Mile 17.5, Placencia, Belize
Located approximately 20 minutes north of Placencia village on the scenic peninsula, Naïa Resort and Spa offers the biggest and most luxurious spa in Belize.
Placencia is regarded as having the best white sand beaches in Belize, and Naïa Resort and Spa takes advantage of a mile or so of the pristine beachfront along the peninsula. Cleverly tucked in amongst the trees are 35 beachfront houses, offering you the right mix of seclusion and ocean views. The resort takes up just 19 acres of the 200-plus acres making up the Cocoplum housing community. Everywhere you turn there is an opportunity to spot local wildlife or head out on the water in search of marine life.
Accommodations range from studio beach houses that are ideal for a honeymoon couple to a lavish three-bedroom beach house that is perfect for families or a group of friends. There are no "bad views" at Naïa either, as every beach house offers spectacular sightlines from the verandah. Larger accommodations include private plunge pools, a worthy splurge, especially if you visit during high-season as the main pool is not that large. With many guests off doing tours or partaking in spa days, the pool is not necessarily as crowded as resorts in neighboring tourist destinations like Mexico.
No matter which type of accommodations you choose, you'll find Naïa's rooms are luxurious and offer a wide selection of modern amenities, including free Wi-Fi. We stayed in a beachfront studio which featured a well-stocked kitchenette carefully tucked in between the living area and spa-like bathroom. A nice surprise was the giant soaking tub, which offered the ultimate way to relax in the evenings with a glass or two of wine. The outdoor rain shower featured complete privacy, and the separate vanities were ideal for getting ready in a rush to head down to dinner.
Each room offers a separate staff entrance, so if you order room service or they come to do the nightly turndown service, or for daily housekeeping, you'll never see a staff member on your verandah. There are sitting areas, a desk, and the outdoor space with a table and chairs where you can sit out and watch the sunrise or read a book during the day. As you sit on your verandah and stare out along the beach, you'll be quick to notice the lack of beach chairs and hammocks. Naïa only brings out hammocks and chairs upon request, and they are strategically placed by each beach house so you won't find any Cancun-style vibe here. Plus, Naïa kept the natural vegetation and trees so there are plenty of options to stay shaded if you prefer not to bake in the sun.
Naïa's owner and developer, Stewart Krohn, is a well-known name in Belize. With a lengthy background in television and journalism, he's credited with developing the first television studio in the country. His passion for Belize and deep understanding of the local tourism market worked to his advantage as he's developed one of the most unique resorts in the country. Every detail is carefully thought out and Belizean culture is represented at every turn, both in the rooms and the resort itself.
Don’t miss dining at the resort's restaurants. Naïa's signature restaurant, 1981, was named after the year Belize gained independence. This is where you'll find one of the best dinner menus in the country. Pay close attention to the centerpiece of the restaurant, which is the dramatic display of bottles behind the bar. These were all collected from various construction sites, land excavations, and dive sites in Belize. Some of these bottles have traceable roots that extend well beyond Belize, which makes them even more interesting to gaze at while dining.
Current "must-try" menu selections include appetizers like the 1981 ceviche, smoked fish dip, and the grilled octopus. The grilled octopus is served with a homemade chimichurri, roasted peanuts, and is served on pumpkin puree. It ranks as one of the top octopus dishes I've had worldwide, bringing back wonderful memories of eating freshly caught grilled octopus in the Greek Islands.
When it comes to main dishes, the seafood dukunu could easily become habit-forming. The traditional Belizean corn tamale, or dukunu, is topped with fresh seafood and a creamy sauce. Other options include pork crepes, mango and ginger BBQ pork ribs, and Mayan spiced fish fillet. Unfortunately, we only had two nights at Naïa, so we couldn't try every dish on the menu, but we made a valiant effort. Save room for dessert, too—it's worth it! A cocktail, appetizer, main dish, and dessert will probably average around $50 US a person, which is a bargain for this quality of meal in Belize. The 1981 restaurant is only open nightly for dinner, so if you want to eat on property during the day, you'll need to head to the Beach Bar and Grill or the Reflections Spa Café.
Naïa takes its name from Naiad, the Greek word for a type of female spirit most associated with fountains, springs, streams, wells, and other freshwater sources. When you walk across the property and head towards the spa area of Naïa, you'll immediately understand why the name applies. The spa and wellness area of the resort feels like a lush jungle experience, and it's almost hard to believe you're only a couple minutes' walk from your room on the Caribbean Sea.
Individual spa treatment rooms look out over beautifully landscaped ponds, covered with lily pads. The spa takes up a good six acres and includes a fully-equipped fitness center, a yoga studio, saltwater pool, and the Reflections café. The spa menu is expansive, offering a number of specially-designed treatments that utilize Belizean traditions and ingredients. Naïa's spa offers couples' treatments and a selection of signature spa experiences that were designed with input from local Belizean healers.
If you're looking to go diving every day, you'll be better off staying close to the village at resorts like Chabil Mar or Turtle Inn, which are located near one of Placencia's top dive shops. Naïa Resort and Spa's typical guests are on a wellness journey, and can't get enough of the spa, fitness center, and yoga studio. The resort's front desk can arrange for a variety of inland tours, but don't miss the one-of-a-kind sunset kayak tour that launches from Naia's private property. Here you'll explore the lagoon side of the peninsula and kayak through thick mangroves, do a little bird watching, enjoy a Belizean sunset, and if you're really lucky, you might even see a manatee or two.
Travelers looking for a resort that is within walking distance to Placencia village may be discouraged by Naïa's remote location. However, there is a complimentary shuttle that runs from the resort to town several times a day, or you can arrange private transportation for a fee. Taxis are also an option, and it's about a 20-minute ride each way. You can also rent a car as there is parking on-site, which gives you additional flexibility to visit nearby areas like Maya Beach too.
Another aspect to consider is Naïa may not be the resort for you if you're looking for late night bars and activities. With a focus on wellness, the vibe is significantly more laid-back than you'll find at other resorts closer to the village. The beach bar closes around 5 pm so the staff can get ready for dinner up in 1981, and when 1981 closes around 9 pm, you'll have to head into the village or enjoy some drinks back in your room.
The trade-offs with the more remote location and lack of late night activities onsite are well worth it. Here at Naia you'll find superb accommodations, a healthy dose of Belizean culture, and top-notch service for a lower rate than many other luxury resorts in the country.
Web Address: www.naiaresortandspa.com
Total Number of Rooms: 35 beachfront casitas and beach houses
Published rates: From $315 US a night, check for seasonal specials
Review and photos by Erin De Santiago