With the world’s second largest barrier reef just off shore, hotels that are set on their own cays, and increasing air service to Central America from around the US, Belize’s corner of the Caribbean is beginning to look more and more attractive. Here are three Belize beach options for the traveler in the know.
Cayo Espanto (www.aprivateisland.com)
Starting Price: $995 per night
It’s only three miles from San Pedro and Ambergris Caye, but what a difference that makes. The sandy caye, aka tiny island, of Cayo Espanto is less resort – the maximum number of guests is just 16 – than a small, secluded, palm tree covered private island paradise. Here five oceanfront villas with private plunge pools and one over water bungalow (the cheapest room) are hidden from one another, have huge windows you can open for the maximum breeze, little extras like Yves De Lormes sheets and showers alfresco. Rates include your own personal butler, three meals per day served in your room or in spots around the island, snacks, all drinks (minus champagne and wine), and non-motorized water sports. For more seclusion, opt for renting the entire island. It’s only $12,000 a night.
Turtle Inn (www.blancaneaux.com)
Starting Price: $210
One of three Central American ecolodges owned by winemaker and Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola, Turtle Inn was built, as the man himself put it, “as rustic as I love, and as luxurious as I could.” Here a dozen cottages and villas plus the Coppola family Pavilion (starting at $1600 per night) are a cross between a local thatched village and Eleanor Coppola’s own flair for Indonesian art and design. All have their own private gardens, out door showers, and Balinese hand carved doors and décor. If the mood is right, try the Chinese Matrimonial Suite (starting at $400 per night), featuring a 200 year old, hand carved, Chinese Fertility Bed. The lodge sits on the southern end of the Placencia peninsula beside both a wildlife flooded lagoon and the Caribbean Sea. So, in the morning you can dive with whale sharks and after lunch kayak up Monkey River (the actual name).
Jaguar Reef Lodge (www.jaguarreef.com)
Starting Price: $180 per night
If you’re kids don’t know where Belize is before they come to Jaguar Lodge, they will when they get back. Fronting seven miles of Caribbean sands and hundreds of acres of rainforest, there’s enough to do here to keep kids and teens on the verge of over stimulation, giving parents the option of kicking back with cocktails in coconuts at the Butterflies Spa or doing some adventuring of their own. Their Family Suites have multiple bedrooms and kitchenettes, but with a family package they add free use of sports equipment (wind surf boards, kayaks, and snorkels), free meals for kids, and three of their adventure tours which range from hikes in the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve, fishing and wildlife watching on the Sittee River, River Cave Tubing, Zip line Canopy Tours, visits to Mayan Ruins, and snorkel and diving trips.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.