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A charming, sleepy Caribbean-fronting nation, Belize is refreshingly devoid of massive resorts and big name chains (for the most part). Instead, you’ll find plenty of inns and private villas tucked away from civilization where you can swing in a hammock while looking out at the sea. Take the kids, or leave them at home. Finding the perfect place to stay is rarely this easy. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the best places to stay in Belize.
1. Turtle Inn. Film director Francis Ford Coppola acquired this quaint collection of 26 Balinese-inspired huts lining the beach in southern Belize’s Placencia just months before it was destroyed by Hurricane Iris in 2001. It reopened two years later, with the cottages recreated to capture the same bohemian charm they always had (while there are no TVs or air conditioning, the charming rooms are streamlined and chic, with fully stocked complimentary mini-bars and locally sourced organic bath products), and the addition of two restaurants and a spa.
2. Cayo Espanto. Three miles off the coast of Ambergris Caye lies the luxurious, romantic Cayo Espanto. On a practically deserted island, the hotel offers private villas, swimming pools and personal butlers, making this one of the most intimate — and expensive — accommodations in Belize.
3. Belcampo Belize. If you find yourself in southern Belize’s Toledo District, don’t miss an opportunity to stay in one of Belcampo’s 12 suites with terracotta flooring and a private veranda. One of the country’s most luxurious eco-hotels, the lodge lines the back a hill, built in the heart of a 15,000-acre rainforest reserve.
4. Azul Resort. Spread out in a private villa at the all-inclusive Azul Resort in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. The 20-ft.-high ceilings, rooftop space, infinity pool, loungey dining areas and 400-ft.-wide stretch of sandy coastline at your doorstep are worth the price tag.
5. Victoria Lodge. With just 42 rooms, this exclusive retreat on Ambergris Caye is a place to retreat to and check out (some rooms are TV free). The thatched-roof casitas are romantic and secluded, with four-poster beds and streamlined local hardwood furnishings.