San Pedro is the most popular destination for Americans in Belize (to the point that you can get a protein smoothie just about anywhere). It’s a short plane ride from the main airport in Belize City, full of delicious restaurants, and great for anyone who enjoys a little hustle and bustle while on vacation.
The drawback of San Pedro? There isn’t much of a beach scene. But if you like adventure (but don’t like getting places efficiently) you can rent a golf cart to make the trek to Secret Beach. Belize is a place I would absolutely go back to; here’s how I spent three days in San Pedro with my hubby.
Belize is an easy flight from most places in the US. Once you fly into Belize City on a regular airplane, you take a terrifyingly small plane to Ambergris Caye (key not cay), where San Pedro is located. I sobered up very quickly (thanks Southwest drink tickets) when I saw the little baby plane we had to get on – Billy practically bent in half just to get on it. But the ride was smooth and the views were insanely gorgeous.
The San Pedro airport is tiny but surprisingly busy. We were walking distance to our Airbnb and quickly learned that the streets of San Pedro aren’t the most pedestrian-friendly. There are golf carts EVERYWHERE, to the point that it’s like being in regular car traffic as they buzz all around you.
Note: I consider anything within 3/4 to a full mile walking distance, particularly somewhere like Belize where you’re at sea level and it’s flat as a pancake.
Where to Stay
To be upfront, wherever we go, we don’t look for the fanciest accommodations. We basically look for the most affordable that’s still doable and relaxing. However, it is worth it to spend money on air conditioning if you’re there for the winter. We went in February 2018 and I personally wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night without air conditioning.
We loved our AirBnb, Zen Belize. Sure, it was basic, but it was a great studio and Frank was a fantastic host. He set us up for snorkeling (more on that momentarily) and was full of local suggestions. Plus, there are yoga classes on the top floor of the building in the morning that we got to attend for free as guests.
**As of March 2020 it looks like Frank is no longer the owner of Zen Belize, but there is still a room available. I can’t guarantee the same experience, but linked to the new listing above.**
Grab breakfast at Estel’s (walk along the beach to avoid golf cart traffic). Be prepared for the seaweed in the morning – it’s a little bit smelly, but there are seemingly endless people employed to rake it away (I’m not sure how I feel about this). We happened to be there during an especially bad week for seaweed, but we didn’t mind.
Estel’s breakfast is phenomenal. We made sure to order fry jacks, a quintessential Belizean food. It’s basically fried bread…and it’s SO good. I got banana pancakes, and of course assumed the bananas would be on the pancakes, so when they arrived seemingly banana-less I flagged down our waiter. I immediately felt like that annoying white lady because the waiter politely told me they were…in the pancake mix. After realizing the error of my ways (and blushing just a little bit), I enjoyed some ridiculously good banana pancakes.
Ramon’s Village Resort is a fancy resort right on the beach, but if you buy a drink at the bar, you can lounge in their beach chairs. Seaweed or no seaweed, all I cared about was the sun, palm trees, a good book, and a nice rum drink. I finally felt like I was thawing out from the Denver winter.
Hang out at Ramon’s for as long as you like. We left in time to make sure we could do a beach walk with some shelter dogs. The local animal shelter lets you take the adoptable pups out for a stroll! Zen Belize is right by the Saga Humane Society, so after some time in the air conditioning and a quick change, we walked over. The staff is super friendly, and you can pick whichever dog(s) you like to go for a walk. They’ll tell you a little about them and then hand over the leash.
Word of warning: we were very close to bringing a dog home with us (that we so don’t have the ability to take good care of) so make sure to bring your willpower! The dogs love getting out and you can tell that the time to stretch their legs and get loved on totally makes their day.
After a shower, hit up Hungry Grouper for dinner. This place is so good we went back multiple times. Get any fish blackened or the garlic shrimp, and don’t miss the coconut cream boat dessert. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Rent a golf cart and head to Secret Beach. Buckle in for a LONG drive. It’s slow and even bumpier than you’re imagining. We stopped halfway at Akbol Yoga Retreat and Ecoresort for lunch, and after a few rum drinks, the drive seemed more tolerable (not so for my sober husband driving). Secret Beach was totally gorgeous, but just be emotionally prepared for a long drive home that you really wish could go smoother and faster.
Despite the name, “Secret Beach” is not secret at all. There are signs at multiple locations along the way, and it has a bit of a tourist trap feeling when you get there with multiple bars next to one another. But after the journey, it’s still a nice escape from the craziness of San Pedro and it’s pretty much the only real beach on Ambergris Caye.
We didn’t come back until dinner time, and went back to the Hungry Grouper. Tragically, they were out of coconut cream boats that night, but the blackened snapper was so good that I didn’t even mind. If you don’t want to go to the same restaurant two nights in a row, we also heard great things about several other places including Elvi’s Kitchen and Caroline’s Cookin.
Snorkeling is a must do while you’re in San Pedro, and I’ve already written a whole guide for that. Going snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve is hands down one of the coolest things I’ve EVER done, so book with Belize Pro Dive Shop and thank me later. Book the morning snorkel trip to get the best chance at nice weather, and nap it off once you’ve gotten back.
Once you’ve napped and showered and are ready to hit the town again, head over to the Palapa bar. The food is just okay, but the real fun is the floating inner tubes (with a pulley system to get drinks delivered to you). You’ve got nearly 360-degree views of teal blue water and the drinks are yummy. Try the electric lemonade (as long as you have no shame about your mouth turning blue…I didn’t). Don’t forget your sunscreen. It’s easy to forget how hot it is when you’re partially submerged in the water (which, might I add, was the perfect temperature in late February).
San Pedro has a lot of great restaurant options, but I was hellbent on getting some coconut shrimp after breaking out of land-locked Colorado. Blue Water Grill delivered, and although drinks were on the pricier side, it’s right on the beach and the food was delicious. A great way to cap off your three days in San Pedro! Whether you’re headed inland or to another beach town, San Pedro is the perfect introduction to this amazing country.