Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
An intimate resort with condo-style rooms and a laid-back atmosphere
The entrance of Xanadu can be hard to find for those first arriving, as the small property is tucked away off one of the main roads of bustling San Pedro. In between a series of shops and stalls is a gravel road with a sign pointing toward a public access beach area. Guests will drive through a wooden arched entrance onto the property, which features lush tropical vegetation; hand-painted signs point toward a nature walk and bird sanctuary. Check-in occurs in the front desk area next to the pool, where a resident cat can be found napping. Lazy stray dogs often make their way through the grounds, as well.
Xanadu is well-known on the island for its Travel Channel fame: Samantha Brown stayed here during her "Passport to Latin America" Belize episode in 2007. It is also known for being a safe haven during a storm -- its giant thatched-roof dome buildings are designed to ward off high winds in the event of a hurricane. The resort operates a back-up generator system, and during a power outage, when most of San Pedro is without power, Xanadu is a beacon of light.
This clean mid-range property lacks style, but it's a peaceful beachfront spot with easy access to town.
A central but slightly hidden location in San Pedro, on the island of Ambergris Caye
Xanadu Island Resort is located in the heart of San Pedro, and yet it feels hidden away. The property cannot be seen from the main road; instead guests need to be on the lookout for a Xanadu's authentic signage pointing down a gravel road. They are then led into a tropical setting where the occasional stray dog dwells. The beachfront location is within walking distance of restaurants, and golf cart rentals are available for longer distances.
San Pedro is the center of activity on Ambergris Caye, the largest island in Belize. The main mode of transportation is by golf cart or foot (though taxi companies operate mini-vans). To reach San Pedro, guests can book flights from Belize International Airport to San Pedro airstrip, or take the cheaper water taxis from Belize City.
Travelers are mostly drawn to Ambergris Caye for the world-class diving and snorkeling at Belize Barrier Reef, about half a mile off shore. San Pedro is filled with friendly locals and expats, and most of the island's restaurants, nightclubs, and tour operators can be found here. Those staying in hotels on the north side of the island are about a 15-minute water taxi ride away from the action.
Condo-style units with full kitchens but basic decor
Xanadu operates 18 units set in Belizean-style domed structures with thatched roofs. Most units are decorated in slightly dated island style, though decor varies and some have a fresher look. They all come with fully equipped kitchens, living and dining area, central air-conditioning, cable television, and iPod docks. Front porches have a table and chairs for outdoor dining; some have ocean views. Most bathrooms have tub/shower combos and plenty of counter space for toiletries.
Room categories include, studio, loft, and one-, two-, and three-bedroom options.
On a wide stretch of beach with free kayak rentals
This prime beach spot in Ambergris Caye faces the barrier reef. It is easy walking distance to town, and yet it still retains a sense of privacy -- though anyone is free to walk along (all beaches in Belize are public).
All beaches in Belize are manmade and the imported sand is firmly packed from foot and golf cart traffic. The barrier reef blocks natural breaking waves, which makes the water calm for easy swimming and kayaking conditions -- but it also causes seaweed to build up along the shore. The resort owns a private pier with lounge chairs and a ladder at the end for swimming. This is also where the dive and tour boats pick up and drop off guests.
A tranquil pool is the centerpiece of the resort
The resort's freshwater outdoor pool is situated on a raised deck overlooking the Caribbean Sea, directly in front of the lobby. Cushioned lounge chairs have festive blue and green stripes, while surrounding palm trees and palapas provide plenty of shade. There are two sun loungers placed directly in the wading area of the pool.
The ambiance at the pool is peaceful, and most guests choose to read and relax, rather than converse with each other. Each unit has easy access to the pool area.
Spacious units with kitchens make this an appropriate pick for low-maintenance families
Each of Xanadu's 18 units offers fully equipped kitchens that open up to the dining and living room areas, making it great for families who plan to cook. The intimate size of the resort also lends itself to group reunions and blocks of rooms can be reserved.
Kids have free access to bikes and kayaks, in addition to an outdoor pool and beach area. For an easy hike, there is a nature walk and bird sanctuary in the rear of the property. For off-site excursions, the tour desk can recommend activity suggestions that are suitable for families.
Units with up to three bedrooms are available.
Stores and restaurants within walking distance of the resort
Though Xanadu doesn't operate a restaurant on-site, each of the units is equipped with a spacious kitchen containing cookware and tableware. There are dining areas next to the kitchens, and porches are furnished with a table and chairs for outdoor dining (barbecue facilities are also available).
Groceries, beer, wine, and liquor can be purchased from a number of markets within walking distance to the resort. The staff can point guests in the right direction, depending on items needed.
One of the best aspects of Xanadu is its central, yet still peaceful, location in San Pedro. Guests are within walking distance to a wide range of restaurants -- either by strolling along the beach, or on the main road outside the resort. Golf cart rentals are available for longer distances, or the front desk staff can call a taxi.
Free on-site activities, and a tour desk for off-site adventures
Xanadu offers free kayak and bike cruiser rentals for all ages. Behind the resort is a private nature walk and bird sanctuary.
Next to the indoor lobby is an outdoor tour desk, where the staff can arrange a number of active excursions for guests, including scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, fishing, or on the mainland, tours of Mayan ruins. Dive and tour boats pick up and return guests at Xanadu's pier.
Affordable honeymoon packages, and a quiet atmosphere
With only 18 units, the resort lends itself to couples and honeymooners seeking peace and quiet. There's enough space for everyone at the outdoor pool and beach, and the grounds never feel overrun with children, though families are welcome here. The furnished lounge chairs on the swimming pier provide a remote spot for relaxation.
Xanadu offers affordable honeymoon packages, as well as a Honeymoon Suite -- a second-floor option directly on the beach that offers beautiful sea views from a spacious wrap-around porch.
Some romantic restaurant options are within walking distance of the resort, or guests can cook a candlelit meal in the comfort of their fully equipped kitchens.
A laid-back beach venue for small destination weddings
Xanadu's pretty beach setting and relaxed tropical decor makes it suitable for laid-back weddings. The resort offers basic wedding packages starting at $1,000.
Additional services and equipment are available for a fee, such as covered chairs, salon services, photography, additional flowers, live music, a champagne toast, and cake. Catering arrangements can be made for a reception on-site, or at a nearby restaurant.
Samantha Brown visited for her Travel Channel show
The Travel Channel featured Xanadu on Samantha Brown's "Passport to Latin America" series, which is a source of pride for the resort. The show first aired in 2007.
A recycling initiative and energy-efficient buildings
The staff encourages guests to recycle, and to re-use sheets and towels. In addition, the handful of domed buildings that make up the resort are energy efficient.
Xanadu Island Resort was awarded First Green Globe Island Certified Property in Belize by the International Center for Responsible Tourism. Through the years, the owners have continued to implement upgrades to become more sustainable.
Built and owned by a South African couple who loves to travel
In 1998, South African natives Ivan and Judy Sheinbaum first began construction at Xanadu Island Resort, after falling in love with the beach location on Ambergris Caye. They wanted the resort to look like it really belonged on an island, hence the natural elements to the exterior. The owners have a passion for travel, and they've owned and operated properties in several countries, including South Africa and Israel. When they aren't traveling themselves (leaving the resort in trusty hands), Ivan and Judy can be found back in Belize taking a hands-on approach to running the hotel.
A central location in San Pedro, with unique safety features
Xanadu Island resort, unlike many of its neighbors, offers a back-up generator system in the event of a power outage (which isn't uncommon in Belize). The system can operate AC units and provide hot and cold water to guests. In addition, the resort's domed buildings are fireproof, and can ward off hurricane winds up to 300 miles per hour. The domes survived powerful hurricanes in the past, including Hurricane Keith in October 2000.
Belize is a peaceful and friendly nation with fewer than 400,000 residents. The hotel is located in San Pedro and offers 24-hour security, but it's still a good idea to exercise caution, especially while walking home after dark. No inoculations are required by the Government of Belize, but it's a good idea to check with your local physician for medical advice prior to traveling in the region.
Xanadu Island Resort is a simple, relaxed property with 18 spacious units resting on a pretty stretch of beach along Ambergris Caye, minutes from central San Pedro. There is no restaurant or bar on-site, but the condo-style rooms come with full kitchens, and a number of shops are a short walk away. The small freshwater pool is surrounded by lush tropical landscaping and has ocean views. The hotel also offers free kayak and bike rentals, and excursions can be arranged through the on-site tour desk. Golf cart rentals are available and there is free and reliable Wi-Fi throughout.