Stann Creek District, between Dangriga and Placencia, Belize
Uniting the experience of a Caribbean beachfront resort with that of a jungle lodge, the Kanantik Reef & Jungle Resort is for luxury travelers who seek to embrace both Belizean extremes.
Located in Belize's southern Stann Creek District, 12 miles north of Placencia and 18 miles south of Dangriga, the Kanantik Reef & Jungle Resort's 300 forested acres and 1,300 feet of coastline are more remote than they might seem on a map. Though not distant in sheer miles, unpaved roads place the resort up to two hours from Placencia. The resort boasts its own private airstrip for guests flying in from Belize City, which is the only truly practical way to reach it.
The biggest benefit the Kanantik Reef & Jungle Resort's isolation is the potential to behold some of Belize's most thrilling wildlife, from the crocodile to the tapir. In fact, Kanantik's acreage links with the world's first jaguar preserve, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, home to all five of Belize's cats: the jaguar, ocelot, margay, jaguarundi and puma. All are famously elusive, but they're definitely there: when we woke one morning at Kanantik, the sand around our cabanas was laced with jaguar paw prints. It was remarkable to know they were prowling the beach (for bite–sized agoutis!) while we slept, even if we didn't get the chance to see the cats themselves.
The Kanantik Reef & Jungle Resort's twenty–five private cabanas merge Mayan rustic décor with contemporary accents. They're quite spacious, with expansive decks, vaulted thatched roofs, living rooms and dressing areas, all paneled in local Belizean hardwoods. Furniture is handcrafted by locals who utilize indigenous techniques. Indoor/outdoor showers maintain privacy while providing a view of the sea. There are no televisions with the exception of the flat–screen in the open–air lobby, where Wi–Fi access is also available.
In the resort's restaurant, the thatched roof arches so high you have to crane your neck to see the top. The Creole–Mediterranean cuisine is unerringly delicious, often featuring freshly caught local seafood, but lunch and dinner choices are limited to what your server tells you. If you have dietary restrictions, we recommend you inform the resort before you arrive. All–inclusive and room-only options are available; if you choose the latter, remember that there aren't any dining alternatives nearby.
A member of the International Ecotourism Society, the Kanantik Reef & Jungle Resort is dedicated to eco-friendly practices, such as a state-of-the-art "wastewater garden" septic system designed to preserve the fragile barrier reef. As a result of this dedication, you'll probably be sharing your cabana with small, harmless visitors from time to time. The resort's abstinence from harmful chemicals and pesticides keeps more welcome creatures—like jaguars, crocodiles, birds, and your family—healthy, but insectophobes might want to second–guess their stay.
Kanantik offers a bounty of tours and activities to take advantage of its unique location, like visiting the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich by the Guatemalan border in one of the lodge's Mercedes-Benz tour vans; hiking to the waterfalls of the jaguar preserve; borrowing a kayak or Hobie Cat; or heading out 45 minutes by boat to snorkel the barrier reef at South Water Caye (where dolphins frolicked right beside our boat for half an hour). An onsite dive shop at the end of the extensive dock encourages more intensive reef exploration. For quieter times, there's a swimming pool—the water right offshore isn't the best for swimming—and an adjacent full bar that specializes in espresso drinks and blended tropical beverages. Adirondack chairs and hammocks are scattered across the beach, perfect for reading a book, listening to music on your mp3 player, or simply enjoying the sound of the sea.
Web Address: www.kanantik.com
Total Number of Rooms: 25
Published rates: For cabana only, $300 for double occupancy. All-inclusive packages (including tours, meals and drinks) start at $407 per person, per day.
Review and photos by Kirsten Hubbard.