My husband and I love to take trips that not many people have taken or at least people we know have taken. Plus, we like small hotels and resorts. We enjoy the privacy, intimacy, quiet, and okay, I’ll say it, the attention we get when there are only say 10 rooms and a guest-to-staff ration definitely in our favor!

Combine this with the fact that my triathlete husband loves a beach vacation and Cayo Espanto, a private island off the coast of Belize, certainly met our needs. This gem is an all-inclusive luxury resort that truly caters to your every whim and only has 7 villas on 4 acres. While it was a WOW vacation, it will be remembered for more than it’s many attributes…

It was not an easy trek for us to get to Belize for our 6-night stay. It took us four flights and most of the day to get there, but once we did, oh boy. I kept thinking if one flight was a bit delayed…..The last leg of the trip landed us in San Pedro, where we were met by a member of the staff who took us for a short boat ride to the island.

As we were approaching the island, you could see all the staff lined up awaiting our arrival. (Really wish I had the foresight to have gotten a picture). As we got off the boat, they greeted us one-by-one and handed us a cool towel and an island cocktail. First impressions were pretty darn good…

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Where you arrive on the island…

We were escorted to our villa, Casa Mañana, by our housemen, Churchill and Eli. Holy $%#^ describes our reaction, both to having housemen and then to the villa itself. Needless-to-say, all of the villas have ocean views! Casa Mañana is huge at 1500 sq. ft. and open air.

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A picturesque view of Casa Mañana.

It comes complete with a private dock, personal plunge pool, king size bed (covered in mosquito netting – red flag!), kitchenette, outdoor shower, and satellite TV/DVD/CD player. After we got settled in, the chefs, Christophe and Nappy, (another Holy $%#^ moment) came to our villa and met with us to go over our likes/dislikes and allergies.

They prepare your own personal daily menu, which is printed, FRAMED, and brought to you each day for approval. They already knew our preferences, as you fill out a 6 page questionnaire prior to arrival, so this is more of a formality and to create a “don’t I feel really special moment” for you. This was certainly a first for us and a luxury we could get used to.

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Casa Mañana at Cayo Espanto.

All of our meals were served either on the dock or in our room – by candlelight at night. The food was excellent and all very fresh, especially the fish! Each day at 11 am on the dot, Eli served us a cold beverage of choice. Ours was a Bloody Mary and a banana smoothie – guess who had which one?

The water surrounding the island is surprisingly shallow, like ankle to several feet deep, so you can just walk around it, which is really odd. Carl had to go fairly far out to get in his swims and I played life guard! I did go kayaking a couple of times with a companion named Salty, the blond lab who “owned” the island. (I’m using the past tense – very sad). He actually even hopped in the kayak with me and loved chasing rocks in the water. It made not seeing my pups much easier. We got a t-shirt with his name and picture on it as a souvenir.

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Salty enjoying the view off our dock…

You can do absolutely nothing or you can choose from a wide-range of activities including:

  • diving
  • exploring the world’s second-largest barrier-reef system
  • bonefishing
  • watersports off the beach, like windsurfing or catamaran sailing
  • birdwatching tours
  • private cruises
  • picnic excusions
  • spa services
  • exotic jungle tours

We chose the “do nothing” approach and other than kayaking around the island, our only activity was in-room massages. Talk about deep tissue. The masseuse had the strongest hands I’ve ever felt on my body – it was a mixture of “OMG that hurts, but probably means it’s good for me, so I won’t say anything and just take it” to “OMG this is just the best”. Carl and I both hurt so bad for the next several days…

This is pretty much how our days went – We got up everyday at 6:30 am (hard to break habits even on vacation), opened the doors to ogle the view, proceeded to do yoga, put on our swimsuits, called Eli for breakfast, ate as they set up our deck chairs, read, had our 11 am beverage, listened to music, had lunch, swung in the hammock, repeated the morning activities, had dinner, maybe turned the TV on or watched a DVD, went to sleep, and repeated.

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Why we chose the “do nothing” approach…

We never did meet any of the other guests even though the resort was full. We actually only saw one other couple at the villa next to us as they were getting married on the dock. The villas are spaced far enough apart, plus have silver-trunked black mangrove trees for cover, so privacy is never an issue. And, there is no restaurant or communal-type facility on the island, so no reason to see any of the other guests.

Service extraordinaires – as if the above wasn’t enough:

  • The island isn’t really large enough nor does it have any hills to afford my triathlete a good run. We asked the managers, who stopped by our room everyday to check on us by the way, how Carl could get a workout in. THEY LITERALLY BROUGHT A TREADMILL TO OUR ROOM AND SET IT UP ON A PATIO!!!! We still talk about this to the day.
  • If you requested a DVD and it wasn’t available, they remembered and left it in your room when it was and you never heard or saw them do it. The later happened a lot with other things…

Okay, now for my misfortune, which I was saving for last. There’s a mosquito net around the bed for a reason and let me tell you, it’s best to not know why! When you turn on the light and see what’s hanging on the net, you truly freak and are afraid to move. I don’t know if it was sand fleas or mosquito bites, but the day before we were set to leave, I started breaking out in hives on my legs and actually developed flu-like symptoms. Carl and I also laughed and blamed it on the masseuse – she brought toxins out of my body with her massage…

The hives started spreading up my body and I was soooo sick. When we cancelled dinner, the manager came by to see why. Herein lies the downside on being in such a remote place and not bringing a first aid kit with you – something we travel with religiously now – about the only thing they could offer me was saltines and liquids.

I really wasn’t sure if I was going to make it home, but stopped throwing up long enough to make it. I got a lot of stares at the airports and people moving away from me. I ended up going to the emergency clinic the day after we returned as the hives kept spreading. I was given steroids and eventually cleared up. Would I go back – you bet. I’d just use bug spray and make sure I have my kit with me.

Of note: When we left, the staff once again lined up to bid us farewell as we sped off and took one last look at our glorious hide-away. The resort is certainly the epitome of where paradise and luxury come together. It’s a five star, world class resort with a price tag to match. We went in February and had perfect weather. It showered when we arrived, but was sunny and breezy after that and not too hot. Love me some luxury…

HAVE YOU HAD A TRULY DECADENT VACATION?