What to Expect When You Are Taking the Ferry/Water Taxi from the International Airport to Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye
Landing at Belize’s Philip Goldson International Airport and then taking one of the two water taxis (ferry) to the Cayes is the budget way to travel to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. But it also adds a couple of hours to your travel time…a couple of hours that can seem like even more when you’ve been traveling all day.
But, if you are on a tighter budget or you are in a group, this option can make a ton of sense. So I thought I’d spell it all out – the steps and the timing.
There are TWO main options if you are traveling to Belize and your ultimate destination is either Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye.
COVID NOTE: As of July 20th, 2021, masking is still required in all public spaces: this includes the water taxi, the airport, planes, all places. It is the law in Belize. For all of the most up-to-date requirements, see the Belize Tourism Boards information page.
The First Option: Flying
Pick up your bags, stop at the inbound duty-free liquor stores (the prices are SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than a bottle of imported alcohol on the island), go thru customs and immigration, and then go through the swinging doors.
Right away you’ll see the two Belizean airlines – Tropic AIr and Maya Island Air. You go through the quick check-in and then head to the departure area and wait for your flight to the islands. Flights leave every hour – if not more frequently – and you can have a beer or do a little quick shopping at the souvenir stores but don’t wander too far.
Buy your ticket ahead of time, sometimes flights are full. It’s nice to get on the next flight available when you are JUST READY TO BE THERE!
Booking time: I’d say leave ONE HOUR after your international landing time. So…if your int. flight lands at 2:55pm, book the 4pm Tropic Air flight. They will get you on the next one available.
My recommendation: If you have the money, spend it here, on a flight. It’s a gorgeous way to see all the tiny cayes and lagoons – the neon blue water and the reef. It’s like a vacation excursion – and doubly exciting if you get asked to “fly co-pilot”. (They often ask a visitor to ride in the co-pilot’s seat if the plane is full – don’t touch anything! 😉 ) I love this flight each and every time.
Pro tip: As you are flying over the Belize City area – about to go over the ocean – look down to the mouth of the large river (the Belize River) You’ll usually see logs and huge trees stuck in the shallow sand and silt, things that have washed down the river during the rainy season, but you will almost always see MANATEES.
Taking the Water Taxi To the Cayes
Taking the Water Taxi to the Cayes requires a few more steps – and more time – it can be anywhere from 2.5 hours to maybe 4 or 5 hours depending on your timing – but it also requires less money. And that can add up if you are a group…
There is no need to purchase tickets beforehand (I’ve found that if you do – the process is even LONGER as they try to find your reservation.)
Here are the steps:
Exit the International Airport – you will see the signs for the Taxi Waiting Area. The taxis to the water taxi terminals are a set price: There is a flat rate for the taxi ride – $25US per couple. And a $5US per additional person.
PGIA (Philip Goldson International Airport – BZE) is in the town of Ladyville, Belize, just about 12 miles from the two water taxi terminals (located in the heart of Belize City).
Ideally, the trip takes 20-25 minutes. If there is traffic (morning or evening rush) – it can take longer – perhaps up to 45 minutes.
There are no buses at the airport (for those of you who are VERY budget-conscious).
It’s easiest to pick the water taxi that fits your schedule. They both operate similarly and for similar prices. Your taxi driver will ask you which one you want to go to. They are only about 1/4 mile apart – both on the waterfront.
There is a very pretty view.
Attendants in water-taxi-branded polo shirts will generally meet you at the taxi to take your bags. In turn, they will give you baggage tags to claim your bags when you arrive.
Go to the ticket window and get your tickets. (Buying round trip tickets will give you a bit of a discount – it’s open-ended – no need to pick your return time or even date)
Sit down and wait for the call to board. There is generally a line – and you line up 15-20 minutes before the boat/boats leave. If you want to sit on the upper deck – line up early. Some boats have just a handful of seats up there. (Expect to be windblown!)
All boats stop at Caye Caulker – 45 minutes. And then Ambergris Caye – a total of 90 minutes.
This is my regular commute to the mainland – when traveling around Belize. It’s pretty easy – I just listen to my podcasts that whole way. But I can not tell a lie: I’ve never taken the trip to and from the international airport.
I took the water taxi TO the international airport one time for a flight from Belize but when I returned? I JUST WANTED TO BE HOME! I didn’t want to spend a few hours getting there.
I bought a flight on Tropic AIr…easy easy easy. And was back in San Pedro in a flash.
Pro tip: Don’t sit in the last few rows of the boat – when pulling out of Belize City and into Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye – the fumes from the engines can be…powerful. If you are prone to motion sickness…this could kick that off.
Additional Things to Know
- Late flights. The last water taxis leave at 5pm (San Pedro Belize Express) and 5:30pm at Ocean Ferry. You don’t want to start your vacation in an hour-long panic attack rushing to make these water taxis. You do not want to miss these boats and get stuck in Belize City overnight. It’s not the end of the world but it’s a CRAP way to start your vacation. If you are coming in on a later flight, take the plane.
- Transport once you reach the island: There are numerous taxis and golf cart guys waiting at both the airstrip and at the water taxi. Many resorts provide pick-up and drop-off – check with your resort/lodging.
- You Can Mix And Match: Some people who travel to and from the states often like to fly one way and take the boat the other. Maybe you want to arrive at your final destination, a bit less windblown and salt-free, then you can fly. Up to you!
- Buy My Book: If you are headed to San Pedro, get a copy of 50 BIG Experiences On Ambergris Caye – an inside scoop on the experiences that make a trip to Belize special including a section by Jeff about flyfishing on Ambergris Caye. 🙂
I hope that helps with travel from Belize International Airport to both Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. If you have any issues, tips, adjustments, experiences you want to share, please email me: SanPedroScoop.com.
And WELCOME TO BELIZE!