I recently returned from a wonderful week of diving in Ambergris Caye and wanted to provide some feedback for all of you. I have used TripAdvisor several times to plan trips so I want to return the favor. I am going to include information on where I stayed, how I booked the trip, the dive operation, the diving, the accommodations, the town, and general travel information.
After reading several reviews on Scubaboard, TripAdvisor, and Ambergriscaye.com, I decided to dive with Chuck & Robbie’s (Chuck & Robbie's - Ambergris Caye Scuba Diving & Instruction) and stay at the Blue Tang Inn (all inclusive Belize resort vacation â€“ Blue Tang Inn San Pedro). I normally prefer to stay at dive resorts that have lodging, diving, and dining all in one place. In lieu of that, I opted for a dive operation that was close to decent accommodations and restaurants. The Chuck & Robbie’s/Blue Tang Inn fit the bill.
The Blue Tang is a nice, clean place just north of the main town. The rooms are air conditioned and include an electronic safe that is big enough to hold a small (not large) laptop as well as your valuables. They also have free wireless internet and also give you a continental breakfast each morning that includes one hot item (such as waffles) as well as cereal, coffee, and juice. It is really nice to not have to cook breakfast before diving. The inn provides beach towels (which saves space in your luggage) and the staff are really friendly and accommodating. The rooms also have a kitchenette with stove, refrigerator, microwave and cookware. Overall I would say the room was very nice and met all my needs. The room was comfortable and clean and had all the essentials.
The hotel is right on the beach. There is a good swimming area in front of the hotel. There is some turtle grass in the water but if you walk out onto the dock on the right side and enter the water through the steps you will find a sandy bottom. The water was so warm I could have stayed there for hours. I also recommend going up to the rooftop deck. There are lounge chairs up there and there is a beautiful view. And, being a geek sometimes, it was nice to have power for my laptop computer. There is also a small swimming pool that is nice for relaxing and it is open 24 hours. Also, I was pleased to see a security guard on the grounds at night.
The Blue Tang is also one block away from a small grocery store and only a few minutes more from a larger grocery store. The grocery stores have lots of US packaged goods as well as Latin American brands. There is a reasonable selection of meat, but it is all frozen. The Blue Tang Inn is just north of town and you can walk all of San Pedro really easily. A lot of restaurants are more expensive than you would think but there are also food kiosks and small diner type of restaurants all over the place including the central park. You can get hamburgers, shrimp burgers, carne asada, and tacos in lots of places for just a few dollars. US money is accepted everywhere at a 2:1 exchange rate. Bring lots of $1 and $5 bills. There are a few banks in town but I heard not all ATMs accept foreign cards. I do not know. I didn’t use my ATM card in Belize. I suggest you dedicate a credit card for any transactions you make abroad so you can cancel it if your number is “misappropriated.” I paid cash for most everything.
Since this was my first trip to Belize, I opted to book the diving through Blue Tang so that everything would be charged to my room (as it would be with a dive resort, see above). I had asked Blue Tang to book six days of diving. When I checked in, I found out that they had not done this. They apologized and offered to give me a daily paper voucher which I would take to Chuck & Robbie’s which they would use to put the charge on my room. This turned out to be really good because I could decide to dive one day at a time. I found out later I could have booked the diving directly with Chuck & Robbie at a slightly lower rate, but I liked the convenience of having everything charged to my room.
Chuck & Robbie’s schedules two morning dives. The first is at 9 am. The second is at 11am. On your first day you show up a half hour before you dive (8:30am in my case) to fill out paperwork. Chuck & Robbie’s is literally a two minute walk from Blue Tang. You need to bring your C-Card. On subsequent days you show up 15 minutes before the dive. They have gear available to rent but I brought my own. They have two boats, one which holds about 12 and one which holds six to eight. On one day there was a large group but the boat did not feel crowded. Other days there were just two of us. The shop sets up all the gear for you. You don’t have to do anything. There was a single bucket on board for masks and cameras.
The reef is very close to the shore. The dive sites we went to were no more than five minutes away. Each dive was preceded by a briefing describing the overall dive site, the max depth, and when people should move towards a safety stop (I believe 750 psi but am not certain). The first dive was usually at a depth of 80-90 feet while the second was at 60-70 feet. The diving in Ambergris Caye is mostly “spur & groove” with lots of canyons. We saw lots of the standard Caribbean fish as well as moray eels, squid, rays, and several nurse sharks. The water was 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Dive times were approximately 50 minutes. After we surfaced, the boat captains helped us with our gear and we headed back to the shore for our surface interval. When we arrived, a guy on a bicycle would come by with chicken tamales. They were great…but watch for bones. We then headed out for the second dive. We were usually back the shop by 12:30pm. Chuck & Robbie’s stored my dive gear over night. The only things I took back to my room were my wet suit and booties (to dry out) and my dive computer.
The divemasters were great. Most of my dives were led by Enrique with some led by Robbie. Chuck came out with us on one dive as well. There were also some US expats that now live in Belize who dove with us, Terry & Michelle. Also, Chuck actually runs a restaurant named Wild Mangos that has great food. I ate there once before it closed for a few weeks. I really liked Chuck and Robbie’s. I would definitely dive with them again. Their personalities are great. The location is great. It was a lot of fun for my first Belize diving trip. As far as tipping, you can do it at the end or daily. Robbie will divide it up if you want.
As far as air travel, Blue Tang made my reservations on Tropic Air between Belize City and San Pedro and charged the tickets to my room. Once you arrive in Belize City from the US, you clear immigration, pick up your bags and recheck them with Tropic Air. Baggage claim in Belize is pretty fast. Tropic Air uses these small prop planes that hold maybe 14 people. One passenger sits in the copilot seat. They do allow 70 pounds per passenger (check the web site to be sure). The flight from Belize City to San Pedro is about 20 minutes. Blue Tang arranged a taxi to pick me up and take me back to the San Pedro Airport.
Regarding restaurants, there are several good ones. I ate at the Jambal Jerk Pit, the Hungry Monkey, Island Secret, DandE’s Custard, Mannely’s Ice Cream, Jane’s Deli, Island Secret, Waruguma (not sure I spelled that right), the Hummingbird Cafe and several food kiosks. If I had to do it again, I might cook dinner for myself a few times. For those of you with lactose intolerance, I did find soymilk and rice milk in the grocery stores.
I also recommend visiting Caye Caulker for an afternoon. I took the water taxi over and back (US$12.50 round trip). Caye Caulker is more of a “back packer” island but there are some higher end accommodations as well. For me, as a solo traveler, Ambergris Caye was a much better place.
You can also do several land tours. I did not do any because it was really hot out and I would rather be in the water. If you do a land tour, it’s important to note that during slow season that not all tours run each day. So, if you want to do a tour and it is being offered, I suggest you do it because it might not be offered the next day. That’s another advantage of using the daily voucher system rather than buying a prepaid package.
All in all, I liked Ambergris Caye. I liked the Blue Tang Inn. I also really liked diving with Chuck & Robbie’s.
I will definitely return some day.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- On San Pedro’s north edge, experience a private paradise at Blue Tang Inn, one of the town’s most charming beachfront inns. Fourteen exquisite suites each offer full kitchens and air conditioning. Relax by the private pool or rejoice on the third floor sundeck with inspiring panoramas of the ocean and reef. Set your own schedule for amazing daily activities such as diving & snorkeling, fishing tours, sea kayaking, numerous inland tours and omnipresent romance during your stay. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Blue Tang Hotel San Pedro
- Blue Tang Inn Belize/San Pedro