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“A wonderful retreat”
Review of Cayo Espanto

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Cayo Espanto
Ranked #26 of 54 Hotels in San Pedro
Certificate of Excellence
Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
14 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“A wonderful retreat”
Reviewed April 27, 2010

I just returned from a five-day trip to Cayo Espanto with my husband and two of our closest friends. It was a marvelous place - charming, utterly relaxing, and really gorgeous. We lounged, snorkeled, fished, enjoyed the delicious food, and slept soundly. I will try not to repeat what others have already described...here are a few thoughts:

- The service is beyond anything we had experienced. The staff is literally there for your every need. Johnny was our houseman and he was fantastic. Another reviewer described his style as somewhat stiff, but we found him to be very friendly...just serious about his job and very careful not to pry or talk too much. When you think about it, it is really nice to have quiet, efficient service without a lot of chit-chatting. The American service standard seems to be leaning towards the "we are friends" type of engagement, and this is not Johnny's style. He is respectful of your privacy and fills his role very professionally. The houseman is very often walking in to your villa to deliver food, drinks, movies, etc. and it was nice to know I did not have to engage in a full-on conversation if I was not in the mood. I thought he was excellent.

- If you take the time to complete the survey and communicate any special events, medical issues, etc., they will do anything you need to be comfortable. We are expecting and they always remembered what fish I am not eating, decaf coffee, non-alcoholic drinks, etc. (It is very early, so they would not have "remembered" by seeing me...you can't tell!) They also surprised us with a cake for my husband's birthday, it was beautiful.

- The mood is *completely* laid-back...come prepared with good books and magazines...it is so quiet and tranquil and a perfect escape. If you are easily bored, this may not be your cup of tea, as there is very little to do on the island. (But of course you can always go to town or on an excursion.) For us, the whole point was to unwind from daily life, and that is exactly what happened. In fact, when we went to town we wished we hadn't...there is not much to see or do (and I tend to really like Central American towns).

- We were in Casa Estrella and loved it. The open-air format is really lovely. Know that the bedrooms are not the same...one is upstairs and is huge and airy and beautiful. The other is downstairs and small and simple. I think Aurora's rooms are more similar to each other, but I did not see them.

- The "Day at Sea" is unbelievable. It was the highlight of our stay. Germann and Victor took us snorkeling, spear fishing, and made us a decadent lunch on a deserted beach. We kept saying "This is unreal!" and it really was. I couldn't even begin to describe how much fun we had that day.

- Snorkeling at Hol-Chan was great, but be prepared for lots of others snorkelers. It is the closest and most popular spot to Amergris Caye, so there are lots of folks there. That said, the reef is spectacular. We saw a sea turtle, nurse sharks, rays, and too many fish to mention. Big schools, little tiny neon fish, lobster, etc. etc. (Also, know that the Cayo Espanto charge for a half-day is over 4x the cost for two people coming from Ambergris Caye. It's worth it not to have to go to town, walk to the operators, sign up for a tour, and go with a boat full of snorkelers, but if you are on a budget you can do it for $30 pp at Ramon's Village, for example. Of course, if you are on a budget you are not likely staying at Cayo Espanto...)

- Wear a really high sunscreen and reapply over and over! We burned, despite 30 SPF and reapplications and olive skin (I don't burn easily)...the sun is really strong, caught me by surprise.

- The masseuse is fabulous. I am a picky client, and she was truly excellent. If I had not gotten the aforementioned sunburn, I would have had at least one more massage.

- As many have mentioned, the food is outstanding. And, the chef will share recipes, too! Request the lime bisque while you are there...I know this sounds odd, but it was unreal. (The recipe surprised me!) If anything, there is a lot of food, and everything is so very "done" ... had we stayed longer, I would have started asking for more simple things...each dish is so exquisite and decadent...I can't eat that way for very long!

- The sea lice were present, but you are really not missing out by not "swimming." The water is so shallow that there would not be swimming anyway. The plunge pool is perfectly refreshing. I thought I would care about the no-swimming thing, but it was not a big deal at all. (BTW, I think they are in fact jellyfish larvae.)

I hope this helps...we had a great time and would recommend it to friends of all ages.

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
6 Thank KatrinaVHH
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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nyc
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed April 14, 2010

We just returned from an incredible 5 days on Cayo Espanto. The food was fantastic and the service was also the best we have ever had at any resort.

The snorkeling, massages, kayaking and fishing was great. We waded around the island and played with Buddy, the yellow lab. No bugs in or out of the water!

The dinners under the candle lit trees was very special. We even had an outdoor movie one night. We saw dozens of shooting stars while we were there.

You have gotta try the Espanto Wave, their signature drink

We booked our return trip for next March when they told us they give a repeat guest discount for booking within 2 weeks of returning.

Can't wait for the return.

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
4 Thank cliffstaniel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
philadelphia
Level Contributor
67 reviews
21 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 55 helpful votes
Reviewed April 4, 2010

Cayo Espanto and Casa Ventanas were overall a wonderful vacation destination. Ambergris Caye and the surrounding waters are spectacular. The reef is a wonderland of sea life and beauty. Belize is a fantastic country and the Belizians are great hosts.

Cayo Espanto, however is NOT exactly as described in the brochure and on the web. If you have read others reviews, most of the detailed info will not be new but I will offer my perspective.

The info from the resort does not include the following information and it would have been helpful knowing this before booking the week. While we would have still booked, we would have booked another villa and possibly booked less days.

1. The water around Cayo Espanto is infected with Sea Lice! You cannot swim in the water! To me, this was a large turnoff since we booked the only Villa on the island that did not have a small pool. The staff was very sensitive about talking about the problem when I brought it up. It was clear to me there was a real problem and also clear to me that the staff was coached by management to avoid the subject at all cost. Quite deceitful behavior on the part of the resort ownership. Not once was I informed of the problem and I only realized the issue after others on trip advisor made me aware. Unfortunately it was too late for me to get a refund or change villas. Not full disclosure - not honest - not good business.
2. Casa Ventanas. If you stay in Casa Ventanas your only relief from the heat is in your shower. The shower is plenty large enough for two but they do not mention to you that your shower is outside on the deck - like at the Jersey Shore. Not a problem for me but there was not full disclosure about the shower. Casa Ventanas also uses a toilet like you would see on a small boat. It is a pump type toilet which also is not a problem for me but once again, not full disclosure. Air Conditioning. Yes there is a/c but they kinda hinted that they would only like us to use it in the evenings. Casa Ventanas has fabulous breezes throughout the day and the a/c was not needed most days. The a/c however was not capable of actually cooling the villa in the evening even after the sun went down so I do not think it would have been all that beneficial if we used it during the day. While the breeze in the evening was wonderful, you could not leave the windows open at night as there were no screens and this is central america so bugs/mosquitos would invade the villa with the windows open and no screens. Choice- open windows, nice breeze and bugs OR closed windows and marginally effecient a/c? I am a large person and I require proper a/c while I sleep. For the money spent, a proper functioning a/c (as the info suggested in the brochure) was a minimum requirement for me. The villas as a whole are not 5 star rooms. What you get is a clean but basically a simple room. While the bed and the bedding were fantastic, the pillows were all terribly too soft - all 6 of them! If you are going to offer top of the line vacations, how about you have 2 soft pillows, two medium pillows and 2 firm pillows for your guests to choose. Even the Hampton Inn gives you pillow choices. The Villa had a fridge that struggled to keeps drinks cold but it did work. The room had direct tv but the only time we wanted to watch tv (FOX-American Idol) the whole week, the channel we wanted did not work. For the first few days we had a chair for the in room desk but it vanished the second part of the week. We had to use an ottoman for our desk chair. While I would suggest Cayo Espanto, I would not suggest Casa Ventanas since there is no pool and very little privacy on your "private island" - see #3.
3. Privacy. I knew there were others on our "private island" but thought it would be more private. Casa Ventanas was the main dock used for most of the guests travels on and off the island. While the staff is there to send you off and greet you, that means that all of those staff plus the other guests were on "our" dock often. Not so private.
4. Alone time. While the setting is beautifully romantic and there is time to be alone, the schedule and fancy service becomes an intrusive part of the day. The service was sooo great however, they are constantly stopping by your villa to discuss breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks and dinner. On the surface, the attention is great but you were never sure if someone was going to come down the dock to the villa. While they announced their arrival to your villa, it still did not allow a couple to really feel like they were alone. How about they use any simple system for the guest to indicate to the staff that they do not want to be interupted? Any hotel or resort in the world allows the guest to indicate to the staff that they would like privacy - but not on my "private island" - silly.
5. Staff. Overall the staff on the island will do anything for you during your stay. We had David and Rick as our housemen and they did a very nice job. I have a feeling that the management has a "script" of exactly what the staff is to do and say for each and every interaction with the guests. At times, conversations felt uncomfortable with the staff. At other times it felt like they were doing exactly what management wanted but they were not really in-tune with what the guest wanted. Overall a nice job but a bit too scripted and regimented.
6. Office. The communication with Russell and Janice at the office in the USA was fantastic. My communication with Ester on the island before and during our stay was very good. Even though the resort requires guest to pay in full 3 months before arrival, I was still presented with a large bill on my last day at the resort. I had to log into my saved emails from the USA office and show them and forward a copy to Ester on the island for my bill to be adjusted. Not cool - especially when the bill was off by $1600 US dollars. While it was rectified quickly, I should have never been put in that situation at a 5 star resort. Bring your receipts.
7. Boats. To me the condition of the boats and engines used to transport guests are not up to the level of a 5 star resort. Such attention to detail is given to the "script" the staff is to follow but the boats (and the lack of uniforms on the crew) was not up to standards.
8. Tipping. While we did get some limited info regarding tipping the housemen, it became obvious to me that the staff really needs gratuity from the guests for a large part earning a living. The office should let guests know before arriving on the island what the normal tipping amounts should be and that tips are allowed. Obviously tipping should never be mandated but guests should be made aware that the policy of tipping is ok with management. Some resorts do not allow tipping as the staff is paid on a different pay scale. At Cayo Espanto and throughout Belize, I felt like most of the service employees counted on a gratuity for survival.

The good stuff:
A. David and Rick did an excellent job and my only beef has more to due with managements "script" then with the guys. David volunteered to go with us nervous nillies on a trip to Lamanai Maya ruins and I really appreciated him being with us - it really helped knowing we had a local person to help us with the plane, the taxis and the boat/tour operator. Nice touch David - thanks. Take the trip to Lamania - it is a memory maker for many reasons. If you can Collin as your boat/tour guide he is awesome.
B. Victor and Eddy were our guides on our half day snorkel trip to the reef and our day at sea with luxury. While it is not really a day at sea with luxury, it is a great activity. Victor is extremely knowledgable about the waters and the sea life and he is passionate about his country. It was a pleasure to be with him.
C. German is also a very great guy. He loves people and it shows. He always took care of us any way he could on his boat.
D. Chef Patrick is an excellent chef and will cook you anything you desire. Be very blunt on your questionare with what you would like to eat and they will use it as a guidline. As a very simple eater, the menu was a bit too fancy for my liking but nevertheless very good. When Chef Patrick was off the island, the food was very noticably inferior. You might want to arrange your day trips on the days when Patrick is off the island.
E. The setting on the island is spectacular and just like the brochure. It is an amazingly beautiful place.
F. David and Rick would change our dinner location to various romantic spots around the island. This was a very nice treat.
G. Sunset on the island is not to be missed. Very special on a clear evening.
H. The island is very relaxing. If the issue of being overly serviced by the staff and the extreme duration of dinner meals could be addressed, it would truly be the most relaxing place in the world. The breeze, the fish swimming about, the small boats cruising by, the beautiful colors of the water and the sound of the water are instant blood pressure reducers.
I. Astrum helicopters is a must if it is within your budget. Great service and great views from the helicopter. Do not touch your luggage, they will have someone handle everything. Just tip the lads a few bucks for each bag - it is well worth every penny.
J. Brenda is the spa woman extrodinare. She has magic hands and I suggest you budget some treatments with Brenda during your stay on the island. She is fantastic. Beware that all treatments are in your villa or on your dock so do not schedule a messy mud or seaweed treatment if you are not comfortable being outside in your indies on your dock for treatment.
K. Room Cleaning was done very nicely. At times throughout the day if you were on a day trip or eating a meal on your deck, the room would be cleaned. Never once did we hear the dreaded call of "housekeeping" like you hear at all other hotels. Nice touch and appreciated.

I would reccomend this resort but as a consumer I know I like to have as much info as possible when making my vacation and holiday decisions. Cayo Espanto is a great place and has a wonderful vision but needs to incorporate full disclosure and getting a feel of each and every guests level of expectations for their vacation and incorporate the guest wishes instead of the managements concept of what the guests want and they truly would have a spectacular business plan. A real jewel of a resort is within their grasp.


Extra Note: American Airlines lost my luggage for about 12 hours but eventually get my luggage to me at Cayo Espanto. I did gather from the folks at the airport that this happens ALL the time. Do yourself a favor and bring a bit of stuff in your carry on. Also, you and your travel partner should 50:50 pack your clothes so if one bag is delayed you will both have cloths for a day or two.

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
37 Thank logger93
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
Reviewed March 30, 2010

This is an amazing tiny island. We stayed 6 days and were completely unaware of other guests. It really is a private island.
We snorkled everyday, which was some days brilliant, other days less good. It did depend on the boat driver. You have to take a minimum of a ten minute boat ride to get to anywhere worth snorkling.
The food started badly but became so delicious. It took the chef about 24 hours to understand what we liked to eat and the quantity we required. The misunderstandings were possibly due to the fact that I was unclear on our form we filled out before arrival. He made sample menus for us for each meal and we could change anything, and it was done! We ate at no fixed time any day, and it was never a problem. The chef was always happy to cook what we wanted when we wanted it. The staff were so discreet, I have never come acress anywhere like it.
We booked into Villa Ventanas, but as it was incredibly windy during our stay, we ungraded after our first noisy night to Villa Aurora. We were extremely lucky it was available. I really would not have enjoyed our 6 days nearly as much.
We will definately go back. It is expensive but worth every penny

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
los angeles, ca
Level Contributor
48 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 30 helpful votes
Reviewed March 12, 2010

My husband and I stayed in Casa Brisa for 4 nights in January. We were married at another resort in San Pedro and afterwards were picked up by boat and took a short ride through the canal to Cayo Espanto. Our wedding night dinner on the island was very special, it was in a clearing surrounded by many trees which were adorned with romantic lights and no attention to detail was spared. The dinner was wonderful, as was all of the food, which was specially prepared to our liking. If they didn’t have something, they got it for us…biscuits for breakfast, a bottle of Patron Anejo and keeping the plunge pool heated at all times, were a few of our special requests. They did an excellent job at providing for everything we could want and were prepared for, and perhaps even anticipated, our requests. Our houseman, Elio, and all the other staff, were wonderful.

I’ve read all of the reviews on this site for Cayo Espanto and, as you most likely can tell from what I have written above, I agree with all of the positive reviews and think they are accurate in their descriptions. To me, the negative reviewers were not educated about the region and the island or ignored what they already knew, but blamed the resort. That said, here are my thoughts on our experience of staying there. Starting with the first night, I felt like I really slept, and with the first morning, I was honestly happy to wake up. We were content and at peace with everything, even on the day when it rained all day. The privacy, the simplicity, the beauty, the service, the food, the time spent with the person that you love the most…are things that combined together for us to create the most meaningful time we have ever spent together. Our short time there helped us come back home with a renewed sense of what really is important to us in life, which made being in the “real” world again not seem as stressful as when we left only 8 days before. I don’t know if there are many places that can create an atmosphere that promotes that kind of awareness and perspective, but I know that is exactly what our experience on Cayo Espanto was about. When you want to really treat yourself and the love of your life to truly getting out of your head and getting back in touch with your soul, this is the place to be. It probably goes without saying, that we will definitely be going back.

  • Stayed January 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
5 Thank tulumtam
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Orlando, Florida
Level Contributor
79 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 51 helpful votes
Reviewed February 20, 2010

My husband and I were toying with the idea of going to Belize on our honeymoon. While searching for places to stay, we came upon Cayo Espanto in our search. As soon as we saw the website, we knew we HAD TO go to this magical place for part of our honeymoon!

Everything about Cayo Espanto was excellent (with the exception of one activity that I will touch on later in this review).

First we were greeted at the airport with a sign bearing out name and an very helpful employee that arranged all of the details for our ouddle jumper plane to take us out to where we needed to be to get to Cayo. Once in San Pedro, we were taken on a 7 minute boat ride to Cayo Espanto and were greeted with the entire staff waiting for us on the dock with Espanto Waves for us to drink. Our room was set up with flowers and a table was set with a delicious shrimp appetizer. The sunset was beautiful and neither of us could believe we were here!

We were given a walki talkie in order to communicate with the staff whenever we needed something and we certainly made use of it for yummy cocktails while lying out on our private dock. The food was excellent and served at the time that you want. You are given all the privacy you need and attention when you want it.

While we were there, we had a couple massage on the outer deck of our villa. The highlight of our trip was a private snorkel trip for my husband and I. Neither of us had never really been snorkeling before, and it proved to be awesome. I even held a nurse shark, was able to touch a stingray, swam over huge turtles as they were eating on the group and with a giant school of fish. On the way back, our boat driver saw dolphins jumping out of the water and drove over to them and they jumped out of the water by our boat. Awesome! We were even greeted with the cocktail of our choice when we got back to the island.

The negative experience we had was our lunch on a private beach. We were driven out on a boat for about 15 minutes to a remote location where a table with umbrella and food were set up for us. We were given a cell phone and instructed to call when we wer ready to get picked up. Unlike at Cayo Espanto, where there are stratgeically placed mosquito killers, there were none on this island and giant biting flies were very eager to bite my sunlotioned body. They even followed me way out into the ocean as I tried to escape them. These things were like 5 times the size of a normal housefly. I was pretty miserable on that little trip.

Our plunge pool was fantastic and everything was seriously the best ever. I am definatley spoiled after that trip. After Cayo Espanto we went on to stay at Blancaneaux Lodge and then Trutle Inn. Both pale in comparison to what you get at Cayo.

  • Stayed May 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
7 Thank lksium19
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York
Level Contributor
8 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
Reviewed February 8, 2010

Absolutely incredible place! We knew that it was going to be exceptional when we were greeted by the 'housemen' with pina coladas ready and waiting!! This really was the ultimate stay in terms of privacy, paradise and pampering. It was fantastic! The food was award winning / Michelen star standard and the chef had no qualms about substituting various dishes if we preferred - incredible. The villas were spacious and beautiful and the location was just absolutely out of this world. The only area that we found lacking was the service from the office manager / resort manager. On arriving at Cayo Espanto, we made if very clear that we wanted to speak with the dive master in order to work out when the best time to go diving would be (this was on the Monday) - only by chasing several times were we eventually introduced...by this point it was the Thursday and we literally had one day when we could go diving, which was a great shame. We also found that there were a couple of things we had to keep reminding the office manager / house men about, which you wouldn't expect. If you want to be pampared completely (ie. not having to call using the walkie talkie every hour) then be sure to include this on the pre-arrival questionnaire. Overall, we had the most wonderful, romantic, indulgent and out of this world stays at Cayo Espanto and I would definately like to go back!

  • Stayed January 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Service
Helpful?
6 Thank smudge89
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Cayo Espanto

Property: Cayo Espanto
Address: Cayo Espanto Island, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Phone Number:
Location: Belize > Belize Cayes > Ambergris Caye > San Pedro
Amenities:
Beach Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Kitchenette Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
#6 Romantic Hotel in San Pedro
#7 Luxury Hotel in San Pedro
#16 Top resorts Hotel in San Pedro
#25 On the Beach Hotel in San Pedro
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:5 star — Cayo Espanto 5*
Number of rooms: 7
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Also Known As:
Cayo Espanto San Pedro
Cayo Espanto Resort San Pedro
Cayo Espanto Belize/San Pedro

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