Reviews and ratings of best Belize City hotels.
--Lan Sluder www.belizefirst.com
FOUR STARS PLUS Radisson Fort George, 2 Marine Parade, Belize City; tel. 501-223-3333, fax 227-3829; e-mail [email protected]
. This international-style hotel, which opened in 1953 and became part of the Radisson chain in 1989, dominates prime Fort George area real estate, sitting at the edge of the harbor. It is the 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. All of the rooms, including those in the Villa wing across the street, have been renovated in recent years. There’s a 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. Staffers, some outfitted in pith helmets and colorful uniforms, are friendly and helpful, and the hotel has won numerous awards as one of the best in the Radisson chain. Rates US$179-$199 double, Dec. 20-Apr. 30, about US$10 less the rest of year. But as noted, rates are often discounted during slow periods – ask.
FOUR STARS PLUS Great House, 13 Cork St., Belize City; tel. 501-223-3400, fax 223-3444; e-mail [email protected]
. This smal, classy jewel offers spacious, well-equipped air-conditioned rooms in a renovated and restored private house, originally built in 1927. With its polished pine floors and artisan finishings, this is one of the finest examples of Colonial architecture still standing in Belize. 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. The good, if somewhat pricey, restaurant in the courtyard, the Smoky Mermaid, shares space on the ground floor with several small shops. Owner Steve Maestre, one of Belize’s most experienced hotel proprietors, takes great pride in the personal service here. Doubles around US$120 November through April, US$10 less the rest of the year.
THREE STARS PLUS PLUS Colton House, 9 Cork St., Belize City; tel. 501-224-4666; e-mail [email protected]
. Alan and Ondina Colton’s beautifully kept Colonial house next door to the Great House and across the street from the Radisson, dating from the 1920s, is easily the best guesthouse in Belize. 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 year-round.
THREE STARS Princess Hotel & Casino (formerly Fiesta Inn and before that the Ramada), Kings Park, Belize City; tel. 501-223-2670, fax 223-2660; e-mail [email protected]
. The largest hotel in Belize with 181 rooms, this seaside giant (for Belize) is located on the water about midway between the Fort George Colonial section and the Municipal Airport. A new regime has added a big, brash casino, complete with Russian dancing girls. The Princess also has a bowling alley, movie theater, pool, marina, restaurants and other international-style amenities. At press time, however, many of the older rooms had not been fully renovated, and they are a big step below those at the Radisson, although they do have air-conditioning and cable TV. Rates US$90 to $185, including service charge and buffet breakfast. Packages available. Ask for discounts.
TWO STARS PLUS Chateau Caribbean, 6 Marine Parade, (P.O. Box 947), Belize City; tel. 501-223-0800, fax 223-0900; e-mail [email protected]
. Originally a hospital, the rambling colonial-style hotel on the Fort George seafront is now a mid-level hotel with air-conditioning, cable TV and some sea views. The restaurant, serving Chinese and local dishes, is pretty good. The spacious public areas, with wicker furniture and balconies overlooking the sea, are a favorite of visiting film crews, and the Chateau has been used as a movie set in several movies, including The Dogs of War. However, some rooms are in need of upgrading and repairs. Doubles about US$79.
TWO STARS PLUS Grant Residence B&B, 126 Barrack Road (P.O. Box 1639), Belize City; tel. 501-223-0926, fax 223-0885; e-mail [email protected]
. With a seaview location near the Princess Hotel & Casino, Grant Residence is another safe, pleasant choice. Owners Ward and PJ Grant — he’s a Belizean journalist, and PG is an American-born social worker — will make you feel at home in their “Spanish Colonial” home. Rooms have private baths but not A/C. Rates US$80 double year-round.
TWO STARS Hotel Mopan, 55 Regent St., Belize City; tel. 501-227-7351, fax 227-5383; e-mail [email protected]
. Character is the Hotel Mopan’s middle name. This centrally located hotel in an old wooden Colonial house on the South Side became a well-known meeting place for naturalists, archeologists and backpackers under pioneering tourism operator Jean Shaw, who died in 1999. Her daughter and son, Jeannie and Tomy, operate the hotel today. Don’t expect luxury here, and the neighborhood isn’t exactly grand, but the rooms are bigger than average and painted in deep colors rather than the usual off-white, and there’s still lots of atmosphere. All rooms have private baths with plenty of hot water, and some have A/C. Rates US$30 to $50, plus tax and 5% service charge.
ONE STAR Seaside Guest House, 3 Prince St. (P.O. Box 2060), Belize City; tel. 501-227-8339, fax 227-1689; [email protected]
. This clean and secure hotel in a ramshackle clapboard house 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 (around US$10), and there are five small private rooms with shared bath (around US$29 double). And, yep, you can really see the sea from the hotel. 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 to $5) is available, and there’s a beer and wine license. You get a key (actually usually three keys, one for the outside gate, one for the house and one for your room) for access at all times — a rarity in budget hotels. In a change in policy, Seaside now accepts credit cards.
ONE STAR Downtown Guest House, 5 Eve St., near Queen St.; tel./fax 501-223-2057. With 15 clean rooms, this is perhaps the best value budget place in the city. Opened in 1994 and run by Kenny Tsui, it’s friendly and secure. Even the shared bathrooms have reliable hot water. Simple rooms are US$10 double with shared bath. A double with private bath goes for US$20. No credit cards.
PLUS Freddie’s Guest House, 36 Eve St., Belize City; tel. 501-223-3851; e-mail [email protected]
. Four clean, secure and peaceful rooms about eight blocks from the Swing Bridge, with rates under US$25. No credit cards.
PLUS North Front Street Guest House, 124 N. Front St., Belize City; tel. 501-227-7595. This no-frills spot is a favorite with European travelers. New management has improved the whole place. Doubles under US$15. No credit cards.
Near International Airport
THREE STARS PLUS PLUS Villa Boscardi, 6043 Manatee Dr. (P.O. Box 1501), Belize City; tel./fax 501-223-31691; e-mail [email protected]
. 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 - he’s Italian, she’s French - have turned their Buttonwood Bay home into a lovely place to overnight. Rooms are delightfully decorated and air-conditioned, all with private baths and cable TV. Plus, you get breakfast included in the rate, and the Boscardis offer free transport to and from the airports, except on Sunday. They also rent you a car at a good rate, if you need one. Everybody who stays here loves this charming, safe and friendly B&B. Rates US$69 double year-round.
THREE STARS Belize Biltmore Plaza, Mile 3 1/2, Northern Hwy., Belize City; tel. 501-223-2302, fax 223-2301; e-mail [email protected]
. New management has turned things around at this two-story motel, about 7 miles from the International Airport and 4 miles from downtown. GM Teresa Parkey, who formerly ran the now closed 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 improved. The Victorian Room with offerings ranging from Creole stew chicken to New York Strip, is now a popular dining spot. The parking is free and secure. US$85 to $99 a night, plus tax and 10% service, with discounts usually available.
THREE STARS Belize River Lodge, Belize Olde River, Ladyville; tel. 501-225-2002 or 888-275-4843; e-mail [email protected]
. This was the first fishing lodge in Belize, dating back to 1960 when it was established by a Cuban fleeing Castro. It was originally known as Barothy’s Caribbean Lodge and later Keller Caribbean Sports. Mike Heusner and Marguerite Miles now operate it. There are four rooms, comfortable and lodge-like, in a mahogany guest house on the banks of the Belize River; a cottage with two units also is available for families or groups. Guests spend the day chasing permit, bonefish, tarpon or snook. At 7 p.m, they repair to the dining room to eat family-style on three solid-slab mahogany tables. And they eat well, enjoying fresh Belizean and American dishes. Week-long packages, which include lodging, meals, fishing skiff and guide for river and flats fishing, run around US$2,500 per person. The lodge also offers 6-night fishing cruises on a 58-foot Hatteras for US$3,124 per person (based on four people on the cruise) or a 7-night fishing cruise on a 52-foot Chris Craft for $2,167, again based on four people on the cruise. Discounted rates sometimes available June through November.
TWO STARS Embassy Hotel, International Airport, Ladyville; tel. 501-225-3333, fax 225-2267; e-mail [email protected]
. This hotel opened in 1998, but it’s already looking a bit ragged. Still, 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 at the hotel for about US$1 per bag. There’s a restaurant of sorts, and the hotel is air-conditioned. The owners have all sorts of enterprises going, including real estate development, construction, tours, car rentals and a movie theater.