There are two main ways to get to Ambergris Caye from Belize City: by boat or by plane. What route is best for you depends on your budget, how much you value time and convenience, and your comfort level with riding in a tiny plane. Here’s a look at some things to consider when choosing how to get to San Pedro.
Budget and time/convenience
It’s about $25 round-trip to get from Belize to San Pedro via a ferry ($15 one way) and the ferry ride takes about 75 minutes. You can check out the prices for that ferry route and others nearby destinations here. $25 round-trip is pretty cheap but keep in mind that if you’re coming from BZE airport you’ll need to pay an additional $25 for taxi fare to the airport to the Marine Terminal. For more on getting to Ambergris Caye/San Pedro via a ferry click here.
If you’re in a crunch for time then going by plane may be the better route for you. It only takes about 20 minutes to get from BZE to Ambergris Caye/San Pedro by plane and the plane ride is stunning as you soar a few thousand feet above the turquoise waters and reef. This option is more costly, however.
There are two airlines that fly from BZE to San Pedro’s airport (SPR): Maya Island Air and Tropic Air. My first time to San Pedro, we flew Maya Island Air and for the two of us roundtrip it costed $315.02 including all taxes and fees. I put in the same information for Tropic Air and the total came out to $315 as well. Each person is allowed a checked bag up to 50 pounds but after that fees may be incurred.
My second time to San Pedro, I flew Tropic Air. Tropic Air has many more flights and nicer stations for departure from the island and we had more room inside their planes, although the planes can still be very cramped depending on where you sit. Tip: Try to be one of the last to board the plane and the staff should force others to scoot up a row leaving you a seat in one of the back rows which will give you more room.
Overall, Tropic Air felt a bit more “legit” to me so in the future I will probably look to fly with them.
Save money flying to and from Belize Municipal Airport
If you book the flight from the Belize Municipal Airport (TZA) to San Pedro it’s about $192 for two people round-trip. It costs about $18 to take a taxi from the international airport to the TZA so the total cost for two would be about $100 cheaper. For us, we were only going to be in Belize for 2 nights/3 days, so the more daylight we could get, the better and we opted to just have our flight departing and arriving from the domestic terminal at BZE.
However, if you’re flying with a larger group or say a family of four then your savings will be greater and it might just be worth it to fly from Belize Municipal Airport. For example, for four adults the cost would be $631 from BZE but $384 from TZA, a savings of about $230 when you factor in the connecting taxi.
Booking online or at the airport?
I’d come across some people online talking about it being cheaper to book the tickets at the airport versus online but I inquired with the folks at Maya Airlines and they told me that that is not the case — the prices will be the same whether you book in person or online.
Reservations are a good thing but are loosely followed
I really wish I had known this before our trip as it would’ve made planning our connecting flights to much easier! While it’s a good thing to make reservations for your flight from Belize City to San Pedro, you don’t actually have to get on that specific flight time. Basically, they operate the flights on a first come-first serve basis and so whether you are early or late you can likely just catch the next flight to or from San Pedro, which means you don’t have to stress out when planning your connecting flights.
Tip: the flights usually go out every hour but they sometimes will have a couple of planes going out every hour so just check with them and see because you may not have to wait the full hour.
The planes are really small
This probably won’t be a major issue for most but I think it’s worth mentioning that these planes (called “puddle jumpers”) are tiny and can feel extremely confining. I definitely battle claustrophobia a bit and it took a bit of extra effort to not get worked up when I first stepped into our plane. Once the plane took off and I was overwhelmed with the amazing scenery it was easy to calm down and relax, but just consider your comfort-level with small spaces before you definitely choose which route you want to go.
A word on Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE)
If you’re like me and enjoy arriving early to airports to relax in a nice lounge for an hour or two before your departure you’re going to be very disappointed in BZE. There are no lounges and no *real* restaurants, just a few snack/souvenir shops and rows of wooden benches. The airport isn’t much nicer than your average bus stop and so this is one of those airports where you probably want to spend as little time as possible inside.
Update: the airport now has wifi so that will help you pass the time a little better, now!
Tip: If you’re coming from San Pedro, I recommend finding a bar or restaurant near the Maya Island or Tropic Air side of the airport and then heading to the airport to catch a flight about a 1.5 hours before your scheduled boarding time.
On the other hand, I will say that the staff at the airport was very helpful and friendly. If you arrive at BZE and aren’t sure where to go for your connecting flight to San Pedro just ask one of the staff members. They all seemed to speak greta English and went the extra mile to make sure we were relaxed about finding our connecting flight.
Getting to your hotel from the San Pedro Airport
Many hotels offer complimentary taxi service from the airport to your hotel. Check with your hotel and make sure they do so you can save a few bucks. Also, there are golf cart rentals available right next to the airport for you as well.