It’s a fact—Belize does not have a bunch of big-name hotel or resort flags flying around, yet. As a matter of fact it has none…the Radisson in Belize City doesn’t count. But there are some very cool places to stay in Belize as long as you don’t mind not being in a 300-room Marriott! There is a great mix of nice lower-budget places to stay, but the properties below represent the best Belize has to offer. The funny thing is that as I put this list together with the help of my friends—and to make sure we got what we considered the best in Belize—you realized there is such variety here, even in a relatively short list. All of these represent some prime real estate many with great spas and food. Without further ado (and in no particular order), here are the finest resorts and hotels offered in this Caribbean jewel known as Belize:
Cayo Espanto – Ambergris Caye
This place is over-the-top luxury for Belize. And easily makes this list, even if it covered the whole Caribbean. If you want the ultimate place to relax, with some of the best service in the Caribbean, and the ideal trailhead for ultimate sea adventure, Cayo Espanto is for you. Did I mention it’s a small private island to boot? Adventure is moments away at Cayo Espanto when you don your scuba or snorkel gear to explore the world’s second-largest barrier-reef system. The reef is right out your back door. Three miles from San Pedro, off the coast of Belize, Cayo Espanto is truly a spectacular and private retreat with spa services too. World class snorkeling, scuba diving, amazing food, attentive staff, and massages all await you at Cayo Espanto. As a note: the whole staff meets you when you pull up to the dock…“(the plane, the plane.)”
Chabil Mar Villas – Placencia
On the Placencia Peninsula, next to the famed Turtle Inn, is the Chablis Mar Villas Resort, our pick for the place to stay in Placencia. This place is just very tastefully done, including beautiful landscaping from the front gate to the beach. Chabil offers different types of luxury villas ranging from on-the-beach oceanfront and great ocean view villas with both one and two bedrooms. They have a very cool and romantic honeymoon suite too. Almost all the villas have great sea views or views of Placencia’s whole bay. You can get spa services right on your private balcony with a great view. This little slice of paradise also sits on the best beach on Belize’s mainland. And the staff, from the front desk gals to the in-suite waiters, are welcoming and very friendly. In-your-suite room service offers you some of the best food in Placencia without leaving your suite. Great place to stay whether you a couple or an entire family.
Turtle Inn – Placencia
Regardless of whether you think Turtle Inn is the best on this list, it’s a fact that Turtle and Francis Ford Coppola single-handedly helped make Belize tourism what it is today and put Placencia on the map. It also didn’t hurt that the resort shared both his big name and his big-name guest list. From the moment you walk into the lobby you are transformed to a different place. Belize, Bali, Thailand? Not sure but it has a great feel and totally changes your paradigm. The natural Belizean hardwoods, the front desk carving brought by Coppola from Bali, and the raised floor above a mock jungle setting is perfect. The rooms (with no air) are far eastern in their look and feel, and most sit right on the beach allowing for fresh Caribbean breezes and the gentle rolling waves off the sea. Coppola’s personal suite is available too but will set you back over a grand a night. It’s very private, with over-the-top panache and a private beachfront pool. The other rooms and suites are unique and well-appointed and all come with great Belizean service. Two really good restaurants make this a great stay for those willing to shell out a few extra bucks…and then there is his other gem…
Blancaneaux – San Ignacio
I feel (and many others agree) this place is more amazing and I think a better experience than even Turtle Inn. Set in the Mayan Mountains at the foot of a beautiful river are a dozen amazing cabanas spread out on a lush tropical landscape that instantly puts you at-ease with nature. Although there a few different styles and sizes of these luxury thatched cabanas, each is made with rich Belizean hardwoods that just give them a rich and luxurious feeling. You have a sense of lush jungle everywhere but you’re in the middle of a pine ridge forest. Like Turtle Inn, the food is excellent and the service is very good and very personal. There are couples’ decks spread around the rocks along the river for napping or reading a great book. It’s s-o-o-o-o quiet and so peaceful here that it makes for a truly amazing experience. Frankly you can take a dip in the river as well if napping isn’t your thing. The available adventure tours in the mountains are much different than those you’ll find out on the coast. So, step-up and get one of the larger cabanas, sit out on your deck and enjoy.
Belizean Dreams – Hopkins
If you’re in the Hopkins area there are two cool places to stay. Belizean Dreams is one of them. Here, the accommodations are well-appointed two- and three- bedroom villas, with a great second-story master suite for views of the Caribbean. Service here is personal and the small palapa restaurant by the pool and right on the beach offers really good food and drinks. They have a sister resort about a mile away offering more of the same, really nice villas on the beach including some real estate for sale within the resort. This feels more like a second home than a hotel or resort.
Jaguar Reef – Hopkins
Also in Hopkins is Jaguar Reef Lodge located next door to Belizean Dreams. Both are situated on a nice beach within easy reach of a quiet and unspoiled part of the beautiful offshore reef. Watch the sun come up over the ocean from your room or suite and enjoy the sunset over the Mayan mountains from your back veranda. The accommodations are roomy thatched units, pleasantly rough around the edges, all surrounding a beautiful lodge with good food and friendly service. This place has one of the best menus for adventure tours in the country.
Kanantik – Stann Creek
If you want a quiet place on a very nice private beach, Kanantik is for you (last time I was there they didn’t allow kids). Feels like your own private resort. There are only 20 or so very cool, private, tasteful beach cabanas with indoor/outdoor baths. The landscape and grounds are manicured to perfection and the service and staff are perfect, too. For the most part it’s all-inclusive but don’t let that fool you. This is a very custom experience and the food and drinks are great. Roberto, the owner, a divemaster, has one of the finest diving operations in the country with a beautiful dock system and two really nice boats. If you are looking for a beach hut but don’t want to rough it too much I highly recommend this place. Oh, and it has enough real estate for its own private airstrip.
Turneffe Island Resort
To start with this is an intimate resort on an island located off the coast of Belize situated in one of the three large atolls. It’s a pretty spectacular setting for sure. Unlike a lot of places you’d stay, this resort’s cabanas (the most desirable accommodations), ring the island so each gets a view of the white sand beach and the azure water. The Deluxe and the Superior suites in the main house are very well-appointed and offer all the exotic feel you need to disconnect and unwind. As a diving and fishing launch point it may be the best in Belize. If isolation and white, white sand is your thing, this is paradise.
Chaa Creek – San Ignacio – Maya Mountains
A pioneer in eco-lodging, this secluded 365-acre nature reserve is perched above the banks of the Macal River in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, and offers an unspoiled ambience like few resorts in Belize. Chaa Creek caters to the traveler looking for both physical and intellectual challenges and its programs and activities revolve around the environment, culture and archaeology of Belize. The cottages and suites are mostly thatched roofed with an inviting rich jungle theme with lots of pretty hardwoods. Try the new Treetop Suites, very cool. And, don’t miss the spa here, it may be the best in the country. They also just invested in a great new pool to take the edge off at the end long day of adventure.
Victoria House, San Pedro – Ambergris Caye
Talk about casual luxury. No shoes required, great staff, great Caribbean food. The kitchen will cook your catch, the bartender will make ceviche while you shower and change for dinner (again no shoes)! Rooms range from plantation rooms and casitas to a three-bedroom plantation house with a breathtaking oceanfront veranda. All well done and appointed. The secluded Rainforest Suite, just 50 feet away from the Caribbean, is a favorite of honeymooners featuring a wraparound front veranda, floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors.