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Cayo Espanto
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Reviewed April 6, 2007

place was simply awesome! great place for a honeymoon or romantic time away. simply - if you want a great place to stay, very high end but don't want to be at a large resort...this is the place. four seasons quality, four seasons pricing but without some of the downsides of a large resort.

Stayed: April 2007
5  Thank bones12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 20, 2006

What an unbelievable stay at Cayo Espanto! It was so beautiful that we could hardly believe our eyes and the service is like nothing we've ever experienced before (and we've been to some pretty nice and exclusive resorts around the world).
From the moment we were picked up by their boat, we knew that this was going to be special! They had cold water and cool towels for us and tour drink orders were called in ahead of time. A short boat ride through the lagoon and there it is...you know it the minute you see it. Over a dozen staff members on the dock waving at us and the gentleman on the end has a tray with drinks and more cool towels. Salty (their island mascot...a yellow lab) is in the distance barking his welcome to us before he comes over to greet us as well. No more carrying luggage or lifting a finger for ANY reason.
We were shown to our villa "Casa Estrella". It was just beautiful and extremely comfortable. We had 2 private docks, a 2 story house with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, walls that opened up completely and a private plunge pool.
The view was out of this world. The sunsets were hypnotizing.
The service was 1st class. We had a personal houseman (and he had an assistant) and they did not take care of anyone else but us. They were at our beck and call via walkie talkie from sunrise to long after sunset and dinner. They came with coffee and breakfast 1st thing in the morning, as requested, and they were at our disposal all day long. At night, along with our turn down service, the housemen would come and close up the house (all the walls) and turn on our air conditioners.
We had access to kayaks, a hobie cat, a pedal boat, a shuttle to San Pedro, any activities or massages we wanted. We took the kayaks out, we had, by far 10 times over, the best massages ever, and went diving with German (who lovingly placed a good- sized, well-natured and calm nurse shark in my arms and took a picture of us cradling her!). Everything was top notch.
The food was amazing. At around 5pm our houseman, Jonathan, and the chef would come and let us choose from several dining suggestions and personal requests were more than welcomed. Every night was a new dining experience. They would set up our table in different locations throughout our private villa area...usually on the docks. They lit candles and tiki torches...it was perfect every single night! We brought our own wine and had them bring us a bottle with each dinner. The same thing would happen before lunch (no tiki torches). All meals and meal times were tailored to us. I'm not even going to get into how incredible the desserts were!
They were always taking care of us without EVER compromising our privacy. They announced themselves far before entering our line of site and didn't leave until they were certain that all of our needs were met. At one point Jonathan had come to bring us drinks and snacks in the afternoon. We got so caught up in the food and the view that we did not hear him ask if there was anything else. We saw him standing there and quickly figured out that he was waiting on our approval for his departure!
Privacy is key on this island and we didn't see any other guests unless they kayaked in front of our villa...with Salty swimming along with them. It was quiet and serene.
In short...their survey was based on a scale of 1-5 and we gave them 10's across the board.
Obviously, this resort is not for everyone. There is no "night life", you probably won't see any other guests, much less dine with them, and the nightly rates reflect the excellent quality of service and dining.
We felt that it was worth every penny and plan on making it a
yearly trip!
Please feel free to write with any questions or comments.
acurland@cox.net

  • Stayed: November 2006, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
12  Thank acurland
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 11, 2006

My partner and I just returned from a 7 night stay at Cayo Espanto to celebrate our 9 year anniversary, and I can say without question that we will absolutely return. We stay at some of the world's most exclusive hotels and resorts, and have stayed at a few other private islands, and we were quite pleased with our stay at Cayo Espanto.

More than anything else, we loved the diving available at the nearby barrier reef and the Blue Hole about 50 mi away. We dived 9 times during the 7 days we were there, and we also took a day trip to the Mayan ruins in Tikal in Guatemala for our last full day. But the diving was what made the trip really special. It really was incredible diving.

Basically, Cayo Espanto provides a very private holiday. Unlike other private islands we have visited (namely, Vatulele and Turtle Islands in Fiji), life at Cayo Espanto is very private and you totally keep to yourselves. Our Fijian private island experiences, on the other hand, allowed for as much private dining as you wanted while also permitting communal dining with other island guests. We prefer the more communal dining and general atmosphere so we can meet other guests, but this isn't the philosophy at Cayo Espanto.

That being said, the food at Cayo Espanto was fantastic--and far superior to the dining at either Vatulele or Turtle Islands in Fiji. Although we didn't love every single meal, we found the food to be very well prepared and presented--and we are real food snobs who are accustomed to dining in the nicest restaurants in Los Angeles, New York, London, etc. Our last meal included a specially prepared offering of sushi and sashimi based upon my expressed interest in our guest questionnaire, in addition to the regular surf and turf of prime rib and lobster; although we weren't particularly fond of the sushi, we were quite impressed that the chef went to so much trouble to add such a delicacy to the menu for us in addition to the regular menu offerings.

Breakfasts and lunches were all spectacular, as well. I actually craved gazpacho even though it wasn't on the menu, so they prepared gazpacho every day I requested it--and it was delicious. Basically, anytime we wanted anything not offered on the regular menu, we got it. Pretty amazing, indeed!

The accommodations were also quite nice. We originally booked Casa Aurora, thinking that we might prefer the larger plunge pool and that I might prefer the cooler conditions of a one story casa. We stayed 2 nights at Casa Aurora, and loved it. I particularly was impressed that they kept one bedroom air conditioned for me 24/7 for the entire 2 full days we were there, as I had requested, since I like to sleep in particularly cold conditions. The one bedroom cooled well beyond my satisfaction. Ironically, the other bedroom never got even close to as cool, so it was fortunate that the other bedroom did cool to such a degree for me. My partner was a little annoyed that Casa Aurora wasn't as private as it could have been--the walkway that the staff used to go back to the service area of the island passed right by our Casa, and staff could certainly see us while hanging out by the pool or on our deck--a problem easily remedied by a fence or some dense plantings. We hope that Cayo Espanto will fix that small problem.

After a tour of the other accommodations, my partner was especially impressed with the drama and privacy offered by Casa Estrella--the 2-story Casa featured on the website and their advertising brochures and marketing materials. So we ended up moving to Casa Estrella for the remainder of our stay. The second story didn't cool to my satisfaction, as the manager and staff indicated was likely, but the first floor bedroom, while not as grand nor as impressive, cooled almost as well as the bedroom in othe other Casa--and more than sufficiently for me to sleep in the cold conditions I require. Again, the staff was more than happy to keep that one bedroom air conditioned 24/7 for the rest of our stay (at my request ) so that I always had a cold condition retreat when I desired. Otherwise, it was quite warm on the island, though the winds provided a much larger degree of relief than I would have guessed at this time of year. The plunge pool at Casa Estrella was much smaller than that of Casa Aurora, but it was still more than sufficient to keep me cool during the day.

I did walk out into the lagoon a few times, and I did get bitten several times by the sand lice which get stirred up when you walk along the seabed. They were more annoying than painful, so I wouldn't preclude swimming in the lagoon. In fact, if you merely swim through the lagoon and don't stir up the shallow seabed, they don't get you at all. Still, we were grateful for the plunge pools.

Our only other real criticism of the island was with its alcohol policy and wine offerings. Basically, the island is all-inclusive, exept for wine and some premium cordials. In our opinion, and considering our stays at Vatulele and Turtle Islands in Fiji, the wine and cordials should be included, too. Because they weren't, we sometimes felt like we were being nickled and dimed a bit, even though we knew that in advance. Also, the wine list wasn't particularly impressive for wine aficianados such as we are--so if you're going to charge, we think the wine list should have had better offerings. We also were a bit concerned that the wines might not be properly stored, since we often had to have our red wines cooled a bit. Still, not a major factor overall, but a factor for us, nonetheless.

All in all, we were very impressed with Cayo Espanto. Since we are very active travelers, and like social interaction, we probably could not stay ourselves for more than a few nights were it not for the amazing diving offered nearby. But that diving made it all worthwhile! We will absolutely return to Cayo Espanto and encourage other active adventurers who love high quality accommodations, service, and food (and can afford the room rates!) to check into Cayo Espanto!

Stayed: September 2006
16  Thank Bill R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 22, 2005

You’ve heard about it. You’ve seen photos of it in the glossy travel mags — on the cover of Travel & Leisure and elsewhere. You’ve looked at the prices, and perhaps gasped. Cayo Espanto is definitely not for everyone, and it’s definitely not the Belize most of us know, but having now stayed there a few gloriously slothful and relaxing days, I can better appreciate its raison d’être and why honeymooners or a stressed-out exec would stay here. The thing that strikes me most about Cayo Espanto is the level of service. It’s truly unmatched in Belize, and possibly anywhere in the region. A few small examples: When you leave the island, say for a visit to San Pedro or for a snorkel trip, when you get ready to come back, the boat captain bringing you back radios to the hotel your exact time of arrival, down to the minute. Awaiting you at the dock is your houseman (or butler) and a few other staff. They have your favorite drink waiting for you at the dock and offer you a face cloth to refresh yourself. And not just a face cloth, but your choice of a hot or a cold face cloth. Or both. And, of course, on the boat trip out and back you don’t have to sit on the hot plastic seat. There’s a folded towel on the seat to protect your sensitive fanny.

Cayo Espanto sends you a detailed guest survey before you arrive, to determine your preferences in food, drink and such. And, at the resort, the staff does pay close attention to what you like and don’t like. One day we used the paddle boats (complimentary, as are sea kayaks), and we discovered each boat was furnished with a cooler, which had been stocked only with the drinks that the houseman noticed we had favored - red Fanta, Diet Coke and Belikin.

As at Turtle Inn, upon arrival you’re given a walkie-talkie, and you can call your houseman who stands ready about anytime night or day to bring you whatever your heart desires — your favorite cocktail, a snack, fruit, ice. Not, to my knowledge, dancing girls, but, short of that, most anything.

Meals are mostly served at your villa, overlooking the water. Before dinner the chef comes by to inquire about your preferences for the evening. There are usually a couple of entree suggestions, but if you’d rather have something else, the chef can whip it up for you. Your own personal menu is printed, and you’re welcome to take it with you as a memento. One evening the menu was thus: an appetizer of seared scallops with rice-stuffed cabbage rolls, and a choice of Belizean lobster tail smothered in mango butter with a green papaya salad, or charred strip loin with shoestring potatoes and tequila mango salsa (I had both, of course), and for dessert coconut cake with pineapple chutney and mango coulisse.

Though the private island is quite small, and there are five villas on the island, privacy really is the watchword. Most of the time we were there the island was near its capacity of around 14 people, but we rarely saw another guest, except from a distance on an adjoining villa’s private pier.

We stayed in Casa Estrella. The star house. Ahh!

The villas are airy, with cleverly designed doors that fold back almost completely to provide panoramic views of the water. These are very pleasant spaces, but the villas furnishings are not extraordinary, nor are the finishings remarkably luxurious. The floor first floor of our villa, for example, was of finished concrete, which is understandable given how close the houses are to the sea — literally only a few feet. Our villa was more like a comfortable, well-designed beach house, rather than a designer home. I did love the upstairs bedroom, with iits king bed, Egyptian cotton sheets and lovely down comforter. With the folding doors pulled back, the view was glorious.

And, yes, this is the bed that Tiger Woods slept in when he was at Cayo Espanto. Or so I was told. As I understand it, Wood was at Cayo Espanto only one night, spending the rest of his Belize trip time on his private yacht anchored off Lighthouse atoll.

At night, if you like, the staff will go around and close all the folding doors, shut the windows and turn on the air-conditioning. Air-conditioning is available only at night, as A/C tends to trip the island’s smaller daytime generator. Although Cayo Espanto is on the back side of Ambergris, in the lagoon rather than in the main Caribbean, which may be a downside for some, there was a good breeze all the time we were there, and it was cool enough without air-conditioning.

Each villa, except one, has its own zero-effect plunge pool. These are indeed splash or plunge pools, more the size of a hot tub than a swimming pool. But they’re fun, and private. Swimming in the lagoon is not so good, however, as the water is shallow and at there sometimes are little biting creatures some locals call sea leeches. But it's still a beautiful location, and not far from the island that Leo DeCaprio just bought for a cool US$2.4 million. The Titantic star reportedly has plans to open an upscale eco-resort.

All this privacy, service and personal attention comes at a price -- the highest rates in Belize and probably in all of Central America. As much as US$2000 a day. Whether it's really worth all that money I guess depends on how much money you have.

--Lan Sluder
www.belizefirst.com

39  Thank LanSluder
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 30, 2005

Cayo Espanto resort has to be one of the most romantic places on earth. It's hard for me to find the words to describe how wonderful this place truly is. I highly recommend Cayo Espanto for a honeymoon or a romantic getaway. The island is just beautiful; I was in awe when we arrived. We stayed in the Casa Aurora, which was an amazing villa with a private pool. The service at Cayo Espanto is unbelievable...we felt so pampered. The food was magnificent; I promise you will not go hungry here! Each morning we would sit outside on the deck and eat breakfast while looking at Caribbean...it was perfect! When you're at Cayo Espanto you really do feel you're on your own private island.

  • Stayed: August 2001
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
23  Thank Ninak25
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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