Private island offshore from Dangriga, Stann Creek, Belize
On its own small island between the mainland and the long barrier reef that passes the length of Belize, this romantic escape offers the best of laid-back luxury in the tropics.
For some people luxury implies marble lobbies, gold leaf mirrors, and spa treatments. For many others a luxury resort means the chance to truly escape and relax in a warm and sunny place. Thatch Caye Resort has a guest book filled with gushing praise, especially from honeymooners who love the overwater bungalows and hammocks strung out across the island.
Thatch Caye could more properly be called an islet as it's a little strip of land that must fight to stay above water when a tropical storm blows through. There are various sea walls and pilings erected to keep the erosion in check and all buildings are elevated just in case. The "natural salt water pool" is an area enclosed by tall pilings, with one opening for boats to leave and various rafts and floaties for guests to lay on.
Above the water here is the centerpiece Starfish Bar, where nearly every guest ends up at happy hour. Most tend to go for the all-inclusive plan since nobody is going anywhere, so the bartender stays busy whipping up mojitos, piña coladas, and rum punch drinks. Guests are often sipping a Belikan beer while kicking back on chair hammocks or barstools.
Meals are served collectively at set times and apart from special dietary requests, there's no choice in the matter. The chef serves what's fresh and available, with a variety that runs through fish, chicken, beef, and the occasional lobster when the fishermen have good luck. The meals are hearty, with dessert, but bring some snacks along if you get hungry frequently as it can be a long stretch between lunch and dinner. Weather permitting, you eat at a long table outside with all the other guests. This may not be great for privacy seekers, but it solves the problem existing in many resorts where it's hard to meet other guests. Here you’re best friends after a couple days.
You can book additional tours that go out from the island each day, such as fishing, snorkeling, island hopping, or lobster hunting. These are generally half-day tours that don't require a lot of time in transit: the coral reef is less than 10 minutes away. The boats have comfortable cushioned seats and are stocked with drinks.
There's a small beach at one part of the island with lounge chairs and more hammocks. Here you can also take out kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, or a Hobie sailboat.
Rooms here are free-standing units in several styles. The first are wooden overwater bungalow ones, with a deck surrounding them. The water is too shallow for swimming, but the view is sublime, especially at sunrise. Lots of Belizean wood is used in the design, including a driftwood mirror frame and front door with carved animal designs. The other "island cabana" style solidly on shore may not look as romantic, but it actually has more space—enough for a window seat, two armchairs, and a dining table for two. Stairs lead to a roof deck with a panoramic view and a great hammock for napping. There's also a collection of several villas sharing a common deck, making it a good choice for a large family or couples traveling together.
Amenities are purposefully basic on this eco-sensitive island. There is air conditioning, but you're encouraged to only crank it when the sea breezes through the ample windows aren't enough. There are no energy-sucking refrigerators or TVs in the rooms — though there is one TV and Wi-Fi access in the main lounge.
Most of the power is supplied by a bank of solar panels and some wind power, with plans to add more capacity soon. Another measure that should be in place shortly is the switchover to refillable water bottles for guests, which will avoid the mountain of single-use plastic ones that needed to be shipped to a mainland landfill.
Besides all the water activities, the lounge is stocked with DVDs, board games, books, and other diversions. There's also aloe vera and bug spray on site to help combat the sand fleas that are too small to see biting.
Guests soon get in a rhythm of early to bed and early to rise here, with activities during the day, maybe an afternoon nap, and then happy hour before dinner. Staffers are friendly and attentive, plus the on-site couple managing the place had experience at Ocean Club in Placencia before coming out to the island life. If you need anything or have a problem, it's not hard to find someone in charge.
Rates here are "special occasion" high since there's a $150 per person all-inclusive charge on top of the room rates (which themselves start above $300.) It can be a better deal to go for one of the special offer packages, especially in the off season. It's important to remember that food and drinks have to come on boats from the mainland and staffers need to to stay on site. For island lovers and those trying to truly get away from it all though, private island resort Thatch Caye in Belize is a small slice of paradise.
Web Address: ThatchCayeBelize.com
Total Number of Rooms: 12
Published rates: $673 - $775 per night all-inclusive with taxes and boat transfer
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.