The Best Resorts in Belize

Interested in eco-adventure, but don’t want to sacrifice luxury? How about a romantic getaway? No worries! One of Belize’s best attributes is its lack of massive all-inclusive resorts where you battle for pool loungers and reservations at restaurants. Instead, the country offers a number of boutique and luxury resorts situated beachside on the Caribbean, or nestled in Central American rain forest.

A short boat ride north from San Pedro will deposit you onto a portion of Ambergris Caye that feels worlds away from any town or city. Once ensconced in a private bungalow on a private beach, there isn’t much to distract the guest from complete enjoyment of the charms of Caribbean water, sunshine, and the slower pace that characterizes day-to-day life in the North Islands. Massage therapists are available, as are spa services, and a full range of excursions and activities can be arranged via the concierge. Thirteen exclusive villas are available, one of which includes a steam room and private infinity pool, while other villas either feature beach access, jacuzzi tubs, private outdoor showers, or decks that stretch over a saltwater lake. El Secreto’s full-service restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a bar is poolside in the main lodge. Rates begin around $3,000 for a three-night stay, and more information is available at www.elsecretobelize.com.
Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, Belize
Movie director Francis Ford Coppola had traveled the world, but when he visited Belize in the 1980s, in search of a “jungle paradise” like the one where he had filmed Apocalypse Now, he was taken by the untamed land and bought Blancaneaux, the first of two resort properties he would eventually own in Belize. (The other is Turtle Inn.) Initially, Blancaneaux was a family retreat, but by the early 1990s, Coppola decided to turn it into a small luxury resort. Today, guests with deep pockets enjoy visiting Blancaneaux for its sense of exclusivity; travelers have to really want to stay here. An hour’s drive down a bone-jarring road away from civilization, one doesn’t just happen upon the resort. Accommodations are gigantic villa- and cabana-style lodgings lavishly decorated with handmade furniture, textiles, and crafts. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and swimming are a few of the activities for guests on-site at Blancaneaux.
Barrier Reef Dr San Pedro, Belize, San Pedro, Belize
The Phoenix, a little slice of paradise on the edge of San Pedro, features more modern architecture than most buildings in town, as well as modern amenities. Rooms are one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom condominium suites that feature luxurious eat-in kitchens, bathrooms with walk-in showers and Jacuzzi tubs, large living rooms and laundry facilities. Each suite also has a balcony or patio, and almost all suites are just steps away from one of the pools which are the focal point of the resort. The larger main pool cascades into a shallower lower pool and is saline chlorinated, as is the 55-foot-long lap pool. A pool bar is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Red Ginger restaurant is open daily for breakfast lunch and dinner as well as brunch on Sunday afternoons and serves a tapas menu on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. There are also business services, an on-site spa, and fitness and yoga centers. Rates begin at $325 per night during low season for a one-bedroom beach view suite.
Placencia, Belize
Turtle Inn is one of two upscale resort properties in Belize owned by American movie director Francis Ford Coppola. (The other is Blancaneaux.) This inn is in the town of Placencia, but despite its proximity to the town’s services, the privacy afforded by the resort makes guests feel insulated and more isolated than they actually are. The cabana-style accommodations are luxurious and spacious, with high ceilings and exceptional attention to design detail. The architecture blends in with the environment, but inside the cabanas and villas, guests will feel as if they’ve been transported to another part of the world. The decor is inspired by Bali, with hand-carved wooden wardrobes and trunks and richly embroidered textiles and tapestries. These sit alongside ultramodern amenities and conveniences, such as Delonghi espresso machines and iPod docking stations. Common areas include a triangle-shaped, infinity-edge pool and a gift shop with pricey luxury goods, including handbags and clothing.
Gallon Jug Estate, Orange Walk District, Belize
Though Belize is replete with Maya sites, including some spectacular archaeological examples that are open to the public, Chan Chich may well be the only hotel in the country that can claim to sit atop a known former Maya site. In the late 1980s, owner Barry Bowen sought and received permission from the country’s Department of Archaeology to build on the site, whose plaza was beyond repair. No doubt guests are surrounded by the spirits of ancient Maya as well as actual artifacts that remain hidden in the soil around the lodge. Accommodations are individual casitas and cabanas decorated with local art, fresh tropical flowers, and simple but sturdy furnishings. The hotel is part of the historic 130,000-acre Gallon Jug Estate, which is, among other things, a private nature preserve. Guests enjoy wildlife spotting on the property, whose staff has kept a running list of the bird species seen here: the current count tops 350 types.
San Ignacio, Chaa Creek Road, Belize
Often referred to as Belize‘s original eco-lodge, Chaa Creek opened in 1981 as a simple rain forest hotel. In the decades since, it has become one of the country’s most popular options for upscale jungle accommodations, winning awards for its hospitality and its practices emphasizing environmental sustainability. Guests have two main options in terms of room types and price points. Luxurious rooms and suites are in the main lodge, featuring polished wood or tile floors and locally made furniture; the simpler, more budget-friendly casitas sit along the Macal River. The latter are sparsely furnished and offer few distractions. Guests of either room type have access to the property’s amenities and grounds, which include a natural history center and butterfly exhibit, a rain forest medicine trail, binoculars for bird-watching, and canoes for paddling along the river.
Black Rock Lodge is the ultimate Belizean jungle lodge, located a few miles outside San Ignacio and down a dirt road that leads you into a high-walled, karstic river valley. All the cabinas are perched on the hillside with spectacular river views and wildlife viewing opportunities from the front porch. The main dining area offers more opportunities to spot birds and monkeys on the opposing hillside or watch intrepid guests go over the waterfall on an inner tube directly below. The lodge is a great place to base yourself for a range of activities and sights, such as Maya ruins, cave exploration, canoeing and rafting, hiking and bird watching.
Mile 69¼ Western Hwy., San Ignacio, Cayo District, Belize
Ka’ana is described as a “boutique resort,” and it appeals to guests who want a sense of being in the Belizean rain forest while also enjoying the comforts and amenities of a full-service resort. Rooms and villas here seem to blend into the jungle, but it’s clear that all is carefully tamed to ensure that guests don’t feel overwhelmed by the wildness. Rooms are decorated in earth tones, with textiles and design accents all locally crafted. Furniture is sturdy local hardwood. Master suites have outdoor showers, and there are two spacious, private villas, each with its own plunge pool, garden, and outdoor terrace, among other luxuries. Staff can arrange land and sea excursions to the country’s most popular cultural, historic, and natural sites.
South of San Pedro is the award-winning luxury resort of Victoria House. The plantation style property is unlike any other on Ambergris Caye, offering some of the best views of the Caribbean Sea. Despite being one of the larger properties with 42 rooms spread out over 10 acres, Victoria House is one of the most intimate resorts. A majority of the staff at Victoria House have been there for years and it shows. Their love for Victoria House and its guests is genuine and evident throughout every part of the resort. Look for several dining options on property, including the more casual Admiral Nelson Bar, perfect for daytime dining, and the more high-end Palmilla, an ideal spot for a romantic dinner. Meal plans are available for guests looking for a more all-inclusive experience. Victoria House offers a range of room styles, from staterooms and plantation rooms to private suites and villas. Rates start at $195 for staterooms all the way up to $1,775 for a five-bedroom villa.
North Rd, Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins Bay Resort is located on the beach right near the town of Hopkins; accommodations include one-, two-, and three-bedroom beach houses. Local art and polished mahogany furniture signal that this is no cookie-cutter chain hotel. The spacious houses are perfect for families or small groups traveling together. Resort activities include dance and music performances that reflect the traditions of the local Garifuna people, descendants of Africans brought to the New World as slaves. Staff can also arrange excursions to numerous cultural and historic attractions, not only in and around Hopkins, but also to iconic sites such as Xunantunich, a Maya site, and the Blue Hole, one of the world’s most popular destinations for scuba diving.
Placencia’s Chabil Mar continues to impress guests from around the world with its stunning beachfront location, private villas, and its proximity to Placencia Village. With only 19 luxury villas and one honeymoon suite, Chabil Mar feels very intimate and offers an elevated level of privacy with its “guest exclusive” concept – all resort amenities here are reserved for Chabil Mar’s guests only. Dining at Chabil Mar is rather unique, with the flexibility to choose your dining spot – maybe enjoy dinner on your balcony or patio, go al fresco at the café on the beach, or have a romantic private table set up on the pier. Chabil Mar offers a number of packages for those looking at specialized itineraries, including sailing, fishing, diving, jungle and sea combinations, and all-inclusive options.
Buena Vista Street, Cayo District, San Ignacio, Belize
Centrally located in the heart of the Cayo District, the award-winning San Ignacio Resort Hotel offers guests convenient access to the region’s best sights and activities. San Ignacio Resort Hotel features 24 rooms and has the distinction of being named “Hotel of the Year” in 2012 by the Belize Tourism Board. Room options include a honeymoon suite, regal rooms, deluxe balcony and garden rooms and one spa suite. The on-site restaurant features a number of tantalizing dishes and some of the best traditional food I’ve had in Belize. Check out the on-site Green Iguana Project and learn about San Ignacio Resort Hotel’s conservation efforts in Belize. Be sure to start at least one morning off by bird-watching over breakfast.
Wilson Road, Punta Gorda, Belize
Formerly Belcampo.

Each of the 16 rooms at Copal Tree Lodge is a spacious villa-style suite set on the edge of the jungle, which gives a sense of privacy and peacefulness. Guests shouldn’t be surprised to see coatimundi, agouti, and other wildlife while showering in the spa-style bathrooms with their floor-to-ceiling windows. Tile floors, comfortable beds wrapped with gauzy mosquito nets, and private verandas are standard in every suite, as is Wi-Fi and complimentary laundry service, and the hotel has a pool and a restaurant/bar. The numerous outdoor activities include exploring Copal Tree Lodge’s chocolate trail and kayaking or canoeing on the Rio Grande River at the base of the property; various trips can be organized off-site, too. The hotel is closed from mid-September to late October.
Mile 17.5 Placencia Peninsula, Placencia, Belize
It would be hard to find a more idyllic spot for recharging than Naïa Resort and Spa, Placencia’s newest (and, we’ll say it, most comfortable) resort. Stay in your own studio, one-, two-, or three-bedroom beach house, all of which come equipped with floor-to-ceiling front windows, a kitchenette, a deep tub, and an outdoor shower (trust us: once you’ve had the luxury of an outdoor shower, you’ll never want to go back to the boring, indoor version). Every beach house is just that: a beach house. You’re never more than a short walk from the shores of the Caribbean Sea, and the Naîa’s watersports center can get you off the sand and into the water on a kayak or paddleboard. (While you’re there, ask for Stony, whose a pleasant man to talk to and the guy you’ll need to open a fresh coconut from one of the many palm trees on the property). The resort also staffs expert concierges, who can recommend the best tours, spa treatments, and in-town experiences.

The spa, as expected, is one of Naïa’s best features. Located a short golf cart drive away from the lobby, Naïa’s spa feels like a secluded oasis. Lillypads sit calmly on the surface of still ponds, and treatment rooms—all housed in small, individual wooden buildings—overlook the vegetation. The masseuses will alleviate you of all pent up stress with expert hands and sweet-smelling lotions exclusive to the resort.

The town of Placencia is only a short drive away, and the Naïa can shuttle you wherever you need to go. Eat and drink at Barefoot Bar or Tipsy Tuna, walk along the paths near the beach to find handmade treasures to take home, and hang out by the docks and watch the fishing boats come and go. Then go back to your little slice of paradise on the Caribbean shores.
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