By Stacey Leasca
January 16, 2020
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Credit: Stacey Leasca

The best anyone can hope for when taking a vacation is an extra minute to relax. But on Turneffe Island Resort, a private island resort located 30 miles off the coast of Belize City, you’ll get a whole extra hour.

Spread across just 14 acres, the island is best described as a tiny slice of heaven. Still, the property punches far above its weight class when it comes to fun, relaxation, and luxury. Perhaps most importantly, though, it comes with its very own time zone, meaning guests can spend one more hour under the warm Belizean sun.

On a springtime journey to the island, I got to experience this jump in the space-time continuum, along with a few other perks of staying in a place so isolated that it not only has its own time zone, but also a separate set of rules.

Credit: Stacey Leasca

Guests can reach Turneffe Island Resort using one of two modes of transportation: a two-hour boat trip or a quick, 30-minute private helicopter ride, which comes included when booking the island’s presidential villa.

Although you won’t be disappointed by either choice, the helicopter transfer may be the best option for those seeking a truly spectacular experience. On the way, you'll fly over the famed Great Blue Hole, located just off the coast. Measuring 984 feet across and 410 feet deep, the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site is the largest sinkhole on Earth — a sight best seen from the air.

During your ride on the glass-bottom helicopter, you’ll quickly become entranced by the bright blue water and coral formations below. However, out of nowhere, you’ll see it — the beautiful round structure that formed thousands of years ago. While circling it, it's easy to forget the world around. Just don’t get so caught up that you miss the opportunity to snap a photo for posterity.

However, uncovering the secrets to one of the natural world’s greatest mysteries will have to wait, as you have places to be and fruity cocktails to drink.

Upon landing on the island, guests are immediately greeted by the small and incredibly friendly staff. Not only will you learn their names, but they’ll remember yours, too, along with your coffee preferences, food choices, favorite activities, and more. Their attention to detail, friendly demeanors, and downright fun attitudes make them the ideal hosts for an off-the-grid adventure.

There are two other staff members worth noting: Ace, a German shepherd, and Ginger, a golden mutt that will frolic all day on the beach outside your door. Ace will even play fetch, if you toss a coconut, as well as deliver shells to your door.

Credit: Stacey Leasca

But wait, there’s more.

The oasis that is Turneffe Island Resort features just 22 beachfront rooms and a maximum guest occupancy of less than 50.

On the island, I chose to stay in a beachside cabin versus a traditional room — an upgrade that's well worth the extra price. The colonial-style mini homes come with more than enough space for two people to stretch out, including a private porch and front patio area with chaise lounge chairs.

And really, you won't have to go far if you don't want to. The staff will even take your coffee order at night and drop off a pot with all the fixings on your porch before you wake up in the morning. From there, all you need to do is take about 10 steps to reach the ocean.

However, if you feel like getting active during your trip, the island is more than happy to accommodate. In fact, the destination is known for its water sports.

Guests visiting the island are welcome to book one-off fishing, snorkeling, or scuba diving adventures, but those more serious about their water activities may want to look into one of the island’s packages.

For example, Turneffe Island Resort offers a three-night package that includes five single tank dives for $1,790. Or, guests can level up to a seven-night package that includes a whopping 15 dives to various sites for $3,390. They’ll even take you to the Great Blue Hole for a dive, if you time your trip right and stay over a Tuesday, which is the only day the dives are offered.

Meanwhile, fishermen can take advantage of similar offerings, including a three-night package for $2,190, which offers eight hours of fishing per day. Snorkelers can also get in on the action with a three-night package for $1,640, which includes two snorkeling excursions a day. Even that may not be enough, though, as the water is teeming with wildlife.

Another property highlight is the guests. Although there may not be many, you’ll quickly become friends with those around you, as the island only offers Wednesday and Saturday arrivals, meaning you’ll be spending three to seven days with the same group.

All of that makes leaving that much harder. In fact, don't be surprised if you start plotting your return the moment you step off the island and board the boat back to the mainland.