With its proximity to both the mainland and the Belize Barrier Reef, the 25-mile-long island of Ambergris Caye has long been an easily accessible paradise for water sports. The lodging here tends more toward laid-back than luxe, but that changed in December, with the opening of the Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club. The resort offers 205 bungalows and villas, which fan out around the 22,000-square-foot British colonialu2013style Great House. The concierges will gladly help you arrange your nautical adventures, or you can relax by the pool or in a hammock at the resortu2019s private white-sand beach, a complimentary 15-minute boat ride from the main property.
Beaches, however, arenu2019t Belizeu2019s true strength. The secret here is to get out on the water. Start early by going fly-fishing with a guide from Blue Bonefish. The shallow turquoise water around the island is home to some of the fly-fishermanu2019s most prized quarry, bonefish and tarpon, and your guide will put on a River Runs Through Itu2013worthy display of casting that will help even the greenest beginner land a fish.
If youu2019d rather swim with the fish than reel them in, make arrangements with the Scuba School and Family Dive Center Belize in San Pedro. Just a 4-mile boat ride from the dock lies the breathtaking Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Hol Chan (Mayan for u201clittle channelu201d) is named for a 75-foot-wide, 30-foot-deep break in the reef, and a guided dive affords encounters with more tropical fish than youu2019ll see anywhere this side of Finding Nemo. Another five minutes past the channel is Shark Ray Alley, where youu2019ll drop into the water amid a horde of nurse sharks and stingrays.
Come nightfall, your best fine-dining options are back at the resort. The Verandah changes its menu every three days, ensuring the freshest local ingredients, while Jyoto offers high-end sushiu2014much of it caught by San Pedro fishermenu2014prepared by Toshiya Tsujimoto, a Japanese chef who traveled Central America with just a backpack and his knives before settling on Ambergris Caye.