Ambergris Caye is the most-popular destination in Belize, with close to one-half of international visitors heading here. While it's developing rapidly, and prices generally, and regrettably, aren't competitive with those at many resorts in the Yucatan (but are well under resort prices on most Caribbean islands), Ambergris Caye remains a fine place to vacation. There are more cars now, but the streets are still sand, and development is mainly low-rise. Much of the new development on Ambergris Caye is taking place to the south of town (a golf cart or taxi ride away) and on North Ambergris (a ferry or water taxi ride). These resorts offer more privacy and often a secluded tropical atmosphere. Properties in or at the edge San Pedro Town will appeal to those who want to be close to restaurants and bars.
Three other facts you should know before making a decision to visit Ambergris, besides the fact that prices aren't cheap, at least by Central American standards: 1) Snorkeling off the beaches is at best fair -- you'll need to pay US$10 or $15 per person for a boat to take you the few hundred yards to the reef -- once on the reef, snorkeling is wonderful, 2) Swimming off the beaches is also only fair, due to sea grass, and 3) On some days, rough water and strong winds will make it difficult or uncomfortable to go out on the water.
# 1 Villas at Banyan Bay
If you're in the mood for a condotel rather than a full-service resort, this Belizean-developed project is one of the newest and most luxe in all of Belize. St. Matthews University Medical School has temporary facilities in this area.
# 2 Caribbean Villas
Not the most luxurious hotel, no beach to speak of, no pool, but friendly management by Wil and Susan Lala makes all the difference in this comfortable suites/apartment-style resort south of San Pedro Town.
# 3 Victoria House
Lovely beach-front setting about two miles south of town; potential, not always realized, of being one of the best resorts in Belize; variety of accommodations, some very pricey and indeed overpriced. We've had some recent complaints that some facilities are getting ragged.
# 4 Belizean Reef Suites
Just at the south end of San Pedro Town; beautiful luxury suites at a fair price. First-floor units open on the beach.
# 5 Captain Morgan's Retreat
In many ways, this is what visitors to Belize come looking for -- thatched caba~as on a stretch of beach; on the north end of Ambergris Caye, next to the Essene Way. Captain Morgan's is now for sale.
# 6 Belize Yacht Club
Originally mainly a real estate project, new management is taking these Mexican-looking condos more towards a suites hotel concept; beautiful pool. South of town, but within trekking distance.
# 7 Coconuts
Friendly, casual spot with big attractive rooms, good beach bar, south of town.
# 8 The Palms Condominiums
Attractive condos, with small but beautiful pool (NOT Royal Palms, which is a timeshare). At the south edge of town in the same area as Ramon's, Belizean Reef Suites, Mayan Princess, and Sunbreeze.
# 9 Mayan Princess Another attractive condotel at the south end of town.
# 10 Essene Way
An Orlando food-supplement magnate has poured millions into what was the former The Belizean resort on North Ambergris. The result is a lavish but, some think, kitchy resort-cum-New Age/religious retreat. Originally, the idea was that the Essene Way would be a place for terminally ill adults to enjoy a last vacation, but the hotel and restaurant are now open to the public.
# 10 Sunbreeze (tie) A recent makeover including pool has turned this Holiday Inn-style motel into one of the better, and best-located, choices on the island. Big sparkling rooms, with all the modcons.