Dreaming of Your Next Caribbean Escape? Sharks and Stingrays Are Waiting at This Private Island Belize Resort

Ray Caye is an eco-friendly, self-sustaining private island resort worthy of all your travel daydreams right now.

Ray Caye arrivals dock
Photo: Mark Orwoll

Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

The idea of a private-island resort sounds awesome. On paper. But what will you do for activities? What is there to eat? Will you get…resort claustrophobia?!

Trust me, all these questions crossed my mind as I sailed 18 miles off the coastal village of Placencia, Belize, to the Caribbean’s newest private-island resort, Ray Caye. What I discovered didn’t necessarily make me a convert to the private-island concept in general, but it definitely made me want to go back to Ray Caye in particular, a 20-room property next to the Belize Barrier Reef and surrounded by the icy-blue Caribbean.

Ray Caye Villa
Mark Orwoll

The kidney-shaped, seven-acre island is a self-sustaining enterprise that, in effect, has its own electric district, distributing power throughout the island from a central energy bank powered by more than 600 solar panels. A mix of cistern-collected rainwater and a desalinization plant provide eminently drinkable, UV-filtered water straight from the tap. Most of the produce served on the island is raised in the organic garden. And vast plantings of mangrove, salt-resistant grass and shrubs, seagrape trees, and old growth royal palms, travelers palms, and coconut palms have made the island not just green, but increasingly resistant to natural erosion.

But enough of the feel-good stuff, I thought. What’s there to do?!

Ray Caye Sunrise on South dock with hammocks
Mark Orwoll

Quite a lot, as it turns out. In just two days, I snorkeled with an electric motor scooter that pulled me around the near-shore fringe reef; took my first jet ski ride (I caught air!); ate more fresh seafood than anyone has a right to; drank more Belikin beer than I should have; took a daily dip in my suite’s plunge pool; watched the sunrise from a comfy sofa at the end of the lengthy South Dock; and snorkeled in the nearby Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, where within 10 minutes I swam with wild dolphins, touched the tail of a nurse shark (there were 15 to 20 of them circling me at the time), and nearly got caught between two 800-pound loggerhead turtles who, I think, were eyeing one another with romantic intent. And I swam cautiously away from a five-foot-wide roughtail stingray, whose 10-foot-long tail was lined with venomous barbs, and, in doing so, nearly swam into an almost-as-big spotted eagle ray. It was as crazy and crowded as the L train on a normal Saturday night.

The four-star resort (my own rating, a balance between the many amenities and the lack of in-room phones or room service) has four levels of rooms, ranging from the simple but charming cabanas (a souvenir from when this island was home to a smallish resort called Hatchet Caye) to the spacious villa suites overlooking the lagoon through glass walls. Guests can find a combination of accommodations and inclusions, from a la carte to all-inclusive, with rates that range from the upper end of affordable (starting at $375 per night) to mortgage-your-mother.

Ray Caye Waterslide
Mark Orwoll

Meals, for the moment, are all served at the airy Lionfish Grill, a popular stop with Caribbean yachters. It’s a hopping place for drinks and dinner, but a new guest-only restaurant, Catch 831, is also coming soon. Both restaurants will focus on just-caught seafood, with additional dinner entrees of beef, pork, chicken, and vegetarian nightly. My recommendation: stick with the freshest of fresh seafood, including ceviche, conch, beautifully prepared squid, shrimp brought in that morning, and seafood risotto. Even my dreams now smell of seafood.

My biggest hurdle in booking a trip to Ray Caye was deciding whether I would find it confining. As it turned out, considering that I still hadn’t tried the scuba diving (PADI certification available), or sailing lessons on a Hobie Cat, or sportfishing for permit and bonefish, or kayaking out beyond the fringe reef, or night snorkeling by the underwater blue lights off the South Dock, or playing “prison rules” volleyball with the other guests, the fact is that I didn’t have time to worry about resort claustrophobia. I was too busy planning my next activity.

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