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Cayo Espanto 4.5

San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Secluded location surrounded by shallow Caribbean flats 
  • Villas have open floor plans and outer doors that fold open 
  • Two personal butlers assigned to each villa
  • Chef consults with guests on daily menus
  • Free kayaks, standup paddle boards, and Hobie Cat sailboat rentals 
  • Connect directly to Belize International Airport from resort's helipad
  • Each villa has a private dock and infinity plunge pool 
  • All villas have iPads and Bluetooth-enabled stereos
  • Free scheduled water taxis to San Pedro Town
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout

Cons

  • Small beach and island shoreline is too shallow for swimming
  • Beds are so soft and padded they feel mushy
  • Gym is cramped and underwhelming
  • All meals are taken in villas -- no proper restaurant

Bottom Line

Opened in 1998 and located on a private island near Ambergris Caye, the luxury Cayo Espanto's seven air-conditioned villas have wraparound porches, private docks, and ocean-view plunge pools. Interiors are rustic Caribbean, with details like cement floors and exotic hardwood furniture. All villas have two assigned butlers and the resort’s chef visits daily to discuss (and tailor) the menu for guests. Sadly, Cayo Espanto’s beaches are small and shallow. The resort is seven minutes by water taxi to San Pedro, Ambergris’ Caye’s commercial hub. Travelers looking for a property with a great beach and a sleek ocean-view pool should consider the villas at La Perla del Caribe, though rooms there aren't quite as lovely. 

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Scene

An private island refuge with rustic, intimate atmosphere and manicured grounds

Cayo Espanto is so private you won’t even realize a celebrity is staying in the villa next door -- and this resort attracts plenty of those, to be sure. Villas are separated by tropical gardens and mangroves, and even meals are private affairs and served on the villa’s deck with its attendant ocean soundtrack. Given its limited features - a small gym, full-size chess board, and free kayak and Hobie Cats rentals -- relaxing seems to be the resort’s biggest goal. The sandy grounds are raked to perfection -- we even saw floral and swirl shapes brushed into the sand -- and full of rustling palm trees. Many of the trees are coconut palms and, upon request, the staff will pluck one and serve fresh coconut water. At first glance, the island’s only bright green grassy patch looks like a putting green, but it’s actually the helipad for direct Belize City airport transfers. We noticed bits of trash scattered throughout the island (a bottle cap, cigarette butt, water bottles) but these are small imperfections in an otherwise tightly run, luxury ship. Guests at Cayo Espanto are mostly couples from the United States but families are also drawn to the resort’s two-bedroom, two-story villas.

Location

A 10-minute kayak to nearest sandbar beach and a seven-minute water taxi to San Pedro

Map of Cayo Espanto

Cayo Espanto is located on a private island nestled between Ambergris Caye and the Belizean mainland. Getting to the island from Ambergris Caye takes 15-minutes from the airport, a trip that includes an eight-minute taxi and a seven-minute water taxi. The quicker -- but pricier -- option is to hire a private helicopter from Belize City’s Goldson International Airport directly to the island’s helipad (a 30-minute ride).

With Cayo Espanto’s isolated location, there are few amenities nearby. Everything is located on Ambergris Caye, including grocery stores, restaurants, shops, galleries (a seven to 10-minute water taxi ride away depending on the conditions). 

The island has a small beach and the surrounding water is shallow so beach-seekers usually kayak to to a nearby sandbar (a ten-minute paddle away). Other beaches are a bit farther and guests usually take the resort’s free sailboats to deserted islands and sandbars that start a ten-minute sail away. Farther still, the Blue Hole, one of the world’s top diving destinations, is a three-hour boat ride from the resort and on a clear day, Leonardo DiCaprio’s private island is visible from Cayo Espanto. Rumor has it that he’s planning on developing an eco-resort on his two-mile long island.

Rooms

Beachy villas with private docks, infinity plunge pools, butlers, and lots of tech toys

Cayo Espanto’s seven oceanfront villas are scattered around the island’s sandy shoreline. The wooden one and two-bedroom villas have rustic Caribbean interiors with exposed beams and cement floors. Their baby blue slatted windows and outer doors fold open for a breezy, open interiors, though there are also ceiling fans and air-conditioning. Living rooms mix wicker and exotic hardwood furniture with earth-toned pillows. Bamboo entertainment centers are loaded with flat-screen TVs with satellite channels, Blue-Ray DVD players, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. There’s a Scrabble board, but with so many missing letters it might be tough to spell out a big-ticket word. Bluetooth-enabled stereo systems (with built-in speakers throughout the villa) and iPads are standard. Kitchenettes and mini-fridges are stocked with free soda, beer, and bottled water. A full menu of liquors is available and included in the resorts all-inclusive pricing although wine and champagne are extra. 

Airy bedrooms have balconies or patios with ocean views. Platformed king beds with Yves De Lorme sheets are protected by mosquito nets, although the beds were a bit soft for our liking. Bedrooms have chaise lounge chairs, luggage stands, and fire-proof lockboxes. In the two-bedroom villas, the second-floor master bedrooms have cathedral ceilings, two balconies, and a flat-screen TV. 

Bathrooms have mahogany and ziricote-wood vanities with minimalist, wedge-shaped sinks. There’s tons of toiletries including Lady Primrose Celadon Hand soap, moisturizer, and bar soap. Cotton balls and swabs are standard along with super-soft towels and Boca Terry robes. Thoughtful extras like integrated USB-port wall plugs are a nice addition for a resort that feels so otherwise removed from the world. Cement-floored showers have Caribbean views and refillable shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Showers heads were unimpressive, although some villas have rainfall showerheads. 

Villas have wraparound, ocean-front porches with hammocks and infinity plunge pools. Private docks with wooden lounge chairs and plush pillows are standard. All villas have two private butlers available via two-way radios. They’ll do everything from unpack luggage to serve meals to turn down the villas at night. All villas come with pool floats, yoga mats, rain jackets, and umbrellas. Wi-Fi is free. 

Features

Gourmet restaurant, small beach with kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, sailboats, and tiny gym 

The food at Cayo Espanto is gourmet-tasty but there’s no sit-down restaurant and guests eat meals in their villas. Every day, the restaurant’s chef visits each villa to discuss the day’s menu and will accommodate any cravings or dietary restrictions. Room service is also available until late, and sodas and beer are free. Wine is available for a fee. 

Cayo Espanto’s beach is small and shallow and, unfortunately, not great for swimming. Just offshore, though, there’s an inflatable trampoline and floating dock that kids love. A wicker loveseat sits next to the beach, making it the island’s top spot for watching a romantic sunset. Kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and Hobie Cat’s are free and are the best way to reach nearby sandbars and deserted islands. Free snorkeling equipment is also available. 

The resort’s air-conditioned fitness center is tiny. Stuffed into the shed-sized building are a treadmill, two elliptical machines, a stationary bike, and well-used (maybe even abused) dumbbells. There’s also a flat-screen TV with Apple TV and a small lending library. The hotel concierge can set up a wide variety of tours and services including: spa, diving, fishing, snorkeling, and arrange water taxis. There’s a life-size chess board near the island’s jetty and Wi-Fi is free. 

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Address

Cayo Espanto Island, San Pedro, Belize Cayes, Belize

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