Belize is a fascinating country full of ancient Mayan ruins and jungles prowled by jaguars, but perhaps its greatest natural treasure is the 190-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef. Just off this Central American nation’s Caribbean coast, the reef is home to the Great Blue Hole and hundreds of small atolls, islands and cays, a number of which have been converted to laid-back but luxurious resorts. These 10 private island resorts are some of Belize’s best.
Cayo Espanto Diminutive Cayo Espanto lies three miles off the coast of San Pedro and packs six beachfront villas onto a palm-studded island and one overwater bungalow just offshore. The proximity to the mainland makes tours of Belize’s historic treasures an easy day trip, while bird watching, diving, and fishing are among the other (not included) activities. Everything from meals to spa treatments is provided in the privacy of your personal villa.
Royal Belize Part of the local Muy’Ono chain, Royal Belize is an all-inclusive private island resort with five modern luxury suites — two standalone, the Big House with three incorporated villas, and a “bunkhouse” for additional guests. Accommodating a maximum of 16 guests, Royal Belize is perfect for a buyout family getaway or intimate destination wedding — only one group of guests is welcomed at a time. Staff lead guests on private tours to the reef for fishing, snorkeling, and even conch and lobster hunting.
Turneffe Island One of the larger and better known of Belize’s private islands resorts, Turneffe won’t blow you away with luxury accommodations — villas look like screened-in summer cottages — but some have private pools and all have access to the island’s outdoor pool, Beaches, private spa, fishing expeditions, diving, and other activities. Belizean fusion cuisine and barbecue are on the menu at the resort’s restaurant, part of the all-inclusive package.
Gladden Private Island There’s getting away from it all on a private island, and then there’s Gladden Island, where you and no more than three other guests will have the entire island and villa on the Belize Barrier Reef to yourselves other than the occasional appearance of staff members (who live on a nearby island) to cater to your needs. Whether you’re with another couple or going solo, there’s plenty of room (and two master bedrooms) in the 3,000-square-foot villa that dominates the island, which also has a kitchen, swimming pool, and outdoor dining area.
Thatch Caye Boasting an eco-friendly ethos and a barefoot elegant vibe, Thatch Caye has both beach villas and overwater bungalows and offers a comprehensive all-inclusive package. The latter includes all dining and use of kayaks, paddle boards, snorkel gear, fishing poles, and other non-motorized water gear. The island hosts a maximum of 30 guests, who you’ll get to know on tours, other scheduled activities, and during meals at the resort’s Grove restaurant, Coco Lounge, and Starfish Bar.
Little Harvest Caye Close to the Placencia Peninsula, Little Harvest Caye is just a five-minute boat ride from the mainland but a 1.5-acre hideout for guests who stay in five suites in the island’s main building, which also features an open-air living room, bar, kitchen, study, and swimming pool. This is a great option for families who want a private island experience along with the convenience of tour Belize utilizing all the tourist resources of Placencia.
Kanu Private Island A “best of both worlds” experience would be to spend three nights at this private island resort and another three at Valley Stream, the resort’s sister property deep in the Belizean jungle. Or, just settle in to Kanu’s five villas (accommodating a max of 10 adults and 10 kids) and explore the barrier reef and nearby Placencia Village.
Coco Plum At 16 acres, Coco Plum Island Resort is positively huge by Belize private island standards. Reached via a 30-minute boat ride from Dangriga Town on Belize’s southern coast, the resort has three levels of cabana style villas within steps of the beach, along with a three-bedroom overwater villa. Also set above the waves is the Coco Plum spa, which in addition to the usual body and face treatments hosts sunset yoga at the end of each day. The all-inclusive Coco Palms restaurant and its private dining palapas also extend beyond the shoreline.
Ray Caye Got ten grand and 40 friends? You can rent out this entire Belize private island resort for a night, though clearly you’ll want to stay longer. Guests can choose from a variety of accommodations, including oceanfront villas and cabanas (some with private pools), the unique two-story Island House. There’s a dive shop right on-island, and other activities include fishing, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. The Lionfish Grill serves three meals daily to guests (and drinks all day long) and also attracts the occasional day-trippers for lunch and dinner.
Coral Caye Owned by the family of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola — a longtime visitor and resident of Belize — Coral Caye is a former fishing camp transformed into an exclusive private island getaway close to the barrier reef. The two-acre island has a pair of cottages and a great house, all staffed by a private chef and butler. Split your stay with a few nights at the Turtle Inn, Coppola’s Placencia hideout.