The best things in life are free, and so is the best of Belize. There is of course: the unsullied beaches, the second largest barrier reef system in the world (dubbed the Great Mayan Reef) opening up some seriously free diving, and the mere fact that it’s beautiful there right now. Did I mention that there are a lot of private cayes?
But lest us forget that although tourism to Belize has increased, according to the tourism board, still less than half a million people stay over night every year. Plus, with the lowest population density in Central America, there is pretty much a private caye or beach for each of us. And when you compare that statistic to most of the Caribbean and Central American beach holiday destinations, it’s the perfect little heap to not crowd your under-umbrella beach delightfulness. In fact the country’s motto is, “Under the Shade I Flourish.” So I am packing sunscreen and a Speedo as I write this.
The country, with its multi-diverse ethnic and cultural influences ranging from Mennonite to Mayan, to Creole and all the way to Lebanese, British and Chinese, has been getting some well-deserved attention this year. But don’t worry if your Spanish is rusty, everyone speaks English — it’s the only country in Central America that doesn’t have Spanish as its national tongue.
Belize is known for its eco-resorts and strict environment-conscious rules for foreign nationals opening businesses and developing real estate, and there is a bonafide desire to grow tourism responsibly. They may have looked to most of the Caribbean to be appalled and then to Bhutan and Costa Rica to feel inspired by their efforts to restrict nonsense developments. Perhaps this is why Leonardo diCaprio (an eco warrior in his own mind) has decided to open his resort, Blackadore Caye, right there.
This past year seems to be the year of getting developments ready in Belize. The Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club just opened in December and the Itz’ana Beach Resort with a Hemingway-ish swing to it, is also new. And revealing soon near a jaguar preserve is a farm-to-table project with solar-powered beachfront cottages, from the Dream Hotels Group. A little way off (2020 probably) will deliver the Four Seasons Caye Chapel with honeymoon-style overwater bungalows on a private island and also an Autograph Collection resort called Alaia, in Ambergris Caye. So maybe right now, before all that development, is the perfect time to go and enjoy the lovely quiet.
The current luxury properties that spearheaded all this development are, of course, foodie-loving Copal Tree Lodge and the private island resort of Francis Ford Coppola, called Turtle Inn. But the finest treat of them all is the private island, Cayo Espanto, which has set the example for everyone else to follow. A place where simplicity is everything, and that’s how you can truly appreciate the natural beauty all around you.
So come lock your thumb with just about anyone (that’s how you say hello in Belize) and find yourself on your own private island. Cayo Espanto knows how to do that without being vulgar. Instead of getting caught up in all things “luxury” with fancy furniture, chandeliers and bullshit pomp and ceremony, they really understand understated luxury. Life is just simple there — even though you get a private butler.
The villas aren’t ostentatious, they celebrate the place with low slung, comfortable furniture where you just want to put your feet up. You can spend your days doing yoga on your deck, and move to your other deck as the sun moves. Or how about play a game of giant chess in the sand? Or head out on a fishing boat, catching your own lunch.
Perhaps a red snapper from the line? Or free dive to grab a conch for ceviche? The skipper will cook lunch for you as they park near a deserted cayes where you can sunbathe…now, this is what luxury really is about. Nobody around, fresh ingredients and all this silence. Trust me, once you figure this luxury thing out, Cayo Espanto will be your holiday succubus.
To book Cayo, and take the whole island whilst you’re at it, visit: www.aprivateisland.com/
For another spectacular suggestion in Belize, see Thatch Caye, in our article.