba Ajo Lagoon is a great spot for snorkeling. Nearby San Pablo offers breathtaking sunsets that are intensified by their own reflection on the smooth-as-glass surface of the lagoon.
You can fish anywhere in the waters off the coast of Belize without a license. Commonly caught species include snapper and barracuda. There are also too many great snorkeling and diving spots to name. However, some of the more popular are Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a five square mile underwater park; Shark Ray Alley, with its nurse sharks and stingrays; and Mexico Rocks, which has excellent visibility and shallow water.
Mooring buoys are available to prevent boats’ anchors from damaging the reef. For safety reasons it’s also advisable to dive only with an expert skipper or dive master on board, or else to dive with one of the local dive shops. Their expert knowledge can also help you get the best possible diving experience.
A Few Challenges
While the waters around Ambergris Caye are relatively calm and easily navigable, it can be difficult to read the shallow waters and recognize coral in the water. While local charter companies offer directions and guides to help you have the safest possible excursion, just know that you can’t simply set the boat on autopilot and head to the galley to mix yourself a cocktail.
Sailors are also advised to steer clear of the outer reefs. They’re far more dangerous and much less charted. In fact many areas are simply labeled with the warning of “numerous coral heads or patch reefs.” Because search and rescue efforts in Belize aren’t particularly well organized, your best bet is to stay in the safer waters.
What Are You Waiting For?
Whether you’re looking for smooth sailing through crystal clear waters, diving or fishing off the coast of a deserted island, or even a place to dock and explore some ancient Mayan ruins…the waters of Ambergris Caye have it all. This sailor’s paradise is one place you won’t want to miss.