Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro

Post originally Published February 2, 2024 || Last Updated February 3, 2024

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Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Escape the Hustle and Bustle of Belize City

Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro

Perched on the northeastern coast of Ambergris Caye, the town of San Pedro provides a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of Belize City. As the cultural and economic hub of Belize, Belize City is a crowded, chaotic place with some crime concerns. San Pedro, on the other hand, exudes a relaxed, small-town charm that encourages visitors to slow down and soak up the seaside serenity.

Roughly 9 miles east of Belize City, Ambergris Caye feels worlds away from the traffic jams, noise, and pollution of the mainland. A 20-minute flight or 90-minute ferry ride transports you to this Caribbean paradise, where golf carts whiz down sandy roads lined with colorful beach bars, boutique hotels, and souvenir shops. With no buildings taller than a palm tree, the island boasts a delightfully low-key ambiance.

As traveler Samantha S. describes, "If you're looking to get away from the crowds, San Pedro is the place to be. My husband and I instantly relaxed the moment we arrived. We spent our days swimming and snorkeling, then grabbed dinner at a different seaside restaurant each night. It was so nice to ditch the frenetic energy of Belize City."

Similarly, Mark R. explains, "Ambergris Caye is my happy place. I own a stressful business back home, so San Pedro is the ideal spot to unwind. Cracking open a Belikin beer while watching the sunset over the reef quickly melted my anxieties away. The slower pace of life helped me focus on what really matters."

While San Pedro sees its share of tourists, development has been cautious, retaining the town's quirky character. Visitors tired of Belize City's generic chain stores and restaurants will appreciate San Pedro's homegrown businesses and authentic culture. From small family-run hotels to street food vendors dishing up traditionalBelizean fare, San Pedro offers an intimate portal into everyday island life.

Intrepid traveler Amanda G. echoes this sentiment: "Unlike Belize City, San Pedro doesn't cater to mass tourism. It feels lived-in rather than artificial. Exploring the side streets and chatting with the friendly locals gave me insight I never could have gleaned in a big city. San Pedro revealed the heart of Belize."

What else is in this post?

  1. Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Escape the Hustle and Bustle of Belize City
  2. Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Laze on Ambergris Caye's Pristine Beaches
  3. Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Snorkel the Mesoamerican Reef, the Longest in the Western Hemisphere
  4. Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Savor Fresh Seafood at Local Restaurants and Shacks
  5. Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Wander Around Quaint San Pedro Town
  6. Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Go Fishing, Sailing, or Kayaking in the Turquoise Waters
  7. Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Explore Mayan Ruins on the Mainland
  8. Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Relax at a Beachfront Inn or Luxury Resort

Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Laze on Ambergris Caye's Pristine Beaches

With over 25 miles of coastline, Ambergris Caye is blessed with an abundance of spectacular beaches. From secluded stretches of powdery white sand to lively spots with beach bars and water sports, there's a beach for every mood and desire.

One of the island's most famous beaches is at X'Tan Ha Resort. As avid beachgoer Mark S. describes, "X'Tan Ha has it all - soft sand, gentle waves, palm trees for shade. I could spend all day lounging on a beach chair under a palapa, cocktail in hand. The resort rakes the seaweed daily, so the vibe is pristine luxury."

Further north, Secret Beach provides a taste of paradise. Accessible only by boat or golf cart, this remote hideaway lives up to its name. "Secret Beach was the highlight of our trip," shares first-time visitor Amanda J. "My boyfriend and I had the entire stretch of ivory sand to ourselves. If you want a secluded spot to sunbathe au naturel, this is it."

For an upbeat atmosphere, hang out at Ramon's Village beach bar. With reggae music, beach volleyball, and bonfires at night, it draws a lively crowd. "Ramon's makes me feel like I'm at spring break again! Their famous piña coladas are crazy good too," exclaims return guest Greg T.

On the leeward shore, snorkelers flock to Mexico Rocks Beach. The underwater scenery is sublime. "I was blown away by the colorful fish, coral, sea turtles and even small sharks I saw while snorkeling here," reveals marine enthusiast Ryan G. "The beach itself has fluffy beige sand that squeaks under your feet."

Further south near the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site, beachcombers adore Coconut Beach. Calm waters create pleasant swimming conditions while coconut palm trees deliver refreshing shade. "With few services, Coconut Beach feels untouched and wild," notes nature lover Elena R. "I beachcombed for hours, collecting some amazing seashells."

No matter your pace, there's a stretch of sand on Ambergris Caye ready to meet your needs. As San Pedro local Sophia G. confirms, "Our beaches have something special for every visitor. You can party at Ramon's Village or find total tranquility at Secret Beach. Or just stake out a spot and experience bliss."

Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Snorkel the Mesoamerican Reef, the Longest in the Western Hemisphere

Stretching over 700 miles from the northern tip of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula down to the Bay Islands of Honduras, the Mesoamerican Reef is a diver and snorkeler’s paradise. As the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and second largest in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the ecological significance of this underwater wonder cannot be overstated.

Ambergris Caye sits right in the heart of the reef, providing easy access to explore this aquatic world teeming with exotic marine life. Whether you take a quick snorkel trip from one of San Pedro’s many piers or embark on a day-long excursion to more distant sites, you’ll be awed by the diversity and vibrancy of the reef.
As certified SCUBA instructor Mark W. confirms, “The reefs off Ambergris Caye left me speechless. As I floated weightlessly through the crystal clear waters, I felt like I had entered an alien planet. Vibrant purple sea fans and coral formations of every shape and color surrounded me. Fish of all stripes – angelfish, parrotfish, blue tang – darted through clouds of iridescent plankton.”

Snorkelers can easily access the reef right from shore. As San Pedro local Michael G. advises, “Some of the best snorkeling spots are just off the end of the piers behind hotels like X’Tan Ha and Mata Rocks. I saw moray eels, yellowtail snappers, barracudas and even an octopus on one outing alone!”

Many visitors join snorkeling tours to reach more remote areas, like Mexico Rocks and Hol Chan Marine Reserve, world-renowned for its abundance of nurse sharks, stingrays, sea turtles and colorful coral. “Taking a guided tour opened my eyes to just how special and fragile the Mesoamerican Reef is,” notes first-time snorkeler Amanda T. “Learning about efforts to protect the reef gave me a new appreciation for this natural wonder.”

While some sections show damage, most of the reef remains healthy, providing an urgently needed buffer against tropical storms. As marine biologist Dr. Elena Gomez explains, “With climate change threatening reefs worldwide, the Mesoamerican Reef's resilience gives me hope. But continued conservation is critical. When people experience the beauty and diversity firsthand while snorkeling, they gain motivation to protect this global treasure.”

Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Savor Fresh Seafood at Local Restaurants and Shacks

As an island destination, Ambergris Caye provides bountiful access to freshly caught seafood. From upscale restaurants to ramshackle beach shacks, visitors can indulge in the day’s catch prepared in delicious local styles.

At Elvi’s Kitchen in downtown San Pedro, guests rave about the coconut shrimp and whole fried snapper. “The flavors at Elvi’s bring me right back to my childhood in Belize,” shares San Pedro native Marcos G. “ Their seafood dishes honor old family recipes with care and pride.”

Also in town, Blue Water Grill draws crowds for its tropical takes on ceviche. Amanda T. recounts her meal: “We started with ceviche tostadas pairing mahi mahi soaked in citrus with mango salsa and avocado. Then came Caribbean bouillabaisse brimming with lobster, shrimp, scallops and local fish in a rich saffron tomato broth. Heavenly.”

Further north, X’Tan Ha’s beachfront restaurant offers upscale yet relaxed dining. Their signature Sarteneja shrimp skewers glazed with brandy and coconut milk earn consistent applause. “Watching the sunset with X’Tan Ha’s shrimp skewers and a mojito was pure magic,” swoons Mark S.
For cheaper, more casual eats, head to roadside shacks like Carlo & Ernie’s Runway Bar & Grill. Their whole fried snapper is a favorite among locals. Michael G. recommends, “Get the snapper fried crisp with homemade tarter sauce and washed down with a Belikin beer. No frills, just delicious, inexpensive food.”

At Estel’s by the Sea, diners savor blackened catch of the day tacos and tangy ceviche under a traditional palapa hut. “You can’t beat Estel’s beachfront location – it’s the perfect spot for barefoot meals of super fresh seafood,” shares Amanda J.

Often the best eats come from unnamed shacks only identifiable by a handwritten menu or chalkboard sign. Foodie Sophia G. suggests, “Don’t pass up the chance to grab grilled shrimp kabobs or whole fried fish from a no-name beach shack. The simplicity and flavors are unmatched.”

Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Wander Around Quaint San Pedro Town

Unlike the bustling streets of Belize City, the heart of San Pedro beats to a quieter rhythm that encourages aimless wandering. Free of chaotic traffic and crowds, the sandy roads and rustic side streets here unveil a vibrant culture waiting to be explored up close. Mingle with friendly locals, discover hole-in-the-wall eateries serving authentic cuisine, peruse shops selling handmade crafts, and immerse yourself in the island's unique heritage.

Avid wanderer Mark S. recounts his experience getting lost in San Pedro: "I ditched my map and just followed my intuition, allowing my feet to take me wherever they wanted. I stumbled upon unmarked barbeque shacks emitting the smoky aroma of sizzling ribs, tiny galleries selling paintings by local artists, and mom-and-pop stores brimming with Belizean spices and hot sauces. Wandering aimlessly gave me insight into daily life beyond the tourist bubble."

Indeed, without a set agenda, you're bound to have pleasant surprises. Long-time visitor Amanda G. describes one of hers: "While wandering the backstreets one morning, I happened upon a shop displaying traditional Garifuna drums. Struck by their craftsmanship, I went inside and met Miguel, a drummer from the Garifuna community. We ended up chatting for over an hour as he explained the cultural significance of drumming. It was such a rewarding experience."

Wandering also builds your sense of direction, as Greg T. discovered: "At first, I found the winding streets confusing until I started wandering without any particular place to go. After a few days, I began recognizing landmarks and intersections. I felt like I was unlocking the secrets of the town's layout."

For many travelers, getting intentionally lost allows them to find parts of themselves. Yoga teacher Elena R. shares her perspective: "There's a peace that comes from wandering with no agenda or timeline. My mind settles into the present moment. Without the distraction of a to-do list, I gain clarity about what matters most to me. These insights ripple into other areas of my life."

Even dining becomes more adventurous when wandering. Foodie Michael G. recommends trying this: "I let my appetite and nose guide me to little family-run eateries. One night I followed the aroma of fry bread all the way to a nameless window selling salbutes heaped with chicken, avocado, and pickled onions. It was delicious and cost just a couple dollars."

Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Go Fishing, Sailing, or Kayaking in the Turquoise Waters

Gliding across the crystalline waters off Ambergris Caye in a kayak, sailboat or fishing skiff allows up-close exploration of the island’s turquoise fringes. Dip your paddle into sapphire bays that glow radiant in the tropical sun. Let the breeze fill your sails as you skim atop gentle swells, weaving between shoals and mangrove islets. Or cast your line in hopes of reeling in a prize catch for dinner. However you choose to experience San Pedro’s aquatic bounty, days spent boating, sailing and fishing promise both adventure and relaxation against a supremely scenic backdrop.

Avid sailor Mark W. enthuses about his days charting the island’s leeward coast: “Sailing along Ambergris Caye’s western shore with the wind at my back was phenomenal. I had the same exhilarating feeling of freedom I first experienced while learning to sail as a boy in Boston, only now the icy Atlantic waters were replaced by balmy turquoise Caribbean seas. Exploring beyond the reef, my vessel glided over swimming rays and turtles. Closer to shore, I anchored at remote beaches for swimming and snorkeling.”

For Rosa G., kayaking provided a special connection to San Pedro’s marine environment: “Paddling a kayak, I felt immersed in the natural rhythms of the sea, waves lapping gently against my boat. As I peered down through crystalline waters, I encountered brilliant parrotfish, flashing silvery in the sunlight. I paddled through thickets of crimson mangroves, each root a tiny nursery for marine life. Kayaking gave me a profound appreciation for Ambergris Caye’s fragile beauty.”

Of course, many visitors opt to experience these waters by fishing pole. Local guide Carlos G. details the rich angling opportunities: “The flats between Ambergris Caye and Mexico offer world-class fly fishing for bonefish, permit and tarpon. Out beyond the reef, you’ll hook snapper, barracuda, jacks and grouper. Or fish the calmer shoreline waters for snook. An early morning charter is ideal. The area teems with tropical fish, and the views of the sunrise are spectacular.”

For Mark S., each fishing excursion unveiled San Pedro’s biodiversity: “On my first morning charter, I battled a feisty barracuda, glistening green and silver, before releasing it. Later, I snagged a massive cubera snapper, its crimson body ablaze in the noonday sun. At sunset, I reeled in a leopard grouper, its brown body splotched with psychedelic blue polka dots. The variety was astounding.”

Of course, many charters practice sustainable catch-and-release fishing. As guide Carlos explains: “We want future generations to experience the same abundance. Fishing here engenders a sense of stewardship for these waters’ ecological wealth.”

Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Explore Mayan Ruins on the Mainland

Though Ambergris Caye offers endless opportunities for relaxation, many visitors take a day trip to the Belizean mainland to explore the country’s rich Mayan heritage. Scattered across Belize are ancient stepped pyramids, temple complexes, ball courts and plazas that provide a window into the rituals, architecture and daily life of the Maya. By heading inland to sites like Altun Ha, Lamanai and Xunantunich, you’ll gain insight into one of history’s great civilizations.
Just an hour drive from Belize City, Altun Ha makes for an easy day trip to experience Mayan ruins up close. The main temple of El Pilar at Altun Ha soars 54 feet above Plaza B, inviting you to climb to its peak for panoramic views of the surrounding jungle canopy. Gaze down upon intricately carved stone figures of Mayan gods once worshipped here. Marvel at the craftsmanship of the temple masons who transported limestone blocks from quarries several miles away using only ropes and logs. Let your imagination wander back to Altun Ha’s heyday in the Classic Period, when priests presented offerings to the gods atop El Pilar and crowds gathered in the plaza below for religious ceremonies.

At Lamanai, longer boat journeys reward visitors with ruins in a more pristine jungle setting. While many guests choose to stay overnight at the onsite lodge, visiting Lamanai on a day trip from San Pedro is doable. Rising above the forest, Jaguar Temple is sure to spark wonder with its 9-foot stone mask of a Mayan king believed to transform into a jaguar at night. Climbing High Temple, the views of the New River and surrounding rainforest seem endless. Descending crocodile-spotting from the boat ride adds another level of adventure.
For one of Belize’s most spectacular Mayan sites, schedule a day trip to Xunantunich just across the border in Guatemala. After taking a hand-cranked cable ferry across the Mopan River, arrive at temples boasting intricate friezes depicting Mayan rulers, gods and mythology. El Castillo pyramid towers 130 feet into the jungle canopy, its height providing majestic vistas. Between admiring the view and learning about the site’s unique history from your guide, you’ll come away with a richer appreciation of the Mayan civilization.

Savor the Slow Pace and Seaside Serenity of San Pedro - Relax at a Beachfront Inn or Luxury Resort

After days spent exploring Ambergris Caye’s beaches, reefs, and jungle, pamper yourself with a stay at one of San Pedro’s many inviting lodging options. Choose from intimate beachfront inns to indulgent luxury resorts where you can unwind in style against a scenic backdrop.
For a cozy, romantic vibe, couples adore Xanadu Island Resort. Their seaside cottages feature four-poster beds, Jacuzzi tubs, and private porches just steps from the Caribbean Sea. “Xanadu was the perfect honeymoon escape,” shares newlywed Mark S. “Falling asleep to the sound of waves and waking up to ocean views made us feel worlds away from the stress of wedding planning.” Complimentary use of bikes, kayaks and paddleboards adds to the laidback ambiance.
Further south, Corona Del Mar immerses you in tropical tranquility with a stunning beach and pool flanked by blooming foliage. “I felt like I was at a luxury resort, yet the Mexican-style architecture and friendly staff gave Corona Del Mar warmth,” explains Amanda G. One highlight for many is dining beachside by tiki torch light at the inn’s restaurant, My Secret Deli.
Forfamilies, Ramon’s Village Resort ranks among San Pedro’s top choices. From beachfront dining to pools with waterslides, Ramon’s keeps kids entertained. Parents appreciate the spacious suites and villa rentals. “It was so nice to relax on my patio while my daughter made friends at Ramon’s kids’ club,” shares mom Elena R. “At the beach bar, she loved watching the fire dancers perform at sunset.”

Seeking luxury? Victoria House defines tropical elegance with plantation-style rooms, a palm-fringed pool, onsite restaurants and a spa surrounded by blooming gardens. “From the moment I stepped into the open-air lobby, I felt transported,” describes honeymooner Amanda J. Highlights like beach yoga and cocktails on the pier enhance the opulent yet laidback ambiance.

For Rosa G., a stay at The Phoenix Resort meant experiencing Belize’s beauty without sacrificing amenities. Mediterranean-inspired suites overlook the pool and palm-fringed beach, while Tiki-lit dinners at Red Ginger transport you to the South Pacific. “My husband and I indulged in massages at the spa between snorkeling excursions,” Rosa says. “The Phoenix combined luxury with adventure.”

Of course, San Pedro excels at barefoot elegance. At beachfront Alaia Belize, airy rooms open onto the sand while the oceanview pool beckons. “I loved Alaia’s tranquil esthetic and kindness of the staff,” shares Mark W. “I spent mornings practicing yoga on the pier before exploring the island.”

On secluded Secret Beach, MarDeVilla Suites wows guests with a location evoking desert island fantasies. “Staying at MarDeVilla felt like we had a private slice of paradise,” reveals Mark S. Nightly bonfires, stargazing from the dock and outdoor rain showers round out the romantic experience.

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