Below the surface, Ambergris Caye is home to many species of marine life. // © 2015 iStock
Feature image (above): Belize is home to the world’s second-largest barrier reef. // © 2015 iStock
When it comes to the Central American country of Belize, there is certainly no lack of places to explore. The country, which borders the Caribbean, boasts more than 200 islands or “cayes” scattered around the world’s second-biggest barrier reef. The largest and most visited of the islands, Ambergris Caye is a haven for nature lovers, food aficionados and party animals.
Here’s how to make the most out of this vibrant island.
Get a taste of Maya culture at Elvi’s Kitchen, a popular dining spot for tourists and locals that started as a carry out window more than 40 years ago. On Friday evenings, the buffet highlights the best of traditional dishes such as pork pibil wrapped in banana leaves, handmade tortillas and Pollo Tikin Xic — grilled chicken marinated with oranges and Maya spices.
For more local taste without the frill, El Fogon serves up a spicy, deep-fried fish of the day that keeps the place packed. A full cocktail menu makes it easy to spend a full evening here.
For groups, Grand Caribe offers condos with views of the Caribbean Sea. Located two miles north of San Pedro, Grand Caribe is a good location for those who prefer to be away from the center of town.
And for romance and luxury, Matachica Resort will deliver. Honeymooners revel in the property’s secluded location and hospitable staff. The day can be spent nestled under a palapa on the white sand or at the freshwater infinity pool.
With a coastline close in proximity to Belize Barrier Reef (the longest in the Western Hemisphere), Ambergris Caye is a haven for water lovers. Coral formation and sea life here is breathtaking, and the water’s hues change before your eyes. For the adventurous, a trip to Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a must. Hol Chan is Mayan for “little channel,” and is Belize’s oldest marine reserve. Snorkeling in the area leads swimmers to up-close-and-personal encounters with nurse sharks and stingrays.
Beachgoers can also spend a day relaxing at the popular Palapa Bar and Grill. Want to take your drink into the ocean and float the day away? Not a problem. Guests can bring their cocktails on large inner tubes and float out onto the crystal-clear water.