San Pedro in the only town and most highly populated area on Ambergris Caye. Seasonal numbers range from about 7,000 local residents to as much as 20,000 people in peak holiday seasons. The island residents have a very laid back flip-flop, and short pants lifestyle, and why not? The country’s most beautiful beaches are literally just a few feet away and the palm strewn landscape overlooking the beautiful Caribbean would make anyone a little more relaxed. The local “San Pedranos”, as they call themselves, are mainly of Mexican decent and most are fluent in both English and Spanish, in fact the official language of Belize is English and is the regular language of communication for the country; however, being so close to Mexico, and having a population of whom many originated from there, almost all are fluent in both languages.
Many people tend to generalize San Pedro Town as being the same as the island of Ambergris Caye and vice versa, when in fact the town is just a small area of the entire island and consists mainly of local residential homes, shops, businesses, restaurants, and entertainment centers. Most of the island’s beachfront resorts and vacation rentals are found to the north of the island a few miles outside of what is actually San Pedro Town. There are a few notable exceptions however, and the town itself also has many budget friendly hotel accommodations and most tour operators and local watering holes are found in town. San Pedro is a postcard perfect island setting lined with a cascade of colorfully painted houses along the white sand beaches; the perfect place for a comfortable, shorts and sandals seaside vacation, at an affordable price.
The town has grown from its origins as a quaint fishing village in the early 1950’s to become the country’s most sought after vacation destination and tourism has far surpassed fishing as the number one contributor the local economy. Don’t be fooled however, this is not the mass, fabricated tourism of larger destinations such as Cancun or Ibiza, with millions of package tourist overcrowding the beaches and streets. Few buildings are taller than one of the islands abundant coconut palms and most resorts only go as high as three stories up.
People in San Pedro move around mostly on bikes and golf carts, the island’s most popular mode of transportation. A few taxis, trucks and private vehicles are in service in the growing community, but the traffic committee continuously works to create an equitable balance and equitable policy regarding importation of future vehicles. Although you can find all the modern conveniences you would want in San Pedro, the town still holds true to original island lifestyles and it’s favorite phrase, “no shoes, no shirt, no problem!” You’ll encounter locals and visitors alike barefoot strolling along the streets browsing the works of local artisans and jewelry makers that set up make shift stalls along the beach; winding their way through the gift shops and restaurants, basking in the warm sunlight on the beaches, or kicking back at one of the town’s many beachfront bars. Local tour operators offer many fun activities such as snorkeling, diving at the world famous barrier reef, wind surfing, paddle boarding, jet ski’s, beach bbq’s and even off-road ATV tours to explore the untouched landscape of the island up north.
People in San Pedro have been described as friendly, laid-back, at ease, easy going, tolerant, and most importantly… welcoming. As with any tourist destination there are vendors who go about selling their wares, and may come to with offering some trinket or souvenir to purchase. The difference in San Pedro though is that you will not be heckled and barraged for buying something, if your not interested, simply indicate that with a smile, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that the response you get back will most likely be along the lines of “No problem Sir/Maam… have a nice day!“
San Pedro is the town you will land at, eat at, shop in, meet people, party at; in short, San Pedro Town will be a large part of most visitors’ experience of Ambergris Caye.