Fuel your adventures in Ambergris Caye with local sushi and shellfish.
Long touted as a budget-friendly backpacker destination, Belize's mainland is home to cheerful hostels, verdant rainforests, and ancient Mayan ruins. But Ambergris Caye, a small stretch of an island in the Caribbean Sea, has become a hotspot for luxury travelers who like a bit of adventure with their beach vacation—whether it be in the form of saltwater fly fishing, diving into shark-infested waters, or new iterations of yoga.
And now, with nine US cities, including New York and LA, flying direct into Belize City’s Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, it’s easier to get to than ever. Ambergris Caye is a 20-minute prop-plane flight from San Pedro, the island’s charming central town where golf carts are the primary mode of transportation.
Where to Stay
Just-opened Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club is set across 60 lushly-planted acres. At its private beach club, a 10-minute boat ride from the main resort, you’ll find palapas, water sports, and over-the-water day beds. As the country’s first resort from a luxury brand, the 205 rooms and villas are airy and spacious, with hand-crafted furnishings made from Belizean mahogany wood.
Xanadu Island Resort has comfortable, quaintly-furnished studios and suites. The beachfront property has kept natural vegetation on half of their grounds and created a nature walk, which means on any given stroll through the grounds, you might see iguanas, hermit crabs, and a few of the more than 600 bird species that call the country home.
Take a quick golf-cart drive into town to grab some breakfast. The beachfront Latitudes Cafe has a menu that includes traditional Belizean fare like black beans, plantains, egg, and fresh fruit.
Then, head out on a catamaran with SEAduced by Belize for a half-day of snorkeling and exploration. Thanks to environmental regulations, Belize is home to the second-largest barrier reef in the world. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is rife with marine life; you’re likely to see eagle rays, parrotfish, yellowtail, snapper, and even a loggerhead sea turtle or two.
After snorkeling, you’ll head to Shark Ray Alley where you’ll find an abundance of local nurse sharks, stingrays, and horse-eyed jacks. It’s up to you whether or not you want to dive off the boat. (All three are entirely harmless, and there’s no better vacation Instagram than a photo from Belize’s crystal-clear waters, teeming with sharks.)
Afterward, you’re just a 10-minute boat ride away from rustic laid-back Caye Caulker. The restaurant's catch of the day—usually grouper—can be prepared grilled or steamed, served alongside fresh veggies.
Spend the afternoon resting poolside or getting in a quick workout back at your hotel before heading into San Pedro for dinner at Elvi’s Kitchen. Here, locals dine on coconut shrimp and sip Belikin, a local beer. For a lighter meal, try the sopa de lima, a lime-heavy chicken soup, alongside a fresh ceviche. The owner, Doña Elvia, has been living in San Pedro for more than 80 years and running her namesake restaurant for nearly 40.
Get up early to grab a bite from The Hive, a self-proclaimed health food shack located on Mahogany Bay’s property that offers items like oatmeal with tropical fruit.
This part of the world is home to some of the best saltwater fly-fishing on earth. Depending on your experience level, your guide from Blue Bonefish (many of whom are second- and third-generation fishermen) can take you out to search for bonefish, tarpon, or permit.
If you’re a new angler, you can spend your day trawling the shallow, warm waters on foot, learning the basics of how to cast, how to set a line, and, hopefully, reel in your first bonefish. Also called “ghosts of the flat,” these small, silvery fish give quite the adrenaline rush once hooked, often running for more than 100 yards before allowing themselves to be reeled in.
Eat a light lunch at Jyoto, Chef Toshiya Tsujimoto’s sushi restaurant at Mahogany Bay Village. The internationally-pedigreed chef uses local fish and crustaceans including spiny lobster, skipjack, and even ballyhoo, a tiny baitfish.
Once you’ve digested, it’s time to hang out—literally—during a yoga class at Science & Soul Wellness, a brand-new studio with purple silk hammocks dangling from the ceiling. The beginner aerial class is an invigorating, energizing practice that will let you work deeper into inversions, fire your core muscles, and encourage proper alignment.
Your last dinner on the island is at The Verandah, a fine-dining restaurant that focuses on farm-to-table cuisine. Start with spiced watermelon gazpacho and finish with a vegan mousse, made from Belizean chocolate and coconut. Even the cocktails skew local and tropical, without being overly saccharine—try the Fire Coral, a blend of tequila, papaya, and aquafaba.