If you have been following us on Instagram, you’ve seen us post some dreamy, tropical photos lately. After a few months of hard work at our day jobs while balancing the blog and home life, Eric and I were in desperate need of a getaway. With that, we met Eric’s family for some good, ol’ fashioned R and R in the sunshine and aqua ocean of San Pedro, Belize.
I think the main lesson for me during this vacation was to unplug! I’m a web designer by trade so I am constantly plugged in. The good news was internet connectivity was spotty. Just what I needed! Though it was tempting at first, I soon found myself only needing my phone to take a million, dreamy summer pictures. I even stopped paying attention to the time and what day it was. I call that a success! I was really able to finally relax for once and engulf myself in the tropical paradise of San Pedro.
This being my first real international trip (Mexico and Canada don’t count), I learned a lot about the culture of Belize and everything San Pedro has to offer.
Overview of San Pedro, Belize
San Pedro is a town on Ambergris Caye, which is the main island off of the shore of Belize and is a 15 minute plane ride from Belize City. Ambergris Caye also happens to be surrounded by the world’s second largest great barrier reef. The food on the island has Latin, Caribbean and Indian influences. There are three languages spoken; English, Spanish, and Belizean creole. Almost all Balizeans speak English due to Belize once being a part of Britain. It’s a great place to vacation for English speakers due to all of the signs being in English along with it being the dominant dialect.San Pedro also feels incredibly safe and the locals are very welcoming. Just don’t ask them for recommendations that would impede with their business – there seems to be a competitive attitude when it comes to the business owners. Housing is fairly expensive, especially if you’re looking for an all-inclusive resort. You’ll look at paying an upwards of $400-600 US. If you’re looking for something affordable, there are tons of Airbnb places to choose from. Our location was just north of the bridge; just far enough out of town for some peace and quiet, but close enough for a quick drive with the golf cart. All resorts and houses have a water problem and electricity issue. Due to the quick expansion of housing and hotels, the infrastructure has not been able to keep up with the growth. There were several times we were out of water. All the more reason to spend the day at the beach!
What to bring
Pack lightly and try to bring a carry on if you can – the airport can be quite chaotic. You really don’t need much due to island life culture and the very casual atmosphere. Make sure you do pack some coverage for your skin though. Due to the non-stop sunshine and the island’s proximity to the equator, the sun is relentless.This is what I packed:
- Flip flops
- Adidas water shoes (they look like tennis shoes but were made for the water, perfect for travel versatility.)
- Nice, flat sandals
- 3 bathing suits (bring at least one bathing suit that doesn’t have anything shiny on it as it will attract barracuda.)
- Rash guard with 50 SPF coverage (again, this was handy for my sunburned back when we went snorkeling for a second time.)
- Beach wrap (it doubled as a cover while walking around and something to sit on in the sand)
- Loose beach kimono cover-up with sleeves (comes in handy if your back gets a sunburn! You can use it with a sundress or over your bathing suit)
- Jean shorts
- Nike athletic shorts
- Nike athletic top
- Long, loose skirt (to cover up sunburned legs!)
- Short, casual skirt
- 2 t-shirts
- 2 tank tops
- 3 beach dresses
- 1 dressier beach dress (for nice dinners)
- Minimal jewelry
- Sun hat
- Head scarf and tons of hair ties (to tame my curls)
- Bug spray
- Sunblock (70 SPF for the face, 50 SPF for sunburn prone areas, and 30 SPF for my legs and arms)
- Chap-stick with sun protection
- Toiletries and minimal make up (trust me, you won’t want to wear much cosmetics due to mosquito bites and the heat melting it off.)
- Imodium and Pepto Bismol
What to expect
- Exchange rate for America is 2:1. All Belizean restaurants and shops will take US cash and credit cards so there’s no need to go to the bank to get Belizean currency.
- It’s not as cheap as you think. All prices for food, drinks, services, and goods have been bumped up to equal almost the value based on American money. For example, plates of food at a nicer restaurant are priced at $40-$60 in Belize currency. So you’re still paying $20-$30 on a plate of food. Local Belizeans said they do all of their shopping on the main land due to astronomical jumps in the prices.
- Haggle! Don’t buy it at the price you see it. Again, thanks to tourism, prices have been bumped much higher than their worth. If it looks like a vendor you can haggle the price with, definitely do so. They have beautiful embroidered and woven table runners I wanted to bring back home so I did a little price shopping. The lady on the beach was $75-175 (American) depending on the intricacy and length, the man on front street was $150-175 for the exact same work claiming he was the cheapest on the island. When we had told him the lady on the beach was cheaper for the same work, he quickly changed his prices to be lower. Then we found a shop down the street that had woven runners for $25.
- The local people a very nice. If you don’t know where you are, don’t be afraid to ask. You’ll be met with kindness and a great sense of humor.
- All you need to remember is front street, middle street, and back street. Front street is a one way that heads north towards the bridge. Middle street heads south towards the airport. Back street is a two way until a certain point and then turns into a one way, heading towards the airport. They have actual technical names, but this is what the locals call the streets.
- The main mode of transportation is golf carts! Everything within town is walking distance, but if you want to explore more of the island, I definitely recommend renting one.
- The vibe is very relaxed. Flip flops, beach covers, and bathing suits galore in the shops and restaurants. No shirt, no shoes? No problem!
- Monday’s are a dead zone. There’s not much of anything open so make that your beach day or excursion trip.
- Get your vaccinations well in advance as they take a little time to become effective (1-3 months in advance is what is recommended as it takes a few days for the vaccines to actually become active in your body). Head to the travel clinic closest to you and your doctor will be able to guide you with any preventive measures necessary.
- After getting the scoop from a Canadian who has now taken permanent residence, don’t drink the water or have ice with your drinks. The water is actually really good and is sourced from the island, but its the delivery system that becomes the issue. Some restaurants have filtered water but it’s hard to tell which don’t. In my opinion, it’s not worth the risk of spending a trip in a beautiful Latin/Caribbean country by the toilet.
- I got some mosquito bites but Eric did not and it is primarily a malaria free zone but I recommend getting 30% or higher Deet bug spray.
Where to eat
- Estelles for breakfast on the beach.
- Caliente for lunch and dinner on the beach (say hi to Kenneth for us and try his aunt’s key lime pie!).
- Pirates Loot for the brave that want to try lion fish (yes, real lion fish and it was delicious!).
- Belize Chocolate Company for delicious truffles with a tropical flare.
- Wild Mango and El Fogon for Belizean food fare.
- Red Ginger and Evoo for fancier dinners and a break from the sun in case you’ve gotten a sunburn.
- Stay away from Palapa Bar and Grill. It’s a hot spot for the bar scene (you can float in an inner-tube while they serve you drinks) but the service is terrible and they even served us raw chicken!
- Phoenix Resort for the best massages in San Pedro.
- Seastar Belize for snorkeling and then jump off the back of the boat and grab lunch at the Dive Bar after a day out on the ocean.
- Belizean Art for local art including paintings, jewelry, wood work, and painted gourdes.
- Friki Tiki Toucan for souvenirs.
- El Pescador for fishing.
Aside from a sunburn here and there and a couple of hours without water in our condo, we fell in love with the beautiful ocean and people of San Pedro, Belize. We hope you got a little mini vacation just looking at these photos.
Have you been to San Pedro, Belize? Please share your travel wisdom with our readers! Do you plan on going sometime soon? Let us know if you have any questions or need more recommendations!