Here's my take on better hotels in and near Belize City, from my San Pedro Cool guidebook to Ambergris Caye. The "H" is supposed to be a star symbol, so HHHH is four stars. Of these, only the Biltmore Plaza and Radisson have pools (the Radisson has two pools.)
OVERNIGHTING IN BELIZE CITY
Most visitors to San Pedro are able to get to the island without an overnight in Belize City. If you stay over in Belize City, here are recommended hotels:
HHHH + Radisson Fort George, 2 Marine Parade; tel. 501-223-3333, fax 227-3829; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.radissonbelize.com.
This is the luxurious flagship of the city’s hotels, and the most expensive, though you can often get substantial reductions from the rack rates. All rooms have cable TV, fridge and minibar, and those in the Club Wing, reached by the only glass elevator in Belize, have unbeatable sea views. Most of the rooms, including those in the villa wing across the street, have been remodeled recently. There’s a good restaurant (you may see Emory King, Belize’s most famous expat, there at breakfast), and the grounds are an oasis of calm on the edge of the sea. The hotel has two pools and a private dock. The marina can take large boats of up to 250 feet in length with a 10-foot draft. The staff is friendly and helpful. Rates US$169-189 double, Dec. 20-Apr. 30, about US$10 less the rest of year. But as noted, rates are often heavily discounted – ask.
HHHH Great House, 13 Cork St.; tel. 501-223-3400, fax 223-3444; e-mail email@example.com; www.greathousebelize.com.
This small jewel offers spacious and well-equipped air-conditioned rooms in a recently modernized and expanded private house, originally built in 1927. All 12 rooms, half on the second and half on the third floor, have a balcony, private bathroom, mini-fridge, safe, TV, phone and dedicated fax line. There is also a good, if somewhat pricey, restaurant in the courtyard, the Smoky Mermaid. Owner Steve Maestre, one of Belize’s most experienced hotel proprietors, takes great pride in the personal service here. Doubles around US$110-$120.
HHH + Colton House, 9 Cork St.; tel. 501-224-4666; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.coltonhouse.com.
Alan and Ondina Colton’s beautifully kept colonial house in the Fort George area, dating from the 1920s, is easily the best guesthouse in Belize. It’s highly recommended. The five rooms and one suite are individually decorated in English country house style, each with an immaculate bathroom and air-conditioning. The downstairs garden room has a fridge, microwave and TV. There are lots of personal touches, such as ice-cold water in a vacuum jug in your room, though no meals are served. Free coffee is available in the mornings and you can enjoy tea on the verandah, where there’s often a breeze from the sea. The Coltons keep an extensive book and video library on Belize and can arrange tours at good rates. Alan, an ex-British soldier, is an enthusiastic amateur beer brewer and owner of the "Swamp Water Brewery of Belize," which consists of five-gallon buckets in a wash room. No children under 9, and no credit cards. Rates US$65-$75 double Nov. 1-Apr. 30, about US$10 less rest of year.
H Seaside Guest House, 3 Prince St.; tel. 501-227-8339; email@example.com. A clean, well-run and secure hotel on the South Side is a bustling meeting place for travelers. No longer operated by the Friends Quaker organization, it is still a fairly friendly spot. One room has four hostel-style dorm beds, and there are five private rooms with shared bath (around US$30 double). And, yep, you can really see the sea. Good hot showers, a pay phone, Internet access in the common room, tons of accurate information and a relaxing, orchid-filled garden make the Seaside a good first stop for anyone on a budget. Breakfast (US$1.50--$4.50) is available, and there’s a beer and wine license. You get a key for access at all times — a rarity in budget hotels. In a change in policy, Seaside now accepts credit cards.
Near International Airport
HHH + Villa Boscardi, 6043 Manatee Dr. (P.O. Box 1501), Belize City; tel./fax 501-223-31691; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.villaboscardi.com.
If you’re nervous about staying in beautiful downtown Belize City (you shouldn’t be, but many are), this B&B, with four rooms and a small cottage in a residential neighborhood between the city center and the International Airport could be perfect for you. Owners Franco and Francoise Boscardi have turned their Buttonwood Bay home into a lovely place to overnight. Rooms are delightfully decorated and air-conditioned, all with private baths. Plus, you get a full breakfast included in the rate, and the Boscardis offer free transport to and from the airports, except on Sunday. They also rent cars at rates lower than most majors. Rates US$65-$75 double year-round.
HHH Belize Biltmore Plaza, Mile 3 1/2, Northern Hwy.; tel. 501-223-2302, fax 223-2301; e-mail email@example.com; www.belizebiltmore.com.
New management has turned things around at this motel, about half way between the International Airport and downtown. GM Teresa Parkey, who formerly ran the popular Fort Street Guesthouse, and her team have upgraded many of the 80 rooms and made much-needed improvements to the pool and grounds. The "deluxe premier" rooms with new carpets and quality mattresses are worth the extra few bucks a night. Biltmore Plaza's restaurant also has turned around. The Victorian Room with offerings ranging from Creole stew chicken to New York Strip, is now a popular Belize City dining spot. US$85 to $99 a night, with discounts usually available.
HH Embassy Hotel, International Airport, tel. 501-225-3333, fax 225-2267; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.embassyhotelbelize.com.
This relatively new hotel (it opened in 1998) is already looking a bit ragged, but it’s highly convenient to the airport — just across the parking lot, within walking distance. Rates are around US$50 double, or US$90 for a small suite. The hotel also rents apartments for US$300 a month. You can park at the airport for US$2.50 a day, or store your gear for about US$1 per bag. There’s a restaurant, and the hotel is air-conditioned. The owners have all sorts of enterprises going, including real estate development, construction, tours and timeshares.