Travel

We Are Not Mad at This Private Island Airbnb Situation

Grab your snorkel: Belize is open for business.

Bird island could be all yours. | Photo courtesy of Airbnb
Bird island could be all yours. | Photo courtesy of Airbnb
NOTE: We know COVID-19 is continuing to impact your travel plans. As of April 2021, official guidance from the CDC states that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk, though safety precautions are still required. Should you need to travel, be sure to familiarize yourself with the CDC’s latest guidance as well as local requirements/protocols/restrictions for both your destination and home city upon your return. Be safe out there.

If you’re the type who’d rather spend a vacation underwater, then it’s time to break out the diving gear: Belize is officially open for business. As the only country in Central America whose official language is English—and a destination that takes US dollars—this underrated adventure hub is one of the best places to ease back into travel. 

Just a touch bigger than New Jersey, here you’ll find dense jungles, Caribbean shorelines, and some of the world’s best spots for diving and snorkeling scattered throughout. The country features over 450 isles; the largest, Ambergris Caye, which allegedly inspired Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita,” is rife with hotels, nightlife, and restaurants (including a shipping container food park). 

But if you’d rather hide out on your own private island, that’s also totally doable: The surprisingly affordable, four-bedroom Bird Island is up for rent on Airbnb. The colorful solar-powered hideaway boasts its own bar, fishing dock, kayaks, swings, and grill. And yes, there’s Wi-Fi.

Everyone loves a shipping container food truck. | Unsplash/Meritt Thomas

What’s open in Belize and how to get there

If you’re vaccinated, good for you! You must show proof you’re fully vaccinated and that you received your final dose at least two weeks before arrival. Otherwise, you’ll need either a negative COVID test taken within 96 hours of arrival, or rapid antigen test results taken no more than 48 hours prior to travel. Find up-to-date requirements on the Travel Belize site. Keep in mind you’ll need to test negative for the virus no more than three days before you re-enter the US.

Direct flights are available from Atlanta, Charlotte (NC), Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and Newark, some as low as $300. Visitors are encouraged to download and complete the Belize Health App within 72 hours of arrival, and stick to the vetted Tourism Gold Standard tour operators, restaurants, and hotels, where they’re implementing procedures including face masks, online check-in and check-out, social distancing and daily health checks for employees. A curfew is currently in effect from 10:00 pm to 4:59 am daily.

Looking for things to do on your trip to Belize? Go diving, duh

Along with the Great Blue Hole—a 406-foot deep, 1,000-foot wide marine sinkhole that Jacques Cousteau christened one of the world’s best scuba diving sites—check out the Belize Barrier Reef, the world’s second largest living coral reef. You’ll spot 70 types of coral, over 500 species of fish, and sharks, eels, and sea turtles. Spear some lobster or conch for dinner and fancy yourself a person who lives off the sea. 
 

Check out one of 600+ historical Mayan sites

Brave the immense jungle for Lamanai, a site with artifacts dating as far back as 1300 BC. Or visit the Cayo District west of Belize City, where you’ll find a cluster of historical treasures including the 25 structures of Xunantunich, a ceremonial site with the pyramid of El Castillo at its axis. Climb El Castillo’s stone steps 135 feet into the air and survey the land like a Mayan ruler, complete with views of nearby Guatemala. Envision your subjects below playing the game pok-ta-pok; the team that loses gets sacrificed to the gods. (Apparently the game is re-emerging. But obviously, without the death part.)

Coconuts taste better on your own private island. | Royal Belize, a Muy'Ono Resort

Do the private island thing, but make it fancy

If you’re into the private island idea and have a heap of cash just lying around somewhere, you and your 9 closest friends can rent Royal Belize island for $7,100 a night, staff included. Nearby Thatch Caye is also known for its all-inclusive getaways. And Leonardo DiCaprio has plans to open a luxury eco-resort on his personal caye, Blackadore. (Or just straight-up buy your own island, in some cases for less than an apartment in NYC. If you do this, please invite us.) 

Or book a chill eco-resort in the forest

On the mainland, Belize is teeming with unique and affordable eco-resorts, like the Sweet Songs Jungle Lodge in the rainforest, where you can have breakfast with howler monkeys and collared aracari, birds that resemble little toucans (but watch out for kinkajous—they’ll steal your bananas). If booze is a priority, the eco-lodge and farm Copal Tree Lodge in Punta Gorda recently opened a rum distillery right on site. Have your rum and sleep with it, too.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist's Senior Travel Writer. She's not kidding about crashing your private island.
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