Caye Chapel Island Resort, Caye Chapel (Mailing address: P.O. Box 5059, Ashland, KY 41105 USA); tel. 800-901-8938 or 501-226-8250, fax 501-226-8201; e-mail [email protected]
Rates: Villas: In-season, US$399 per person, per day, based on four people to the villa, (US$100 more at Christmas), US$329 off-season. Casitas: US$279 per person in-season and US$229 off-season, based on two people per casita. Rates include all meals, unlimited golf and the use of golf carts and clubs but do not include a total of 20% service and tax, drinks (a regular Belikin is US$2, pina colada US$7), snorkeling, fishing or other tours, or transport to the island from Belize City. (The resort arranges transport by air for US$100 per person, or you can go by water taxi -- water taxis to Caulker and Ambergris stop at Chapel on request). All major credit cards. Some package plans may be available.
To paraphrase a famous quotation, ďIíve stayed in dumps, and Iíve stayed in luxury, and I like luxury better.Ē In Belize, the villas at Caye Chapel Island Resort are about as luxe as they come. The villas at Blancaneaux, Turtle Inn and Victoria House are fantastic, the private villas at Cayo Espanto, with their fold-away walls, are incredible, and the deluxe suites at Robertís Grove and Hamanasi are terrific, but the seaside villas at Caye Chapel are the choicest digs in Belize. Or just about anywhere, for that matter. Theyíre almost 4,000 sq. ft. of upscale living right out of the pages of Architectural Digest. Marble floors, soaring ceilings, bedrooms big enough to play soccer in, supersized bathrooms, walk-in closets, industrial-grade air-conditioning that really gets the job done, expensive furnishings and bedding, and even your own laundry room with washer and dryer. Itís all here, with broad expanses of glass to better enjoy the sea, and a private rooftop patio, just steps from your own stretch of beach and a short putt from the only 18-hole golf course in Belize.
All of this comes at a price, of course: In-season, the villas are priced at US$399 per person per day, based on four people. So a weekís stay for a family of four, with tax and all, would come to almost US$13,500, not including drinks, tours, or transportation to Belize or from Belize City to the island. But that does include all meals, unlimited golf, and the use of golf carts. Our family had three carts full-time, handy to run back and forth to the clubhouse for meals, or to the swimming pool, and even for a little golf. Our stay on the island coincided with a full moon, and each night weíd go out for a beautiful moonlight ride around the island.
If you like golf, youíll be in hog heaven here. Iím not a duffer, but my son enjoyed the 7,000-yard course. With the sea on both sides of the 2 1/2-mile long island and all the water traps, he went through a bag of a balls a day. It is strongly recommended that you not jump in the lagoons to retrieve balls, as sizeable crocs make their homes there. In fact, when you register, each member of the party has to sign a statement acknowledging he or she has been informed of the risk. Otherwise, though, the island seems as carefree and safe as any place youíll find in Belize. You donít even lock the doors to your villa when you go out.
If you arenít staying on the island, you can come over and play golf, again for a pretty penny. The daily package, including unlimited golf from 9 until 4, lunch, use of the islandís swimming pool and beach, cart and club rental, is US$200 per person, plus transport by air or water taxi.
The marina-view casitas, at 700 sq. ft., are quite nice, and at US$279 per person a bit cheaper, and are based on double occupancy rather than requiring four person, but they donít even begin to compare with the villas. Itís no wonder that the villas are far more popular than the casitas.
You take meals in what Iíd describe as a country-club setting, in the expansive second-floor dining room of the clubhouse. I thought the meals were excellent, though not quite up to the cuisine of Cayo Espanto, where a chef prepares meals to your order and you dine at your villa. The resort GM, Cynthia Ringgold, and her staff provide guest services that are friendly and competent, but not obsequious, a service style that I think most guests prefer.
The entire island of Caye Chapel, except for one home owned by a lady from Belize City, is the fiefdom of Larry Addington, chairman and CEO of AEI Resources, based in Ashland, KY. AEI is one of the largest coal companies in the U.S. In the 90s, Addington, a big player in Republican Party circles, developed the island into a golf resort. The resort initially focused on the corporate retreat market, but now it also welcomes private guests. It would be an astoundingly great place for a wedding. When I first started coming to Belize, Caye Chapel was home to a modest resort that was favored as weekend getaway for British Army squaddies. Lordy, they ought to see it now.
Nobody asked me, but if I were a consultant to Caye Chapel, my recommendation would be to tear down the casitas, put up a dozen more villas, cut the rates, add more non-golf activities, make most everything a la carte and promote the heck out of the place. Youíd have a waiting list to get on the island, because Caye Chapel has the potential to be one of the most remarkable resorts in the world.