Luxe Holidays to Belize

One of the world’s youngest countries, Belize has a landscape that shifts from Caribbean island paradise to jungle-clad mountain, and a culture that blends Mayan with Mennonite, European with Garifuna that`s why Belize is the hottest new Caribbean destination. Belize is a cornucopia of outdoor pursuits. In addition to diving and discovering ancient Maya, hiking and is popular along the many groomed trails and caves.

Inhabited by ancient Mayans migrating from Mexico, plundered by Spanish conquistadors, then colonised by European pirates, Belize has a chequered history. Since its independence in 1981, however, Central America’s most sparsely populated country has become known for the astonishing beauty of its landscape, the friendliness of its diverse people, and the incredible diving at the Barrier Reef, second only in size to its Australian counterpart. Lush rainforest, acres of pine reserves, white-water rivers, sacred stalactite caves and plunging waterfalls mark the inland Cayo region. Further south, manatee-filled mangrove swamps of the Placencia peninsula lie past vast inland prawn farms and a rapidly developing coastline, where the predominately Creole/Caribbean population enjoy a slow-paced life of palm-fringed bars, lively street jump-ups and lobster festivals. In the oceans to the east, banana-shaped Ambergris Caye (Madonna’s ‘La Isla Bonita’), and its easygoing, easy-living town of San Pedro, attract travellers in search of fabulous fishing, diving, or whale-shark watching.

Gaia Riverlodge Cayo District, Belize with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)

A paradise of modern eco-minimalism perched among the trees in Belize’s jungle, Gaia Riverlodge hotel is one of those places that you want to keep all to yourself. While you’re there, the warm staff are your friends, the hidden riverside ‘beach’ and swimming holes your backyard pool and your hardwood-and-Mexican-tiled bungalow your home.
Set in the middle of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Gaia is a prime getaway for outdoors and adventure enthusiasts. On the hotel’s grounds alone, there are the makeshift beach and swimming holes on the Privasson River, a hike (or bike ride on borrowed bicycles) to swimming at Big Rock Falls and a hiking trail through Broadleaf Forest. The concierge can plan any other adventure further afield that you might have in mind, from a visit to the Maya ruins at Caracol, cave canoe trips, zip-lining excursions and organized visits to the market in San Ignacio.

Cayo Espanto San Pedro, Belize with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)

Three miles out to sea from the Belizean coastal city of San Pedro, Cayo Espanto offers the kind of peace and quiet you only find in the most exclusive island hideaway – which is precisely what this hyper-luxurious boutique resort is. Seven brightly, tastefully decorated wooden villas are dotted among the tiny island’s palm trees, with private pools to plunge in, hammocks to snooze in, and a dedicated ‘houseman’ on hand to ensure that you’re treated to whatever you want, whenever you want it. From the ingredients in the kitchen to the music playing on the in-room iPod, everything is designed as you like it.
A two-hour boat ride from San Pedro is the Blue Hole, a collapsed underwater limestone cave with an unbeatable view into its unfathomable depths. Experienced divers can drop below the rim at 40 metres to explore the eerie stalactites and gawp at Caribbean reef sharks. Snorkel or scuba dive with professionally-run Amigos del Mar.

Turtle Inn Belize with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)

Brightly coloured hammocks slung between slanted palm trees, Balinese-style beach huts, and the sun-sparkled waters of the Caribbean are at the heart of Turtle Inn hotel in Belize. One of Francis Ford Coppola’s trio of Central American resorts (its siblings are Blancaneaux Lodge and La Lancha in Guatemala), this is a rustic retreat with a sprinkling of glamour.
In Placencia, you can collect wooden handicrafts such as the distinctive ziricote animal masks, jaguar sculptures and coconut mermaids from little stalls along the sandy sidewalk.

Matachica Resort & Spa San Pedro, Belize with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)

The clutch of bright palapas scattered on a secluded swath of white sand at Matachica hotel in Belize are the stuff of beach holiday dreams. Hammocks on every private porch, a spoiling spa with coffee scrubs and fruit facials on offer, kayaks and snorkel gear on loan and tropical cocktails at every turn will have you angling to make this your new reality.
If your aim is to keep things mellow, Matachica will not disappoint. Spend a day at the infinity pool or unwind in the Jacuzzi before booking an appointment at the Jade Spa (+011 501 223 0002). With an assortment of treatments from banana and papaya facials to coffee scrubs, you’re in for a true Belizean experience.
Paddle out in the Caribbean Sea on a complimentary kayak or snorkel with a Matachica guide as they lead you along the barrier reef in a private or group tour. Fish with a Matachica captain and catch snapper, grouper and barracuda on a private or group tour, and – the best part– a Mambo Chef will prepare dinner that night with your day’s catch.
Scuba diving in the world’s second-largest great barrier reef is a must. The concierge at Matachica will set you up on a tour at Lighthouse Reef where you can dive at the Blue Hole or head to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and swim with over 100 species of tropical fish.
If you’re curious to explore beyond the resort, hop on a shuttle at the hotel or a catch a ride on a water taxi and venture into the nearby town of San Pedro for local shopping and dining.
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