Maya Beach, Placencia Road, Stann Creek, Belize
Located on a part of the Placencia Peninsula narrow enough for a resort to reach both the lagoon and the sea, Umaya Resort & Adventures (formerly Belize Ocean Club) is a welcoming Belize retreat with a lot to offer.
There are expected elements of a beach resort—pool with swim-up bar, restaurant with a view, a beach to wriggle your toes in the sand—but then the memorable spots add more to the mix. At Umaya Resort, there's a chance to watch both sunrise and sunset. The latter is from the lagoon side, where there's a pier and a nice grass lawn for kicking back on a lounge chair. At night, lights are strung up out here for a magical night view from the dining tables.
That restaurant is an inviting place, with lots of Belizian hardwood, high ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling windows to let in plenty of natural light. A long bar serves up cocktails and Belikin beers until late in the evening. The cuisine is reliable and prepared with care. The menus include most specialities from Belize (it's a pretty short list after all) and then augments it with seafood dishes, steaks, salads, and a few vegetarian dishes.
The other restaurant is the Bar & Grill, on the other side of the road by the pool. This is a breakfast, lunch, and bar snack affair with the usual bites, including items for children. There's a happy hour here each day on drinks and cold draft beer on tap. If you want to venture out, there are a few other restaurants a long walk or short bike ride down the road. A little further is, of all things, a bowling alley that serves pizza.
The swimming pool is large and attractive, the centerpiece where most guests end up at some point during the day. It has lost a few tiles here and there since opening in 2013, but is well-maintained otherwise and has towels on cushioned lounge chairs. It's long enough for swimming some laps.
The beach here is a postcard-perfect crescent with soft sand and gentle waves lapping the shore. The water is clear enough to spot fish from the pier. Non-motorized watersports equipment is at the ready for you, such as kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. There's a full 5-star PADI dive center here, offering scuba diving on the barrier reef of Belize or open water certification courses for those who want to get started.
There's a regular schedule of activities and excursions for guests of Umaya Resort & Adventures at an additional charge. These include a tropical island getaway, several jungle tours, horseback riding, exploring Mayan ruins, or going fly fishing. There's also a spa perched over the lagoon that offers body scrubs, massages, and nail treatments. Since it's a good 15-20 minutes to Placencia Village from here, there's a complimentary daily shuttle that gives you a few hours in town.
It's not fair to call the accommodations here "rooms" as all of them are more like apartments than what you'd get in a typical resort. All feature kitchens with full-sized appliances, a living room area, separate bedroom, and balcony or terrace with a water view. Painted in white with travertine marble floors, air conditioning, and ceiling fans, they stay cool when the temperature climbs outside. All have fold-out sofas to sleep another guest and plenty of room to lounge around.
There are several buildings with lagoon views on the same side as the main restaurant and bar, others facing the pool and beach. None face inland: each looks out at either the ocean (and sunrise) or the lagoon and mountains (for sunset).
The main difference in the suites is whether there's a second bedroom and bath and how the bathrooms are configured. Some have a double vanity and a shower for two. Others have a whirlpool tub. The penthouse suites have a similar layout than the others, but have vaulted ceilings and top-floor views. Standard amenities include coffee makers, basic toiletries, multiple satellite TVS, and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Staffers are friendly and well-trained, regularly checking in on guests and doing their best to address issues or requests. While this resort doesn't have the easy access to town the closer Turtle Inn and Chabil Mar enjoy, it is worth considering for its quiet location, spacious suites, and nice beach that's not shared with any other properties. It's popular with a wide range of guests, including honeymooners, extended families, and small groups of friends.
Web Address: umayaresortbelize.com
Total Number of Rooms: 60
Published rates: $140 - $700 + taxes and service fee, but including Placencia airport transfers
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.