Stay at Cayo Espanto. The private-island resort of offers one new over-water bungalow and five over-land villas, aprivateisland.com. Ramon’s Village is a full-service resort (snorkel and dive tours are included) is located conveniently in the heart of San Pedro, but you’ll forget about the city sitting by its secluded pool or while lounging in its private beachside bungalos. It also helps that the resort has its own dock, with a fleet of dive boats ready to get you wet, ramons.com. Brahma Blue is brand new, it’s located on a remote spit and its upstairs suite may offer the best perch for sun- sets of any room on Ambergris Caye. A complimentary 5-minute boat ride takes you out to Brahma Blue, which offers unique west- facing luxury rooms overlooking numerous island Cayes — including one owned by Leonardo Dicaprio, brahmablue.com. On Ambergris Caye, Matachica is one of the island’s northernmost hotels. Lie in front of a red casita with a hammock strung across its porch. matachica.com
Eat at the Palmilla Restaurant, which is part of the luxurious Victoria House villas. It offers a decadent setting for a meal that won’t be forgotten. For those looking for romance, or who just want to indulge in the best of Ambergris Caye cuisine, go here, victoria-house.com. On the sandy streets of San Pedro, find Elvi’s Kitchen for Maya-style fish grilled in banana leaves.
Relax on Caye Caulker.Visit here for a new dimension of the manana-mindset. This small sleepy island is a favorite hideout for backpackers, or anyone who wants to disappear, or just lounge in a hammock for, well, a few weeks. To be sure, access to world class snorkeling, diving and flyfishing exists. Get to Caye Caulker via water taxi from any nearby Belize hub, or a fly in with Tropic Air. tropicair.com
Dive at the famed Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef with Ambergris Caye as your base. It’s the most famous dive in Belize, but the most popular with visitors are a pair of sites near San Pedro. Fish populations (particularly barracudas, groupers, and jacks) have boomed in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a passage through the barrier reef, where shallow waters alongside the “cut” make for easy snorkeling. Just to the south, nurse sharks and stingrays accustomed to leftovers from local fisherman have become the star attractions at Shark-Ray Alley. Snorkel with parrotfish, damselfish and rays at Hol Chan, a marine reserve that means “little channel” in Mayan.
Visit the nearby mainland, where the jungles are home to jaguars, birds beyond belief, and marvelous Mayan ruins — and you can still be back on the island to watch the sunset from your favorite bar. Three Mayan sites are popular with tours: Altun Ha, Xunantunich, and Lamanai, which is located on the New River (keep your eyes open for crocodiles and manatees, as well as the local troop of black howler monkeys and the more than 350 species of birds recorded here). Caves Branch Adventure Co. offers jungle tours for things like inner tubing through cave systems, exploring Mayan ruins or rappelling 200-feet into a giant collapsed cave (shown above). No experience necessary; certified guides lead the way. cavesbranch.com
Fish for tarpon as the white-sand tidal flats are magical on Ambergris. Tarpon — some topping 100 pounds — are caught year-round (May through November are peak months) on flats that can stretch for more than 50 miles. And purists take note: the tarpon here will hit a well-presented fly.
Learn more at travelbelize.org.