I've been meaning to review Tranquility Bay (TBR) since February, but haven't been able to find the words to articulate how much I loved it. I still can't, so I'll just go ahead with an imperfect review.
I spent four days in Belize this past February, with my girlfriend and another couple. From the moment the folks at TBR picked us up in San Pedro to the moment they dropped us off, it was unbelievable. After a long day of traveling -- including a boat ride that treated us to a breathtaking view of the moonrise -- we arrived at Tranquility Bay to an enthusiastic welcome party right on the dock. Carlos and Isabelle, the managers, introduced themselves and brought us into the resort's lone bar/restaurant, the Tackle Box, where we were given a complimentary welcome drink and enjoyed our first meal. More on the Tackle Box in a bit. After dinner, Carlos showed us to our cabana, and wow...
We were fortunate to stay in one of the newly renovated cabanas, and I couldn't be happier. All the cabanas are excellent, but the front wall of our cabana had recently been replaced with a series of connected doors that opened completely so the entire front of the first floor opens to an unbelievable view of the ocean. In other words, my biased opinion is that our cabana was the best :) The entire cabana is really nice, with a living room, kitchenette, and a bedroom and bathroom on each floor -- the perfect dwelling for a tropical getaway. The location of the cabanas can't be beat. Each has an unobstructed view of the beach and is just a few yards from the water.
The beach itself is out of this world. This isn't the first time I've seen clear tropical waters, but I was blown away. Palm trees and hammocks dot the beach, and a line of kayaks sit by the water, free for use. And believe me, I got a lot of use out of them (did I mention they're free?). The water is a light aquamarine close to shore, except where miniature reefs lie beneath the surface, creating blotches of deep turquoise. It's a beautiful pattern only nature could make up. About a half mile off the shore is a very, very long barrier reef, so the water inside the bay is very peaceful. You can snorkel right off the beach and see some amazing fish, including tangs, triggers, clowns, lionfish, wrasses, parrotfish and tons more. Smaller rays also hang out in the bay. Combined with the pelicans and other birds -- you can really see some awesome wildlife without even leaving the resort...though I would recommend you do leave the resort at least once. More on that soon, too. But first, back to the Tackle Box, as promised.
So I was a bit nervous at first that the resort has just one bar restaurant. But I was put right at ease with my very first meal. Simply put, the food here is AWESOME. I was so pleasantly surprised by every meal I had, that I just kept trying different things until I had almost everything on the menu - in just four days! The fish is some of the best and freshest you'll ever have, ever (try the Fisherman's Catch, as I believe it's called). From the conch ceviche to the traditional Belizian stew, it was all just delicious. And you are a fool if you stay here without trying the coconut pie, which is one of the greatest deserts I've ever had in my life. I never eat desert when I go to restaurants, but I made sure to have the coconut pie every night at TBR. The drinks are great, too. I suggest drinking like a local and going with Belican beer. I'm a bit of a beer snob, but it was surprisingly good. Just make sure you go with the local Belican and not the tourist version. Ignore my advice and you'll find out why :) Since leaving the resort isn't just a walk down the block, you can also purchase a case of Belican, which they'll bring right to your cabana. And it's cheap, too! Plus, it's not just the food at the Tackle Box that's great. The atmosphere is just as good. The building is literally on top of the water, which you can see between the floorboards. At night, rays and tarpons rest by the Tackle Box, and you can watch them from the balcony outside. Also, you won't see any signs reading "no shirt, no shoes, no service." Shoes, especially, are a rare sight here. After all, you're on vacation!
Now, here's the part where I rave about the staff. Other reviews have noted the personal attention, but that doesn't do it justice. As I mentioned, we only stayed for four days, but by the end of our time at TBR, the staff felt like friends. Hill and Alex, in particular, and also Jamal and a couple other fellas whose names I forget, were some of the nicest guys ever. They make you look forward to visits to the Tackle Box just for the conversation. My friend and I went for a happy hour beer one afternoon and were supposed to bring back drinks for our girlfriends, and we ended up losing track of the time because we were having so much fun hanging out with the TBR staff. I should also mention that these guys are jacks of all trades. The same guys will serve your food, make your drinks and drive your boat into town. Can't say enough about them. They really set this place apart from the average resort.
Finally, I want to mention and recommend the snorkeling trip. This was a very affordable trip we booked right through the resort. Took us on a boat ride to Hol Chan, which is a must see, and once there, it was into the water. The trip began in shallow waters, which was odd, because we were about a mile off shore. Immediately, we saw these adorable sea turtles, grazing on sea grass. They let you get super close and they just go about their business. After a short swim, the bottom quickly drops out and the water goes from five to about fifty feet deep. It was mind-blowing. There was so much life -- from giant black grouper that looked to be the size of a small cow to butterflies and angels and all sorts of things that you have to see in person to appreciate. The reef, too, was incredible. Our guide challenged me to free dive to the bottom, but I only made it about two thirds of the way down before I had to surface...then he went and did it with ease :) Anyway, we swam more and then got back in the boat. I thought we were done and would have been satisfied if we were. But then our guide took out a canister and threw it in the water, and before long, I saw it...a shark approaching! It was a nurse shark, nothing crazy, but a shark, nonetheless. Bigger than a person, for sure. I was so excited that I quickly jumped in the water when the guide asked who wanted to be the first to go in. Everyone soon joined, and soon, there were four sharks as well as two huge sting rays. The water was so clear, I could see them coming from a distance, and they looked like huge birds flying through the water. Words can't describe how awesome it was. The sharks and rays and a huge school of dark blue fish swarmed all around us. You could put your hand out and fish would brush past them. If you do one excursion from TBR, I strongly recommend this. It's something you will not forget.
...and that's that. I can't really think of anything else. I mean, I could go on forever. Go see San Pedro, etc. But if you're not sold on TBR now, it's just not going to happen. I have a general aversion to visiting the same destination twice, but I will make an exception for Belize, and I will absolutely stay at TBR again.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A relaxing 12 miles North of San Pedro Town, Tranquility Bay Resort is a secluded paradise. 10 Separate cabanas line the nicest beach on the island. The only resort on the island where it is safe to snorkel from the beach to the reef! Relax and enjoy our beautiful setting from our water top restaurant and watch the Tarpon, Barracuda and Eagle Rays swim under our dock lights! ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Tranquility Bay Hotel Ambergris Caye
- Hotel Tranquility Bay
- Tranquility Bay Resort Belize/Ambergris Caye