Belize’s stunning Caribbean coast is dotted with hundreds of small islands, locally known as cayes, protected by the world’s second largest barrier reef and which, since the days of the ancient Maya and the original pirates of the Caribbean, have provided refuge, safe anchorages and beautiful, peaceful retreats on which to relax and get away from it all.

And Ambergris Caye is the undisputed crown jewel of Belize’s many islands.

As the largest Belizean island, running 25 miles (40 km) north to south and about a mile wide, Ambergris Caye once supported some ten thousand ancient Maya who farmed, fished, and traded. After the collapse of the Maya empire, the island lay dormant until revitalised with coconut plantations producing dried copra for export.

Then, after a series of hurricanes destroyed the plantations in the 1940s, the islanders turned to fishing and lobster exports until tourism took off in the 1980s, spurred on with the establishment of resorts such as Victoria House.

Since then, growth has been steady, with the expansion of San Pedro town, John Greif II Airport evolving into an international airport, and the establishment of a variety of restaurants, bars, hotels and resorts.

In sight of the Belize Great Barrier Reef, Ambergris Caye offers excellent snorkelling, diving and swimming, with a number of dive and boat operators available to take visitors out to some of the world’s best diving and fishing spots.

And there’s plenty to do on the Caye itself, with San Pedro Town perfect for sightseeing, shopping, dining, and enjoying lively, island style nightlife.

It’s no wonder that the World Travel Awards named Ambergris Caye as “Mexico and Central America’s Leading Destination” for 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Ambergris Caye is also the prefect place from which to explore other Belizean cayes and get a taste of island life, with Caye Caulker some 45 minutes away by water taxi, and private boat operators on hand for day trips or longer excursions along the reef.

With luxurious accommodations, amenities, and so much to see and do, La Isla Bonita looks forward to a future as exciting as her colourful past.