Living, Retiring, Diving, And Snorkeling On Ambergris Caye, Belize
“Kathleen, I paid a visit to Ambergris Caye last month. What I found was very disappointing. Instead of a nice Caribbean Island with beautiful beaches, good swimming, and nice interior, I found an island that is mainly given over to swamp, always full of mosquitoes, worse at different times of the year. The beach is only good on one side, and that is the side where the residential houses and new building projects are going up. It wasn’t even nice to go into the sea, as all along the coast from the water’s edge to about 500 feet out it is dead sea grass. When I asked the locals why they do not clear it out of the water, I was told it is good for the fishes. I reckon it kills everything, and the locals are just too lazy to clear it away from their shores.
“In my opinion, Ambergris Caye is not a place to retire. The town of San Pedro is bumper to bumper with golf carts. This is an island for young divers who want to visit for a few days and take a boat out to sea every day to snorkel or dive. You can’t snorkel from the shore line.
“I went to Ambergris for two weeks to have a look around to see if I would like to retire there, but was in and out within a couple of days. The fastest place I have ever been out of!”
— Georgina R., United States
Belize Correspondent Ann Kuffner responds:
“It is a shame that you didn’t have someone who knows San Pedro and Ambergris Caye give you a tour during your visit and point you in the right directions. I wish we could have met up, for it sounds as though you may not have wandered far from the downtown area. Did you head north across the bridge? Or south to Victoria House, to see where many expats live? There are very comfortable neighborhoods with neither swamps nor swarms of mosquitoes.
“My husband and I have owned property on Ambergris Caye for over 10 years. We built our first home nine years ago, and I have lived here fulltime for more than a year. Ambergris didn’t make a good first impression on you, but we couldn’t be happier with our life here.
“Regarding some of your specific comments:
- For beaches free of sea grass, walk a few blocks south from town to Ramons or another half-mile to Banyan Bay. Ramon’s also has a dock and a natural reef; you can snorkel right off the end of the dock. Victoria House is another resort with a beautiful beach and dock. In town, the beaches get very busy, but if you wander a bit outside of town, it is a different scene.
- Yes, we have mosquitoes, sea grass, and mangroves. Not everywhere and not all the time. This is the Caribbean. These things are part of the scene. The mosquitoes are largely seasonal (and you visited during their season).
- San Pedro has developed into a hopping little town. Since Tropic Air’s new terminal has been under construction, traffic has been worse than ever. Downtown is closed off to traffic for special events and on weekend evenings. And, outside the busy center of town area, this island remains quite quiet. Best strategy is to avoid the downtown streets altogether. Walk on the beach instead. You can get almost anywhere this way.
- The reef is offshore, meaning the coral is offshore (at the reef). That’s why the best snorkeling is not at the beach but a little ways out, say at Mexico Rocks or Hol Chan Park.