If you’re thinking of visiting Belize for a reef-meets-rainforest romantic getaway or honeymoon, there are still a few months left to make it happen before the rainy season ups the humidity (from July through October). One of Belize's top destinations, especially for divers and snorkelers who want to explore Hol Chan Marine Reserve (I have never seen more varieties of fish in one spot!) and the Blue Hole (a very cool landmark that's a 400-foot-deep sinkhole in the reef), is Ambergris Caye. A long, slender barrier island, Ambergris is home to a wide array of beach resorts and the whimsically ramshackle town of San Pedro, where there seem to be more golf carts zipping by than on a public course on a busy holiday weekend. On a recent visit, I discovered that each of the island's resorts has a distinctly different personality (that’s the sexy and eclectic ambiance of Matachica Resort & Spa shown at left), so read on for details on four top properties to see which is right for you:Sexy & Eclectic: Matachica Resort & Spa At Matachica Resort & Spa, casual days spent relaxing on a pretty white-sand beach or a shimmering pool set amid colorful and romantic thatched-roof villas turn into sexy nights sipping creative cocktails in a sophisticated bar/lounge filled with leopard print sofas, African and Asian artwork, glowing candelabras, and vibrant modern paintings. That’s the vibe you’ll enjoy embracing during a stay at this romantic, 26-casita resort located a 10-minute boat ride away from the main pier in San Pedro. The casitas are adult-oriented havens (kids under 12 are not allowed) with sweeping ceilings, net-draped king-sized beds, locally made rattan furnishings, and artistically designed stone and mosaic bathrooms. Rates are based on size (from 350 to 600 square feet) and proximity to the beach. There’s also a small Jade Spa, which uses ingredients sourced from the Belizean jungle and sea (such as a banana or papaya facial) and the flavorful Mambo Restaurant (the jerk-seared scallops were delicious). Rates start at $225/night though May 31 and $195/night June through November 20, 2012. There’s also a seven-night Honeymoon Package that includes accommodations in a Beachfront Casita, transportation from the San Pedro airport, welcome cocktails and chilled champagne, daily breakfasts and à la carte dinners with one bottle of wine (including one private villa veranda romantic dinner), snorkeling at Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley, a visit to Altun-Ha ruins and a horseback ride through the jungle, and a one-hour aromatherapy massage, from $4,680 until May 31, and $3,925 from June to November 20, 2012.
Elegant & Charming: Victoria House Set on 10 tranquil acres featuring a palm-lined beach and lush gardens just outside San Pedro, Victoria House has been a welcoming presence on Ambergris Caye for 30 years. The property has a classic Caribbean plantation ambiance with charming, tin-roofed white buildings and cottages holding 42 rooms and suites, which range from cozy Staterooms (on the upper floor of the main building) to two-bedroom Luxury Villas, featuring king-sized four-poster canopy beds and private pools. Two great options for couples are the Infinity Suites (shown at left), one- and two-bedroom units with dark-wood tropical decor set around a refreshing infinity pool, and the smaller yet atmospheric thatched-roof Casitas set near the beach. Victoria House also offers fine dining at its Palmilla restaurant, where menu highlights include almond-crusted lobster strips and Belizean pork three ways. Rates start at $185/night, through December 21, 2012. There’s also a Reef Romance package available for four or seven nights, which includes accommodations in a Casita or Plantation room, a welcome cocktail and chilled champagne upon arrival, three meals daily (including a private candlelit dinner), a couples massage, a tour to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley, snorkel equipment, and unlimited kayak use, from $2,210 for four nights and $3,361 for seven nights until December 21, 2012.
Sleek & Modern: The Phoenix Resort Chic and architecturally modern, The Phoenix Resort condo enclave definitely stands out amid the weatherworn buildings of low-rise San Pedro. And once you’re inside the U-shaped building configuration the sputter of golf carts and din of other street noise disappears as you soak in the striking infinity pool or relax on your spacious private balcony (shown at right) with a Caribbean view. Comprised of 30 one-, two-, and three-bedroom condo units (individually owned but offered in the resort’s rental pool), the property makes a luxurious base for couples that crave generous space (even the one-bedrooms are a roomy 1,325 square feet) and easy access to the variety of dining options that San Pedro offers. Note: The property is popular with families, so there will often be kids in the pool. Decor is sophisticated neutrals paired with dramatically grained local hardwood doors, moldings, cabinets, and furnishings, and bathrooms have Jacuzzi tubs. The property has one on-site restaurant, Red Ginger, serving tasty, tropical-inspired dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Sol Spa, which offers a variety of massages, facials and other treatments. Rates start at $315/night from May 1 to November 20, 2012.
Tropical & Casual: Ramon’s Village Resort If you are on a budget and want to kick back in a relaxed yet convivial way in the conveniently located center of San Pedro, check into Ramon’s Village Resort. Designed to resemble a thatched-roof village (inspired by the far-away South Pacific island of Bora Bora), the property features 61 cabanas (some individual, shown at left, others located in two-story wooden buildings) nestled amid coconut palms, bougainvillea, flamboyant trees, and Mayan statues. Good options for a romantic getaway are the Beachfront Cabanas and Honeymoon Cabanas, both featuring Belizean hardwood floors and locally crafted furniture. There is a slender, 500-foot-long white-sand beach, a lagoon-style pool, a dive shop, and a daily activities schedule. Pineapples restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and the Purple Parrot bar is known for its tropical libations. Note: If noise is an issue for you, Ramon’s is located adjacent to the San Pedro airport – but the planes are small and air traffic is daytime only. Rates start at $185/night until December 19, 2012.