Belize’s Most Romantic Islands

More than 200 offshore islands dot Belize’s Caribbean coastline, ranging from uninhabited mangrove islets to at least 20 larger, idyllic plots with cozy cabanas, postcard-perfect beaches and utter seclusion. In “The Jewel” -- as Belizeans call their home -- island hopping isn’t just for diving.

To experience the best of Belize’s striking Caribbean scenery and to live out that secluded island fantasy, consider visiting one or more of these 6 cayes. A mere 45-minute to 2-hour journey from the mainland will get you there, aboard a scenic Tropic Air puddle jumper flight, water taxi or chartered boat.

1. Ambergris Caye

Victoria House, Ambergris Caye
Victoria House
There’s a reason Ambergris Caye is the crown jewel of Belize’s tourism. The most developed and largest in size, la isla bonita boasts top-notch hotels, Latin-inspired restaurants and a weekly nightlife calendar—although afternoon bar hopping is also the norm. Escape dizzying San Pedro Town, with its congested beachfront, and head to the south or north ends of the island where Ambergris’ true beauty lies.

Intimate boutique resorts like Xanadu and Victoria House face the wide southern beaches, where the only sound that prevails is of palm trees rustling in the wind. Requiring an additional water taxi hop from San Pedro, the north end of the island stuns with its rugged beauty. Grab a cocktail at Rojo Beach Bar, and watch birds flock along the isolated shores, past neighboring luxury retreats where the most adventurous of travelers are happily cocooned.

2. Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker
iStock
It’s difficult not to fall in love with an island standing behind the motto, “Go Slow.” Belize’s second most visited caye couldn’t be more different than its neighboring big sister Ambergris. Five miles long, Caye Caulker’s Caribbean pace is intoxicating. Daily life is enjoyed outdoors—islanders chat in the streets, fishermen clean their catch seaside and street food vendors chant as they make their rounds past colorful clapboard homes. The only sounds on la isla cariñosa are of birds chirping at sunrise and bicycles crushing the sandy streets—no cars or paved roads here.

Dining is in flip-flops, al fresco—Habañero’s serves up some of the best seafood in the country—and stargazing from the numerous docks is a bona fide activity. Find the most action at “The Split” end of the island’s south side, where Hicaqueños and tourists mingle all day by the Lazy Lizard Bar, swimming and dancing barefoot to live reggae by the sea. Better yet, hop in a kayak to navigate the back of the island and watch a glorious sunset over a mangrove dotted coastline.

3. Glover's Reef

Glover's Reef
Thinkstock
Glover's Reef, the southernmost of Belize’s 3 coral atolls, requires a tad more dedication to reach: a flight from Belize City to Dangriga, followed by an hourlong boat ride in high seas. But once there, this former pirate hideaway and World Heritage Site is unmatched in beauty. Glover’s is an 18-mile long oval ring made up of over 800 coral patches and 6 cayes sitting along its reef crest. Stay on picturesque Southwest Caye, home to Isla Marisol, where sea-facing reef villas and wooden cabanas are spread out across an expanse of sparkling sand and coconut trees.

The adventurous will love staying on the north edge of the island—just a 5-minute walk away—where Islands Expeditions runs a fun water sports camp, and sleeping is in tents or sky-facing hammocks. One end to the other, the isolation on Glover’s is divine. For company, spend your evenings stargazing with fellow guests from the docks of Isla Marisol’s Bar while sipping on a Panty Rippa rum cocktail.

4. South Water Caye

South Water Caye
iStock
A 15-acre plot of sparkling white sand, studded with coconut trees and blessed with 180-degree sea views, South Water Caye is the poster child for Belize’s islands. Just 14 miles off the shores of Dangriga, it sits directly atop the Belize Barrier Reef, in the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. You can swim from shore to reef, a rare feature in Belize where a boat ride is otherwise the norm.

For the most romantic views, stay at Pelican Beach Resort, occupying the island’s south end and facing one of the most stunning beaches in Belize. Calm and shallow turquoise waters, powdery white sand and a maze of rainbow-colored hammocks make it hard to leave.

5. Hatchet Caye

Hatchet Caye
Dave 10Broek, flickr
If you can’t afford to rent your own Belizean island—like say, French Louie Caye—the next best option is Hatchet Caye, 17 miles off the coast of Placencia and home to Hatchet Caye Resort. The 1-mile stretch offers signature reef views and ample space for solitude, except for the company of resident pelicans and herons. And of course, lapping waves. A stone’s throw from Hatchet Caye are the Silk Cayes, for those who fancy more island hopping.

6. Silk Cayes

Silk Caye
Walter Rodriguez, flickr
The transporting view of lofty palms swaying atop a lone miniature plot of white sand in shallow seas makes the Silk Cayes one of the most photographed in Belize. Temptation will strike to stay overnight, but these plots—also called the Queen Cayes and located 20 miles from Placencia in the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve—can only be explored for the day. That’s still plenty of time to lay on their sugary sands, swim with giant loggerhead turtles or just marvel at the turquoise-jade horizon.

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