The jungles, beaches, and volcanoes that makeup Central America combine to make a stunning landscape, and its top resorts take full advantage. Condé Nast Traveler readers rate their top resorts in Central America, and Belize takes the number one spot plus four more in the 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards survey! While virtually no one was traveling, voters in their 33rd Readers’ Choice Awards recounts the Central America resorts that brought them comfort; that they still connected with long afterward; and those that got them through the months without travel. For their 33rd annual survey—yes, more than three decades—a record 715,000 voters weighed in. Besides, as you continue to travel, Condé Nast continues to listen: Here are all the reasons to love the following five Belize resorts in Central America.
Condé Nast Traveler says it best. Turneffe Island Resort, which has occupied its own island in the Turneffe Atoll east of Belize City for nearly two decades (though parts of the resort date back even farther), does tranquility seamlessly. Since then, it has become a stalwart in a country that everyone has been talking about lately, thanks to a wave of new openings. The 14-acre private island that the hotel sits on was formed centuries ago, when a volcanic peak sank to the sea floor, leaving a crown of a coral reef ringing its perimeter. There are only 22 guest rooms (including 10 private villas), each with a porch looking out on the water. The wide stretch of beach, usually empty, invites you to sit outside in a low-slung chair with a bottle of beer and a spy novel, leaving you feeling like the island belongs entirely to you.
Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort: #4 Resort in Central America
Nestled between the turquoise waters of the Caribbean and the lush Maya Mountains, Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort is a secluded, intimate resort in Central America. The premier resort south of Hopkins, Hamanasi (Garifuna for ‘almond tree’) combines the amenities of a top-class dive resort with an array of inland tours and activities, all on a gorgeous 400ft private beachfront. All of Hamanasi’s rooms and suites face the sea, except for the popular wood-floored tree houses, which hide among the coastal foliage behind the beach. This locally-run, exclusively-priced resort also has its own PADI dive facility; besides, divers have prime access to a spectacular underwater world home to whale sharks, eagle rays, and manatees. Dining at Singanga Restaurant, whether indoors or on the veranda overlooking the sea, includes a menu rich in fresh seafood and international cuisine with a Caribbean twist.
Matachica Resort & Spa: #8 Resort in Central America
A short taxi ride by speedboat from San Pedro’s bustling city life brings you to Matachica – one of the most relaxed resorts on island time in Ambergris Caye. Here, a dreamy digital detox reduces your vacation to just the essentials: a thatched cottage, the glistening Caribbean Sea, and the delicately-pale Belizean beach. Go from bedside to aquamarine shoals in a matter of steps from your boutique accommodation. Although the resort is small, each room is its own private beach house. Besides, Matachica’s suites and casitas boldly compliment onsite sophistications, like its pool, meditative dock, Mambo Restaurant, and Jade Spa.
Turtle Inn: #9 Resort in Central America
As one of three Francis Ford Coppola retreats in Belize, Turtle Inn is tucked between the jungle and the beach. That is, with a Bali-meets-Caribbean look, including Balinese doorways, private gardens with outdoor showers, and Japanese baths. Enjoy sumptuous spa treatments for two at the Sunset Spa after diving with stingrays. Or, enjoy snorkeling with whale sharks near the world’s second-largest coral reef. Other options include a canoe trip or four-wheel drive excursion to a cave, paddle boarding, zip-lining, and visits to an organic farm. Fresh seafood and traditional Italian fare blend together at the Mare Restaurant. After all, the open-air eatery along the ocean shore features local fish brought in daily from the fertile reefs just offshore. Not to mention, the fresh vegetables are delivered from the property’s organic garden.
Gaïa Riverlodge: #14 Resort in Central America
Surrounded by towering pines in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Gaïa Riverlodge is a stylish, open-air lodge beautifully perched above the Privassion Creek. Cabanas and villas are well spaced out onsite, naturally creating a sense of privacy by nature. While an hour jeep ride from the more populous San Ignacio area lands you in MPR, guests can recharge inside the 24 private and spacious cabanas to the waterfall’s sounds. Enjoy the rainforest’s intimacy with its native birds, butterflies, and remarkable flora. After all, it is set amongst the pink and orange glow of the setting sun in Cayo. Ps: the riverside and waterfall-view rooms give unrivaled sunrise vistas amongst rural luxury.