6 Best Luxury Resorts in Belize — Which One Should You Book?

Turtle Inn Belize

In Belize, there’s plenty to do. From ancient ruins and jungle trekking to a homegrown culinary scene and amazing islands and beaches, Belize is a one-stop destination, and one of my favorites. Belize also offers amazing accommodations. I checked into 6 of the best luxury resorts in Belize, and this is how they stood out.

6 best luxury resorts in Belize

1. Victoria House

On my last visit, I made a beeline to Ambergris Cay, an old-school, barefoot-minded and popular beach paradise. Some hotels are decades old, locals and visitors get around by golf carts and there’s no corporation in sight. It’s laid-back and carefree, with a bohemian edge.

I stayed at Victoria House, a 42-room, British-colonial-designed boutique that has a variety of room types (from plantation rooms to infinity suites). Here, I was reminded of how luxury can be so simple. Victoria House has a prime location considering it’s the launching point for many water excursions thanks to the pier out front.

Victoria House is just minutes away by boat to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve that’s chockfull of sting rays, sea turtles and marine life. Shark Ray Alley, the second stop on the excursion, is where I got up-and-personal with friendly nurse sharks and manta rays. You can opt to stay in the boat but I had to make good use of my underwater camera. Hardcore divers will easily make the trip to the famous Blue Hole, a large sinkhole that drops 400 feet in the ocean.

Belize also only receives about half a million tourists a year. You have plenty of room away from the crowds.

2. Turtle Inn

If I have to award a resort for “Place So Good I Cried When Leaving” it’s Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn in 16-mile long Placencia beach town.

Placencia is one of those places where time seems to have paused. It’s a fisherman’s community with no high rises, no huge resorts and it’s not completely taken over by tourism. In fact, most of the visitors that flock here are local Belizeans, if that doesn’t amp the allure, and Turtle Inn is the stomping ground of choice for the luxury seekers, and it’s one of the best luxury resorts in Belize.

Turtle Inn has 25 well appointed, thatch-roof cottages and villas right on the beach. All have screen porches, hand-carved doors, outdoor showers and, my favorite, a bottomless jar of fresh chocolate chip cookies.

The resort has two pools and three restaurants: Mare restaurant with wood-burning oven for terrific pizzas, beachfront Gauguin Grill for fresh seafood and Auntie Luba’s Kitchen for local flavor. Owner Francis Ford Coppola was so enamored by the property, he bought it in 1999 and transformed it into the perfect getaway for affluent travelers and other celebrities. The entire resort was refurbished last year and the family makes regular jaunts. In fact, guests can take out Roman Coppola’s private, vintage Chris Craft boat, which JFK himself once rode.

Although I was perfectly fine never leaving the property, I took Turtle Inn’s private charter out to the Belize Barrier Reef, specifically Silk Caye, a marine reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s completely removed from civilization. Seriously. It’s a remote island in the middle of nowhere. Life was good. I snorkeled the shallow waters (seeing not one but two sharks!), eagle rays and at nearby Turtle Reef, swam with sea turtles as big as me.

3. Blancaneaux Lodge

Over in the Cayo District, I found more Coppola love at Blancaneaux Lodgea 21-acre resort within the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and set deep within the lushy, dense jungle alongside steep ravines, crashing waterfalls and a fast-flowing river.  It’s a quick puddle jump from Belize International Airport (which gives you great aerial views of the land), and well worth the jaunt.

The 20-room, eco-resort is a favorite for honeymooners and families thanks to rustic-chic cabanas and villas set far apart from each other, an outdoor spa with a focus on Thai treatments (big statement here, but one of the best Thai massages I’ve received outside of Thailand) and thermal pool.

Blancaneaux Lodge used to be home to Coppola’s All Story magazine’s writer’s retreat, which I vowed I would attend one day back when I was in high school. While the retreat is no longer, I can see why writers did flock here. It’s completely secluded with tons of nature to inspire. Oh, and can we talk about their 3-acre organic garden? Expect some just-plucked, fresh ingredients in your meals (from Italian fare to local dishes).

Blancaneaux is a huge supporter of the Jaguar project, a conservation and research initiative to protect and monitor the (sadly diminishing) jaguar population. They even organize nightly hikes to seek out jaguars. Will you see one? Maybe unlikely but Belize is the hot spot for jaguars, as there are more here than anywhere else in the world. It only made sense tagging along with Conservation Officer Roni Martinez to trek the jungle by four-wheel drive in order to better understand the life of a jaguar.

Like most resorts, activities are arranged in-house by their guides. I woke up early to check out the Rio Frio Cave. It’s basically one large limestone cave, which is super important and sacred to the Mayans as it was considered a portal to the underworld. Mayan or not, it’s a stunning natural attraction.

I also made my way to Caracol, Belize’s most popular attraction. It’s a major Maya archaeological site in the Cayo District, covering approximately 30 square miles and one of the best-kept ruins to date. Caracol is one of the best-preserved astronomical observatories that points to the equinox and solstice. At the top of the largest pyramid at 140 feet, I can see Guatemala. The view is insanely breathtaking, and it inspired me to write a travel guide to Belize so others can experience the cheap, friendly and unforgettable attractions I came upon.

4. Ka’ana Belize Resort

Not too far away in San Ignacio is Ka’ana Belize Resort, an intimate hideaway tucked within lush jungle foliage. There’s 10 casitas and 5 Balam rooms (with two swank villas that opened March last year), a saltwater pool, wine cellar and art and furnishings commissioned from local artisans. The stargazing here is unreal thanks to the clarity of the night sky and little obstruction. In fact, it’s here where I saw a UFO, my first sighting ever (perplexed locals saw the same thing and Belize is a hot spot for sightings).

While the UFO sighting was incredibly unique, it wasn’t my favorite moment in Belize nor was it the highlight of my trip. From Ka’ana, I made the drive out to the ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) Caves.

Voted as one of the top ten caves by National Geographic, ATM Caves is a wild, Indiana Jones-esque adventure. I crossed three rivers in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, then navigated an underwater cave system with headlamp (the water depth gets up to 12 feet), squeezed through narrow passageways, climbed over rocks and, two hours later, arrived at an ancient sacrificial chamber full of thousand-year-old skeletal remains. The most famous is the crystal maiden, a victim of sacrifice from the Late Classic Period. It was oh-so-Mayan, oh-so-thrilling and oh-so-Belize.

5. Belcampo Belize

Belize is so vast, I didn’t get to every attraction, including the Blue Hole or the Belize Zoo, where you can actually see jaguars in their natural habitat. Over at Belcampo Belize, the eco-lodge in Toledo is luxury at its finest.

You can make your own rum and attend hands-on classes for cacao and coffee. It truly is one of the best luxury resorts in Belize.

6. Cayo Espanto 

The literal translation of Cayo Espanto—the private island resort off Ambergris Caye in Belize—is “ghost island.” Quite a paradox, considering the only thing scary is that you are completely alone in a lost paradise that you won’t remember what civilization means.

There are only six villas carefully perched along the banks (as well as an overwater bungalow). The lush landscape separates your villa from the others, so you literally don’t see any of the other guests—that, and the fact you don’t leave your home away from home, makes it one of the best luxury resorts in Belize.

As soon as you arrive by boat, you’re appointed your own “houseman” who you only see when he sets up your gourmet meals on your deck or when his presence is commanded from a 24-hour walkie-talkie.

Each villa (starting at 1200-square-feet) is equipped with a plunge pool, rain shower within walled garden, king-size bed dressed in Yves De Lormes sheets, Zericote and Jobillo wood furnishing and mosquito netting and pier-deck extending out into the sea with two comfy sunbeds. Our favorite feature? The retractable shutter-walls that completely open up to bring guests closer to the environment and allow the gentle breeze into the unit. 

The knee-deep, crystal clear water is perfect for wading. You can also arrange tours to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, an underwater national park rife with a diverse variety of sea creatures (from nurse sharks to sea turtles). That, and practically anything you want at your beck-and-call—the kind of lifestyle anyone who actually owns a private island would be familiar with.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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