Your Own Island
Who’s never dreamed of starring in his or her own episode of Castaway or Lost? If you’ve got the money, you’ve got access to a handful of Belize’s cayes all to yourself (actually, most properties come with at least one caretaker).
Though there are a few budget island options, including the Raggamuffin Tours sailing/camping trip from Caye Caulker to Placencia and the budget-oriented Glover’s Atoll Resort, it usually costs a pretty penny if you want the island all to yourself. If you can’t afford the US$12,000 a night to rent Cayo Espanto (www.aprivateisland.com, includes personal butler service but not wine), then try one of the following.
Most options seem to be based in Placencia, where a few island rentals are available. Ranguana Caye (tel. 501/503-8452) is two acres in size and 18 miles (90 minutes by boat) from the mainland. It’s managed by Robert’s Grove Beach Resort (www.robertsgrove.com), as is Robert’s Caye, a one-acre island 10 miles from the coast, with four well-appointed thatch-roof cabanas and access to a small bar and restaurant; it’s all yours for US$400 per person per night. Robert’s and Ranguana are only semiprivate.
French Louie Caye (tel. 501/523-3636, www.frenchlouiecayebelize.com) has its own beach, coral reef, fishing dock, two-bedroom cabin, and a spacious lodge. The caye is about 8 miles off the coast, and the simple wooden cabin has a stocked kitchen and stove. It is very private and the honeymoon experience of a lifetime (I know from experience). Cuisine is “catch and eat”; i.e., meals come from the sea to the grill to your plate, prepared by the cook/caretaker/guide (yes, he stays on the island). He can take you on a night snorkel tour; US$1,150 for a three-night package.
Tarpon Caye Lodge (tel. 501/523-3323, www.tarponcayelodge.com) offers fly-fishing, spin-fishing, and deep-sea fishing from a private island lodge. It also caters to people looking to simply relax on a private Caribbean island.
Reef Conservation International (tel. 501/626-1429, www.reefci.com) offers weekly and monthly dive trips to stay on Tom Owens Caye, a small one-acre private island in the Sapodilla Cayes with incredible snorkeling, off the coast from Punta Gorda. This is one of the best places to view whale sharks, dolphins, and grouper spawning events — and you will most likely be the only dive boat in the water. Nondivers are also welcome, and Reef Conservation International offers various packages and degrees of marine conservation work; or just camp on the beach and snorkel the days away. The boat leaves Punta Gorda Monday morning and returns on Friday afternoon.
There are many other islands in the Sapodilla Cayes at the southern end of Belize’s barrier reef. Ask tour operators in Punta Gorda about exploring Seal Caye and others. You may be able to camp on some of them.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition