Archive for the Category »Belize «

Feb
21st
  Hotel of the Week: It’s a Winner Despite the Reader’s Choice Award – in Belize

Trip Advisor just came out with it’s Reader’s Choice awards for 2014…. Which means Trip Advisor users rated their top 25 favorite hotels, cities, islands, etc.

This is a catchy way to highlight certain destinations that’s for sure, and it alerts the traveler to new places. However, treat these and all “awards” like you would perfume: Smell it, but don’t drink it.

See… I did a story recently on “Travel Detective,” the travel news show on PBS stations. I reported about the exaggerated reviews discovered on Trip Advisor. As a matter of fact, my production team and I submitted false reviews to see if they would get published, and they were.  I also report in my story that sometimes hotel guests were offered upgrades in exchange for a review on Trip Advisor.

So – absorb these awards with that knowledge. Also – the award winning recipients, while may be great places, might not be THE place for your tastes.

Ambergris Caye, Belize from iha.com

Ambergris Caye, Belize from iha.com

With that being said, the island that did get top honors for Best Island is very pretty… with some of the most gorgeous waters I’ve seen. It is
Ambergris Caye, Belize Cayes.

Belize is a country on the northeastern coast of Central America. It is bordered on the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala, and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize.

Cayo Espanto Resort, Belize from Tripadvisor.com

Cayo Espanto Resort, Belize from Tripadvisor.com

I stayed there when I was shooting one of my favorite shows for the Travel Channel – “Islands For Rent” and the resort? Cayo Espanto.

Caye Espanto Private Island Resort

Caye Espanto Private Island Resort

The resort stands out in my mind because after I was greeted by the staff all lined up on the dock, I rarely ever  saw another human the entire time I was there.

Cayo Espanto Villa in Belize

Cayo Espanto Villa in Belize

My husband and I stayed a few extra days after my shoot, and I can attest to the the “private” in “private island resort.” It feels more like you are renting a small guesthouse on a deserted island, rather than staying at a hotel.

Cayo Espanto Villa from luxurylatinamerica.com

Cayo Espanto Villa from luxurylatinamerica.com

There are only 7 guest bungalows, some right on the beach, 6 of them with private plunge pools…

Private dining on our deck

Private dining on our deck

Ours had a private deck where breakfast…

Cayo Espanto private dining

Cayo Espanto private dining

and dinner were served.

Kayaking, from www.somoscentroamerica.com

Kayaking, from www.somoscentroamerica.com

You can lounge around all day… or kayak, and dive.

Dive or snorkel with the rays

Dive or snorkel with the rays

A thrilling experience for me – I went scuba diving with manta rays….

Fishing in Belize

Fishing in Belize

And fishing too.

My crew and I at Cayo Espanto

My crew and I at Cayo Espanto

My crew and I experienced some of the bluest water we’ve ever seen.

There is a spa too… and the resort will set up a private picnic for two at a neighboring island. The chef made fresh ceviche in front of my eyes.

Xunantunich Ruins, Belize from Belize.escapeartists.com

Xunantunich Ruins, Belize from Belize.escapeartists.com

In terms of sight seeing, there’s not much to do. You can take a charter tour to the main land of Belize and see the ruins and a jaguar reserve (which sounds pretty cool!) but that’s extra…. You pretty much have to be the type of person who is able to relax to come here, and you’d better like your travel companion. It’s a good place for honeymooners if a quiet island with no nightlife is your thing. It is easy to travel there – less than two hours from Miami and Houston.

Other islands on the Trip Advisor list strike me as just as pretty also…. Bora Bora? Of course! But if you do want something very different – more quiet than the larger resorts, in an area with very little development – than you may want to look into Cayo Espanto if you have a big pocketbook… prices per night are around $1600.

www.aprivateisland.com

 
Aug
11th
  Ever Dream of Spending a Week on a Beautiful Deserted Island with Every Amenity Possible?

It’s a dirty job, but someone had to do it.

See the latest in therapeutic spa treatments on your own private island…”Islands For Rent” airs this Saturday August 13 at 3PM E/P time on the Travel Channel…(some Time Warner customers on Pacific time may see it air at 6PM.) You won’t believe some of these islands – turquoise blue water, and no one else around.

 
May
26th
  Where the Rich and Famous Go…

http://www.tracygallagher.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/img_0020.jpg

If you can’t go where the A-listers go, at least it is fun to learn about the gorgeous destinations… and even better, watch them on TV!!

This weekend one of my favorite shows I ever hosted is on the Travel Channel Sunday at 12 noon. It is called “Islands for Rent”… and is about – you guessed it, private islands you can rent for you and 10 of your best friends. Or maybe all you need is one.

From Fiji… to the British Virgin Islands…. to Belize…there are some mind-blowingly gorgeous little atolls in the middle of turquoise blue. One featured in the show is Richard Branson’s Necker Island. Pure paradise – I was pinching myself the whole time I was there because at about $200,000 a week, I knew I probably wouldn’t be back. This is where Oprah, Steven Speilberg, Mel Gibson have all reportedly stayed. I remember a funny story – the staff told me they will never say no to any guest’s request… however the one time they did say no was when a nudist colony rented the island, and asked all the staff to bare all also.

One of my personal favorite private islands is Lalati  in Fiji. Affordable too – just a trek to get there.

You can learn about all these indulgent escapes by armchair traveling this Sunday at 12 noon Eastern and Pacific… on the Travel Channel. Set your TIVOS. Just in time for summer.

I think it is time for “Islands for Rent II” !!!

 
Oct
15th
  Hotel of the Week: A Heavenly Haven in Hollywood

Found a cute little gem of a place in Hollywood this week when I was on a shoot there. Petit Ermitage is a boutique hotel, with a Bohemian vibe.  The lovely garden cafe and rooftop pool  is a must for your next date, if you’re a local. But – it is a “members only” club, so you need to book a room in order to eat there. I don’t love that sort of  ”too cool” policy, give me a break. However, the food looks tasty, and the atmosphere, sublime.

European in feel, the hotel has all suites  - and, you know what makes me happy in a hotel – FREE WiFi! It is located on a neighborood street near Sunset Blvd – a very central location to explore the hipper side of Los Angeles.

Butterfly Bar at the Petit Ermitage

What it lacks in top luxury it makes up for in personality…a cute, ethinc-y bar (Butterfly Bar) and a heck of an art collection! I was admiring all the prints in the hallways, when I had a moment to stop and look at the artist’s name  - There were at least 20 Rauschenbergs just on the floor on which I was shooting. The hotel also has works from Miro, De Kooning, and Dali – all from a private collection. And did I mention the cookies waiting for you at the front desk?

Le Petit Ermitage, Hollywood, CA

Getting back to my favorite part of the hotel – the rooftop pool and garden.

There is a lovely fireplace with big couches and chairs to lounge… and the bar is right off the garden. It takes a romantic turn at night…

It is becoming a chic hang out – quiet, and with a view of the Hollywood HIlls. (Of course, our set in the below phoeo is not normally part of the view.)

I love that it is away from the main LA traffic. The photographer with whom I was working lives nearby and said he takes his girlfriend there for dinner and then stays the night. I love the thought of getting away from it all by walking there. Quite quaint.

Have a great weekend – and if you don’ t live near Petit Ermitage, maybe it’s time to follow the photgrapher’s lead discover a neighborhood getaway next to you :)

www.petithermitage.com

 
Jul
31st
  Hotel of the Week: Your Own Private Island in Belize

I admit it. Many of the places I have been with my job are NOT for the budget traveler. But that doesn’t mean we all can’t dream a little, right?

Cayo Espanto…a private island resort on Ambergris Caye in Belize,  is one of those dream-worthy places. This little island is home to seven small villas..one of them an over water bungalow…all secluded from each other.

My Bungalow at Cayo Espanto

You feel like you have the island to yourself – or you really can: rent the whole island for 18 of your BFFS  - for $18,000 a night.

When I was there I never saw another guest except once when I was kayaking around the island. It is a quiet, beautiful place located on the seriously clear blue waters of the world’s second largest barrier reef. Our villa had it’s own private outdoor dipping pool.

There is plenty to do there….fishing…

Snorkeling..and scuba diving. The rays come right up to you!

There is a nice spa at Cayo – the treatments come to you. I had a relaxing outdoor massage with a tropical mud that was supposed to cleanse my skin.

We also took a short boat ride to a completely desolate island, where the staff made us a picnic lunch…including the best ceviche with freshly caught fish.

That’s only if you want complete/guaranteed privacy…. You truly do feel like you are the only ones at Cayo Espanto – which actually was a little hard to get used to . The staff was very discrete and left you alone, and we didn’t eat in a big dining room with other guests – the chef actually prepared a meal on our dock.

Belize is located on the Yucatan Peninsula…and has Mayan ruins nearby – if you can drag yourself away from paradise. It is a relatively poor country, and you see that making your way to Cayo Espanto…which may make it harder to shell out the $1000 and more a night that this relaxing retreat charges guests. The price does include meals and drinks…..On your radar? Airfare from most major east and west coast cities is around $500 round trip. Keep the kids at home this trip…

www.aprivateisland.com

Have a great weekend!