Ever gone on vacation and fallen in love with the place you were visiting?
Perhaps you even fantasized about what life would be like if you lived there full-time…
Then you went home, and reality set in… but you couldn’t shake off the idea of spending more time in your dream location.
If you’ve felt like this before, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s how many expats end up living on Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Usually it starts with Google searches, followed by an exploratory trip to the island. The azure Caribbean water, welcoming locals, and slow pace of life are extremely attractive, and, for many, living here becomes the goal.
How I Ended Up On Ambergris
My first trip to Ambergris Caye was for work in 2012. I was living in Managua, Nicaragua, at the time and looking forward to visiting a Caribbean island that, in pictures, looked like paradise.
The country won me over on my first visit.
In between work, I indulged in tourist activities—snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley, visiting Lamanai (the ruins of a major city of the Maya civilization), taking long walks on the beach, and so on…
The consistent light breeze, swaying palms, and sunshine made the paradise that I’d seen in photos real.
I kept coming back to Belize, and over time visits became longer and more frequent. I became a regular at a couple of local hot spots and would make plans with friends for the next time I was in town.
Ambergris was becoming my home away from home, a real community—something I was struggling to find in Nicaragua. In 2016, I purchased a condo and made a full-time island gal of myself.
Making the transition from a perpetual visitor to a full-time resident was exciting and scary, yet there was no concrete way to prepare for it. You just have to jump in with open arms and embrace the unexpected.
The charm of Ambergris is what attracts many people to the island, and the quirkiness is what keeps them here…
So What’s Life On Ambergris Like?
Life on this colorful island is laid-back and quirky.
Brightly colored houses line the newly paved streets, Coconut Lady shouts at passersby to buy her natural coconut water, and loose chickens skirt across the streets at random.
The primary mode of transportation on the island is the golf cart, making you feel like the mayor every time you drive through town because everyone waves at you. Seeing 3-foot iguanas on the commute is normal, too.
People on Ambergris shop locally because there are no chain stores. You might have to visit four different markets to get your shopping done, and one-day delivery on Amazon Prime is not a thing.
As the store owners get to know you, though, you start to receive special discounts and perks. Plus, you can count on produce always being fresh and organic.
It’s standard for locals, expats, and tourists to mingle at the same locales. Some of your new friends may end up being the people you least expected.
Flip-flops and shorts are standard attire, and you have access to some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world.
The cherry on top for many, though, is the front-row seat Ambergris affords to the most incredible sunrises and sunsets in the Caribbean.
Here’s What You Should Know…
Like anywhere you go, life is what you make it. Here are a few tips to make sure you make the most of living on Ambergris Caye…
Tip #1—Find Ways To Do What You Enjoy
While the food and bar scene is ample in San Pedro, the main town on Ambergris Caye, there may not be as many activities and clubs (at least not the dancing kind) as you’re used to.
The beauty of living in a small town, though, is that if you take the initiative, you can start something.
Book clubs, Rotary clubs, and other clubs have all appeared on the island over the years thanks to groups of people with shared interests coming together and getting active.
Tip #2—Island Fever Is Real
If you feel yourself getting frustrated at the little things, take a break. Visit the jungles on the mainland or hop the border to Mexico.
From Ambergris Caye, it’s easy to get to the mainland. You can take a 15-minute puddle jumper ride back to Belize City with local air carriers, Tropic Air or Maya Air, or take a one-and-a-half-hour ferry ride.
There is also an international water taxi service that goes from San Pedro directly to Chetumal, Mexico.
Tip #3—Remember, You’re In Belize (Not Your Home Country)
Forget about how things are done back home. You’re now in a developing nation on a Caribbean island that’s fairly new to mainstream tourism.
Life’s going to be different in ways you can’t yet imagine. But if you take a step back to remember where you are, you’ll do just fine.
Is Ambergris Right For You?
Ambergris Caye isn’t for everyone… but it remains highly sought-after for those who want to dial life back a few notches. Plan a visit to discover life on “La Isla Bonita” for yourself.
Maybe we’ll be neighbors one day. I look forward to it.
Full-time Belize Expat