A private island escape at Belize’s Cayo Espanto is the perfect cure to months in quarantine.

By Kimberly Wilson
May 01, 2021
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Aerial sunset view of Cayo Espanto private island
Credit: Cayo Espanto

As I approached the dock to Cayo Espanto, the four-acre island resort, I was instantly in awe at how stunning and secluded this overwater bungalow experience was from afar. Just a seven-minute boat ride from San Pedro, located just off Belize's Ambergris Caye, I arrived at the resort in minutes, and instantly discovered why it's a celebrity hideaway.

Synonymous with complete seclusion, Cayo Espanto offers the ultimate change of scenery — in the most lavish way possible. First, because they make every guest feel extra special upon arrival — no matter your celebrity status — as resort staff lined up to greet me at my villa's private dock. Second, because our personal butlers, also referred to as "housemen," — yes, a personal butler — then provided us with a tour of the villa and had us select our preferences to customize our visit to our individual and private needs. 

large living room overlooking ocean with outdoor table, flowers, and open doors
Credit: Cayo Espanto

Cayo Espanto is a 5-star "private island" resort located only three miles away from San Pedro — but feels like another world. Once I'd heard that Leonardo Dicaprio and Bradley Cooper added this getaway to their frequent travel list, I was instantly sold. It also could have been the fact that each room comes with its own private staff, including three chef-cooked meals each day served in your own dining room. And after a year of quarantining during the pandemic, that in itself will sell anyone. Expect a big bankroll here, as the luxury matches its price tag.

The Rooms

Cayo Espanto offers the feeling of being miles away from civilization, but still has modern, luxe amenities don't feel other worldly. There are only seven total villas and suites, and while all slightly different, they are all discreetly set apart from one another, which adds to its allure — especially for those wanting to socially distance themselves from others.

There's exactly one overwater bungalow, referred to as "Casa Ventanas," and despite being the only overwater room, it's also the smallest and most affordable accommodation, at over $1,000 USD per night. Casa Ventanas offers its guests 1,100 square feet of over-the-water bungalow experience inclusive of every imaginable comfort, though it's not technically an all-inclusive resort. While I loved the idea of an overwater experience, it was sold out during my visit, so we opted for a one bedroom villa, and it did not disappoint.

With over 1,500 feet of privacy, the suite is not only intimate, but extremely romantic. The downside to complete seclusion however, is that there are very few other travelers or guests on the island, which means there's no public restaurant, bar, or lounge. Everything is handled by your butler, and within the confines of your villa, unless you set your sights on excursions.

hotel bed near beach on private island
Credit: Cayo Espanto

If you're looking to connect to the outside world, you are in luck, amenities include Wi-Fi, TV, iPad, Bluetooth speakers, and DVD player. As an added bonus, our villa was stocked with some of our favorite spirits and beverages, and had a hammock, private plunge pool overlooking pristine blue waters, and a glass floor in the villa where we were able to look into the Caribbean Sea as sea creatures passed us by.

Safety Measures

Since the pandemic, Cayo Espanto has shaped the perfect getaway experience to each guest's preference, and the team has taken extra steps to ensure a safe and uninterrupted luxe experience for all. Taking into account the new CDC regulations for reentry testing, Cayo Espanto works with each guest to ensure this requirement is met easily and conveniently during their time on the island. Additionally, Cayo Espanto has implemented numerous health and safety protocols, such as ensuring proper use of face masks and hand sanitization by all employees, a daily contactless wellness check point for all employees, and arranging private tours for each party throughout their time at the resort.

The Activities

As secluded as the resort seemed, I never ran out of things to do. With the convenience of nearby access to experiences such as world-class diving along the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, snorkeling with stingrays and nurse sharks, or the option to head out on an all-day reef scuba diving or deep-sea fishing adventure, no day was the same at Cayo Espanto. The resort also offers personalized lavish experiences, such as a helicopter tour over the Great Blue Hole or a private yacht fishing excursion. 

One afternoon I booked a snorkeling excursion at Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley, and though terrifying at first, it ended up being one of my best days at Cayo Espanto. This two-part tour was full of exceptional beauty at every stop along the way. First up, I was able to see the colorful fiish and coral galore the Hol Chan Marine Reserve followed by the infamous Shark Ray Alley, where I was able to swim with stingrays and nurse sharks. The instructors made me feel extremely safe, as they led me into shark infested waters of the Belize Barrier Reef for a one-in-a-lifetime swimming experience. 

Another day, I went kayaking then enjoyed the calm waters on a SUP paddle board, before enjoying a private massage at the comfort of my villa.

Because you can't be on a secluded island without enjoying plenty of aquamarine life, I also embarked on a luxurious day at sea hosted by the resort's private guides. The trip began with an up-close and guided snorkel tour in the waters near Cayo Espanto, followed by the opportunity to "hook and cook" our lunch for the day before being expertly prepared by our private chef. Our job, too, was extremely difficult, as we sat and enjoyed a cold beer on the beach while our food was being prepared.  

aerial view of Cayo Espanto private island
Credit: Cayo Espanto

The Verdict

I was particularly impressed by the resort's dedication to tailoring my experience at Cayo Espanto to my exact needs and desires. No detail was spared in ensuring a terrific experience, and everything we wanted would be at our fingertips. While it was more secluded than I'd imagined, it was just the restorative and rejuvenating vacation I'd desired when I embarked on this excursion.