Ambergris Caye, the largest of the 200-plus cayes (islands) located off the Belize coast, remains the most populated (15,000 residents) and most popular caye in Belize. Although part of the Central American country of Belize, it is more often compared to other popular Caribbean islands.
Once a sleepy fishing town, it morphed into a divers’ mecca in the 1960's due to the proximity of the spectacular barrier reef, located only ½ mile offshore and visible from the eastern beaches.
In 2009, Ambergris Caye was voted "Best Island to Retire On" by Islands Magazine and "Best Island in the Americas" by Travel & Leisure Magazine.
This once sleepy island now offers most of the amenities that a typical North American or European expatriate expects, while still retaining the laid back, healthy lifestyle that appeals to big city escapees. A reliable infrastructure, that includes high speed DSL, is available near town and continues to advance north and south to meet the growing demand.
There are many high-quality, hip restaurants both in town and along the coast, night clubs with diverse music and bands, specialty wine stores, locally roasted coffee beans, fresh meat, seafood and produce stores, and specialty delicatessens. It is, however, an island, so there is a cost associated with shipping goods. On Ambergris Caye, accommodations and restaurants are available for all budgets.
The local population is comprised of a diverse mix of cultures, languages, and ethnic groups, with the Mayan, Spanish, Garifuna, Creole, Mestizo, Lebanese, Chinese, East Indian, and Caucasian races and cultures having peacefully co-existed and inter-married. English is the primary spoken language on Ambergris Caye, but there is a large Hispanic community in San Pedro Town. There are many island events, such as the Costa Maya festival, which represent the traditions of the Spanish and Mayan cultures.
Whether one is only visiting, or considering a move to this island, it represents a model of how people of differing races, cultures, and political backgrounds can peacefully co-exist and work together. Due to racial harmony and the religious tolerance of its diverse residents, all of these cultural elements have mixed and blended successfully both in Belize and on Ambergris Caye, resulting in Belize having gained a widespread reputation for its friendly people and tolerance.