Drift Inn Belize -San Pedro

History And Development In Ambergris Caye

Learn the History of San Pedro Town

San Pedro Town, Belize is found on the island of Ambergris Caye off Northern Belize. This tourist island was once inhabited solely by fishermen and their families. 

Learn the history of our little San Pedro Town from the Mayas, the Meztizos, and development into a tourist town.

History of Early Settlers

First, there were the Mayans. You can find proof of Mayan Native Americans’ presence on Ambergris Caye. There’s even a Maya ruin site on the south side of the island. However, the Mayans did not settle long term on the island like the communities who did in Southern Belize.

After the Mayans left, Ambergris Caye was a mass of sandy beaches and mangrove infested swampland, with lots of wild animals, mosquitoes in abundance, and pristine waters with abundance of fish, conch and lobster.

That was until 1848. Prior to this date Mayans were living in great numbers in the Mexican state of Yucatan.


Meztizo Migration

San Pedro’s inhabitants In the island for generations are known as San Pedranos. Historically, they originally came from Mexico. The island population start growing when Mestizo people sought refuge in Belize from the wars in the Yucatan area during the Caste War of Yucatán in 1847. British English officials allow the Mestizo people to settle the area planning for them to work to feed workers in the wood-products camps.

This migration was the principal factor in the settlement of Northern Belize. The population grew from less than 200 in 1846 to 4,500 inhabitants by 1857, to 8,000 in 1858, in the Corozal District alone. The first permanent settlers of San Pedro arrive there between 1848 and 1849.

These most likely consisted of the family members of anglers who had recently assemble fishing camps on the Cayes and move their families over to the security of the island when the Santa Cruz Maya people revolted. The settlement before long develop to a town of around 30 houses and more than 50 occupants. And then, the settlement of Ambergris Caye took hold.  Learn more about the Ethnic groups that arrive to Belize. https://www.belmopanonline.com/belize-mestizo-culture

First Hotel in San Pedro

Holiday Hotel was the first hotel to open to the general public in 1965. Although in the history of Ambergris Caye it was say that the first to open, it was not the first hotel to be built. The first inn to be based on Ambergris Caye was an extravagant hotel with singular units style lodging. However, it didn’t get the occasion to welcome any visitors into its rooms, cafe/bar, or pool. The reason is Hurricane Haiti passed through Belize as a Category 5 and washed away this luxurious hotel before it was able to open. 

Ambergris Caye's First Dive Shop

The first person to open a dive shop was Mr. Alan Forman in the 70’s. Mr. Alan Forman was not only a co-founder of a hotel group known as Coral Beach Hotels, he was a visionary. Allan knew there were adventurous travelers who wanted to dive. He arranged to procure air tanks to the island and quickly the trend took off. The Coral Beach Hotel group purchased its own compressor and demand increased. 

Today there are several dive shops that supply all the gear for an underwater adventurer. There are several air compression units to fill many tanks that are used daily during high season. All of this can be the vision of the person who introduced the concept to San Pedro. The history of humble beginnings on the island to the first tourist businesses and development of the island is miraculous how far it has come since the 60s.

Read more about some good diving spot here in Belize. 

First Airline to Fly to San Pedro

The Celi Grief family who owned the holiday hotel established the first commercial flights to and from San Pedro. Today, two companies serve Ambergris Caye.

Since the 70s, tourism has blossomed into the main industry of the island, with locals welcoming tourists to visit and enjoy the town of San Pedro and island of Ambergris Caye. San Pedro now hosts over 55 hotels, one airport servicing two airlines, countless restaurants and dive shops.

If you want to know more about the life and culture of Ambergris Caye read “25 Years Ago” online about Ambergris Caye, Belize.