go to content go to search box go to global site navigation

Introducing Ambergris Caye

When Madonna sang about her dreams of San Pedro, she was referring to the captivating capital of Ambergris Caye, which has since adopted the inevitable nickname La Isla Bonita. Of course, it was more than 20 years ago when Madonna crooned about all the nature being wild and free. She might not recognize the place today, with condos being constructed on every corner and golf carts whizzing through the streets.

Nonetheless, Ambergris (am-ber-griss) Caye exudes the atmosphere of a tropical island paradise, where sun-drenched days are filled with fruity drinks and water sports. The island is long and thin, measuring 25 miles long and 5 miles across at its widest point, though much of it is less than half a mile across. Although resorts are being erected up and down the coast, its outer reaches are still practically uninhabited. The remote northern extremity abuts Mexican territory, and the Hispanic influence is evident in language, customs, food and fiestas.

Though the entire island is often called San Pedro, technically that is the name of the town that dominates the southern half. Once a laid-back little village dotted with colorful Caribbean houses, San Pedro is starting to resemble a typical tourist town, lined with souvenir shops and beach bars. The sandy streets were recently replaced with concrete, rapidly increasing the number of cars and golf carts on the roads (not to mention the speeds at which they drive). The beach is built up, though thankfully no buildings are higher than three stories.

Despite the overdevelopment complaints, San Pedro has protected its most valuable asset, the barrier reef, which is only a half-mile offshore. If you are passionate about water sports, San Pedro will seduce you: dive operators lead tours to more than 35 sites, both local and beyond. And if you don't want to look at the fish, surely you'll want to eat them, as San Pedro is home to the country's most imaginative and appetizing dining scene.