If you don’t want to have a song stuck in your head for the rest of the day, do not read any further.
Last night I dreamt of San Pedro
Just like I’d never gone, I knew the song
This is where I want to be
La Isla Bonita
Apparently, some twenty years ago, Madonna had a good time in Ambergris Caye, Belize. And I only realize the song referred to that San Pedro (there are tons of them in Latin America!) tonight.
A few days ago, we woke up in Caye Calker, tired and sick of a place we couldn’t recognize anymore. What next? We had planned to stay on the island for a few days before heading to Mexico. We still had some Belize dollars left but Belize is a small country and it seemed like we had been everywhere but in one place: Ambergris Caye, 40 minutes away.
Originally, Caye Calker was the backpacker hangout while Ambergris Caye, more developed and bigger, catered to richer people. We shrugged the stereotype off and hopped on the boat. “It’s like going from Ko Phi Phi to Phuket,” we joked. We knew what to expect: a touristic place with all the amenities.
But we managed to be surprised.
Ambergris Caye is big. San Pedro, the village, lies in the middle of the narrow island. The north and the south sides are home to condos—some finished, most in various stages of completion—and gated properties. The few main streets are paved, street food and souvenirs stalls congregate around the main square.
But unlike Caye Calker, San Pedro was quiet. We found a budget hotel easily and walked north along the shore in search of a good patch of sand to sit down and relax. There were plenty under the cool shade of coconut trees. In some places, we had a stretch of beach to ourselves, in other, we shared it with locals—not tourists.
I guess it’s the irony of such places. Tourists stick to their resorts: they eat there, swim there, sleep there. At most, they hit local bars where booze is cheaper. We barely saw them. By staying in San Pedro where the locals actually live, we had access to a few cheap restaurants, supermarkets and almost unspoiled stretches of beach.
I can deal with that!
The sea was too shallow for a good swim but perfect for feet-dipping. From the piers, we spotted a few stingrays, including three or four who swam right to the shore to pick up some left-over fish. They were huge and alien-looking with their big eyes.
The sea was Caribbean blue with darker patch where the seagrass was and lighter patch where it was deeper. In the horizon, we could see the waves breaking over the reef barrier. It was just breezy enough.
It was pretty damn close to being perfect.
San Pedro was also much more laid back than I had expected. Maybe it was because we were in the village, away from the resorts. In a way it reminded me of Cancún. Yes, the stretch of beach is touristy but Cancún centro still looks like a Mexican town.
The couple of days we ended up spending in la “isla bonita” made it up for Caye Calker, our lost paradise.