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  • Writer's pictureMeera Dattani

Places to stay in Belize

As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Belize, Meera Dattani selects a range of characterful places to stay, including hotels, rainforest lodges and beach cabanas, in this beautiful Central American country

Fancy staying in an atmospheric rainforest lodge and waking up to the joyous sounds of Belize jungle life? Or a barefoot-luxury beach cabana on Ambergris or Caulker Caye with brilliant blue Caribbean views or staying in a remote island resort in one of Belize’s atolls, where you feel a million miles from anywhere? Perhaps you’re after a boutique hotel in Belize City or somewhere along Belize’s 174-mile (280-kilometre) Caribbean coastline? From locally owned and/or locally run hotels, villas and lodges to accommodations that are environmentally and socially conscious, this lesser known destination in Central America packs in a wide variety of places to stay. 

photo of diving beach resort
A bird's eye view of the diving jetty at Blackbird Caye. Photo: Richard Hammond

Blackbird Caye Resort, Turneffe Atoll Few things beat a Belikin beer or Panty Rippa cocktail by the oceanfront pool bar or seaview terrace of Blackbird Caye Resort’s thatched bar, where guests gather for pre-dinner snacks and conversation. Am all-inclusive (no atoll high street) PADI-certified dive resort, Blackbird Caye works with TASA (Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association) to promote best-practice ocean conservation on its diving and snorkelling excursions. 17 spacious, oceanfront cabanas (the walk-in shower is huge) stretch out along the sand, with screened balconies. Food is delicious from the kitchen headed up by chef Elvis, using local fish, fresh fruit, and Belizean breakfast favourites such as fry jacks and banana bread. Filtered water, thanks to reverse osmosis purification, limits plastic bottle use too.

On the tip of a coral island on Southwest Caye 35 miles off Belize’s coastline, this 13-acre island has been owned by a local family since 1942 where a solar-powered safari-style tented camp offers an alternative to the resort experience, with trips operated by Island Expeditions. For divers and snorkellers, it’s a sublime spot, with the barrier reef stretching along one side, and a seven-mile, reef-packed lagoon on the other, and guests have free use of kayaks, SUP (paddleboarding) and snorkel gear. Tents are simple, with proper beds, kerosene lamps and private decs - it’s cosy, sociable and nature-powered.

As Belize’s first hotel to receive the UN-affiliated Green Globe certification, Xanadu deserves a mention as one of the country’s pioneering ‘green’ accommodations, particularly given its location in Belize’s top tourist destination of San Pedro (of Madonna ‘La Isla Bonita’ fame) on Ambergris Caye. Five huge domes are home to 20 colourfully decorated apartment-style suites where you can cook (no on-site restaurant) using local ingredients; there is a small bar though serving coffees, smoothies and alcoholic drinks, otherwise you’re a short walk from San Pedro’s many local restaurants. Activity-wise, there’s a freshwater pool, seaview whirlpool, man-made reef for snorkelling, and tons of hammocks and sun loungers in the gardens and palapa (open-sided, thatch-covered seating).

Describing itself as a “home away from home”, Jan’s Hotel on low-key Caye Caulker is a locally owned hotel that’s a five-minute walk from The Split, the heart and soul of Caye Caulker and where all the restaurants, bars and nightlife live. Rooms are super-clean, simple and comfortable, all with a mini-fridge (handy as no restaurant on-site) plus a handful of suites with a kitchenette. Rainfall showers and eco-friendly toiletries are welcome too. The hotel has its own small, palm-shaded beach area with plenty of loungers, a jetty, free use of kayaks, and staff can arrange diving and snorkelling trips. Don’t miss the beautiful views across the island from the rooftop patio, especially at sunset.

The six treehouses are the highlight of this small, boutique beach resort, set in the tropical gardens en route to the main building (where the five renovated oceanfront suites and 11 rooms are). The treehouses are inviting and comfortable, each with a private deck and hammock to while away the hours. Food at the resort’s all-day Breezeway Restaurant and Pool Bar, which features local art and Belizean-made furniture and looks onto the resort’s beach (kayaks, snorkel gear and paddleboards free for guests), includes ceviche, pizzas, salads pork pibil tacos, Creole gumbo; try Mariposa’s roasted garlic bulb with goat’s cheese and apple chutney. Breakfasts are interesting, with usual suspects plus Belizean favourites such as fry jacks with refried beans and Maya breakfast with eggs, chaya (a local ‘spinach) and fresh cheese. The cocktail menu is fantastic too.

treehouse among trees
Treehouses at Mariposa Beach Resort. Photo: Richard Hammond

This luxury, calming 13-room boutique beachfront spa hotel, in the laidback beach town of Placencia has extra kudos for being curated by the former first lady of Belize. Kim Simplis Barrow, whose work focuses on helping disenfranchised children through various organisations, while her ‘SHE for BELIZE’ Foundation advocates for women’s rights and supports women entrepreneurs. Relax with a mixologist-made cocktail at The Trap pool bar while the Muna Rooftop Restaurant & Bar makes the most of local produce; try the Belikin Stout braised short ribs, conch fritters and fresh salads – and at breakfast, the stuffed fry jacks and quinoa-corn pancakes offer some local flavours.

The coastal town of Hopkins is a brilliant base to experience the culture of the Garifuna, descendants of an Afro-Indigenous population from St Vincent who were exiled to the Honduran coast then moved to Belize. Locally owned and run, Coconut Row is a boutique hotel with a saltwater pool in Hopkins village that has also one of the village’s best restaurants, pool/beach-side The Coconut Husk; popular dishes include plantain fries, coconut curry, Fish N Jack (fried fish in a fry jack bun) and Belizean breakfasts. Rooms are gorgeously decorated with Belizean prints and furniture and are a mixture of beachside cabins, standard rooms and larger suites apartments. The owners live on-site and also own Buttonwood Belize, three blocks away, which has beachview rooms and suites, and a rooftop.

Owned and run by a Belizean family since it opened in 2019, this boutique lodge is warmly run by Miss Paula and Christina. With a great choice of rooms with private patio, rustic stone house rooms, cabanas and honeymoon cabanas (with whirlpool), and a holiday villa, best of all is its location on Cahal Pech Hill, a short walk from the atmospheric Cahal Pech ruins. A pool is scheduled to open later in 2024. Their Obsidian Restaurant has sweeping views over the surrounding countryside and the Belizean-inspired menu includes a breakfast chaya and refried beans burrito, Belizean fritters, pineapple jerk pork or chicken, and fish seasoned with Maya spices. The gardens are glorious; ask the staff to point out the tree where toucans sometimes pop their heads out in the morning.

Walking up to Falling Leaves Lodge at sunset. Photo: Richard Hammond

San Ignacio-born Escandar Bedran is the brains behind this locally owned hotel, now owned and managed by his children. Beginning his career by building bars and dance halls in San Ignacio including the Stork Club. In 1973, he set his sights on building San Ignacio Hotel, now one of the town’s best-known hotels. Its 27 luxury rooms and suites have rainforest, hillside or garden views, and furniture is made of Belizean hardwood and sustainable mahogany. The Running W Restaurant is worth trying for Belizean dishes such as Cracked Conch, meat comes from the family’s ranch; and there’s pizza, salads and sushi too. You might catch live music at the classy Lobby Bar too.

Northern Belize has long been overlooked on the main tourist trail, but there’s so much to recommend it, not least Lamanai’s extensive Maya temples. Orange Walk Town offers is a lively snippet of everyday Belizean life, and the 25-room (including four suites) Hotel de la Fuente, centred around a courtyard, is a good base. Belizean run since it opened in 2005, the (included) breakfast, also available to non-guests, is generous (and they do a budget backpackers’ breakfast) plus complimentary hot drinks all day for guests. Its sister hotel is the Gran Mestizo resort on the New River, 10 minutes via a free shuttle on request, where you can use the pool and eat lunch/dinner at the Maracas Bar & Grill.

exterior of hotel
Hotel de la Fuente. Photo: Richard Hammond

Listen to the noises of the jungle as you drift to sleep under a thatched cabana at this renowned jungle lodge on the banks of the New River. In northern Belize and a boat ride away from Lamanai's spectacular Maya ruins, it's at the upper end of budgets, but long regarded as worth the money if you do go there. They often have good-value packages especially during shoulder season which can include meals, a trip to the Lamanai Maya temples, sunset cruise, nature walks and night safaris. The lodge is a dream for bird and wildlife lovers; look out for otters, kingfishers, and even crocs in the river.

Punta Gorda is the kind of town you want to savour, if you have the time, so staying somewhere you can go back to and relax in is a bonus. The star of this independently owned guesthouses is the  beautifully kept garden, where you can find a nook and read or bird-watch. The apartment-style rooms feel like a home from home – they’ve all got sea views, and either a balcony/veranda or a hammock on a private patio. The beds are super-comfortable here and breakfasts are delicious, with fresh bread, fruit and juice brought to your rooms Blue Belize also has complimentary bicycles for guests and cycling in Punta Gorda is a nifty way to get around.

For places offering local, seasonal, traditional food, places of interest and a range of outdoor adventure and cultural experiences, see our Green Traveller's Guide to Belize


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