"Our Happy Place"
07/29/14 K C Dallas, Texas
We recently stayed at Cayo Espanto (Manana) for 4 nights. I have never written a review for Trip Advisor. In fact, I created a log in just so I could rave about this magical resort. Cayo Espanto exceeded our every expectation and we are already planning a return trip. All of the houses on the property looked amazing, but we especially loved Casa Manana. Rick and Carlos were great housemen! They really went the extra mile to make our trip special. Easily one of my favorite all time vacations. I feel ruined for all future beach vacations!
"Fantastic Family Vacation"
07/09/14 dhumph Pleasanton
We recently returned from a 5 day stay at Cayo Espanto. This vacation certainly exceeded our expectations and they were high to begin with. From the beginning when we booked our stay Erika helped us with connecting flights, food preferences and activities. As the boat pulled into the dock we were greeted by the staff and welcomed with a cocktail. Our home for the 5 days was the villa Aurora and it was perfect for the 4 of us. The refrigerator was stocked with our favorite beverages and Eddie and Jesus took care of our every request. We had very full days of sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding. We could be as busy or as lazy as we wished and we seldom ran into other guests on the island. German took us out to Hol Chan Preserve for a snorkeling trip and all of us will remember that experience for forever. Some of the best snorkeling we've seen and the nurse shark experience was incredible. The water trampoline, the floating mat, the outdoor movie night and the kindness of the staff who cut down and stuck straws in coconuts for the kids were just a few of the many ways my kids were spoiled on this vacation and it may have spoiled future vacations for them. The food was incredible. Each meal was delicious and could be as healthy or as decadent as you liked. Each night dinner was set up in a beautiful, thoughtful way by Eddie and Jesus. If you preferred a snack instead of lunch, that was arranged. I had been concerned by the sea lice mentioned by previous reviewers. We did not experience this at all and we spent most days in the water around the island. We were greeted by the staff with chilled cloths to wipe down after getting out of the ocean and the plunge pool was a delight after spending hours in the ocean. We had a couple of mosquito bites. The villa had some bug spray and were we to do it over, we would use it in the evenings when we were on our little private beach for dinner. We are looking forward to returning to Cayo Espanto one day in the hopefully not so distant future.
"Best Food in the Caribbean"
06/08/14 twinkles Atlanta Georgia
This is our third Caribbean resort for 2014. A funny twist of fate brought us to Belize and to Cayo Espanto. Back in the winter of 2012, we had chartered a sailboat in Belize. One evening after anchoring, I spied a bar within dingy range, so we went to investigate. We landed on a tiny enclave of land based vacationers who were anxious to hear tales of the sea from a couple of salties, and they allowed us to buy a drink. But when we inquired about dinner options, we were escorted back to our dingy, with a firm admonition that only real guests were welcome at dinner. Now that my brain damage has forced us to vacation on land, my wife decided that we should go to "Bar Island" as real guests. Cayo Espanto sounded similar, although when I examined the pictures on the web site, I wondered what had happened to the bar. As we disembarked from the helicopter that had delivered us to Cayo, I inquired about the bar. That was when I confirmed that we weren't on "Bar Island." There is no bar on Cayo. On Cayo, your houseman delivers your desires to your villa, or to your plunge pool, or to your dock. Transfers Standard transfers are via Maya Air or Tropic Air to a neighboring island a few hundred yards away and then a quick boat ride over to Cayo. We have taken Tropic Air on a couple of prior occasions--once to a pick-up our rental boat back in 2012, and once to meet a scuba live-aboard six or eight years ago. They fly fairly standard 10 or 12 passenger flights from Belize City out to the various resort areas along Belize's coast. Cayo is so near Belize City, I am confident yours will be the first stop. My wife loves aircraft of all sorts, so we sprung for the Astrum helicopter transfers, a professional father/son operation. Is the helicopter "worth it?" If a cost/benefit analysis is what you are asking, then probably not. But they do deliver what they promise. We travel light and never check a bag, so we were the first passengers from our flight through customs. We were greeted by Cayo's representative, taken directly to the helicopter, and flown straight to Cayo. On our arrival journey, we flew over “shark alley” and could see groups of nurse sharks battling for chum. On our departure flight we were treated to a view of 30 or 40 rays all congregated and three manatees playing in what appeared to be a deep hole. We enjoyed the experience and would no doubt do it again, but I could not honestly report that the time saved is worth the cost. Of course, if your time is worth more than the incremental cost, then you aren't asking if it is worth it. Rooms The pictures on the web site fairly depict the villas. But just in case it isn't clear, the purpose of the door/walls allows them to be closed so that air-conditioning can be turned on at night. During the day your villa is virtually without walls and open to the Caribbean Sea with steady sea breezes flowing through. It is impossible for me to review Cayo without contrasting it with Jade Mountain, another resort famous for its non-existent walls. At Cayo, you sleep ten feet above sea level counting the height of the bed. At Jade, you are hundreds of feet above the sea. The views at Jade are incomparable. The views at Cayo are similar to what you see from a small yacht, although without the entertainment value of watching once-a-year sailors attempting to anchor. The plunge pool in Manana is obviously due for a major refurbishment. The tiles have been repaired to the point that they have become somewhat unsightly. At times the water was slightly cloudy. And from a macro-perspective, the pool is a little small, although correcting for that deficiency may well be a tad more “major” than can be cost justified. In short, the plunge pool was just not as inviting as we had hoped, and we plunged less than we anticipated and have done in another venue where the plunge pool was our focal point. Food Cayo's food wins, hands down, against the other resorts we have visited this year. We were overwhelmed by the selection, especially in light of the small guest population. Food is served in your villa, or if you prefer on your dock. The small size of the resort makes it possible for "room service" to be served hot and ready. In all sincerity, we were down right amazed at Cayo's food. Obviously, it was superior to the offerings of the more mass market resort we visited earlier, but in our shared opinion, it was superior to that served by a renowned resort that is renowned in some measure for its French chef's Caribbean influenced cuisine. Cayo does its best to cater to your tastes. I like chocolate. Some nights they were offering fruit centric desserts, but I got a molten chocolate cake with ice cream. Drinks Do not expect tequila and mixer dumped in a disposable plastic cup. Cayo's houseman will deliver you a proper cocktail. Seriously, you will receive cocktails of the same quality you would expect to receive in a fine bar. This is not a typical "all inclusive" serving fraternity party drinks. I did not need to explain how to make a martini. We are not real wine aficionados. But the pricing of their selections seemed fair based on the bottles with which I was familiar. They even had a Chilean sparkling wine for $25 which we decided to try one afternoon to our delight. Service Service was quite good. In fact, service was the best we have encountered. As the days passed, it was evident that the staff began to anticipate our wants. It was subtle at times. In an effort to be concrete and not simply gush, I will share this story. One day I asked for a cheeseburger (such a pedestrian item is not on the menu, but I requested it). It was huge and I could only finish half of it. When our houseman asked how it was, I shared superlatives about the seasoning, preparation, and presentation, but I also shared that so much leftover detracted somewhat from my enjoyment. After that, I noticed that the chef began to moderate my portions which greatly enhanced my enjoyment of his outstanding meals. However, they use a talkie-talkie system for communicating with your houseman. The battery in ours was initially dead and would not charge. They changed out our unit for one that worked. But then new guests arrived and our working unit was taken for them, and we were once again given the defective unit with an explanation that it had been repaired. But the problems resumed and we had sporadic problems the remainder of our stay. Insects Insects are not a huge issue as some reviews suggest. The resort does have an abatement system. Still I would bring deet. REI and other outdoor provisioners stock 100% deet in 1.25 ounce spritz bottles, which can be slipped into your quart sized Ziploc, along with a miniature tooth paste, and sun screen. It is 100% deet. One spritz on your ankles in the evening will do you. Never visit the tropics without 100% deet in your bag. Sea Lice Sea lice were non-existent. We went in the water daily with no issues. There have been some reviews complaining of sea lice. I do not know whether that is a seasonal issue or was a more peculiar ecological anomaly. All I can report is that we had no issues the first of June and the staff assured us that they have heard no complaints in several years. Who Will Like Cayo? My wife advised me to stay away from this topic, but I am a slave to my compulsions. Water sports enthusiasts will be delighted. We have not done scuba in years, but based on the service standards of Cayo, I would think you should expect valet diving tailored to your interests and abilities. As mentioned, we did a live-aboard here several years ago. The diving opportunities in Belize are as good as you can find in the Caribbean. We primarily engaged in our newest favorite sport: lying about, eating, and drinking. But we did massages one day. We borrowed a kayak and paddled around the little island. We took a shuttle over to the nearby village, San Pedro, and wondered. We plunged in our little pool, but admittedly not to the same extent as we have at other resorts. We have never been fisher people, but we understand that is popular among many guests, both right from your Villa's dock, and on guided boat trips. In short, most Caribbean oriented vacationers will have their needs met. The exception would be those more interested in a social experience. There is no social focal point, and guests kept to themselves. Obviously, you will not find a steel drum band or a disk jockey. I suppose a couple could order a bottle of Champaign, tune in MTV, and pretend that their villa is a little private night club. Oh, I mentioned a TV. Yes, the villas are furnished with televisions. We used ours extensively. I have mixed feeling about that. Given that our villa was totally open, it was easy to lay on top of the bed and gaze out to sea while CNBC played off to the side. Bottom Line Cayo is five stars for food. Cayo is five stars for service. So why did I give them only four stars? The plunge pool and the inscrutable walkie-talkie issue. Given the long string of five star reviews Cayo has received, some readers may see a four star rating as harsh. I try to guard against grade inflation in my reviews. Four stars means “Very Good.” Cayo was Very Good, but to my way of thinking, an excellent rating would be disingenuous given the two matters I cited. But, again to be clear, we are looking forward to our next opportunity to visit Cayo Espanto.
"A Once in a Lifetime Experience (but we hope to go again!)"
04/16/14 NuclearDuo Gloucester, Massachusetts
Our trip to Cayo Espanto was an "11". The accommodations and the food were both wonderful (Kudos to Patrick, the head chef), but the overall quality of the staff and outstanding service is what was truly impressive. The people who work here make this a truly special place. Everything they do is focused on your enjoyment. We had a tremendously fun time and will hopefully return some day, just need to start saving for it now!
01/18/14 Jose J San Juan, Puerto Rico
Let me tell you, this was the best honeymoon ever. We just knew about this place looking for over the water bungalow. Bora-Bora was too far and in November does not have the best weather. This place is just 90 minutes from Miami or Dallas. You will rent a private Villa, ours over the water ( Casa Ventana ). You will have a private butler, they will take care of you and cloths and everything. They will prepare dinner in different spots, all different, and one even with Mariachi. Fishing, snorkeling or scuba in the second Great Barrier Reef of the world is outrageous.
"Cayo added years back to my life!"
01/17/14 heliuman Lake Mary, Florida
My wife and I went for our first trip to Cayo Espanto in Oct 2013 for our 20th wedding anniversary. From the moment we arrived in Belize City, we were taken care of like royalty. Our bags were handled all the way to our villa. We were met by the entire staff along with (2) Espanto Waves (you must try one). We stayed in Casa Solanas which is on the far end of the island. Our seven days on island felt like a lifetime. The staff was at our beckon call for whatever we needed. The solitude of having your entire day to do as you wish is soul cleansing. My wife and I would literally do whatever we wanted to do. The plunge pool is more than ample and the perfect temperature. The food, drinks and service were world class. We booked in villa massages on the day we arrived and the day before we left. Everything was perfect. Cayo is one of those places that you come across in your life where you love it so much that you want to keep it to yourself but it just deserves to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. One of the days we were on island, we were the only guests on the entire island. Erika was kind enough to give us a tour of the other villas so we could be thinking of our next visit and whether or not to bring the kids. Excursions - I would highly recommend "A day at sea with a little luxury" and if you scuba dive, the Great Blue Hole is a bucket list dive. The Great Blue Hole is a full day trip so plan accordingly. It is well worth the time to visit. Bring underwater lights. The jet ski rental was fun also. We took the jet ski over to Blackadore Cay (Leo DiCaprio owns it). Blackadore is still a very native island but there is potential for something great there. In conclusion, we will be back to Cayo Espanto hopefully sooner than later. Our trip there will always hold a special place in my wife and I's hearts. Every vacation should be this great! Thank you Cayo Espanto!!
"Planned this trip two days in advance!"
01/16/14 Oceanhead Jenks, Oklahoma
I just don't have the word to describe our wonderful, fun and exciting, perfect, getaway trip to celebrate our 20th anniversary at Cayo Espanto. . San Pedro was a blast! Staying at the villa one day never leaving our private dock was sooooo relaxing and being completely taken care of by our Houseman Elio and Rick! (Elio I meant it when I said we would love for your family to be our quest in Colo. To see the snow! ). The diving was amazing! Especially with "German" he is my all time favorite dive master ever!!! And thank you Chef Richard for the amazing food! And thank you so much for my " I have something for you" bag! Sweet! Esmeralda the massages were amazing, and funny the last day when my husband was there making all the noise outside, ha! Rosita you are a doll, thank you so much for everything you made possible for us. And thanks to the person who made all the arrangements for our massages and dive trips! Can't wait to go back! Maybe next month with girls! Love all of you, Pam and Tom Russell
"Christmas in Heaven"
We looked everywhere online for a fabulous resort to visit over our holiday break, but could not find anyplace that compared to Cayo Espanto, where we'd gone in July...so we went again! The staff at Cayo Espanto made our Christmas so wonderfully relaxing and special!! The privacy there is our favorite part, but we totally love the pampering and delicious food & drink, too. The chef made us a traditional Christmas dinner, complete with eggnog, just so we wouldn't miss out on that holiday feeling we get at home. Part of me doesn't want to share the secret of Cayo Espanto, because I don't want it to get TOO popular so we can't get reservations next time we want to, but another part wishes that everyone could experience the beauty that is found on this little 4-acre gem in the Caribbean!
"As good as advertised..."
12/23/13 Matt D Chicago, Illinois
We stayed at Cayo for a week in late November, 2013. Our expectations were sky high going into the trip, and I can say without reservation they were greatly exceeded. We had somewhat bad luck with weather (strong winds most of the time and rain on a few days), we still had an amazing experience. We stayed in Casa Manana, which was absolutely amazing. It is very private and has what I would describe as a partial sunset view (by my gauge, the only Casa with a full view of the sunset was Casa Solano). When we go back (not if), we will stay in Casa Manana again. Our housemen were Rick and Larry, and they could not have been better. They did everything within their power to make sure we had the most relaxing week possible (and were never without a drink in our hand). I would strongly recommend requesting Rick and Larry before your visit. We definitely will. Don't forget to bring cash to tip your housemen too! While it's hard to pinpoint one aspect as the biggest "highlight" of the trip, I would have to say the food was without doubt some of the best I've ever had. The soups alone were worth the trip. We did the Air, Land, and Sea package - I would highly, highly recommend it. The helicopter ride to the resort provided some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever take in...and the day at sea was amazing. German and Geronimo were the best guides one could ask for. The fishing was incredible, and I fell in love with spear fishing on the trip (first time I had tried it). The snorkeling was the best I've ever experienced, hands down. We swam with Turtles, sting rays, nurse sharks and saw green eels, crabs, lobsters, and just about every color of fish you could imagine. We don't dive, but the snorkeling is so good I never felt I was missing out on anything by having to stay near the surface. Make sure to go to Shark Ray alley. The resort had 2 other couples while we were there, but it wouldn't matter if the rest of the resort were completely full or empty. It's extremely private. There are some bugs, but we only saw them at night - never once during the day. In my experience, the amount of bugs depends strictly on which way the wind is blowing. If its blowing on your side of the island, you'll have no bugs. I tend to get eaten alive by bugs, but really had no problem - our housemen closed up our Casa early enough and our moquito netting did the rest. I usually have a terrible time with bugs, but they weren't a factor on this trip...at all. If you're looking for a day trip off the island, I would strongly recommend you do one of two things: 1) go into San Pedro, rent a gold cart (which the resort will prearrange for you), and go North to the Palapa Bar. It's a really cool bar, and it shows you the best part of San Pedro. Otherwise, there isn't a ton to see in San Pedro in our experience. Our other recommendation: 2) go to Caye Calker - which is a great little island and a really nice/chill place to burn a few hours if for whatever reason you want to get off Cayo Espanto. It's not cheap, but it's worth the price if you can afford it. My wife and I have had the great fortune of being able to stay at other high end resorts and hotels around the world, and we have never experiened anythign that tops Cayo Espanto. We'll be back, and soon.
"Amazing private island in paradise!"
12/05/13 BrookeAB Chicago, Illinois
Wow! I've travelled the world and have stayed in many luxury hotels but I've never experienced the level of service we received at Cayo Espanto. Our "housemen" spoiled us without being too overbearing. They showed up at all the right times. Upon arrival the whole staff was standing on our private dock welcoming us. It made us feel so special! They also had our favorite beverages and a cold towel. I had a couple bloody Mary's and they were excellent! The food was top notch, on par with fine dining restaurants. They scheduled excursions for us (private tour to the ruins and a chartered fishing trip) as well as 2 massages. The massages were performed in the privacy of our own villa. We stayed in Casa Aurora and it was AMAZING! We found out that Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas stayed in our exact villa (among other celebrities). Be prepared to spend a pretty penny but it's well worth it. I highly recommend Cayo Espanto. It will be a trip of a lifetime.
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