The Instagram Guide to Cayo Espanto

A private island in Belize holds the luxe (and socially distant!) getaway you've been craving.

cayo espanito
(Image credit: Courtesy)

Editor's note: As we continue to practice social distancing, we encourage our readers to check the Center for Disease Control website for up-to-date information on how to safely travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, bookmark this Instagram travel guide for inspo—you're going to love it.

Three miles off the coast of Belize, near Ambergris Caye, the private island resort of Cayo Espanto beckons. Seven secluded villas, each with its own private dock, open out onto turquoise waters, infinity pools, hammocks, and meticulously raked sand. Five villas are one-bedroom and two are two-bedroom, with one over-water villa that allows you to watch the fish swim underneath your feet. Two dedicated butlers attend to you, offering total privacy until you walkie-talkie them to fulfill your whims.


resorts with covid19 testing


This luxury destination doesn’t come cheap, with all-inclusive rates starting at $1,695 per couple. Another option? Renting out the entire island for a group of up to 18 for around $15,000 a night. This cost includes pampering, with personalized menus crafted by a talented chef and a staff that helps create the most memorable vacation of your life. Every moment is filled with delightful surprises, from arrival (when you’re greeted with champagne) to departure (when you find your dirty laundry washed and folded for packing ease). For off-island adventures, the concierge can arrange epic excursions like a helicopter tour over the Great Blue Hole or an exploration of ancient Mayan ruins.

Find out what other adventures await during a trip to Cayo Espanto, below.

Arrive to the Island With a View

While travel to Cayo Espanto does take a few steps, the resort makes the process seamless. After flying into Belize City, you’ll be greeted by a representative from Cayo Espanto who will escort you onto a local flight aboard Tropic Air to San Pedro, which is about a fifteen minute ride. (A negative COVID-19 test is required to enter Belize, but if you don’t have time to get one in the three days prior to your arrival, you can take a rapid test at the Belize City airport for $50 when you de-plane. You'll also need a negative COVID-19 test before heading back to the States.) Another welcoming face will meet you at San Pedro to direct you to the Cayo Espanto boat for the 10-minute journey to the private island. As soon as Cayo Espanto comes into focus and you spot the island staff lined up to greet you (all in their signature masks, of course), you’ll know you’ve arrived to paradise.

Unwind With a Massage

Start your dream vacation with a massage to relax your muscles after the flights. Whether you choose to have your spa treatment on your private dock, in your villa, or on the beach, the skilled hands of the on-site massage therapist is a heavenly treat.

Snorkel in the Renowned Hol Chan Marine Reserve

About 30 minutes by boat from Cayo Espanto is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a renowned snorkeling site. A guide will point out marine life of interest and ensure that visitors don’t disrupt the protected area. Keep your eye out for spotted eagle rays, turtles, and moray eels as you swim in the warm blue water. Feeling adventurous? Nearby is Shark Ray Alley, where you can swim with nurse sharks.

Climb Ancient Mayan Ruins

Hop on a small plane for a quick flight to Lamanai to explore the Mayan ruins at this historic site. After landing on a dirt runway, climb into a jeep to venture into the rainforest filled with ancient Mayan temples and palaces.

Catch Your Own Lunch

Embark on a day at sea with experienced guides to catch fish and lobster. After you’ve caught your haul, the guides will find a sandy beach to build a fire and grill your fresh catch for lunch. Relax under a swaying palm as you feast on your catch of the day, redefining “sea to table.”

Watch a Movie Under the Stars

Without much nightlife on Cayo Espanto, you might wonder what to do in the evenings. Not to worry—your devoted butlers have a variety of special treats in store, like setting up a private movie theater on the beach. Other nights, you might be surprised by a bonfire or stargazing and s’mores.

Indulge in Daily Feasts

Based on a food preference survey you fill out prior to arrival, your chef at Cayo Espanto will create daily menus to suit your taste. From how you take your coffee in the morning to your perfect four-course dinner, every meal is tailored to you. To mix up your island dining, the butlers can serve your meals in a variety of places: at the end of your dock at sunset, on a secluded beach lit up with candles, or with a good 'ol breakfast in bed.

Fly Over the Great Blue Hole

Belize’s famous Blue Hole is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that's part of the Lighthouse Reef. The extraordinary area was created by a giant underwater sinkhole that extends 407 feet deep. View it from a helicopter, taking off from Cayo Espanto’s own helipad, or go in a small plane with Tropic Air to soak in the views.

If you've fallen in love with Cayo Espanto, book a trip here.

Michelle Stansbury

Michelle Stansbury is a San Diego-based freelance writer who writes about travel, food, and relationships. Misuse of the word "literally" drives her figuratively insane.