Wanna get a little off the beaten path? Are you interested in a place where shoes are optional and beautiful blue water beckons? Then it is time to discover all the fun things to do in San Pedro, Belize!
One of the nation’s most popular destinations, San Pedro sits on the southern part of Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island. You won’t need to bring much- a hat, swimsuit, sunblock and some shorts will do!
San Pedro island culture may be laid back and low-key, but there is plenty to do and see. Its proximity to the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makes it a top spot for all sorts of water sports.
Its beautiful beaches make you want to linger a little longer whether it’s to build a sandcastle or take in a sunset. Its luxury beach resorts, excellent restaurants, and unique island experiences make it a great place for families to visit.
No matter what’s on your itinerary, you can’t help but slow down and unwind the minute you get off the small puddle jumper plane or water taxi from the mainland. The air is fragrant and moist, the ocean calls.
Just as the San Pedro-inspired Madonna song, Isla Bonita, suggests, you’ll find “Beautiful faces, no cares in this world.” It’s a place that can be set to any speed you want it to be, as long it’s in the range of slow. After all, island life comes at you at an easy pace.
Fun Things to do in San Pedro, Belize on Your Family Vacation
Explore the island via Golf Cart
Golf carts rule the roads of San Pedro, Belize. Locals and visitors alike utilize this mode of transportation. Bicycles and foot power will suffice in getting around San Pedro town but if you want to reach far-flung locations like Secret Beach, a golf cart is a must-have!
San Pedro streets are narrow so there aren’t a lot of cars or taxis. Even families with small kids travel around the island this way.
Keep in mind that golf carts don’t have good suspension and the island is a mix of cobblestone, paved, and dirt roads. There are also likely to be sizeable speed bumps and potholes along your path.
It’s amazing how friendly people are to each other without the full barrier of an automobile separating them. There were many friendly hand waves and smiles as drivers passed. We spotted one dad traversing streets with a toddler in his lap.
Visit (Not so) Secret Beach
Despite having a name that suggests this location is a bit hush-hush, Secret Beach is anything but that! A popular day-trip destination, it is about a 30-minute bumpy golf cart ride north of San Pedro Town.
Don’t be deterred or fearful that you’re headed in the wrong direction, you won’t see much civilization while en route to the area. Swampy mangroves line both sides of the road. Be on the lookout for crocodiles (I’m not kidding!)!
You’ll be amply rewarded for the effort! Secret Beach is a mix of quiet beaches with clear blue waters, overwater bars, and restaurants.
It pays to arrive early on sunny weekend days to claim free chaises under swaying palms or a table submerged in the water. My family showed up around 10:30am and had no trouble parking or securing a waterfront spot for ourselves. Within the hour, however, the lot was full and fun was being had by a good-sized crowd.
We hung out at Pirates Treasure Island Restaurant and Chilled Bar, but there was a variety of spots in which to spend the day. We enjoyed the food and drink service and chatted with locals, tourists, and ex-pats. An occasional Corn Hole game was played and when a cool off was needed, we waded out into the crystal-clear water.
The average adult can wade into the water for about 200 yards from the shore before its surface rests at your chest. Many visitors simply hung out in the warm swimming-pool-like water with drinks in hand mingling as if they were at any on-land gathering.
Most visitors head back towards town around 4pm. It can get pretty dark in the area after sundown. If you’re up for it though, I’m told the sunset is breathtaking. Just make sure you’ve packed your bug spray. When the sun starts going down the mosquitoes come out in San Pedro!
Visit San Pedro Town
The colorful streets of San Pedro town pulsate with activity. You’ll find very few cars in the area. The narrow streets are often full of golf carts, bicycles, and pedestrians.
There are three main roads– the locals refer to them as Front, Middle, and Back Streets– but on any map, you get a hold of they’ll be listed as Barrier Reef Drive, Pescador Drive, and Almond Street respectively.
Grab a scoop at Manelly’s Homemade Ice Cream and pick up unique souvenirs and gifts at the Di Bush Toucan Gift Store. Test the scents of handmade soaps at Smelly People Wanted. Peruse an array of fruit stands and offerings of goods locally handmade.
While there are enough interesting high-end restaurants to keep a visitor in ceviche and fresh fish for a month, there are also some wonderful teeny tiny eateries like Middle Street Cuisine that provide a well-rounded nutritious lunch of local fare for a budget price!
I highly recommend the stew chicken lunch plate, a Belizean specialty!
The town’s Central Park provides a nice family portrait opportunity with its colorful sea turtle sculpture and the town name, “SAN PEDRO” spelled out in vibrant colors as a backdrop. Located right on the coast in the heart of San Pedro, Central Park is often a spot for community gatherings and festivals.
Take a Class at Belize Chocolate Company
San Pedro is home to the first artisan chocolate boutique in Belize. The Belize Chocolate Company takes cacao grown on the Belize mainland and transforms it into delicious organic chocolate.
Sign up for a Chocolate Class and learn how the chocolate goes from bean to bar. Just wait until you sample the finished product, and discover that Belizean cacao produces some of the world’s best chocolate.
Don’t miss out on the array of chocolaty offerings including coffee, hot chocolate, brownies, truffles, and cookies. There are vegan and gluten-free options as well.
Other chocolate-inspired products for sale include lip balm, syrup, brownie mix, body scrub, and cocoa butter. Keep in mind that chocolate makes a great gift for your pet sitter or the person looking after things at your home while you’re away!
Costa Rica is another great Central American destination for chocolate lovers. Here are our favorite things to do on a Costa Rica family vacation.
Hang Out at the Truck Stop
The Truck Stop isn’t just a place to grab a bite or a drink, this colorful food park is an experience! Hang out for a while to play backyard games or cool off in the pool.
The Truck Stop hosts events like movie nights, live music, corn hole tournaments, and pig roasts as well as the occasional Farmer’s Market. Everyone in your family will find something to eat and a way to entertain themselves!
Owned by a couple of American ex-pats, the Truck Stop consists of multiple shipping containers. Each one offers an array of food ranging from pizza, Asian fusion, tacos, and ice cream as well as a bar.
We enjoyed the Meehoon Goreng- wok-fried skinny rice noodles with sweet chili sauce, carrots, cabbage, choy sum, and bean sprouts- from Rasa. The Korean pork belly soft tacos from Sol Fresca Latin Fusion Kitchen were also amazing!
My teens enjoyed a scoop from Cool Cone while I imbibed in a mai tai. You simply order at your preferred eatery then you return to your table with a beeper that will alert you when your food is ready to be picked up.
Test Your Gaming Skills at the Level Up Barcade
If you grew up on classics like Donkey Kong, Tron, Asteroids, or Pacman, you are going to enjoy introducing these games to your kids at Level Up Barcade.
This place is more than just an arcade though, it is a love letter to the 1980s. Vinyl records adorn the walls, drinks named after classic films like Pretty in Pink, or well-known 80’s film locations like, “Nakatomi Tower”, are served on a floppy disk coaster.
Don’t worry there are games your kids will recognize as well. My daughter cleaned my clock at multiple rounds of Jenga. There was a family ping pong challenge that got quite loud.
Classic board games like Monopoly, Yahtzee, Scrabble, and Chess are also available. Tucked away upstairs you’ll find challenges to play out in the virtual world using Oculus headsets.
Located adjacent to the Hilton Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club, this place was certainly a lifesaver on a particularly rainy day during our stay!
Go Snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Snorkeling the second-largest barrier reef in the world is a must-do during your stay in San Pedro! That’s why Hol Chan Marine Reserve is one of the best things to do in San Pedro, Belize. Mayan for “little channel,’ Hol Chan is a five-square mile marine park.
The Belize Barrier Reef creates a natural separation between the channel and the ocean beyond it, making it the perfect spot for snorkelers and divers to enjoy a diversity of undersea life. We saw stingrays and giant sea turtles as well as colorful schools of fish.
We swam by coral formations that are unlike anything we’ve ever seen! Water depths range from 25 to 30 feet deep. This is a great activity to do with older kids. The youngest member of our group was about 11 years old.
You must hire a boat and guide to visit the area. This is because Hol Chan is a protected marine reserve. It was given this status in 1987 in response to degeneration and erosion from uncontrolled use. Thankfully the reef has since regenerated.
Make no mistake though, rules are enforced. When we arrived, our guide had to show permits to a ranger patrolling the waters. Once the boat is parked and snorkelers are in the water, a guide will take you on a 45-minute tour pointing out all the best spots for taking in the underwater world.
We went with Tuff E Nuff Tours. The guides were knowledgeable and fun. They took care of everything including all the necessary snorkeling equipment and the permit to access the preserve.
Swim With Sharks and Rays at Shark Ray Alley
Most snorkeling tours include a stop at Shark Ray Alley. Five minutes, from Hol Chan, this was one of the highlights of our trip. It is a snorkeling experience like no other! As the name suggests, the waters in the area are filled with sharks and stingrays.
Local fishermen often cleaned their catch in the area, an activity that attracted the creatures. Upon hearing boats approach, the sharks and rays appear in search of fish scraps. You’ll notice the dark shadows in the eight-foot-deep water.
This was our second stop on our snorkeling trip. I’ll let you in on a tip that came straight from our guide, “The sooner you get off the boat and into the water, the more you’ll see.” This is because the sharks don’t stick around for long.
Now I know, it sounds crazy to get in the water with a bunch of sharks, but there’s no need to worry. These are nurse sharks, which are harmless. They average four to six feet in length. Divemasters and boat crews will often feed them to get them to gather.
The rays have wingspans of two to four feet. While they will swim fairly close to divers and snorkelers, it’s best not to touch them.
Spend a Day in Caye Caulker
“Go slow!” That’s the motto of Caye Caulker and the people there take it very seriously. Don’t worry, you’ll adapt to it! Whether it’s the relaxing lull of the waves or the hypnotic blue of the water, you’ll find yourself exhaling and kicking back in no time.
A 30-minute water taxi ride from San Pedro, Caye Caulker is a popular day trip. It is the opposite of Ambergris Caye. Only five-miles long, Caye Caulker isn’t as developed. This means there aren’t as many people and only a fraction of the golf cart, bike, and foot traffic.
Watersports are the main draw. There are also excellent fishing opportunities. You can even bring your catch back to one of the local restaurants to have it cooked up! The main street is dotted with restaurants, bars, and shops.
If you’re looking to spend a day alternating between lounging and playing in the sand and water, then chill out at “The Split”. This is a narrow waterway on the north part of the island that “splits” the island in two (hence the name). The calm shallow waters are a favorite hang-out spot of both travelers and locals.
Hang Out at Boca del Rio Beach
Boca del Rio Beach may be full of bars but, it is also great for families! A less than five-minute golf cart ride from the center of San Pedro town, parking is simple and easy, and visitors have their choice of picturesque coves to enjoy.
Located at the mouth of the river and the toll bridge that separates San Pedro town and Northern Ambergis Caye, the public beach has a basketball court, play structure, and wide sandy area next to the Caribbean shore.
Despite this, it is the southern stretch of the beach seems to beckon more to families. This is due to the calm, shallow spaces of water along the beach road.
Many of the bars in this area put out chairs and tables, as well as a flotilla of tubes perfect for frolicking and sipping refreshments. Some like the Nauti Crab put on quirky evening events like Hermit Crab Races.
There’s also the chicken drop at Wahoo’s Lounge. Patrons essentially gamble on which spot on a bingo card will be the place a chicken makes a “deposit. “
A little further north on the strip is Sandy Toes Beach, a popular spot for families with young kids. It’s a shallow, warm and protected spot adjacent to Sandy Toes Beach Bar. The place offers inexpensive drinks and food. The kids will love the corn dog bites and the fish fingers! Who knew fish had fingers?
Discover more Family Fun in Belize.
Where to Eat in San Pedro, Belize
Centrally located in downtown San Pedro, Elvi’s Kitchen is warm, inviting, and friendly, much like the residents of this laid-back lovely island. The easy-going nature of the place and live guitar music made for a wonderfully relaxing night out. You can support a local artist by purchasing a masterpiece straight from the restaurant wall– which we did.
Start off with the street corn which is grilled and topped with key lime butter, queso fresco, and a little cilantro. Don’t miss out on Elvi’s Mayan Chicken, seasoned with Mayan spices and steamed in a banana leaf.
Kids will love the Basil Pasta, spaghetti pasta tossed in a basil pesto made from pepitas and topped with homemade marinara, and your choice of fish or shrimp al mojo.
Each Friday, Elvi’s Kitchen hosts a Mayan Feast. This is a great opportunity to sample multiple Mayan dishes including Pibil (pork), barzo de reina, mole, tamales, toro pinto, mechado, escabeche, and chirmole.
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A beautiful open-air fine dining experience, Hidden Treasure lives up to its name. In fact, if it weren’t for the large advertisement out on the main road calling attention to the establishment’s location, I’m not sure we would have found it!
Located deep into the Escalante residential neighborhood, this gorgeous spot is a great place to cap off your stay in San Pedro.
Specializing in Latin American and Caribbean fare, this restaurant walks a fine line in offering an atmosphere that is both luxurious and rustic as well as romantic and family-friendly. The food was divine, and the service was amazing.
Kids will love the mac and cheese with bacon jam. Adults will love the Seafood Treasure- a lobster tail with fresh snapper fillet and grilled shrimp served with a garlic lemon butter sauce. Finish off your meal with a serving of Banana Coconut Cream Pie or the Chocolate Caribbean Rum Cake (a la mode of course!).
La Fonda de Nilo
La Fonda De Nilo had been open for about a week when we dined there for dinner. and it already hummed like a well-oiled machine. The place was well run. The staff was very personable and welcoming. The food was fantastic!
Specializing in Argentinean cuisine, much of the menu focuses on steak. The country is known for its approach to red meat, so we were excited to try it! My husband had the ribs which were so superb he’s still talking about them. My daughter enjoyed her filet, and I had a New York strip which was to die for!
My son went in a different direction, ordering the Margherita Pizza. It was honestly some of the best pizza I had ever tried! It was wood-fired in a large pizza oven in full view of the dining area.
Where to Stay in San Pedro, Belize on Your Family Vacation
Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club, Curio Collection by Hilton
This resort looked like something straight out of a magazine spread for Coastal Living. The Mahogany Bay Resort and Beach Club is a simplified, stripped-down version of luxury.
It can be experienced as a neighborhood that includes a local coffee place, restaurants destined to become favorites among your crew, and an arcade your kids can walk to if they wish. It also fits the bill if your main goal is to sit by the pool or pass the day in a hammock complete with drink and foodservice.
Located about a mile and a half from San Pedro town, our family stayed in an adorable three-bedroom cottage that included a full kitchen, laundry facilities, and a small outdoor seating area perfect for catching spectacular sunsets.
My favorite amenity was the private beach club. A 15-minute speed boat ride from the main resort, it was a gorgeous and secluded spot that made the world feel far away.
Whether you lounge in an over-the-water cabana or pass the day in a submerged hammock or a chaise while watching lizards scamper along with the plant life, you’ll feel the collective exhale among everyone present.
Book your stay at The Mahogany Bay Resort and Beach Club. As a Booking.com affiliate, Trekaroo is thrilled to offer its readers the lowest rates.
From the moment you arrive on the island, you cannot escape Ramon’s Village Resort. This resort is widely advertised. Nestled in a lush tropical garden helmed by an ornate Mayan arch that can be seen from the main road, I challenge you to resist the urge to check it out. You won’t be able to do it!
We were not far into the flora and fauna of the place before the traffic noise ceased and the sounds of the ocean overtook our senses. Royal Palms and Mayan influences peek out from the vegetation. The accommodations have a Polynesian flair.
If you’re looking to stay a little bit closer to town but, you don’t want the hustle and bustle that may come with that, then this sanctuary will do the trick!