Review by Andrew Steinhauer
Accommodations on the petite isle of Caye Caulker are varied. They range from Euro-trash Econo, (Tina’s Backpackers) to the Jet-setter Chic, (Auxillou Suites) with a whole lot of middling ‘Sun, Sea, Sand’ motif lodging in between, (The Real Macaw, Vega Inn, Tropical Paradise, Trends, Lazy Iguana Bed and Breakfast, Costa Maya Beach Cabanas and Seaside Cabañas).
Coincidentally the Euro-trash Econo place and the Jet-setter Chic place are owned by the two multi-talented sisters, Tina and Wendy Auxillou. The Auxillou gals are certified scuba diving masters, journalists who published their own newspapers ‘Conch Chronicles’ and ‘Village Voice’, (Caye Caulker version), entrepreneurs and dynamic movers and shakers in this island paradise neck of the woods.
Wendy invited this said to be at times volatile critic to stay at her digs for the weekend in exchange for a write-up. Since I don’t guarantee a rave account in these kinds of trade-off deals, there aren’t exactly a horde of resort proprietors beating down my door for a review. Most resort folks prefer to play it safe and not be critiqued rather than take a chance. Wendy is nothing like ‘most’ proprietors. No chicken heart she. She is one of those self-assured women Tina Turner (I Might Have Been Queen) and Aretha Franklin (Respect) sing about. She knows she’s got a class act and had no qualms in requesting a review.
Belize has progressed by leaps and bounds in the tourist biz the last few years under the wise stewardship of Minister of Tourism Mark Espat. Lodging has changed from a place derided for its ‘rustic’, bunkhouse style to one renowned for its classy, tropical opulence style. The high end of the resort spectrum in Belize holds its own in the comfort zone with the top tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Wendy’s place caters to that moneyed crowd that isn’t afraid to shell out big bucks for the right kind of cozy digs. As the Auxillou Suites web-site so accurately heralds, “Each fully air-conditioned unit features a king-sized bed, private bath, hot/cold water, living room area, cable TV, kitchenette, and each has its own spacious deck space. Our ultra spacious units, each with a full 480 sq. ft. of inside space, make them the most spacious yet affordable vacation units on the island. Our warm furnishings will make them your home away from home. This is the premier property on Caye Caulker. Come enjoy our breezy verandahs and starlit nights in relaxed comfort.”
So the classiness of the accommodations was a given. Ya get what ya pay for. And as realtors say, the three most important aspects to a property are: location, location and location. The Suites have a to-die-for location. The pier that the Water Taxi Association uses to drop off and pick up passengers is just fifty-five feet from the Suites. Convenience plus. We’ve talking hub here. Wendy’s place covers the yin and yang of tourists’ desires. It has a bunch of tour packages to choose from, including: birding, crocodile watching, scuba diving, fishing, sailing, cavorting with friendly sharks, (not Jaws) at Shark Ray Alley, hobnobbing with the manatees, snorkeling and Maya Ruin excursions. The Suites also has available for their guests a golf cart to cruise around Caye Caulker and check out its many picturesque sights.
What I found particularly fascinating was the way Wendy worked out the Suites’ interior design to maximize the structure’s somewhat elongated spaces. The space issue that Wendy needed to work within was twenty-five feet of beach front on a sixty foot deep lot. With that given Wendy created four cleverly designed, fully-loaded apartments. All the living spaces are 12 by 40 feet. Two are on beach level and two are second story. A third story with two more units is on the drawing board now and should be completed by next year. For anyone who knows anything about interior design realizes that a 12 by 40 foot space is difficult at best to work with. Wendy’s solution entailed three visual tricks to optically widen the narrow areas. Divulging her highly effective modifications would be ill-advised in this forum- like divulging a magician’s secrets- so my lips are sealed. Trompe l’oeil interior design.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, “the classiness of the accommodations was a given”. Nowadays, ‘classiness’ is not only expected, it’s demanded by the discriminating traveler. So in this reviewer’s mind the main thing that sets one classy place apart from another classy place is not the so highly touted “ambience” that travel writers invariably cite as the significant criteria for quality, but the personality of the management. Something different than the usual glad-hand graciousness that is always served up at multi-star resorts. Which is where Suites hits pay dirt. The Wendy factor gives it an edge over other Jet-setter Chic places. Wendy has a strong, multifaceted personality; maybe not as strong or anywhere near as crotchety as resort entrepreneur George ‘the Griz’ Besta of Motel 1788 fame, but then if she did, I doubt Caye Caulker could handle that much combined personality without imploding. Still, personality is the bomb; the difference between ho-hum and pizzazz.
Some critics laud ‘ambience’. This critic lauds ‘personality’. Wendy’s sweet suites has both. If ya got the cheddar, check it out.