Beachfront villa property right on a lovely stretch of swimmable beach
Multi-bedroom villas with full kitchens, flat-screen TVs, and air-conditioning
Tiled pool with walk-up bar surrounded by cushioned lounge chairs and gardens
Waterfront restaurant has lots of outdoor seating and happy-hour drink specials
Free welcome fruit or rum punch and cold towel upon arrival
On-site dive shop and full-service spa
Oceanfront beach volleyball court
Free roundtrip airport transportation
No free drinking water or coffee for in-room coffee machines
Breaker wall separates sandy waterfront from ocean
Many villas are dated and overdue for an update
No elevators to reach second-floor suites
The Villas at Banyan Bay is a three-pearl beachfront resort with a swimmable sandy beach -- that's no small feat on the frequently sea-grass-filled shores of Ambergris Caye. Its 42 villas are a mix of modern and dated two- and three-bedroom units with full kitchens, living rooms, and mahogany accents. The big, three-tiered freshwater pool is surrounded by loungers and has a walk-up pool bar. Set on a pier next to the ocean, the resort’s restaurant/bar serves tasty international and local cuisines and we love the happy hour drink specials. There aren’t many freebies, but the resort’s sister property next door has free kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Those looking for more modern rooms and lots of freebies at a similar price-point should consider White Sands Cove Resort as an alternative.
A quiet and convenient resort that's popular with middle-aged couples
Villas at Banyan Bay opened in 1997 and is the sister property to the more upmarket Grand Colony Island Villas, located next door. Banyan Bay is cheaper than its younger sibling and maybe because of that fact, it's not quite as polished. The double-high lobby has marble floors and a beautiful, vaulted mahogany ceiling that's a fine place to kick back with the free rum punch and cold towel offered upon arrival. The main common areas have the look of a fairly high-end home, but unfortunately not all of the rooms live up to that impression. Grounds are lush and grassy, with blossoming flowers like fragrant jasmine plus palm trees lining the resort’s cement and tile walkways. There are also lots of iguanas -- at least one the size of a cat -- sunning themselves near the pool. The three-tiered pool is quiet and calm, and many of the guests -- usually couples between 25 and 50 -- drape towels on the lounge chairs and disappear ... for hours. However, we did see at least a few taking advantage of the walk-up pool bar, helping to animate things just a bit. We also loved watching the family of eels swim around in a tide pool right next to the restaurant while sipping on one of the bar's happy-hour specials.
Restaurants, grocery stores, and bakery within walking distance; a 10-minute drive to San Pedro
The resort's location is fairly convenient by Ambergris Caye standards, particularly for those who want to be within striking distance of San Pedro. Banyan Bay is a 10-minute drive south of town, which is Ambergris Caye’s buzzing transit hub and commercial heart. It's far enough from town to skip the bustle, yet a three-minute walk to restaurants, grocery stores, and an Irish bakery. There’s also a pharmacy a five-minute walk away. For a taste of traditional Belizean culture and cuisine, the Garifuna Cultural Entertainment Center serves up tasty Garifuna cuisine and hosts cultural shows a 10-minute walk away. The Maya people used to live on the island and historic ruins can be visited at the Marco Gonzalez Maya site, a 10-minute drive from the resort. The island's top two diving and snorkeling spots -- Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley -- are each 10-minute boat rides from the resort. Secret Beach, the island’s best beach, is a bumpy 50-minute drive from the resort, though it's not exactly a secret any more. It will take less than 10 minutes by taxi to reach the San Pedro Airport, and free round-trip airport transfers are included in the price of the hotel.
A mix of renovated and dated rooms with flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, and balconies
Banyan Bay’s two- and three-bedroom villas are individually owned and managed by the resort -- which means they’re not created equal. It can even seem like corners were cut in some of the more modern rooms, and some include dated details like patterned bedspreads, tacky oil paintings, and worn furniture. Villas have bright interiors with tan walls, wooden accents, and glass-topped dining tables. The second-floor units also have vaulted mahogany ceilings. Expect air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs with premium channels, and private balconies with pool or ocean views. Full kitchens have Corian or tiled counters with colorful tile backsplashes; they include electric ranges, microwaves, blenders, coffee makers, and toasters. Other standard features include safes and ironing facilities. Wi-Fi is free, but can be spotty depending on one's location within the villa.
Bedrooms have either king, queen, or two twin beds plus ceiling fans, flat-screen or tube TVs, and mahogany furniture and accents. Master bathrooms have tiled walls with whirlpool bathtubs and stand-up showers. The brightly-colored Talavera sinks are a nice local touch in otherwise unremarkably styled rooms. Amenities include shampoo, conditioner, bar soap, lotion, and built-in hair driers. Towels in some rooms were stained and should be replaced.
Sandy oceanfront, freshwater pool with walk-up pool bar, dive shop, restaurant, and spa
Banyan Bay has a great beach for Ambergris Caye. The sandy waterfront is relatively free of sea grass, unlike many of the island's other beaches, meaning that it's swimmable. Lounge chairs are set up on the wide stretch of white sand, but it should be noted that a breaker wall separates the beach from the ocean. There’s also an oceanfront sandy beach volleyball court.
The resort’s three-level freshwater pool is surrounded by a tile deck and padded lounge chairs. It has a shallow area that's great for kids and a walk-up pool bar with built-in stools. Free kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available at Grand Colony, Banyan Bay’s sister property that's a three-minute walk down the beach.
Belize Pro Dive Shop has daily trips to diving and snorkeling spots around the island and to locations farther afield like the Blue Hole. Nearby, the oceanfront Rico’s Bar and Grill serves tasty Belizean and international cuisines and hosts barbecue night on Tuesdays and Saturdays. They also offer happy-hour drink specials. Wi-Fi is free at the resort, and the hotel runs a free round-trip airport transfer service.
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