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Any trip to Belize is sure to include a stay on Ambergris Caye and/or Caye Caulker, both a part of the Northern Cayes, or islands, of Belize. Although only a twenty minute boat ride separates them, these two Cayes are worlds apart in terms of the travel experience available on each island.

For long-term travelers, backpackers or digital nomads, a trip through Belize on a tight budget can be a challenge and a choice might need to be made about which Caye to choose if a visit to both is impractical for budget or time purposes. Read on for a summary of the two Cayes to help decide which of these two strikingly different Cayes might be more your style.

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye, population 10,500, is the larger of the two islands by far and is much more developed than Caye Caulker. Also referred to as San Pedro, Ambergris Caye is more upscale than Caye Caulker – not only are there more than 50 hotels on the islands, there are also dozens of new condominium buildings which serve as retirement homes for American expats. The roads are paved and the island is big enough to use golf karts as their main means of transport, in such numbers that they can even cause traffic jams in San Pedro. There are several supermarkets in San Pedro including the large Island Supermarket, which, with its (overpriced) food and drink from the States, caters mainly to the American expat population.

The main reason that people visit is to go on diving or snorkeling trips, as the Mesoamerican reef is only half a mile from the West side of the island. There are beaches around San Pedro stretching along further south, and the town has several beach side restaurants.

We found that the tourists on Ambergris Caye were older and mainly American; there were hardly any backpackers – which might be due to the higher prices on the island (in comparison to Caye Caulker) for both accommodation and food.

Where to stay:

Pedro’s Inn is the only hostel, offering double rooms for  US$25.00

Ruby’s Hotel is in a great location right on the beach in San Pedro, a little bit run-down but the rooms have ensuite bathrooms and it is much better value for money than Pedro’s Inn. Double rooms are US$25.00

Ramon’s Village has beautiful beachside cabanas, a fabulous pool and a great beach. Rooms starting at US$145.00

Where to eat:

Elvi’s Kitchen has a big Maya buffet on Fridays

Caramba has cheap Mexican and Caribbean food

Latitudes Café has great breakfasts and smoothies

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is considerably smaller than Ambergris Caye, with a population of just 1,300. It has always been the backpacker destination of the Cayes, but the number of more expensive hotels is growing, including the brand new Caye Caulker Plaza. There is still plenty of budget accommodation, including one hostel – Yuma’s House, formerly Tina’s Backpackers. Restaurants and hotels are cheaper than on Ambergris Caye though, and the feel of Caye Caulker is much more laid back – ‘Go Slow’ is not without reason the island’s motto. Whereas San Pedro is busy with the whizzing of golf carts, on Caye Caulker most people are out and about on foot or bicycle.

The three unpaved roads are aptly named Front Street, Middle Street and Back Street. Front Street is on the west side of Caye Caulker where the ferries arrive and where most of the hotels and restaurants are located. The village measures not even one kilometer north to south, you can explore it in its entirety on a two hour walk.

Not surprisingly, infrastructure is limited, leaving tourists with very little choice. The lack of a swimming beach (lots of seagrass, no beachfront chill spots), leaves visitors the option of sunbathing and swimming at the Split on the north side of Caye Caulker, where a hurricane literally split the island in two.

The best thing to do on Caye Caulker is snorkeling or diving – there are various tour operators that offer boat trips to the Reef where snorkeling is excellent. Snokerling is fine, no need to dive really, as the water is very shallow).

Where to stay:

Yuma’s House, Caye Caulker’s hostel – Dorm US$12.00 per person, private room US$27.50

Jeremiah’s Inn – Rooms between US$15.00 (shared bathroom) and US$20.00 (private bathroom) in low season

Caye Caulker Plaza – Rooms are between US$49.00 and US$69.00 in low season

Where to eat:

Happy Lobster Big breakfasts (with strong coffee and free re-fills) and cheap food

Sandro’s -Very good Italian food, eat-in and take-away

Glenda’s – Long-established economic breakfast place on the island (apparently the best)

Lonely Planet has more restaurant suggestions for Caye Caulker, and a full list of accommodation can be found here.


We enjoyed Caye Caulker much more than Ambergris Caye. While Ambergris Caye was mainly filled with American expats and tourists, Caye Caulker attracted a much younger, more laid-back kind of traveler. It is on Caye Caulker where you meet other backpackers and because the island is so small, you meet people quickly as you continue to bump into each other frequently strolling up and down Front Street or in one of the restaurants. The locals are also much friendlier, starting a conversation with you and living the ‘go slow’ lifestyle and telling you: “Smile, you’re on vacation”.

How to get to the Cayes:

The Marine Terminal in Belize City has ferries running to both islands every 30 minutes.


US$10.00 Belize City to Caye Caulker

US$15.00 Belize City to San Pedro

US$10.00 Caye Caulker to San Pedro

Ambergris Caye has a small airport which is served by Tropic Airline and has hourly flights from Belize City.

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Tags : ambergris cayeambergris caye vs. caye caulkercaye caulkerisla de san pedro belize


  1. Interesting verdict…everything you describe as a positive on Caye Caulker are the reasons I love AC! LOL I just got back from my 6th year in a row down there. If you visit AC in the off season you may find a different scene. I have a ton of local friends on AC who I see every trip and we typically run into the same people – we go when there are not that many tourists, which I much prefer.

    Until about 2 years ago, Ambergris was a much different place – no paved roads and the only cars you ever saw were the taxi vans. The North was relatively undeveloped still because the bridge did not exist (it was a hand crank transport across). It’s completely exploded up there and it’s almost like two different islands now!

    Definitely don’t go to Island Supermarket – total rip off! Even the locals don’t go there. There are a ton of great eateries on Ambergris too – places where the locals eat are the best as you get cheap food – and a helpful tip…always bring a local friend along so you get their pricing! 🙂

    Perhaps I will have to try a night in Caye Caulker some time – I usually only do a day trip over with friends from a tour company and then I am ready to head back to AC. 🙂

    Glad to see someone promoting the Cayes in general – Belize is a beautiful place that many people skip over on their travels, which is a shame.
    Erin De Santiago recently posted..Our Tasty Travels Listed Among 50 Amazing Food and Travel Blogs by CulinaryArtsCollegeorg

  2. I like AC much better then CC as well. I travel to Belize a couple of times a year and try to spend 1/2 my time in AC and the other half in the jungle regions.

    CC is just too small and too slow when I go there, I travel in the off season mostly. I do try to spend a day or two in CC but in the off season there is almost no one there and you are asked a million times to buy this or buy that from the locals. No beach to speak of and almost zero night life.

    AC on the other hand is just a perfect mix of people in the off season for me. I am always running into people I meet all over the place on AC. I am not a party person but do enjoy listening to music in the evening and since AC does not roll up the carpet at 6pm there is always somewhere to chill at night.

    You should try spending some time inland. The jungle is really incredible!!

    1. Hi Sindy, It’s so interesting how split people are between the two Cayes! It really depends on what you like. How great that you get to go to Belize so often. We spent a few days inland – did the ATM tour and went to Barton Creek Cave, plus a small Mayan ruin right in town in San Ignacio. If we ever get back there, we’d visit Placencia and Orange Walk for sure. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I am too a huge fan of CC. I first traveed ther 21 years ago and have been going back ever since. CC has grown and, believe it or not, become more upbeat than it was in 1992. However, it still maintains a laid back approach to life that I crave. Nothing wrong with AC but for me, CC is the place ot be!

  4. the problem is the writer is really pretty ignorant. San Pedro is a town on AC, the two are not interchangeable. The population on AC falls into 2 groups expats are older but San Pedro is one of the Caribs premier dive towns and divers are mid to younger on average. San Pedro def is more bustling of the 2. The 5 stars are on AC, there are none on CC.

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