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Ambergris Caye/San Pedro with Kids

Bordering Mexico and Guatemala, we expected this island off the coast of Belize to be fairly similar to its neighboring Latin American countries, but we were so wrong! 


Belize is a unique Latin American country that feels much more like a mix of Mexico and Jamaica. Formerly the colony of British Honduras, the national language is English but they speak an amazing Rasta-Kriol and seemingly flow from this to Spanish and English again with ease. The country seems more like a melting pot of cultural influence which is also displayed in the food as well as the language. It was fascinating to see such a mix of influence and how that influence impacts different regions in the country in different ways. We explored a lot more of Belize, but for now, let’s talk about Ambergris Caye and San Pedro.


San Pedro is a town on the southern part of the island of Ambergris Caye. It is pretty small with only 3 roads in the town and 1 main road heading North and South. 

How To Get Here


You can either fly or take a ferry to San Pedro. I briefly explored the option of flying but it was around $70 each and extra for our luggage so it was a quick no from me.


If you are taking a ferry, here are some options:


From Belize City: You can hop on a ferry that takes around an hour and 15 minutes and costs about $55 BZD round trip (or $27USD). You can choose between the following two services:


Belize Water Jets: This Ferry was much smaller with only bench seating. If you are claustrophobic I would recommend waiting and booking on the other option below. With that being said we found the staff on this boat much kinder and helpful.

Belize Express: This Ferry was larger with both chair seating and bench seating offered. If you like having more space, traveling the day this departs may be a better option for you. We took this one twice, once from San Pedro to Caye Caulk and once from Caye Caulker to Belize City and it was so smooth, not a wave or a bump or any hint of sea-sickness at all.


From Playa Del Carmen or Cancun: From these locations you can take the ADO bus (more about our experience of this fantastic bus service here). From Playa Del Carmen, its a 4 1/2 hour bus ride to Chetumal. As mentioned in this post regarding the border crossing, you cannot currently grab a ferry directly from Chetumal and must cross the border at Santa Elena (July 2022).


Instead, I recommend getting the bus to Bacalar and spending a few days in this stunning town by the lagoon. Then hop a taxi to the Santa Elena overland border crossing (the only option to cross not via air at the time of writing). After crossing, get to Corozal via taxi, spend a night and take the ferry to Ambergris in the morning - they go at 6am, 6:30am or 7am so it will be an early one and you'll have to stay the night on Corozal to make this work.


Only one ferry company operates from Corozal, the Thunderbolt water taxi. Their website is poor but accurate. You can turn up or reserve tickets in advance via thunderbolttravels@yahoo.com and pay on arrival. We had absolutely no problem with them.


Getting Around


The main way to get around San Pedro is via golf cart which you can rent for roughly $40 a day, but you can also negotiate multi day rates. I was disappointed to find that these are petrol powered when I naively hoped they would be electric, therefore they are loud and you'll need to factor in the cost of fueling them. There are tons of rental spots around the city so acquiring a golf cart is relatively simple. We hired one for 5 hours for $35 though our hostel. The town itself is quite walkable (when you can find shade)!


Where to Stay: Drift Inn


We stayed at the Drift Inn in San Pedro and loved the place. It is about 50 paces from the water, but also in main San Pedro making it easy to walk around town, to a local playground, or local bars and restaurants. We had an excellent room with a bed each and a further mattress for a fifth if we needed it (our baby has her own pop up bed). They have several cats and a small pool which was great for the kids. In the corner was a kitchenette which was super useful as we’ve been eating store bought breakfast/cereal in our rooms to keep costs down. The shower was good, beds comfy and AC was powerful. They also had a shared kitchen which was great for preparing lunch (we bought ingredients to make pasta to cook for dinner one night but didn’t manage it on the island). It backed onto Sandbar restaurant and hostel which was a huge advantage (see "Eating" section below).


The staff were so friendly and provided lots of helpful advice.  It was also the perfect location to hop on a sail boat just steps away from the rear entrance.


Things To Do With Kids


San Pedro was the perfect spot for kids as getting around the island was easy and most places were really kid friendly and welcoming. 


Here is a list of some of our favorite activities.


Central Park/San Pedro Beach


Central park is just a 10 minute walk from Drift sunny (or pretty much anywhere being centrally located!). The kids always love a playground and this one was awesome because we could enjoy the views while they played. The “San Pedro” sign is between the park and the sea, with wooden animals to play on, swing sets, climbing frames and slides. The sea is beautifully clear and the beach itself was very quiet, only locals who loved playing with our kids.

Secret Beach


Secret Beach is a 40 minute super bumpy golf cart ride North, but a wonderful day trip. When you arrive you can pick from a variety of restaurant bars to hang out in for the day and use their free chairs, picnic tables, games, and floaties for the day.


There are so many to choose from but I’d recommend either a small bar called “Bamboo Bar” (to your left of the beach if facing the water) since it had tons of games to keep the kids busy like Jenga, Corn Hole, and swings. Blue Bayou (also left of the entrance) also has gorgeous tables in the water. The ultimate hit was the inflatable obstacle course, a short walk up the right hand side of the entrance. I came prepared knowing Max (7) would be utterly desperate so we separated from dad and girls for an hour or so. I was annoyed it was $10 USA and they insisted I go on with him to make it $20, but really I had to do it!

While Secret Beach isn’t a beach with lots of white sand, the crystal clear, shallow water is perfect for kids to play in and the island vibes won’t disappoint. I’m pretty sure I could have walked out to see for an hour and still touched the bottom, it felt really safe for the kids. The colour is outrageous and for moments we felt like we were at the end of the earth.


On your way there/back, you pass by some marshes so keep a look out for crocodiles. We stopped about ten mins into the return journey for food (see below).


Lobster Fest 2022


Bit of a random one but while we were there, Lobster Fest 2022 was on - a street party celebrating all things lobster and featuring DJs, living music and a steel band. They seemed to take it quite seriously with people (and even dogs apparently!) dressed as the catch of the day!

The Truck Stop


I can’t think of a more perfect place to spend your evening with kids than the Truck Stop. With several food truck-type restaurants to choose from, movie nights, live music, game nights, a pool, and tons of activities, it is the perfect place to end the day. It is also an amazing place to catch the sunset from their beautiful deck.  The Truck Stop is a place where everyone in the family will have fun and you can meet a lot of expats and travelers.

Hol Chan Nature Reserve


The absolute highlight of our trip to San Pedro was our snorkelling adventure. We booked a tour out to the gorgeous Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef (and some say more spectacular!) in the world so we could snorkel the Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley.  It was too notch snorkelling, possibly the best we have ever done. 


Tours vary in price from around $50-100 USD per person for 2-3 hours. We decided to go with “Chuck and Robbie” on recommendation from our hostel when we specifically asked for anyone good with kids, and it was just metres from our hostel, great for an early morning start. We paid $50 usd per adult and $25 for Max, the younger two went free. This was for a slightly shorter two hour trip (missing out “Mexico Rocks” snorkelling spot which I wanted to do but felt like this would’ve a bit much with the baby).


We didn’t really know what to expect in terms of how to look after the baby and keep everyone safe. We hoped that like trips we’ve done in South East Asia we could take it in turns to stay on the boat with the baby. However at Hol Chan we were expected to swim the channel in around an hour which was very tricky. Somehow Andrew managed to swim and hold the baby but it was hard, sketchy and not enjoyable at all for him. I was ok with the 3 year old and the 7 year old was long gone, loving it to the max. We should have asked more questions about this before we left! All in all we survived and our guide was really helpful, taking Willow for five minutes so Andrew could actually get his head under the water and look around.

Thankfully at Hol Chan we saw two massive turtles which made the stress and nerves worthwhile!!


However at Shark Ray Alley the experience was incredible and much more relaxed (ironically for being within feet of sharks!). For this portion you just dive off the boats spending around 20 minutes observing nurse sharks and stingrays as they gather around the boat. For this, Andrew and I did ten minutes stints taking it in turns to get in with the beautiful beasts and relax on the boat with the baby (Quinn was a bit tired but still really enjoyed it). Again we couldn’t hold Max back he was absolutely loving it.

We saw at least 19 reef sharks and maybe 3-5 stingrays, tons of fish and another giant turtle during this portion of the morning! The crew was awesome with our kids who were so excited to see marine life. From the fun speedboat and looking at the gorgeous waters to the snorkelling experiences at both locations, we loved in in-spite of the initial logistical stress. Don’t miss it!


Where To Eat 


We absolutely loved the food in Ambergris Caye, every dish at each of the places we visited was incredible. Though I must say the island is very expensive. Expect to pay UK prices for food which for three meals out for a family of five is more than $100 a day. Keep costs down by visiting a supermarket and possibly cooking if you feel up to it. We managed to get pre cooked Spanish tortilla for $3 and some fruit for a cheap lunch. We bought milk and cereal for a few dollars and avoided paying for breakfast some days too. We found Super Buy in town to be incredible well stocked, as good as any supermarket back home. CayeMart (I see what they did there!) was more expensive but we got a 10% discount through our accommodation wrist bands.


The Drift Inn shared the premises with the Sandbar hostel and restaurant. We arrived at 10am so flopped down here for a late breakfast as it looked like the easiest option. What luck, it was amazing!! The breakfast pizza, omelette, pancakes, smoothies and chilled 1970s music was an absolutely dream after an early start travelling.


Iguana Juan’s is a well-known restaurant in town and for a good reason, it is delicious! It isn’t the cheapest option on the island, but we thought it was well worth the price. We god Tamale stuffed with pulled pork and beans, I had an absolutely excellent roast chicken tropical salad with pineapple and jalapeño relish and we let the kids get a burger for being so good with all the spicy food of late.


On our way back from secret beach we stopped at a colourful square of hole-in-the-wall shack type eateries. We chose one based on the shade, called D’local and ordered jerk chicken and burritos. This was where we found our first vegetables of our two weeks on the road so far and we were all very happy to much some broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and greens alongside the absolutely awesome super spicy jerk. The burritos came with a lot of salad too.


As we ate we saw our first ever hummingbird pop out of the bushes which was spectacular. Word of warning - the mosquitos here are ridiculous. Didn’t notice them at the beach or in the town but stopping along the coast isn’t the jungley areas I’ve never seen so many in my life. I must have killed at least 15 actually on my body. Our deet spray must have fallen out of the bag in the incredibly bumpy golf cart ride. Don’t let that happen to you!

Finally, we wanted something different and as San Pedro is pretty touristy we decided to try and get alternative cuisine while we could before we were set to go local again for a few weeks. We got take away at Little China Kitchen. The portions were huge and delicious and the prices were brilliant too. We got chicken fried rice, beef chow main and pork sweet and sour, all of which were so big they lasted us for two meals. Highly recommend this!


Final Thoughts


Ultimately, we were really pleasantly surprised by our experiences in San Pedro. The island was small, the people were kind and helpful, the experiences were absolutely worthwhile, and the food was delicious! Although it might be a bit more complex traveling to Ambergris Caye, it is absolutely worth it and 5 days at this island is more than enough to see the beauty that it has to offer.

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