After staying six days at a tourist camp in Belize‘s jungle  without electricity or hot water (but with a large tarantula living under the dining room)  transferring to the Mahogany Bay Resort and Beach Club was like emerging from a Belizean cave into the bright Caribbean sunshine. 

The white beaches, bright sunshine, blue skies and flowering trees seemingly in perpetual bloom here are a tonic that will bring any tired, winter-weary traveler back to life. Though there are numerous underground caves in Belize that are delightful to float through on inner tubes, you may decide to forego that experience and just stay put at this stunning resort, one of Hilton’s world-famous Curio Collection properties. 

Mahogany Bay Resort, which opened just over a year ago, is the first international hotel that has come to Belize, a country currently experiencing a tourism explosion. It is the newest hotel in San Pedro, a town located on a key off the northern coast of Belize; while also being the largest resortspreading out over 60 acres 

At present it offers 109 rooms, a number that will triple when the planned expansion of the hotel is completed. We are not talking about typical hotel rooms since each guest takes up residence in one of the (soon to be) 300 individual garden cottages, complete with front porch. This will make up a village – what Hilton calls a “townlet” with additional retail shops and restaurants. 

Mahogany Bay is set off by itself a few miles from town, on a quiet lagoon and nearby beachfront. The enormous Great House is designed in the style of British Colonial, as are the garden cottages, all with white walls and dark slatted windows. Yes, much of the wood used in the property is mahogany, taken from the tall, majestic trees that grow in this country. The hotel furniture, including the massive mahogany beds, are hand crafted in the nearby Belizean town of Balmopan. Bathrooms are ultra moderncomplete with every amenity possible. 

While there is a giant swimming pool next to the Great House, guests may prefer to take a free 15-minute boat ride to the hotel’s beach club, the only private club in all of Belize that features overwater hammocks and beds, a beach bar and sundeck. A lovely mini getaway! 

Belize features some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world and the hotel will arrange for guests to take a number of different snorkeling and diving expeditions. One of the most popular is a fullday trip to the famous Great Blue Hole, 60 miles off the coast, the world’s largest underwater sinkhole. If you are truly adventurous, there are even cave dives 130 feet deep to see stalactites and sharks in this watery place that Jacques Cousteau declared one of the top ten dive sites on earth. 

Other international hotels are coming – “too many,” in the opinion of Mahogany Bay Room Division Manager Roberto Guerra. A furious boom of building is taking place in San Pedro, with cranes everywhere you look. Several brands coming to the area include Marriott and Four Seasons, but unlike Mahogany Bay, they will be located in the downtown section of San Pedro.