How to Get from the International Airport – Belize City to San Pedro, Belize: The Pros and Cons & Tips

Belize City to San Pedro: 2 Ways to Get from the Airport to Ambergris Caye…and Back Again

You made it to Belize!  Your international flight lands at Philip Goldson International Airport, aka BZE, just outside the country’s largest population center – Belize City. But you’re staying in San Pedro or, more broadly, on the island or caye (“key”) called Ambergris Caye.

Beach at Victoria House Resort
The Beach at Ambergris Caye’s GORGEOUS Victoria House Resort

Ambergris Caye – with its one and only town of San Pedro – is about 25 miles away from the international airport, as the crow flies. It’s also…well…an island, so you’ll need to get a plane or a boat. You can’t drive to San Pedro and most certainly can’t take an Uber. We don’t have any ride-sharing services in the country Belize.

downtown San Pedro
A look up San Pedro’s Front Street

You DO have a few different options for how to get there.

What is the best way to get from Belize City to San Pedro? There is no best way…it depends on you and what you are looking for. Here are the three options – and their pros and cons – for you to weigh. I update this post every few years – this one for 2024-2025 – so the information is fresh and up-to-date.

We are starting with the most expensive transportation—which also happens to be my favorite—and moving to the least expensive.

12 Must-Dos on Your First Trip to Ambergris Caye

By Plane (Belize’s Domestic Flights)

I LOVE flying from the international airport to Ambergris Caye. I almost consider it a tour (rather than just a way to get to the hotel), and I hope I never stop gawking at the beautiful views out of the plane’s small windows. It’s the best way to really get a sense of the terrain of the mainland, the cayes – the few populated ones like St. George’s Caye, Caye Caulker, and Caye Chapel (planned to be a Four Seasons Resort – whoa), and the many undeveloped ones – and our incredible barrier reef. PLUS, the flight is easy, beautiful and quick!

The amazing colors flying over Belize

Belize’s two airlines, Maya Island Air and Tropic Air, fly directly from the International Airport (BZE) to San Pedro “airport” in downtown San Pedro. It’s called the San Pedro airstrip rather than an official airport (it’s just one runway), and it’s the only one on the island.

The planes are generally Cessnas (sometimes called “Puddle Jumpers”) – and seat about a dozen folks. Maybe a few more, maybe a few less.

The total flight time is about 20 minutes, but it goes by in a flash as you stare out the window and take 101 gorgeous photos. You land at the runway in downtown San Pedro and the BUSY terminals. There you can easily find a taxi, or your hotel/lodging will meet you there.

Booking a ticket for your flight from Belize City to San Pedro: I find it easiest to book the ticket online before I fly to Belize. You can also book it or pay by cash when you get to the Belize City Airport but during the busiest season (Christmas to April) this might have you waiting a bit for a flight. Plus, you are paying the same price (there is no discount or negotiating once there). Pre-booking just gets you to your final destination a few minutes faster. You can find Maya Island Air here and Tropic Air here. you love the flight, once you are in San Pedro, you can book a flight to fly over Belize’s Great Blue Hole. I just did it in February 2024 and…it. is. INCREDIBLE!

My tips:

If the airline employee asks you if you want to sit next to the pilot or “fly co-pilot”, the answer is YES PLEASE! Often a female or a “smaller” person is asked if they want to fly next to the pilot (it’s a weight distribution thing, not a judgment on how you look!) You will not have any co-piloting duties, though all the controls are in front of you! – just relax and enjoy the incredible view.)

When flying out from the international airport, you’ll follow the path of a large, winding green river named the Belize River. (Easy to remember, right?) As the river empties into the sea, look for manatees! They congregate at the river’s mouth feeding – and you can almost always spot a few from the sky.

Pros Of FLYING from Belize City to San Pedro: Quick, easy, beautiful scenery, Tropic Air flights and Maya Air flights leave every hour (or more frequently if the airport is extra busy)

Cons: It’s pricy (current round-trip ticket is about $175US) and can definitely add up for a family or larger group!

By Water Taxi/Ferry

There are many daily trips back and forth from Belize City to Caye Caulker and on to Ambergris Caye each day. It is significantly less expensive but it can also be a long trip from the airport to San Pedro. Here’s are the details!

Belize City Water Taxi Services

Taking the ferry (locally called “the water taxi”) is the less expensive option but also the most time-consuming. Additionally, it will not be possible to take the water taxi if your international flight lands later in the day.

When you land in Belize, you want to give yourself time to go through immigration and customs, pick up your bag, and then time to travel from BZE to the Belize City water taxi terminals. The last boats leave for San Pedro and Caye Caulker at 5:30 p.m. sharp. Miss that boat, and you will be scrambling to find lodging in Belize City overnight. It’s not the best way to start a vacation!

Window from Water Taxi
The view as you pull up to Ambergris Caye

Also note that because we are relatively near the equator, there is not the huge swing in sunset time between summer and winter like there is in the US and Canada (our northern neighbors) The sun sets at about 5:15pm in December (the earliest) and as late as 6:30pm in June (the latest) – so it gets dark early! JIf you take the 530pm water taxi, you will arrive in San Pedro at 7pm – it will be dark.

Gas Station Dock in San Pedro
The beach in San Pedro

There are two water taxi services that run regularly from Belize City to San Pedro (with a stop in Caye Caulker along the way). They are: San Pedro Belize Express and Caribbean Sprinter.

Note: I always take San Pedro Belize Express – they have more boats leaving more often – a more robust schedule. Both boats drop you off at their water taxi terminals in the center of San Pedro town.

Both have terminals on the water in Belize City (very close to each other) – about 12 miles from the BZE or Phillip Goldson International Airport.

To reach these water taxi terminals from the airport, you must catch a taxi after going through customs and picking up your bags. The set taxi fare is $25US, and often, a $5US fee is added per additional passenger. Depending on traffic, you can be at the water taxi terminal in as little as 20 minutes; the trip can take as long as 45 minutes. (I’ve always had a great experience with the taxi guys of Belize City)

***New but I am hearing mixed feedback! San Pedro Belize Express offers a shuttle service from the airport to its water taxi station. Here is the information from their website: “It takes approximately 25 minutes from the international airport to our terminal; We provide Shared Transportation: The One-Way cost is USD$25.00 for the first person and USD$10 for each additional person. Contact [email protected] for a quotation on Private shuttle transfers.”

Buying your ticket: You will be asked to check your larger bags with the staff when you enter the water taxi terminal – you will need to check large backpacks and suitcases. You then buy a ticket at the front desk. You can pre-purchase tickets on the water taxis’ websites, but honestly? I’m not sure there is any reason to. In fact, I often see these transactions taking longer as the staff tries to find your reservation and handle your payment. I recommend buying your ticket when you reach the counter – they take cash and credit cards.

Belize CIty Harbor
The harbor in Belize City

The only reason I can see for doing it is if you have a large group and want to make sure you can all board the boat. If you are single or just a few people, you will have no problem buying your tickets at the terminal.

Tips for Handling Money in Belize – US vs BZD, ATMs and Credit Cards

My Water Taxi tips: These boats are generally covered boats but open-air (open sides) The entire trip is also within the reef – and should be relatively smooth no matter where you sit. (The barrier reef protects from the big waves)

About 30 minutes before the boat is scheduled to leave, you can get online. If you are concerned about your seating or have a group that you want to sit with, get in line early to secure a seat in the middle of the boat (by the doors is my favorite) or, if you really like all the breeze, on the top level. There is limited seating on top.

The back of the boat (I think boat people call it the “stern”) provides the smoothest ride, but ideally, you can stay away from the motors if the smell of gas bothers you. The front of the boat can be a bit bumpier.

All boats go from Belize City to Caye Caulker and then on to San Pedro. The ride from Belize City to Caye Caulker is about 1 hour. And the total ride from Belize City to San Pedro, 1.5 hours.

boca del rio kids play set in water

Pros: Least expensive of all the options

Cons: The boats can get crowded, and this is the most time-consuming option that requires the most steps/coordination on your part.

Additional tips: The best prices for imported liquor in Belize can be found at the International Airport in their duty-free section. After you go thru immigration, and as you are waiting to pick up your checked luggage, you will see a line of shops along the wall that offer duty-free items. Mostly liquor and cigarettes. If you want to buy a bottle or two, this is a good time to do it. Local rums are very reasonably priced at shops around the country, but you’ll find that if you want a bottle of vodka or gin (do people still drink gin?!) or even a bottle of wine, prices in Belize can be 2-4x the price you would see in the US. These arrivals duty-free shops have the lowest prices around.

More information about buying Duty Free Liquor on Entry To Belize (this is an older post but is still accurate…cheapest by far!)

I hope that helps. When you get off that international flight (or flights), consider your schedule and budget and whether you want to get to your destination in an hour or spend the entire afternoon traveling. There are lots of things to do on Ambergris Caye!

Please let me know if you have any tips or tricks or problems. I’m always looking to make this post better!

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  1. richard harrington on May 5th, 2024 at 12:44 pm

    Well written article, however I found sitting on seats, edge near window better, due to fact it was really hot in the middle of boat. I only did it once about 8 yrs ago. I am still thinking of living in San Pedro full time…… Life keeps getting in the way.

    • San Pedro Scoop on May 5th, 2024 at 2:28 pm

      I know how that can be!

  2. Toni on May 5th, 2024 at 2:24 pm

    My first time traveling to Caye Caulker I took the water taxi because I wanted the experience. After that, I always choose Maya or Tropic to fly back.

  3. Luvin Travel on May 22nd, 2024 at 2:55 pm

    As a travel agent I have to rely on articles like this to truly guide myself as well as my clients through the daunting task sometimes of traveling particularly when you have to make so many steps. It would be cool to take the water taxi over that way you experience that and then fly back which allow you just a little bit more time to enjoy the resort even though you do truly have to be there 3 hours prior to your flight departure. Thanks again for the article it was very good I was totally surprised about the pricing of the duty free at the airport. That’s typically not the case in most countries but that’s a good tip I appreciate that too keep up the good work