Belize Is Not Just for Backpackers Any More

Luxury Travel

Belize Is Not Just for Backpackers Anymore

The hiker’ s destination is getting a serious injection of luxury— and yes, there will be overwater bungalows.

For all of Belize’ s cultural diversity— the country’ s melting pot heritage can be equal parts Mayan, Creole, Mestizo, Spanish, Lebanese, Chinese, British, Indian native, and Mennonite— its tourism picture is surprisingly one-note.

Nearly three-quarters of its 1 . 4 million yearly visitors arrive by cruise ship, docking for just enough time to see the Altun ‘ Mayan ruins, ride some scoot lines, or go tubing via its famed Crystal Cave. Even though a small clutch of luxury hotels exists— led by the pioneering, culinary-focused Copal Tree Hotel and the Coppola family’ s private island retreat, Turtle Inn — Belize has suffered from a backpacker reputation that undermines  its accurate Caribbean charms.

The Mahogany These types of Resort and Beach Club.  
Supply: Mahogany Bay Resort & Seaside Club

That’ s changing. “ While i started coming here 15 years ago, it had been Birkenstocks and REI bags in the TropicAir flights, ” says Beth Clifford, founder of the three-month-old Mahogany Bay Holiday resort & Beach Club , talking about the 14-seat Cessna flights which are ubiquitous in Belize. “ I simply got off a TropicAir airplane today  and counted no less than three Louis Vuitton bags, ” the girl adds. “ The profile is promoting entirely. ”

Mahogany Bay could be the first in a long string associated with luxury openings coming to Belize. This opened in December on the southeastern suggestion of Ambergris Caye, with a 70-acre beach club and exploration middle for fly-fishing, spelunking, and diving. Joining it soon are a farm-to-table project with solar-powered beachfront cottage, a Dream Hotel  Group house adjacent to a jaguar preserve, plus Leonardo DiCaprio’ s wellness-focused eco-resort, Blackadore Caye .

Blackadore Caye
Source: Denniston International Architects & Planners Ltd.

All that growth shows simply no signs of stopping. By the time Four Seasons Caye Church opens in 2021 with 30 to 40 overwater bungalows on a private island, the nation will be competing with the world’ s i9000 hottest honeymoon destinations.

Four Seasons is leveraging a good unheralded aspect of Belize’ s topography: Off the country’ s coast are usually 450 atolls that form the low-lying archipelago, similar to the Maldives or maybe the South Pacific. This archipelago, nevertheless , is  a five-hour flight through New York, a six-hour flight through Los Angeles, and an hour and a half through Miami. For Americans and Southern Americans, it’ s a new location next door.  

“ It really does remind me from the Maldives, ” says Michael Crawford, Four Seasons’ president of profile management and owner relations. “ It’ s pretty rare to get places like this, where you can create a whole destination unto itself on a personal island, much less one that’ h proximate to the U. S. — and with good infrastructure, ” this individual tells Bloomberg.  

Why Now?

The rendering of the waterside bungalows on the Four Seasons Caye Chapel.  
Resource: Four Seasons Caye Chapel

All the things that will excite Belize’ s foreign developers— great beaches, an abundance of watersports actions, crowd-pleasing land excursions, and wealthy cultural and culinary traditions— possess always existed. So why is Belize just gaining traction now?

“ Destinations take time to create, ” says  Four Seasons’ Crawford. The Belizean government, he provides, built theirs slowly but deliberately, creating a desirable real estate market with a pretty low cost of entry and  simply no estate or capital gains fees. “ They understand that when you attract luxury ownership, the market grows  plus luxury tourism follows, ” Crawford adds. A “ qualified individuals retirement program” has also encouraged high-net-worth individuals to become full-time transplants, instead of occasional visitors with vacation houses.

According to developer Toby Ashcroft, whose family has strong roots here— his English grandpa arrived  via plane, ship, plus “ a banana boat” within the aftermath of World War II— Belize is an easy place to get expats to settle. It’ s English-speaking and ruled in accordance with English typical law (it belongs to Britain’ s  Commonwealth, like Canada and  Australia), and the melting pot associated with cultures means that nobody sticks out.

For tourism, that means a huge opportunity for multi-generational trips. “ Citizens have a nice community here, plus they’ re bringing their kids lower and then fall in love with the place, ” Ashcroft explains. (His own project, a good Autograph Collection resort called Alaia , will certainly open in Ambergris Caye within 2020, with an open studio intended for local artisans just off the reception. )

Add substantial financial incentives for luxury developers— such as  free repatriation associated with profits and waived duties— in addition to a geographic location just outside the storm belt, and Belize becomes a no-brainer for hoteliers.

The best

The Great House from Mahogany Bay.
Source: Mohogany Bay

Plan a visit to Belize in 2018, plus you’ ll be ahead of the contour. Of the half-dozen properties that are developing a high tide for luxury, just Mahogany Bay has opened the doors. But its arrival is substantial. “ Our resort is with an island with about 2, 500 hotel rooms— closer to 2, two hundred, now that we’ re open” says  Clifford. “ Of those, less than five hundred are up to international standards. ” Most of the accommodations, she says, are usually casual bed-and-breakfasts, leaving a big distance in the market.

Mahogany These types of fills that hole. Its reception occupies the largest wooden structure within Belize (a riff on a colonial-style Great House), and its clapboard cottage and villas stand  along a number of picturesque canals. Guests can ask for “ dressing cocktails” — in-room drinks to enjoy while getting gussied up— or lounge in overwater hammocks. Some will recognize it since the backdrop for the most recent swimsuit concern.

When it opens within November, Itz’ ana will have an identical upscaling effect in the beach city of Placencia. Apart from the Coppola family’ s Turtle Inn and the small Cayo Espanto ,   Itz’ ana would be the only high-class game in town , with fifty sustainably designed rooms and rooms, a dedicated Rum Room, and a Hemingway-inspired aesthetic. (Blackadore  Caye is still predicting an “ end of 2018” opening, but locals are extremely skeptical of the timeline. ) 

Visit during the spring plus winter months, when the weather is cozy and dry. Simply fly directly into Belize City— which has recently additional direct flights on Southwest plus WestJet airlines— and then book TropicAir transfers to get from place to place.   The nation is roughly as large since New Jersey, so almost any two factors in Belize can be connected inside an hour.

And remember: Sophia Coppola may have said that Belize is a place to do nothing, but the nation offers plenty of tempting excursions. Diving, fly-fishing, kayaking, picnicking  by key waterfalls— it’ s all simply arranged, and that’ s  simply scratching the surface.

What’ s Next

Save your valuable Belize trip for 2020 or even beyond, and you’ ll look for a totally different destination. For one thing, plans are usually underway for an international airport in Placencia, which would make it faster and simpler to access one of the country’ s greatest beaches. “ If the airport occurs, it’ s the icing to the cake, ” says  Ronan McMahon, a real estate expert and factor to, who named Placenia one of the three overseas beaches most likely in order to boom in 2018.

The influx of major luxurious brands— such as Autograph Collection plus Four Seasons— will also bring spectacular change.   As Crawford describes, people are more likely to travel to a lesser-known destination when a company they believe in is there to welcome them.    

The former Mayan city of  Altun Ha.
Photographer: MaRabelo/iStockphoto

It’ s not just Americans that are producing bets on Belize, either. On the recent night, Clifford found visitors from Manhasset, N. Y., Bay area, London, South Africa, Montserrat, and Jakarta all sitting around Mahogany Bay’ s bar— proof that an global clientele has started to catch upon.

But neither the lady nor Crawford worry  that Belize will become overdeveloped. “ The luxury marketplace will continue to take off here, ” says Clifford, “ but we’ re not on the yacht signal, so we won’ t become St Barth, and the building code retains everything at five stories, and we won’ t become Cancun, possibly. ”

“ A person can’ t build on all of the 400 islands out here— some is much too small, ” explains  Crawford, “ and they won’ t become places for massive destination major resorts. ” It really is like the Maldives,   he tells Bloomberg:   “ beautiful to fly over, beautiful nature, and perfect for intimate encounters that people will remember. ”

Find more vacation destinations: Where to Go in 2018