About a month ago, in mid November, Matt and I took a belated anniversary trip to Belize! We spent a week (!) there scuba diving and relaxing and it was the BEST.
Here’s my first recap from the trip, which will be about the food and our adventures while on property at our island resort. My second recap features the amazing scuba diving we did – and here is a link to that post: Scuba Diving in Belize. Read that after this one, though!
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Long time readers may recall that Matt and I love scuba diving. I got certified way back in 2003 on the Great Barrier Reef while studying abroad in Australia, and Matt got certified in 2016 on vacation with me and friends in Malta (<- click for the recap if you want a trip down blog memory lane – that remains one of my absolute favorite of our adventures).
I reignited my passion for scuba diving last summer on a girl’s trip in Turks and Caicos, but the last time Matt and I dove together was in 2017, on Maui in Hawaii. Ever since then we’ve talked about how we wanted to do a diving-specific vacation, but between two pregnancies and the pandemic, life recently hadn’t exactly aligned to make space for that sort of trip.
Six years and two kids later, and we decided the time for a diving-specific trip adventure was finally now.
Early this year when we started looking into location options, I knew just the place. Way back in 2015 I read an article in the travel section of the Washington Post about the amazing sounding diving at a resort on a tiny island in Belize. I was captivated by the article and decisively added the resort to my long running “travel bucket list” note on my phone.
After looking into it a little more, Matt and I decided to go for it! We chose the timing, lined up his parents to babysit (MASSIVE thank you to them for making this trip possible!), booked the trip, and, after many months of anticipation, we found ourselves arriving at beautiful Turneffe Island Resort in Belize.
Staying at Turneffe Island Resort in Belize
We decided to go all in and book a 7 night stay, but opted to do the 3 day (rather than 6 day) dive package as we figured we’d want a couple days to relax as well. This ended up working out really well for us, especially since we were able to add an additional night dive on one of our otherwise low key days, and as snorkeling was available twice per day on an add-on basis as well. I’ll talk a lot about the diving in my next recap post – stay tuned!
Turneffe Island Resort is situated on a 14-acre private island, and its focus on diving, snorkeling, and fishing attracts those who like a side of adventure with their tropical relaxation. It also has a big focus on sustainability and being eco-conscious, which we loved – for example, they utilize solar for much of their power, and they are certified with Green Globe, the global certification for sustainable tourism.
It took us a full day to get there (and back), and involved taking two flights (from DC to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Belize City), then a shuttle to the waterfront in Belize City, and then a 1.5 hour boat ride to the island, but it was well worth the effort and long travel day.
(And honestly once you have kids I feel like a long travel day without your kids with you kind of feels like a vacation because you can just relax and read or watch a movie or whatever and chill…)
There are only 22 guest rooms (in a mix of joined cottages + private villas) at the resort, and guests must arrive/depart on either a Saturday or a Wednesday, which are the two days their boat goes to Belize City and back to drop off and pick up guests. This was really nice because we were with the same people for most of the week; it gave the whole resort a really intimate and almost summer camp-esque vibe because you get to know and recognize the others staying there pretty quickly.
Here was our view pulling up via boat. It was rainy when we landed in Belize City that day, but thankfully the rain held off once we got on the boat!
We arrived at Turneffe Island in time for dinner on that Saturday in mid-November. Here was our cute little cabin (picture taken the next morning when it was sunny) – it was a duplex with people staying on the other side of it as well. This was the cheapest room option available at the resort (the “deluxe guest room”) and while the walls were a little thin, it was overall very lovely and comfortable! We especially loved the outdoor shower.
Meals at Turneffe Island Resort
Turneffe Island Resort is all inclusive (with the exception of alcohol), so all meals were included which made things easy and it was nice to not have to worry about carrying a wallet around the island. The vibe in general is very casual even though it’s a nice resort; people would routinely show up barefoot to meals, for example, and I didn’t wear a single bit of makeup the entire week and it was lovely.
There are a mix of table sizes in the outdoor and indoor dining areas, with some larger tables that encourage you to socialize if you want to, but there were also some two person tables available as well. Especially since almost everyone at the resort is into diving, it was really fun swap adventure stories with some of the other divers from our group and other groups. Matt and I mixed it up between eating just the two of us and dining with others!
The food at the resort was delicious, too! Since it’s such a small resort, there is only one dining room (plus an outdoor dining deck), and the meals are all pre-set. Sometimes there was a choice of two options, but most often it was one set thing (with the exception of breakfast where you can order from more options) and served at a set time.
I actually really liked this because as a parent I am pretty much always burned out from making decisions all day, and it was nice to just show up to meals and see what they would serve us! We were able to submit any dietary requirements ahead of time if necessary, though, and they could accommodate that.
You also had the same waiter the entire time you were there, which Matt and I really liked, too (shout out to Christian – Chris – who was ours, he was awesome and always remembered our names and preferences!).
Breakfast was served from 7 to 9 (if you went on the later end you were basically there alone because everyone leaves the property around 8/8:30 each morning to go diving or fishing), lunch was at 12:30 and dinner was at 7 (with a happy hour and appetizers starting at 6 at the outdoor pool bar).
When meals were ready the staff in the dining area would ring a big bell to alert everyone on the island – it’s that small that you could hear the bell anywhere!
Breakfasts at Turneffe Island Resort
There was an indoor dining room as well as an outdoor deck, and Matt and I often ate outside if the weather allowed. November is the end of the rainy season in Belize (whoops, didn’t realize that), but we got pretty lucky that the rainstorms were short and sporadic the first half of the week, and by the second half of the week we got lucky with sunshine.
There was a little buffet-style spread of fresh fruit (the papaya and watermelon were so good) every morning available to choose from, and then you could also order from the menu for a full breakfast.
I had the same breakfast every single day we were there because it was so good – an omelette with every veggie they had as well as salsa (SO good in an omelette), a side of bacon and toast, and a single shot of espresso.
It was perfection, especially with the view. Leisurely breakfasts are the best. Even the days we were going diving first thing we got to breakfast in time to relax and savor the meal before getting ready to go dive which was so nice.
Lunches at Turneffe Island Resort
With the exception of Tuesday, which is the big day where the divers all go dive the Blue Hole (about a 1.5 hour boat ride away), we were always back at the resort in between any diving adventures in time for lunch at 12:30.
The lunches were great, and days you were extra hungry you could ask for an additional portion or half portion if it wasn’t enough, which was nice. Especially the days we were diving a ton I found myself starving by lunch so I did that quite often. They also had a dessert option available after lunch every day if you were interested – usually Matt and I shared because I only ever want a bite (I am much more of a savory palate person vs. sweet).
I didn’t get photos of all the lunches, but here are a few! One day we had shrimp tostadas – this was one of my favorite meals; it was so good I asked for seconds. You can’t really see it but there’s a black bean spread on the tortilla – so good.
Another day we had fresh tortillas, rice and beans, and a delicious saucy chicken (or maybe it was pork? can’t remember, but it was good) and plantain dish.
There were a decent number of salads for lunch too which was nice – this one had chicken, black beans, avocado and veggies.
Another day we had a yummy cioppino (a tomato-based fish stew) with salad and fresh bread.
Happy Hour at Turneffe Island Resort
Every evening at 6 there was a happy hour with appetizers available (something different every night) at the pool bar.
Some of the appetizers we had were chips and queso, olive tapenade with toast, chips and guacamole, and – our personal favorite – lionfish ceviche, made using lionfish some of the guys we were diving with had caught on our dive earlier that day! Talk about fresh…
Lionfish is an invasive species so you are encouraged to kill it if you dive with a spear and see it (Matt and I don’t have spears, but some of the guys diving with us – including our divemaster – had spears and it made the dives very exciting – more on that in my next post)!
Happy hours were nice because we had a lovely sunset to go along with the view!
After some snacks and chatting with the other guests, Matt and I would typically take our drinks and walk around a bit to enjoy the sunset views.
I think the photo below was our second to last night – the best sunset! So pretty. It got clearer and less rainy/stormy towards the end of our week.
Dinners at Turneffe Island Resort
I didn’t get many dinner photos because we usually ate outside and it was dark so the photos wouldn’t have turned out very well, plus I often enjoyed leaving my phone back at the room. Dinners were yummy, though, and there was a dessert option available after dinner every night, too!
Dinners included lots of fish, of course, which I enjoyed, although they also often had a meat option if you weren’t interested in the fish, which made Matt happy.
One night we had a really delicious chicken with a bean soup, rice, veggies, and plantains.
On Friday night on the island, they always host a big grilled BBQ dinner! Here are the huge grills they use:
This was a fun way to close out our trip. Instead of eating in the dining room or on the dining deck, the staff pull picnic tables out next to the water and you dine on the beach.
We loved it and had fun chatting with a cool couple around our age from Pittsburgh while we ate. Most of the guests were American but there were some Canadians as well.
The spread they had that night was amazing! Here’s a tiny bit of it – to the left where you can’t see there’s a lot more including BBQ chicken and ribs.
The sunset our last night was gorgeous, too, as were the stars.
After dinner on Friday night there was an official hermit crab race down on the sand! Each guest who wanted to found a hermit crab to race (there were a lot of them wandering around the island), and whoever’s reached the finish line first won a free drink at the bar. 🙂
Too fun! Ours didn’t win but we enjoyed the show!
Hanging Out Around the Resort
On the days we weren’t spending the majority of the day diving, Matt and I stuck around the resort during the day. Given that most of the people staying at the resort were there for diving or fishing, we pretty much had the resort totally to ourselves on those days – it was amazing!
After breakfast, we typically parked ourselves under one of the big cabanas along the water and relaxed and read the morning away. We didn’t want to get fried by the sun so the shade was perfect!
This was another of our favorite spots – it was like a hanging bed:
When we got tired of reading and sitting, we took a walk (the island is quite small, but it was still fun to explore).
We also visited the spa twice for a couples massage which was lovely!
I also went for a swim a couple of the days in the sea, although there was a lot of sea grass so it wasn’t the best – there was not really a true “beach” at the resort.
There was a pool, though! I did some swimming and relaxing in there too which was nice.
We felt like the only thing the island was missing was a hot tub! Some of the fancier accommodations (the villas) have their own hot tubs, but for those of us that didn’t have one at our room it would have been nice to have as an option, especially earlier in our trip when it was cooler and windier out.
Besides walking and swimming, we also took out kayaks (included for free – they also have paddle-boards) a couple times and kayaked around the whole island. It only took about 20 or 30 minutes, but with the wind it was quite challenging one of the directions!
It was really fun to explore and see the island by sea.
We also went out with the snorkelers one afternoon (this was an additional expense, but worth it). They offer snorkeling at the resort twice per day – morning and afternoon – and a small speedboat will take snorkelers out a few minutes from the island to the gorgeous reef nearby. We loved it and saw a ton of beautiful fish and even a sleeping nurse shark on the bottom!
What a great week. Thanks for reading! And here is another link to part 2 of our adventures (including diving the amazing Blue Hole, and so many gorgeous reef dives with lots of sharks!): Scuba Diving in Belize.