Ambergris Caye (pronounced "Key") is a 20 mile long, two mile wide tropical island covered with coconut and mangrove trees, cooled by trade winds and protected by one of the world's longest barrier reefs. Golf carts, bicycles and your own two feet are the main modes of transportation on the sand covered streets of tiny San Pedro, the islands only town.
For those who really want to get away from it all, there are secluded resorts that specialize in diving, fishing, boating or simply stretching out in a hammock with a cold drink and a bestseller. Parts of Ambergris are even more remote, comprising government protected reserves where you can see endangered sea turtles swim ashore to lay their eggs, ospreys dive for fish in backwater lagoons and archaeologists hunt for artifacts among ruins left by the ancient Maya civilization a thousand years ago.
Dozens of fishing, diving and snorkeling sites are less than an hour away, including Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark/Ray Alley. The latter are underwater nationals parks that teem with tropical fish of every size, color and description, along with exotic corals, sponges and sea fans.
Day trips can easily be arranged to the mainland. Popular and worthwhile destinations include the Maya ruins at Lamanai, or Altun Ha; the howler monkey reserve and Belize Zoo west of Belize City; and soft-adventure horseback, mountain bike, or canoe trips in the jungles of the Cayo District.
Lamanai - The ruins of Lamanai lie scattered along the lagoon of the New River within a tropical rainforest in central Belize. The archaeological reserve is spread over 950 acres, however, the central area of the site covers approximately half a square mile. Mayan "Lama'an'ain", translates into "submerged crocodile" and, was one of the longest continuously occupied Mayan cities-from about 500 BC to 1675 AD due in part to its situation on a major trade route, the New River. The first major excavation was by David M. Pendergast, of the Royal Ontario Museum. During a series of field seasons beginning in 1974, his team mapped 718 structures stretching out along the shore of the lagoon. Much of Lamanai's importance is reflected in the large, imposing Late Pre-Classic temple-pyramids, which usually built over top of Early Classic constructions. For example, buried deep inside a 600 AD masked temple lies a well preserved Late Pre-Classic temple dating back to 100 BC In addition to the many Mayan structures in the park, Lamanai is also known for the remains of two 16th century Catholic churches and a 19th century sugar mill including a huge flywheel and boiler. Due to the long occupation of the site by varied peoples, the artifacts of Lamanai include those of stone, clay, wood, bone, shell, jade, gold, copper, glass, and iron. Also of interest, there are at least four troops of howler monkeys living there and the marshlands around the lagoon support many species of water birds, mammals, and reptiles.