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A Private Island – Cayo Espanto 

PLAN TO SPEND A WEEK SOMEWHERE WHERE SHOES ARE NOT NEEDED OR EXPECTED.

Article by Ava Roxanne Stritt

Photography by Ava Roxanne Stritt

It’s the ultimate luxury goal — so incredible it barely seems possible. But this isn’t just a dream. This can be your reality. You can plan a vacation to a private island. Cayo Espanto is private island resort off the coast of Belize where you are surrounded by the blue water and five-star service, whether you just need a serene beachy escape, are looking for the perfect romantic honeymoon destination or want to check “living on a private island” off your bucket list.

The island itself is quaint, stretching a total of four acres. It’s located about three miles away from San Pedro in the Western Caribbean. Expect personalized, five-star attention, with only seven villas total. Each villa is screened and so private that you may go the entire trip without seeing another visitor. I only saw one other couple for a short moment my entire time there from my deck. Here, there are no footprints in the sand, other than your own. If you do make a footprint, a staff member will wipe it clean like magic, keeping the beaches pristine and looking and feeling uniquely untouched.

I am now certain that paradise has coconuts and shells along the beach now. Want to see more of the island? Go to Spa Travel Gal here and see what staying on a private island really look like for someone so lucky.

I arrived in Belize not even a week after spending time in Canada; the difference between the two was amazing. No Blacklane services were needed in Belize at the airport. The island provided numerous people to meet me at each point from when I stepped off the plane, passed the luggage area and landed on San Pedro, all working together to make sure guests never have to wonder where they need to go next to arrive at paradise. Staff was even able to arrange our almost-private Tropic Air flight to leave earlier from Belize City to San Pedro.

Once you land in San Pedro, your houseman meets you at the plane, and you never have to worry about anything at all the rest of your entire trip. The island’s representative adjusted to our schedule; our Delta flight landed early, and we’d carried all of our luggage on the plane, so we were fast through customs with nothing to declare. The representative escorted us directly through customs as if I were the Queen of England. He carried all of our items and walked us right through. We were then escorted to a private golf cart, which brought us to our private boat ride (complete with towels and water on board), which went straight to our villa. Before I even arrived to the island, three different Cayo EspantoA Private Island staff members had already anticipated all of my needs.

The staff on the island was ready for us, even though we were ahead of schedule. Our entire staff was waiting at our private bungalow on our private dock, with their famous, frosty blue drinks in hand. This famous drink is a very secret recipe and tastes as fresh as the island felt. “The Wave” cocktail was a blend of five different kinds of alcohol that immediately relaxed my mind. Here, all cocktails come wrapped in a cloth napkin, so they don’t slip out of your hand, just one of many additional anticipations of their guests’ needs.

Needless to say, this luxe-loving gal was immediately pleased.

In our villa, the bed covered in a mosquito net had the finest sheets known to man - Frette. Even my bedroom slippers were from Frette. My room offered the choice of two different showers: an indoor and a private outdoor shower. I used both each day. The villa streamed any music we desired, provided by an iPad. We had Satellite TV (not that you want to spend this kind of vacation in front of a screen).

Our villa was so private that I never felt the need to put anything away, lock anything up or use the safe. Of course, you can make your own mind up when you arrive, but there’s a true feeling of safety and especially privacy here on a private island.

While on the island, every morning, I woke up to the beautiful music of birds. They sounded so happy on their own private island with unlimited sardines for them to eat. There were literally thousands of little fishies of them right off our deck. I started each day thinking, “This has to be the most glorious day ever.” As I showered, I could still hear the birds serenading me. I went outside to find the lounge chairs positioned in the perfect angle with the most splendid views of paradise, with the towel rolled up for my neck and my favorite refreshing beverage waiting for me. They quickly learn your preferences and anticipate new ones.

Every morning before breakfast, my husband awoke to go fishing off our private dock even before his fishing excursion for the day. He saw bonefish swimming the water right there. Looking off into the ocean at your dock is like having a real, live, private aquarium at your feet, only this is real.

There was something sweet about the moment my husband, as happy as a kid, scampered off to go fishing and told me to have fun in my own personal oasis. Of course I was going to enjoy myself complete with staff and multiple world class luxury spa treatments. All of this without having to leave my serene private island villa.

From Relaxation to Adventure

Everything was on our own schedule. We ate when we wanted to eat. Our houseman, Johnny, knew that I preferred not to rise early as my husband went off to fish. To accommodate that, he brought my breakfast later prepared by the chef to my own preferences. I quickly learned that everything tastes better here — even waffles.

As privacy is a high priority here, staff always “knocks” before entering the area of your villa. I say this with a laugh, since there are no actual walls to knock on, so they have to say, “Knock, knock.” Staying in a room with no walls was novel. At first, you miss having walls. Then, you start wondering why any homes would have walls, with these views and the weather of paradise. Soon, my first thought upon waking was how quickly I could get the doors and walls open and let in the perfection of nature.

At night, the villa can shut and feels almost air-tight to keep you protected from any weather, wind or little bugs that may come out at night. A light under the bed, in case we rose in the night, was another anticipation of our needs.

Relaxation is paramount here, complete with a plunge pool, docks leading out to the water and private beaches. Wander along the sandy walkway through palm trees. We were embraced by over-the-top luxury. Not only were we offered towels to freshen up multiple times a day before dining, but we were actually offered the option of hot or cold towels before dinner.

There’s plenty of action, too, if that’s how you want to vacay. Enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, fly fishing, exploring the barrier reef, windsurfing or sailing, a private cruise, bird-watching, a jungle tour and more. A favorite attraction of mine was to take pictures in “shark alley” as my husband was out swimming around like a fish himself.

A Luxury Spa

Naturally, my favorite way to refresh on the island was the luxurious spa treatments. Cayo Espanto offers massage, manis and pedis, facials, body scrubs, aromatherapy and more, and staff brings the spa right to your villa. One day when my husband was fishing all day, I decided to spend the entire day at my villa with multiple spa treatments. The spa manager, Esmeralda, and therapist, Erica, recommended I try the “chocolate spa treatment.” It only took me one moment to agree with them; they had already anticipated my needs so well, I knew they would recommend the right experience for me. And right it was. I am so thankful they brought to my attention a remarkable indulgent spa treatment that centered around local, indiginous chocolate.

As I relaxed on the deck under an umbrella, after a massage and my own little personal yoga session (yoga mats and bricks are in your closet for your use), I glanced over and saw my houseman, the assistant houseman and a housekeeping quietly and unobtrusively tidying up my villa all at the same time. Yes, this is luxury at a different level.


Island Fresh Food

Food on Cayo Espanto is fresh and catered daily by award-winning chefs to meet your tastes. Take breakfast in bed, if you prefer, or request a candlelit private dinner. Every evening, our chef came to visit us before dinner to check on our requests. The portions were huge, and special requests were welcomed. Fruit was as fresh as when I was a child and ate it at my grandfather’s farm, right off the tree or vine. You could tell the orange juice was fresh and squeezed immediately before serving.

One dish that stood out was the best salad I’d ever tasted: a key lime salad with artichoke hearts. I’ve never liked artichoke hearts before, but these tasted like they were freshly picked, and it made all the difference. In fact, everything in my salad tasted as fresh as possible. The shrimp was amazing, too. Don’t even get me started on the amazing cookies. Everything on the island was top-notch, no matter how simple or refined it was.

Hands down, this private island is also a foodie’s paradise.

Oh, and the coffee. The coffee here is so fresh and tasty that it deserves its own separate acknowledgment. You can tell you are drinking and eating items that originated from the very region you are in.

The tea was delicious, too. Casually mention you like tea, and suddenly staff has planned the perfect afternoon tea for you. Things operate like magic here. How refined, to have a luxurious afternoon tea on a private island on the beach. (See my Instagram photos at @SpaTravelGal of the most romantic dinner here to get the feel of these views yourself.)

Just like the food, every day, every detail is customized for you, from how the beach is set up to how you want your eggs cooked. The staff knows the weather better than any weather app. One day, after knocking, Johnny told us it was going to rain. I looked at my weather app, and it predicted rain in 20 minutes. Johnny said it looked more like 10 minutes. Sure enough, he was right. Johnny appeared moments before even the slightest sprinkle of rain to close the walls of the villa in the direction of the shower. He collected our towels before the rain and replaced them as soon as it ended. My favorite way to enjoy the island after a cool rain was in the hammock.

After a while, I forgot what day of the week it was, but it didn’t matter; we were in paradise, which transcends time. But just in case you have somewhere to be, don’t worry, your houseman will alert you. Most of the time, this vacation was all about doing nothing. And boy, was that fabulous. You pretty quickly adjust to “island time.” The only sign of the outside world is the occasional small airplane in the distance, which only reminds you of the wonderful way you started this journey. I felt like I was on the TV show, “Fantasy Island” (“The plane! The plane!”).

Now, staff is too discreet to announce who has stayed on the grounds of Cayo Espanto, but as a general researcher, I was able to track down some details. I found so many celebrities have stayed here, including Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Ivanka Trump, numerous CEOs and Hollywood producers, Eric Trump and Leonardo DiCaprio. In fact, word is DiCaprio stayed here a long time and loved it so much that he bought a neighboring island. These people know luxury, and that is what you will find at Cayo Espanto: a private island for everyone.

Even so, guess what? This sometimes-high-maintenance gal didn’t fix her hair or wear makeup all week. No hair and makeup is required here. All you need is a bathing suit, a hat and a pair of sunglasses. Johnny even anticipated the sunscreen for me. Throughout the week, I kept losing my sandals, too. But it didn’t really matter. I was without shoes or sandals more that week than any week my entire life. You only need a few things to come to this private island, a passport, an iPhone, Travel Wifi and my trusted myCharge which goes with me everywhere near or far. 

Everyone needs to spend a week somewhere where shoes are not needed or expected.

Just writing about Cayo Espanto is nearly bringing me to tears — tears of happiness, since it was such an amazing trip, and tears of nostalgia that I am not still there. Confession: I actually shed a few tears when I left. A private island has to be the most magnificent way to live.

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