Small but mighty, Belize packs everything from Mayan ruins smothered in dense jungle to idyllic Caribbean islands, each home to boutique hotels that put guests in direct touch with the country’s vast natural beauty. We’ve scoured Belize’s beaches, cays, rivers, lagoons and forests to compile our picks for the best boutique hotels in the destination.
Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola has had a love affair with Belize since the early 1980s, when he came across this then-abandoned resort he bought it, then transformed it — first as a vacation spot for his family, later as a resort. Located amid mountain jungles, Blancaneaux is bisected by waterfalls and dotted with thatched-roof guest quarters blending easily with the natural surroundings. Coppola wines, of course, are featured at the hotel’s Italian restaurant, Montagna.
The best way to experience Belize’s barrier reef probably is to stay right on it. Cayo Espanto is one of hundreds of small islands that are part of the massive reef system, and diving and fishing (along with more relaxing activities like spa treatments and fine dining) are part of the resort experience. All seven of Cay Espanto’s private villas are on the beach, and some are over the water itself.
An eco-resort with treehouse rooms and a top-notch dive program, Hamanasi is located at Stann Creek on Belize’s south coast, close to the Belize Barrier Reef. If you’re not a diver you can snorkel, and jungle hikes in a jaguar preserve and outings to Mayan ruins also are on the activities list here.
This “wildly civilized” boutique hotel is set within 400 acres of protected jungle that includes hiking trails, rivers for paddling, a butterfly farm, educational natural history center, organic farm, and an equestrian center. Belize’s original jungle lodge has accommodations ranging from simple riverside cabins to treetop jacuzzi suites.
Like a lot of Belize visitors, the Coppolas split their time between the jungle and the beach, so they bought this 25-room beach resort in 2001 to complement their jungle lodge, Blancaneaux. Close to the fishing village of Placencia, the hotel has rooms and a spa among its thatch-roofed buildings, an on-site dive shop, and a variety of dining and drinking options, including an exceptionally well-stocked wine cellar.
Coral Cay is also part of the Coppola family of resort and falls under the heading of Turtle Inn accommodations, but it’s actually a private island on the Belize barrier reef with but a single set of accommodations. All meals are provided by the island’s caretakers, and activities can range from spa treatments to fishing trips —or just enjoy the solitude.
Farm-to-table dining is a difference-maker at this “heavenly” place in the jungles of San Ignazio. The resort leans into the region’s Mayan culture with tours to ancient cities like Tikal and Xunantunich, traditional abdominal massages in the spa, and Mayan cooking classes.
No grass roofs or treehouses here: the Ellysian is a modern boutique hotel in the heart of Placencia village that has 13 luxury villas with ocean-facing verandas and a rooftop restaurant and bar.
A waterfall is your soothing sound machine when you stay in a cabana at this San Ignacio area eco-resort — and not just any cascade, but rather Belize’s famous Five Sisters Falls, which tumbles through the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve just below the resort. So close, in fact, that some rooms are billed as waterfall view, while others are set alongside the river that provides all of the power for the remote lodge.
You don’t often find true outdoor adventure paired with five-star accommodations, but that’s what you’ll get at this unique jungle lodge. An all-inclusive activities package includes caving, river tubing, day and night jungle treks, birding, and botanical garden tours, paired with stays in luxury treehouses and three daily meals.
All of the elements of a Caribbean beach resort are here: open-air dining, snorkeling, spa, kayaking, and casitas within steps of the sea. But because this is Belize, this adults-only hotel on Ambergris Cay also offers excursions to the mainland’s jungles and historic sites.
Got rum? You will at this Belize jungle hotel, which incorporates both a 3,000-acre organic farm and a rum distillery. Guests staying in the 16 suites (or one villa) can enjoy hands-on educational programs on cocoa and coffee cultivation, dine on locally raised produce, and sample the rums produced at this distillery (including a delicious cacao-flavored variety).
Overwater bungalows are a magnet for honeymooners and couples at this private island resort off the coast of Dangriga, Belize. The emphasis here is on peaceful serenity and seclusion, but there’s plenty of time to connect with the relative handful of fellow guests during the nightly communal dinners.
Ambergris Cay isn’t all about the beach — there’s also a vibrant nightlife scene best captured in San Pedro neighborhoods like Tres Cocos. That’s the home of this youthful boutique hotel, which has cabana-style rooms, a lively bar, and an on-site taco bar.