Ambergris Caye photographed from the International Space Station
|Largest settlement||San Pedro Town (pop. 13,381)|
Ambergris Caye, pronounced am-BUR-gris KEE, is the largest island of Belize, located northeast of the country's mainland, in the Caribbean Sea. It is about 40 kilometres (25 mi) long from north to south, and about 1.6 kilometres (1 mi) wide. Where it has not been modified by man, it is mostly a ring of white sand beach around mangrove swamp in the centre. Though administered as part of the Belize District, the closest point on the mainland is part of the Corozal District.
San Pedro Town is the largest settlement and only town on Ambergris. There are also a number of small villages and resorts. Two resorts north of San Pedro played host to the first season of Fox's Temptation Island in 2000, aired in 2001.
Tourism development of Ambergris Caye began in the early 1970s and grew considerably in the later years of the 20th century. The main attractions are the Belize Barrier Reef and its beaches. That barrier reef is the second largest in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. The caye has a small airstrip serviced by Tropic Air and Maya Island Air, and can be reached by plane from Belize City as well as by numerous fast sea ferries. Ambergris Caye can also be reached by ferry from Chetumal in Mexico.
Ambergris Caye is commonly referred to as the "Isla Bonita" (English translation: 'The Beautiful Island'), after Madonna's 1987 hit "La Isla Bonita" mentioned a place called San Pedro. (Madonna has said the song does not refer to any particular place.) Ambergris Caye is famous for the turquoise seascapes surrounding the island which matches the character and Caribbean charm of the destination. Because of the island's small size, the main form of powered transportation is by golf cart.
San Pedro Day is celebrated annually on June 27.
The majority of Ambergris Caye is reserved for national park/wildlife preserve limiting the availability of real estate. To the north of San Pedro Town is the destination of Belize Secret Beach, one of the more popular beach destinations in Belize. The Belize Secret Beach destination on Ambergris Caye is often called "San Pedro's worst kept secret", as the Secret Beach area has yet to see substantial development, but has become an increasingly popular destination for tourists and locals, allowing the area to boast a remote atmosphere but still offer more developed amenities. Secret Beach also features remote cenotes, sinkholes, and caves.