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Get to know this beautiful island just off the coast of Belize, and one of the 20 Best Places to Live 2017. Get the inside scoop on Ambergris Caye, including where to eat, drink, play, and stay

Lying just south of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, Belize is an expat’s dream destination: The Belizean dollar is pegged to the US dollar, the local language is English, and there’s a well-established expat population, which makes for an easy transition. For the ultimate Belizean escape, Ambergis Caye, its 25-mile-long, slender offshore island, has a new vibrance at the southern end with the development of Mahogany Bay Village, a new-urbanism-inspired community that also offers hotel stays in its whitewashed, elegant cottages, and a cluster of some of the best food and drink on the island.

Ambergris Caye by the Numbers

Population: 17,429

Average July high: 86

Average January low: 68

Median home price: Oceanfront condominium units are priced at about US$500,000, while two- to four-bedroom oceanfront houses are priced around US$1 million.

Number of sunny days: 310

Best Beaches and Other Attractions

Several of Ambergis Caye’s finest stretches lie along the island’s southern shore, fronted by resorts including Ramon's Village and The Villas at Banyan Bay (all beaches are public, so just roll up and enjoy the view).

A gap in Ambergris Caye’s protective reef gives the Hol Chan (“little channel”) Marine Reserve its name; this natural anomaly provides a protected habitat for live corals and fish and is a popular dive spot. Elsewhere in the underwater park you’ll find a seagrass-filled lagoon, thick coastal mangrove forests, and Shark Ray Alley, where snorkelers can swim with southern stingrays and nurse sharks.

And when it’s time to leave the beach, Ambergris Caye’s town center of San Pedro is a buzzy, funky hangout with outdoor bars and restaurants.

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Where to Eat and Drink

Rum + Bean, on the grounds of Mahogany Bay Village, pours strong brew, has thrillingly fast wifi, and rum on the shelves for when it’s that time of day. In fact, Mahogany Bay is quickly becoming a dining destination unto itself: the open-air Taco Shack is open for breakfast and lunch, and Jyoto Japanese Cuisine has a fresh and innovative approach to sushi, sourcing local catch.

In San Pedro, experience Mayan cuisine and much more at Elvi’s Kitchen, which has a popular Mayan Buffet accompanied by live music every Friday night and fresh local seafood the rest of the week. Victoria House’s Palmilla restaurant has elegant verandah dining; to really amuse your bouche, ask them to expertly prepare your catch from a day spent fishing the local waters.

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Where to Stay

Slip out of your canopied bed and into the pool or onto the beach at Victoria House, a 42-room boutique hotel that has the island’s largest spa. The bright and cheerful Caye Casa has a pair of lovely casitas with thatch-covered porches opening directly onto the white-sand beach.

Finally, cottages are available for rent as part of the community at Mahogany Bay through Mahogany Bay Resort, Curio—A Collection by Hilton.