San Pedro is the main town of the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize and is believed to be the town that inspired Madonna’s ‘La Isla Bonita’ song from 1987. Back then San Pedro was a small fishing village but since then population has grown around 16,500.
Belize was part of the British Empire from 1862 before gaining independence in 1981 and English is the primary language. The currency is the Belize dollar which is always interchanged with the US dollar at an exchange rate of US$1 to BZ$2. Indeed, you can pay for any food, drinks or meals using either but at times you just need to be clear which ‘dollar’ is being referred to!
With its colourful wooden buildings and block paved main street, San Pedro has a laid back Caribbean feel with distant sounds of Calypso and Reggae music which you can hear coming from low key bars as you walk around. Golf carts are the primary method of transport rather than cars or motorbikes. Like the locals and tourists who drive them they chug happily along in the sun at around 15 – 20 mph.
Belize is in the Atlantic hurricane path and was unfortunately hit full-on by Hurricane Earl only 2 weeks ago. The damage is evident along the beaches with wood and debris piled up and locals repairing their structures and rebuilding their livelihoods. Almost all of the piers seemed to have been severely damaged with some being completely destroyed.
We called into the ‘Pineapples on the Beach‘ hotel for a drink and the barman explained that until 2 weeks ago they had a majestic pier which lit up at night, attracted fish and enabled you to go night snorkelling. Sadly this is now a pile of broken wood…
The main attraction of San Pedro and the Cayes is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Since being established as a sanctuary in 1987 there has been a dramatic return of fish and marine life.
We were fortunate to have a fantastic morning snorkelling in the reserve with an abundance of the largest fish we’ve ever snorkelled with and also large numbers of nurse sharks and sting rays. Below are a selection of photos: