Author: Peter Devana
Date of Trip: March 2014
I’m writing this review because i wanted to tell the truth about Ambergris Caye as my wife and I found it.
We decided to go there because of what Trip Advisor described as “the Best Island in the World”. We have lived on many islands and visited many more. We would go back to all of them but NOT to Ambergris Caye.
Getting there can be simple by air but we decided to go by Commercial Fast Ferry from Chetumal Mexico. It’s a very rough 2 hour transit and after paying exit fees, entry fees and boat fees( return) is very expensive. Well over $200!!
The Air fees are even more.
Once there you find that the Island is a very dusty, noisy place filled with Golf Carts, taxis, trucks , making walking around San Pedro , noisy, dusty and potentially dangerous as there does not appear to be any vehicular control. The roads in the town are sort of paved /or cobbled but not pleasant to use .The beach is the preferred way to move along the Island or take the expensive water taxis. The problem with the beaches is that 90% are non swimmable, because of the eel grass which is prevalent. If you do find a spot don’t venture out beyond the numerous jettys or you have a good chance of being hit by very fast boats which continually speed back and forth between the Island and the reef. If you want to snorkel the famous reef you must take a charter to do so. We took a 2 hour snorkel charter on the reef which cost $50 each and it was the cheapest we could find. We love to snorkel and that tour was great . Unfortunately free snorkelling around the Island off the eel grass beaches is very rare to find.
When it comes to dining, the food is mediocre at best and not very fresh as everything has to be brought from the mainland. Most was refrozen, thawed and then cooked. We only went to the highest recommended places so we can’t imagine how the others were. We were staying at a very nice beach front condo in San Pedro so were able to cook our own meals. That saved us but shopping for groceries usually took visits to several corner stores before we got what we wanted and most of the time we couldn’t get what we wanted and we were not looking for anything special, just fairly fresh meat and vegetables. Fresh meat products were almost non existent and even Fresh Fish was hard to find.
The Island is about 25 miles long, so on one of our 9 days there we decided to rent a Golf Cart and joined the mobs on the road. In town it was not pleasant as it was very busy dodging pedestrians, cabs, buses, bicycles etc. Once out of town we left the “good” roads to hit pothole country. I can’t imagine what it would be like to stay at one of the 5 star resorts outside of San Pedro as there are no lights along the road and driving or walking to town would be hazardous to say the least especially after dark. The best way would be to take an expensive Water taxi both ways and don’t stay out too late because the taxis shut down fairly early.
There are a few clubs for entertainment on the Island but we never went to any so can’t comment. During our day driving the Golf Cart we went both south of San Pedro to the south end, then back north through San pedro to the north end of the island. Going north there was a small waterway dividing the Island dug out by the Mayans at one time. Guess what they had a toll bridge set up which cost $5 to pass over. These people don’t miss a trick when it comes to fleecing the tourists. Regardless we paid and drove north to see some of the fancy resorts which turned out to be nothing special but very expensive! Because the road was a pothole nightmare to drive on we turned back after a few “butt breaking” miles and returned to San Pedro. Before taking our cart back early we decided to drive through the area of town where the locals live off the 2 main tourist streets.We were appalled at the shanty town we went through. We had never seen such unsanitary, poor living conditions anywhere we traveled in the world.
After 9 days we were really ready to leave and return to Yucatan. The one good thing is we didn’t get robbed although we were very careful not to walk around any secluded areas especially at night. Everyone speaks English on Ambergris so some may like that aspect. Because of that the cultural experience seems to be lacking but the people are friendly.
After returning to Canada we talked to friends who had been to a nearby island, Caulker Caye and they had the same experiences but also were robbed right in their condo. I guess we were lucky. On the mainland, Belize City also has a very bad reputation for crime.
If after reading this any of you go , be advised of what we have said. We are trying to do you a favour. Had I read a review such as this I would have saved a lot of money and made better use of my time.
We will never return.