SAN PEDRO TOWN
[TOO NEW TO RATE, NOT YET OPEN] The Phoenix. Barrier Reef Dr.; tel. 501-226-3414; www.ambergriscaye.com/phoenix.
A new beachfront condo resort is rising at the north end of town, on the site of what used to be a retreat for Catholic nuns and later the location of the Paradise Hotel. The 30 condo units are of nice size. The two-bedroom, two-bath units are around 1600 sq. ft., with kitchens, broadband internet and all the upscale amenities. There are two swimming pools. Rates not yet set.
SOUTH EDGE OF TOWN/AIRSTRIP SOUTH:
**** The Palms. Coconut Drive (P.O. Box 88), San Pedro; tel. 501-226-3322, fax 226-3601; www.belizepalms.com.
This three-story condotel on the water has a lot going for it: 12 attractive and well-decorated condominium apartments plus a small casita near the pool, which is small and on the back side but surrounded by tropical greenery, a sandy beach, and a convenient location at the south edge of town. Rates off-season: one-bedroom condo, US$138, two-bedroom US$178 to $193, with discounts on week or longer stays; in-season: one-bedroom, US$188, two-bedroom, US$228 to $243. Rates plus 10% tax and 10% service charge. US$23 extra per person over two in the one-bedroom and four in the two-bedroom. Bottom line: Excellent option for a condo vacation.
**** Ramon’s Village. Coconut Drive, San Pedro; tel. 800-624-4415 or 601-649-1990, fax 601-649-1996; www.ramons.com.
Anyone who has heard of San Pedro has probably heard of Ramon’s Village, the creation of Ambergris native and pioneering hotel operator Ramon Nuñez. Now American-owned, over the years it has grown from a small, moderately priced collection of thatched cabañas on the beach into a much larger group of multiunit buildings and individual cabañas, with 61 rooms and suites. Rates also have gone up, now being near the top price point on the island, but Ramon’s retains its sand-and-thatch ambiance. The resort has one of the better beaches on the island. Certainly, it’s the best in or near town, part of the hotel’s 500-foot water frontage. A small artificial reef near the 420-foot pier brings fish to snorkelers. The pool is gorgeous, but it’s smaller than it looks in the brochures. Ramon’s has a room service, a popular bar, a (fairly pricey, not particularly notable) restaurant, and a big dive operation. Rooms vary from okay to gorgeous. They are divided into three basic categories: beach front, seaside and garden view. There also are one- and two-bedroom suites with kitchenettes, including the deluxe 600 square-foot Presidential suite, and several “honeymoon cabañas.” All are now air conditioned, but the older units on the backside are pretty basic, dark and risk noise from the road. The location, just across from the airstrip, and a five-minute stroll from town, can’t be beat. Ramon’s does a first-rate job of marketing, especially to travel agents, and it enjoys one of the highest occupancy rates on the island. The crowd here is usually a little younger and more active than the average at island hotels. Rates vary depending on location and date. In-season, cabañas are US$175 to $245 double and suites are US$205 to $460. Off-season rates are only a few dollars less. Rates at Steve & Becky’s, the cottage colony annex across the street, are about US$145 double year-round. All rates plus 10% tax and 10% service. Bottom line: Popular, well-located, well-run hotel that manages to retain its island ambiance despite expansion and relatively high prices.
**** Xanadu Island Resort. Coconut Drive, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-2814, fax 226-3409; www.xanaduresort-belize.com.
Xanadu once billed itself as the “world’s first monolithic dome resort,” a description which might sound good to an engineer but doesn’t exactly get our poetic juices flowing. Happily, these monolithic domes look nicer than they sound. Owner Ivan Sheinbaum one day showed us a new unit that was under construction. The building process is costly, but the result is a masonry dome with foam insulation that, according to Ivan, a Canadian originally from South Africa, is fireproof and can withstand winds of up to 300 mph. The domes are covered with thatch palapa roofs, and inside the condo suites (studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom) are attractively furnished in earth tone colors, with central air-conditioning, fans, phones and cable TV. Free wireless internet. You get the use of bikes, canoes and kayaks gratis. There’s a nice little stretch of seaside sand, though with a seawall, a 350-foot pier and a lovely freshwater swimming pool. Rates US$150 (studio) to $360 (three-bedroom) in-season and US$120 to $330 mid-May to mid-November, plus 7% hotel tax but no service charge. Bottom-line: Something different on the beach.
****+ Villas at Banyan Bay. Coconut Drive (P.O. Box 91), San Pedro, tel. 866-466-2179 or 501-226-3739, fax 226-2766, e-mail: www.banyanbay.com.
At this 42-unit condotel, there’s 24-hour security, cable TV and all the pleasures of home ... if your home happens to be just steps from the Caribbean. Many of the guests here appear to be families, and a terrific family place this is. The kids love the big, two-section pool, and dad and mom go for the fully equipped kitchen and the whirlpool off the master bedroom. The beach here, about a mile and a half south of town, is one of the best on the island, though it does have some seagrass, and there’s a dive and gift shop on the pier. The food at Rico’s restaurant on-site doesn’t always knock us out, but service is good, and it has a beautiful setting on the water for drinks or dinner; breakfast is handy and well done. We’re impressed by the space at Banyan – these units with two full baths are significantly larger than most of the other two-bedroom condo on the island. And we’re impressed by the high degree of maintenance. The apartments look just as good now as when they were built several years ago. The woodwork and cabinets are mahogany. The cathedral ceilings in the main living area sport a stunning array of tropical hardwoods. A fitness center opened in 2002. Rates: US$285-$450 for a two-bedroom condo in-season, depending on location and number of people, and US$225-$250 in the summer. Bottom line: Upscale two-bedroom condos on the water, great for families or two couples traveling together.
****++ Grand Colony Villas. Coconut Dr.; tel. 501-226-3739, fax 226/2768; www.grandcolonyvillas.com.
New in 2005, the Grand Colony Villas, built by the Paz family who also did Villas at Banyan Bay, are probably the most upscale condos on the island. The 21 two-bedroom, two-bath apartments, range from 1,100 to over 1,900 square feet and have 10-foot ceilings, marble and hardwood floors, mahogany doors and cabinets, and deluxe furnishings. Rates: US$500 to $875. The beach here is one of the best on the island. Bottom line: One of the most luxe properties on the island.
***++ Banana Beach. Coconut Drive (P.O. Box 94), San Pedro; tel. 501-226-3890, fax 226-3891; www.bananabeach.com.
This is one of our favorite places on the island, run by former Montanan Tim Jeffers. His resort has just about everything to make your vacation a success – a genuinely friendly staff, spacious and smartly furnished one- to four-bedroom suites, affordable rooms and a setting just steps from the sea. The 35 original one-bedroom units are in a single three-story building, designed in a style similar to Mexican hotels, around a courtyard with swimming pool, within watermelon seed spitting distance of the sea. A three-story addition, which went up in 2002, has a variety of “expandable” suites, regular rooms and also some one-bedroom efficiencies, which are rented for longer periods (one month or longer.) The suites have fully furnished kitchens. Also added was a second pool, an air-conditioned restaurant, El Divino, featuring excellent steaks and killer martinis. We recommend you spring for one of the seafront units, especially the second and third floor deluxe units in either the original or new building, all of which have fabulous views of the water. The hotel’s tour office, Monkey Business, can set you up with tours, cart rentals and diving. Rates have increased but are still good value. Off-season, rates start US$110 double for a room or US$130 for a courtyard suite, US$165 for a deluxe seafront one-bedroom suite and top out at US$495 for a four-bedroom seafront suite, which handles groups of up to eight. From December through Easter, rates range for US$125 to $590. All rates include breakfast but not 10% tax. For longer-term stays, small apartments are available for US$900 a month. Bottom line: Great choice for service, value and a seafront vacation.
*** Mata Rocks. Coconut Drive (P.O. Box 47), San Pedro; tel. 888-628-2757 or 501-226-2336, fax 226-2349; www.matarocks.com.
Mata Rocks is a small beachfront hotel with 11 rooms and two junior suites, just south of Banana Beach. With its stucco and wood exterior in a distinctive white, turquoise and purple paint scheme, Mata Rocks has a comfortable, relaxed feel. The thatch beach bar hops, however, and if you want to pop into town, about 1 1/2 miles away, bikes are complimentary. All units have A/C and little fridges, and the junior suites have kitchenettes. In-season doubles US$125 for rooms and US$165 to $180 for junior suites. Summer rates US$90 to $140. Rates are plus tax but include continental breakfast and roundtrip transfers from the San Pedro airstrip. Bottom line: Relax in laidback, non-cookie cutter surroundings on the beach.
**** Victoria House. Coconut Drive (P.O. Box 22), San Pedro; tel. 800-247-5159 or 713-344-2340, fax 713-224-3287; www.victoria-house.com.
If what you want is an upscale but casual resort vacation, Victoria House is just about perfect. A little over 2 miles south of town, Victoria House is a quiet hideaway on 19 acres, with a variety of accommodations ranging from comfy motel-like rooms in two buildings at the back of the resort to rooms in the main lodge to thatch casitas to deluxe villas. The villas can be rented as entire units or in chunks – beautiful but pricey, with rates up to US$1,930 for a five-bedroom villa at Christmas. That’s per day, not per week! There has been lots of remodeling and upgrading of late, including a gorgeous beachside pool, along with, in 2005-2006, a new group of villas at the south edge of the resort. The hotel’s restaurant, though chefs have changed, remains an asset. A full meal plan is US$67 per person per day, though many guests prefer not to be locked into a meal plan and dine around the island. A freestanding lounge cabaña on the beach is ideal for sipping rum drinks or Belikins. Head to the sandy beach area for relaxing, or swim off the pier. The hotel also has a gift shop and a dive operation. Victoria is a popular place to get married, and the hotel has honeymoon packages. Rates for rooms June through mid-December, US$160 to $250, suites US$280 to $435; US$175 to $300, suites US$365 to $425 in high season; villas and houses, US$775 to $1650 in season, slightly less off, all plus 10% tax and 10% service. Rates higher during holiday periods. Bottom line: Upscale, barefoot hideaway.
NORTH AMBERGRIS/NORTH BEACH:
*** White Sands Cove. P.O. Box 191, San Pedro; tel. 888-362-2683 or 501-226-3528; www.whitesandscove.com.
White Sands Cove, not far north of the new bridge over the river, opened in 1999. It was purchased by a new owner in 2004. It has condos in 12-sided buildings, including some that were built in 2005/2006. The one-bedroom units are about 550 square feet, and the two-bedroom condos, about 1,100 square feet. All are air-conditioned and professionally decorated, with tile floors, custom-made cabinets and fixtures, satellite TV and high-speed internet. There’s a swimming pool and dive shop. Rates: US$125 to $265 off-season, US$195 to $335 mid-November to mid-May. Bottom line: A condo choice on the North that’s convenient to town.
*** El Pescador. P.O. Box 17, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-2398, fax 226-2977; www.elpescador.com.
For more than a quarter century, El Pescador has been the island’s leading fishing lodge. Today, it’s bigger and more upmarket than it used to be, with a pool, villas and other resort amenities, but it’s still devoted to anglers and angling. The focus here is on catching tarpon, bonefish, permit and jacks, but you can enjoy a fine meal, served family style in the dining room, or enjoy a drink and a Cuban cigar on the verandah. The lodge has 14 comfortable but hardly luxurious units in a rambling two-story colonial-style building with mahogany floors. Adjoining the lodge are new two- and three-bedroom villas, and these are deluxe, with prices to match. El Pescador’s emphasis is on fishing packages, which include guide, boat, transfer from Belize City, meals and taxes. About the only extras are drinks, tips for guides and purchases of any fishing gear. These packages start at US$1,300 per person for three nights off-season and range up to over US$4,000 per person for a week in-season. Lodging-only rates for villas (????) range from US$200 to $650 a night double in-season (US$150 to $485 off-season), plus tax and 10% service, with a three-night minimum. Bottom-line: The place on the island for serious, well-heeled anglers.
****+ Seascape Villas. North Ambergris, 4 miles north of San Pedro, tel. 501/226-5203; www.seascapebelizevillas.com.
This is a group of six luxury homes on four beachfront acres, built by Bob and Diane Campbell. Each villa has around 3,000 square feet, with a sunken living room, slate floors, outdoor garden with hot tub, and unobstructed views of the sea. There’s a gorgeous swimming pool. To rent one of these babies you’ll pay around US$900 a day. The villa colony has no restaurant, but you can have meals prepared and served in your beach house.
***++ Belizean Shores. P.O. Box 1, San Pedro; tel. 800-319-9026 or 501-226-2355, fax 226-2931; www.belizeanshores.com.
Belizean Shores is a popular condotel choice on North Ambergris (a US$5 water taxi ride to town, each way), with good rates and a lot of space in the units. The pool is a beaut, one of the best on the island, with a swim-up bar, and huge. The beach is small but fairly nice, and the seagrass is removed from some of the swimming area, and there’s a 350-foot pier. There’s free use of kayaks, so you can kayak out to the reef and snorkel. Rates US$110 to $170 double May through mid-December, US$195 to $255 in-season, plus tax. New condo units are under construction by the developer, Southwinds. Bottom line: Agreeable and popular condo development.
****+ Azul Resort. North Ambergris; tel. 501/226-4012; www.azulbelize.com.
This is where we’d like to stay if we had the money -- about US$800 a day in-season, US$700 in summer. This new resort has only two beach villas, but, man, they are nice. The two-level villas have 20-foot ceilings with beams of mylady wood. Custom kitchens feature Viking appliances, and the cabinets and most of the furniture are made of zericote wood. Each villa has a Mac computer, 50-inch plasma flat-screen TV, and Bose theater system. On the rooftop, you can relax in your own hot tub. The two beach houses share a beautiful pool, 400 feet of beach, and about 10 acres of prime property. Rojo Lounge, run by the same couple, Vivian and Jeff, is next door for drinks in a romantic beachside setting and some of the best food on the island. Bottom line: Hip, romantic and fabulous.
**** Blue Reef Island Resort. North Ambergris; tel. 866-825-8501; www.bluereefresort.com.
About 8 miles north of San Pedro Town, Blue Reef, which opened in 2005, with construction continuing in 2006 (expect some construction noise), has one- and two-bedroom condo units in six three-story buildings, each with five or six units. The condo apartments are very attractive, with granite tile floors and 10-ft. ceilings, and all have sea views. The swimming pool also overlooks the water. They should be nice, as most sell for around half a million US. Each bedroom has a king bed. Guest rooms have satellite TV, air-conditioning and CD players. There’s little within walking distance, so for company you’ll have to depend on the hotel’s shuttle boat into town, a 20 minute ride each way. According to all reports, the resort’s restaurant has good food, or you can have groceries delivered and cook in your upscale kitchen. Rates: US$269 to $469 in-season, US$199 to $369 off-season. Bottom line: Luxe condo colony way up north.