San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
This chic cluster of casitas, suites, and luxury villas has an exquisite, Orient–tinged style with a knack for attracting Hollywood celebrities and jet–setters from around the world. Mata Chica's swanky lounge and famous Mambo restaurant add a deliciously aesthetic edge to the scene, where you'll mingle with honeymooners and families alike.
As you approach Mata Chica from the foot of their private dock (the property is reached by a short boat ride from San Pedro town), you are immediately ensconced in a sophisticated sense of style as the dining area opens into a high ceiling, airy lobby which in turn, leads to an "inter martini lounge," a cozy den with games, plasma–screen–cinema, online Powerbooks, and top–shelf liquors. The bar area is equally intimate, as is the Jade Spa, with its "Sea Salt & Sea Clay Body Mask Massage" and "Banana (or papaya) Facial and Décolleté," in addition to traditional treatments. There are multiple activity–based packages, and the resort specializes in "grand or intimate weddings, honeymoons, and secluded getaways."
Mata Chica's 14 private, tasteful accommodations are close to the gently lapping sea (because of the barrier reef just offshore, there are no big waves). Each unit has a king bed, air conditioning, plenty of room, and spacious baths filled with live plants. They're all differently decorated with murals by artist Lionel Dumas and a gorgeous selection of hand crafted furniture. The two–bedroom/two–bathroom Luxury Caribbean Villas are particularly nice, raised on hardwood platforms with private patios, sun deck, reading room, and personal maid. Step things up another notch in Mata Chica's three–bedroom, 5,000–square–foot beach mansion with enormous living area space, grand bathrooms, and incredible views up and down the caye—and out to sea.
The on–site Mambo Restaurant offers one of Belize's most renowned dining experiences, offering pure indulgence in the form of rich and artful heaps of seafood paella, jerk seared scallops, curried shrimp, and grilled lobster; or get your turf on with a bleu cheese–encrusted filet mignon or mango–glazed pork chop. Be sure to save room for the to–die–for chocolate mousse.
If Mata Chica is not luxurious enough for you, head to nearby La Perla de Caribe, where the original Mata Chica owners offer twelve massive luxury villas with imported Guatemalan carvings and antiques in the grand mansion–style homes around a common pool and palm–dotted sand courtyard.
The resort has been busy with additions and upgrades the past couple years, including the addition of a “serenity cottage” that’s so serene you need a golf cart to get there and back. This is a free-standing two-bedroom house with a full kitchen, plus a deck with its own large plunge pool and a killer view. Extra touches include a Japanese–style steam shower, heated bathroom floors, and fireplaces.
Web Address: www.matachica.com
Total Number of Rooms: 16
Published rates: $230 to $950, includes continental breakfast and transfers to and from San Pedro
Review and photos by Joshua Berman