2024 Belize Beach Guide
Belize is one of Central America’s most popular tourist destinations. Formerly known as the British Honduras, the country is nestled between Mexico and Guatemala and is the only central american country where English is the official language.
Finding the best beach destinations in Belize is almost certainly one of your top priorities. Finding a great beach location to decompress and relax while enjoying the sand between your toes and gazing out at the Caribbean Sea is an excellent way to spend your Belize vacation.
The most northerly and by far the largest of the cayes is Ambergris Caye, separated from Mexico by the narrow Bacalar Chico channel, dug by the ancient Maya.
The island’s main attraction is the former fishing village of San Pedro, facing the reef just a few kilometers from the caye’s southern tip, 58km northeast of Belize City.
If you fly into San Pedro the views are breathtaking: the sea appears so clear and shallow as to barely cover the sandy bed, while the pure white line of the reef crest dramatically separates the vivid blue of the open sea from the turquoise water on its leeward side.
San Pedro is not a large town, but its population of two thousand is the biggest of any of the cayes.
Although you’re never more than a stone’s throw from the Caribbean – the town takes up the whole width of the island – in the built-up area most of the palms have died or been cut down, and traffic has increased in recent years, creating deep ruts (which become mud holes after rain) in the sandy streets.
But despite development, the town just about manages to retain its feeling of Caribbean charm, with two-storey, clapboard buildings still predominating in the center.
San Pedro is the main destination for most visitors to Belize, and the tourist industry here caters mainly for North Americans – almost all prices are quoted in US dollars. Some of the most exclusive hotels, restaurants and bars in Belize are here; the only budget places are in the original village of San Pedro.
Getting to Ambergris Caye from Belize City is simple. As well as half-hourly flights, there are regular fast boats, which take around ninety minutes to reach San Pedro.
Banana Beach Resort
Banana Beach is strategically located on the best stretch of Beach on Ambergris Caye, just far enough from the town of San Pedro for real tranquility.
The resort consists of one, two, three and four bedroom suites, with a fully furnished kitchen and living room area. Each bedroom has its own private bath. The two, three and four bedroom suites have jacuzzi bath tubs.
Private Balcony/Veranda rooms feature king beds, A/C, ceiling fan, cable TV, refrigerator, coffee maker, direct dial telephone, and in-room safe.
Snorkeling, diving, fishing, and trips to the Mayan Ruins and Jungle rivers can be arranged from Banana Beach.
Kayak and wind surfing rental is available from the resort’s dive shop, as well as golf cart and bicycle rental.
No visit to Ambergris Caye is complete without dining at Banana Beach’s new El Divino Caribbean Steakhouse and Martini Lounge. El Divino serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with its Brazilian-style rotisserie grill a house specialty.
Hopkins grew from a small fishing village and has thankfully maintained its seaside charm by resisting over-commercialization. The rich Garifuna heritage and small village vibe can be felt at every turn in the village. Hopkins is known for its friendly people, delicious local cuisine, amazing dive and snorkel sites, and access to exotic nature excursions. Hopkins, like Placencia, has a gorgeous coastline and plenty of beach towns to choose from.
Shaded by palm trees, cooled by the sea breeze, Placencia is one of the few places on mainland Belize with real beaches, and this, together with the abundant and inexpensive accommodation, makes it a great place to relax.
The easiest way to get to Placencia is on one of the regular flights from Belize City (about 45min). The airstrip is about 3km north of the village; taxis are usually waiting – or it’s a five-minute walk to Kitty’s Place, where you can phone for one.
There are usually two direct buses a day from Dangriga, which terminate at the beachfront station, right at the end of the peninsula (if you’re looking for budget rooms, get off when you see the sign for the Sea Spray Hotel, about halfway through the village, then head left for “the sidewalk”, a concrete walkway that winds through the palms, and you’ll reach a cluster of budget hotels and restaurants).
Alternatively you can reach Placencia on the Hokey Pokey ferry from Independence/Mango Creek, a thirty-minute trip across the lagoon (Independence is on the Dangriga-Punta Gorda bus route; the ferry meets all buses).
A shuttle bus (US$2.50) runs between Maya Beach and Placencia roughly every two hours from 6am to 7pm. The Gulf Cruza leaves Placencia for Puerto Cortйs in Honduras (US$50; 4hr), every Friday at 9.30am, returning to Placencia on Monday and leaving for Belize City (3hr, US$25) at 2.30pm.
The Placencia Tourism Center is the best place to find out what’s going on locally, and you can also call hotels from here and pick up a copy of the Placencia Breeze , which has comprehensive local listings.
Tobacco & South Water Cayes
About 20km offshore from Dangriga is Columbus Reef, a superb section of the Barrier Reef with tiny Tobacco Caye perched on its southern tip.
Ideally situated right in the middle of the reef, Tobacco Caye is easy to reach and has good-value accommodation. Boats leave daily from near the bridge in Dangriga, though there are no scheduled departures; ask at your hotel or find Captain Buck at the Riverside Restaurant.
The island is tiny: if you stand in the centre you’re only a couple of minutes from the shore in any direction, with the unbroken reef stretching north for miles.
Sunsets can be breathtakingly beautiful, outlining the distant Maya Mountains with a purple and orange aura.
The best value of the caye’s places to stay is Gaviota Coral Reef Resort, which offers cabins on the sand and less expensive rooms in the main building, all with shared bath.
Eight kilometers south and slightly larger, South Water Caye is arguably one of the most beautiful – and exclusive – islands in Belize and the focus of a marine reserve.
Like Tobacco Caye it sits right on the reef and offers fantastic snorkeling and diving in crystal-clear waters.
With one exception – the very low-key Bernie’s Cabins, a couple of small, brightly painted wooden cabins with shared bath – the island’s accommodation is upmarket and expensive and has to be booked in advance, generally as an all-inclusive package.
The Pelican Beach in Dangriga owns some idyllic wooden houses built on stilts over the white sand and shaded by palms, plus a two-storey hotel with five rooms.