Beyond the Blue Hole: Exploring Ambergris Caye, Belize

Forget what you saw in Steven Spielberg’s cult thriller Jaws. Just because you’re going to a place with a daunting name like Shark Ray Alley doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get into the water upon arrival. Even though there will be sharks…lots of sharks. 

After an unforgettable time spotting stingrays, turtles and all kinds of tropical fish while snorkelling along a reef off the coast of Ambergris Caye, we arrived at our next destination — Shark Ray Alley — classified as Zone D of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. “You can go in if you dare,” my guide from Xsite Belize Sailing & Adventures said with a mischievous smile, gearing up to follow me in. 

“Aren’t these nurse sharks?” I asked. “I heard they’re docile creatures,” I stated confidently — more so to reassure myself. From the surface I could only see a few nurse sharks circling around the catamaran but after jumping into the water everything truly came to life.

Through my goggles, I could see dozens of nurse sharks and hundreds of fish swimming around me.

“It’s very safe. The crew guides you while you are here. We do it every day,” reassured Tammy Lemus, the owner of Xsite Belize Sailing & Adventures. They may be dubbed harmless, but as I made eye contact with several of these creatures that average 7.5-9 ft. in length up close, I still felt a bit of a lump forming in my throat. 

“Shark Ray Alley, part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, became famous in the 1990s. Historically, this 1,280-acre protected region is where local fishermen cleaned their catches, attracting a variety of marine life, particularly nurse sharks and southern stingrays,” said Anthony Mahler, Belize’s minister of tourism and diaspora relations. “Over time, these animals grew accustomed to the presence of humans and began to frequent the area, creating a unique opportunity for close encounters.”

Hanging around Ambergris Caye

While Ambergris Caye is often thought of as an ideal spot for day trips to the Blue Hole, there’s so much more to see and experience on this laidback island. Here, part of the charm is getting around in a golf cart, the primary mode of transportation.

The destination offers the perfect mix of a relaxed beach getaway with nightlife and delicious dining.

To get a taste of some of the best dishes in San Pedro Town, embark on a walking foodie tour with Belize Food Tours. Take the tour early on in your visit so you gain a list of delicious places you can come back to during your stay.

The stops are very diverse from Elvi’s Kitchen, a popular tourist spot named after Elvi Staines, which has flourished from humble beginnings as a take-out stand for burgers in 1974, to off-the-beaten path places serving up delicious fresh ceviche and Pupuseria Salvadoreno, an authentic spot for Salvadorian pupusas.

Two ways to stay


As you pull into the hotel area, a road sign reads Welcome to Caribeville, Population: happy. This sets the tone for Grand Caribe Belize, a beachfront property with six pools and a swim up bar offering luxury, condo-style accommodations.

As suites come complete with kitchens, this is a great option for long stays. The hotel is within walking distance to the Truck Stop, an outdoor eatery with food trucks and a great vibe. A tasty onsite option is the rooftop Rain restaurant. For breakfast, we recommend trying the Belizean specialty known as fry jacks as a side.


For the ultimate in luxury, Alaia Belize is the first true four-diamond resort on the island. The boutique resort opened in 2021 and spans over 20 acres with 155 luxurious guest rooms and suites, including two and three-bedroom villas.

For those who like to dive, Alaia Belize allows guests to receive a PADI certification onsite. The resort boasts the country’s first-ever suspended rooftop pool and lounge. The property is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection.

This story first appeared in the Summer 2024 issue of OFFSHORE. To subscribe to the print magazine, click here

Resort Report

With cold weather in full swing and Canadian winter just around the corner, a sunny escape down south is long overdue. Many sun-soaked destinations have been busy this past year and a half, and have quietly opened, or are all set to open a series of striking new hotels and resorts. From adults-only getaways, to family-friendly adventures, here are seven breathtaking, luxurious five-star properties to keep an eye on.

Story by Christine Hogg


Hotel Xcaret Arte, from Grupo Xcaret, officially opened on July 1, 2021. Located in Riviera Maya, Cancun, this adults-only hotel (welcoming guests 16 years and older) features 900 artisanal suites that were carefully curated to reflect the traditional arts of Mexico.

At Hotel Xcaret Arte, guests can enjoy the brand’s signature “All-Fun Inclusive” which offers hotel guests unlimited access to Grupo Xcaret’s parks and exciting experiences including roundtrip transportation to the parks, hotels, and airport. The hotel’s ecointegrated design and architecture pays homage to Mexican art in its various iterations, highlighting the most important symbols and artistic expressions of Mexico’s culture through the creation of six distinct Casas. Casa de los Artistas will inspire guests to paint, Casa del Diseño, a textile workshop, offers weaving lessons, Casa de la Música holds dance lessons, Casa de la Pirámide explores Mexico’s rich and diverse pottery traditions, Casa del Patrón will serve as the resort’s main event and convention space, and Casa de la Paz offers cooking workshops.

Gastronomy is a large focal point, which is heightened by the sheer talent that can be found in the resort’s nine restaurants, and includes cuisine served by 3-Star Michelin chef Paco Méndez who is behind the menu at Encanta. Hotel Xcaret Arte also has two convention centres and an entertainment stage that can host between 1,140 and 2,065 people, as well as a chapel facing the Mexican Caribbean that seats 120 guests.


Situated on 44 acres within the Santa Barbara private estate, an exclusive 3,000-acre protected preserve, Sandals Royal Curaçao is slated to open Apr. 14, 2022. The luxury resort has undergone $72 million in developments and is conveniently located just 15 miles from the airport. Its three oceanfront wedding venues and an admirable west-facing position captures the allure of one of the Caribbean’s most spectacular sunsets, making it a highly sought-after spot for couples looking to tie the knot.

With 351 luxurious rooms and suites in 24 room categories, Sandals Royal Curaçao debuts two new signature suite categories, the Awa Seaside Butler Bungalows and Kurason Island Poolside Butler Bungalows, complete with tranquility soaking tubs, private pools, and butler service. In true Sandals fashion, guests gain access to complementary convertible MINI Coopers to drive around and do some sightseeing on the island. Sandals Royal Curaçao will also be home to the brand’s first Dos Awa infinity pool with views overlooking the sea and the rugged mountain landscape, and The Duchess, Sandals’ first-ever floating restaurant and bar, constructed from a 92-foot authentic Dutch ship with nine on-site 5-Star Global Gourmet restaurants. Couples can also dine on-the-go at three new beachside gourmet food trucks offering traditional Curaçao fare, Spanish tapas, and Asian fusion, or grab a drink at any of the resort’s 10 unique bars. Sandals Royal Curacao will also feature a luxurious Red Lane Spa with six outdoor spa cabanas and treatment rooms; expansive pools; access to the neighboring 18-hole Pete Dye championship golf course; 38,000-square-feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, the largest on the island two on-site marinas and 70 dive sites. (


Set to open in late 2022, the all ages Six Senses La Sagesse in St. David’s, Grenada, marks the luxury brand’s debut in the Caribbean. Located on the southern part of the island and 15 minutes from Grenada’s airport, Six Senses La Sagesse features a resort and residences that are spread over 38 acres and include stunning views of the turquoise sea, thanks to two beaches. The resort will offer 56 guestrooms, seven one-bedroom and five two-bedroom oceanfront villas. For those who yearn to extend their stay, a selection of three- and four-bedroom greenroofed residences are available to purchase. Each has a 56-foot horizon-edge pool and wrap-around pool decks. Six Senses La Sagesse will feature a community hub (the Experience Center) where guests of the resort can go to book spa treatments from Six Senses Spa at La Sagesse, which will offer a menu of specialty spa and beauty treatments using indigenous plants and traditional practices.
Several sensory dining experiences await from several eateries on site, including a signature restaurant which will serve a mix of local, Creole-inspired dishes including plant based and locally foraged menus. In a nod to sustainability, Six Senses La Sagesse will bottle all of its own water from a water bar, and all of the ingredients for the restaurants and spa will be picked from the kitchen gardens, herb gardens, and native fruit trees found on property, and seafood will be sourced from local fishermen.



Alaia Belize opened in the historic district of San Pedro, Belize in May 2021, marking Marriott International’s first-ever luxury boutique resort in Belize. A part of the Autograph Collection Hotels, Alaia Belize spans more than 20 acres and rests on more than 1,000 feet of direct beachfront access. The resort is a 155-unit complex, ranging from studios to three bedrooms, including eight oceanfront villas. All of the rooms were done in natural colour schemes to complement the ocean views, and offer an average of 1,200 square feet indoors and almost 900 square feet in open air, per unit. Alaia Belize is the first true four-diamond resort on Ambergris Caye. Raising the luxury bar in Belize, the resort complex is also home to Belize’s first-ever suspended rooftop pool and lounge with 360-degree views. Other amenities include a dive shop that also allows guests to receive a PADI certification onsite, the K’in Spa & Wellness Center, a piano bar with a self-playing baby grand piano, a kids’ club, adventure concierge, swimming pools with live DJs, and branded golf carts and bicycles available to book. Alaia Belize has five restaurants including Sea Salt, where the freshly-caught fish of the day is the main event, as well as the Vista Rooftop, which offers 360-degree views of the Caribbean and small plates and cocktails. A spa, beach club, wedding venue, and beach club are all found on the property.


The Ritz-Carlton Turks & Caicos made its grand seaside debut on the world famous Grace Bay in Providenciales in June 2021. Keeping the region’s natural beauty in mind, endemic local cacti, sisals, and sponges are thoughtfully incorporated in the hotel’s surroundings. The resort features
147 refined ocean-view guest rooms, including 23 suites, which show off the remarkable turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
The Ritz-Carlton, Turks & Caicos also offers five three-story penthouse suites with private rooftop plunge pools and endless horizon views. A signature Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge offers an exclusive sanctuary that features private check-in, a dedicated Club Concierge, and multiple culinary presentations throughout the day, in addition to dedicated service at the beach. The Ritz-Carlton Turks & Caicos has an extensive array of amenities, including an adults-only pool with private cabanas and a recreation pool, both set within lush tropical landscapes. The resort also has its own private catamaran, the Lady Grace, which lets guests explore beyond the shores, while activities such yoga on the beach are also available. A signature Ritz-Carlton Spa with an holistic approach to wellness offers therapies inspired by the calming power of the ocean and treatments that embrace indigenous plants. As far as dining goes, Coralli features cuisine prepared with a local flair, while BLT
Steak offers modern steakhouse fare. The Lobby Lounge provides the
ultimate spot to wind down with a handcrafted cocktail in the evening
and offers spectacular views of Grace Bay.(


Opening November 2021, Ocean Eden Bay by H10 Hotels is a new five-star, adults-only resort located in Montego Bay, Jamaica. There are seven room categories available including swim-up and rooftop suites. The sea-facing resort grants guests access to a spectacular white sand beach and features modern rooms, a large swimming pool with bar service, and a wide range of dining options, including an exclusive dinner-show restaurant with themed
performances, the Senses Dinner Show. In addition, it has a Despacio Spa Centre which includes a 24-hour gym, an indoor pool, and a Jacuzzi, sauna, and steam bath. Indoor and outdoor massages can also be booked through the Despacio Spa, as can personalized health and beauty treatments. All guests of Ocean Eden Bay will also have full access to the services and
amenities of the adjacent sister resort, Ocean Coral Spring Resort, which is all-inclusive and all-ages. It features a lazy river, a water park, two tennis courts, and both a family and teen club.