Some people would likely have trouble locating Belize on a map. Nestled just south of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and east of Guatemala, Belize has become a hot spot for Americans seeking a new escape on the Caribbean waters. And Ambergris Caye (pronounced am-BERG-gis key, by the locals) is a tropical oasis touting crystal-clear turquoise waters and luxury accommodations a mere 15-minute plane ride from the mainland.
Belize offers a rich culture of Mayan ancestry with a strong Caribbean and Mexican influences coupled with amazing tropical weather. With diving spots like the Blue Hole located right off the shore of the Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world, it is no wonder that divers, snorkelers and water lovers alike are starting to explore this country.
Ambergris Caye is a quiet little island which offers no major hotel chains. Instead, the hotels and resorts are either condo or island-hut style dwellings. Resorts like the Grand Caribe Resort pair modern amenities like stainless steel appliances and granite countertops with Caribbean décor and astounding oceanfront views just steps away from the beach. Water taxis run frequently from various piers on the island into San Pedro town, where visitors and locals frequent various restaurants, souvenir shops and one of the most peaceful shorelines in the world. Further, according to ambergriscaye.com, eco-tourism is a budding area that the largest island in Belize hopes to expand in the future. And with frequent trips to the mainland for cave tubing, ziplining, and tours of ancient Mayan ruin sites like Xunantunich (which was the very cultural site visited by Prince Harry in March of 2012), visitors can get an exhilarating view of Mayan ruins and neighboring Guatemala and experience all that the Yucatan Peninsula has to offer.
Various airlines offer discounts on miles and flights during ‘off peak’ time periods. For example, a traveler can obtain a roundtrip award flight from the U.S. into Belize City (BZE) on American Airlines for only 30,000 during off peak scheduling periods, which is defined as between January 16-June 14 and September 7-November 14 of each year. That is only 5,000 more miles than it costs for a domestic flight in the continental United States on American. And the tropical temperatures of 85-90 degrees in February make it quite worth the few extra miles.
While the azure blue waters, shallow shorelines and world-class snorkeling and diving certainly make the trip worthwhile, the real draw is the people. Everyone is friendly and genuinely cares whether the visitors are enjoying themselves. This congenial spirit, coupled with the fact that one can feel relatively safe perusing the local street food vendors, bars and nightclubs at 3 a.m. is a major draw for this up-and-coming hot spot.