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Xaman Ek Resort & Spa
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Reviewed 4 September 2008

Similar to the previous post, Xaman Ek is a wonderful place for those who enjoy this type of vacation. In reading some of the less favorable reviews, it appears those people probably shouldn't have gone in the first place. I would guess they would say virtually the same things whether they stayed at Xaman Ek or many of the other alternatives on the island.

We really enjoyed our trip. Here are some thoughts to consider....

- First off, we had to change our travel plans before arriving, and Mike went way above the call of duty by working with us to find a solution. Without getting into details, he could have very easily taken the easy way out and left us in a very uncomfortable position. I sincerely appreciate this thoughtfulness and flexibility in his approach to managing his property.

- Ambergris Caye, and Belize in general, is not a place of luxury. It's a place of natural beauty. I've travelled extensively and stayed in tremendous hotels and resorts with impeccable levels of service and luxury. Belize isn't like this as a country, and Ambergris Caye sure isn't, either. If you expect this luxury, you will be disappointed. Go to the Caymans.

- You go to Ambergris Caye to enjoy the natural beauty of the island, the sea, the reef, the nights under the stars, etc.

- Xaman Ek is not by any stretch of the imagination a luxury resort. If you're expecting this, don't go. Mike calls it a retreat, and I think that is a very appropriate name for the facility.

- Xaman Ek fit exactly what we were looking for - relaxation, no itinerary, no pressure, no stress. You can snorkel or kayak off the beach at no charge, at your leisure. You can lay in their hammocks all day, sleep all day, do whatever you like. Their gardens are impressive, and humming birds are frequent visitors.

- They'll help you arrange day trips or make recommendations for activities, and Mike made several good recommendations for restaurants.

- The rooms are basic. The beds are average, the furniture is basic. The electricity on occasion went out for the entire island (not the resort's fault by any means), and the water pressure was quite inconsistent. There wasn't much hot water during our stay, which didn't bother us at all because it was so hot outside. If any of this makes you believe you would ruin your vacation, don't go to Xaman Ek, and you're probably best off avoiding Belize in general.

- The grounds are beautiful. It's been covered. The place looks just as good as in the pictures.

- The pool is a liability, and MIke would tell you so. Apparently it came with the property when he purchased it, and I think it's fair to say that it isn't something you'll spend a lot of time in. I would hope at some time MIke replaces it with a better pool.

- Mike prepares food for breakfast and lunch. It's reasonably priced and very flavorful. We enjoyed just about everything he made. His salsa was tremendous. He doesn't carry much inventory, so on some days he didn't have certain items. Just life on the island.

- He has a fridge full of beer, Coke, Sprite, and water, and it's on an honor system. Just put the cap of the bottle in your assigned room cup, and he totals it up at the end. I commend him for having this available.

- Mike himself was a great host. My wife is pregnant and we had A/C issues with a cabana. The unit worked, but it was so hot that it just didn't cool the cabana to the level that she could take a nap during the afternoon. Mike very quickly offered to move us to a suite for a small fee and this made our stay so much more comfortable. Mike commented, and everyone should know this, that he sincerely appreciates guests who share their concerns with him. Speak up! While I felt like I was being a little picky, ultimately I'm paying for the stay and I'm the guest. If I'm going to return or recommend this to others, it's in his interest to do everything he can to make my stay enjoyable. Don't forget this when traveling. It's a service industry and they want you to enjoy yourself and return. That is exactly how I would rate Mike and his service to my wife and I.

- Steve is great for snorkel and SCUBA trips. He'll go when you want to go. Make sure to tip him. I went on a dive and it was literally just the two of us. I hate diving in big groups. This is a big plus with Xaman Ek.

- As others have said, the spa is magnificient. Tiffany does a great job with swedish massage and facials.

- If the sight of bugs (ants primarily) or crabs on the beach (especially at night) or lizards scare you, don't go to Belize.

- Buy the Gold Card ferry pass to San Pedro. It will save you money, and Mike will arrange it.

- If you hate riding in boats or small planes, don't go to Belize. Some commented that the ferry wasn't enjoyable. Yes, it's about 15 minutes to town. Yes, they make stops to pick up other people. Yes, some spray may enter the boat. Yes, they travel at full speed during the night. But you have no other choice, and if this bothers you, go elsewhere.

- Take a good amount of bug spray, and strong stuff. At night the bugs are relentless (biting flies and mosquitos outdoors). Again, just a part of life.

- Portofino gets a bad name, and I'm not sure why. Yes it's overpriced, but so is everything else. We enjoyed it and had no problems. The lobster bisque included about half of a lobster tail in big chunks. Absolutely tremendous. Mambo's is also great. But you're going to spend $100 US for a couple if you have a beer or two and an appetizer. Either accept it, go to town for dinner (and go somewhere not designed for tourists), or buy your food and make your own meals.

- We spoke with people staying at other places along the island. To sum up the general consensus - no matter where you stay, it isn't the Ritz and you won't have your own butler. The nuances that may irritate some (spotty water pressure, electricity, the rustic nature of lodgings) was virtually universal. Perhaps there are ultimate luxury lodgings near San Pedro, but I don't know of them. And whether it's between Xaman Ek and another place, just know you'll have a very similar experience. Understand where you're traveling and what you should expect.

- People have slammed their beach. A quick lesson in topography will do. The barrier reef is about 3/4 of a mile off shore. It eats up all the waves. Thus between the reef and the shore the depth is about 7 feet at the most, and it's filled with sea weed. There aren't waves (unless there's a storm off shore, as we had with Gustav), and more importantly because there are no waves the sea grasses grow along the bottom. Thus Ambergris Caye doesn't have Mexican beaches, or gulf coast Florida beaches. You don't wade out unless you're comfortable walking through sea weed and grasses. So it isn't Xaman Ek by any stretch - all of the shoreline is like this.

With that said, they rake the beach every morning and it is a beautiful place and very soft white sand. But please understand the reasons why the beaches here are nothing like the beaches of Cancun or Fort Myers. The reef makes this impossible. This is true for Xaman Ek and every single other hotel/resort/lodging on the island.

- MIke recommends buying snacks and food in town before you come out. Without question do this. He arranges for a private taxi to pick you up from the airport, and the taxi will stop for food. We went to the Super Buy. I was shocked at the prices, and it's the cheapest place on the island. Remember, they import almost everything and then it must travel to this island.

- We went to relax and do nothing. The nights were great. It was incredibly hot while we were there, and the breeze was nice during the evenings. There was no room service or high thread count sheets, no chocolates on your pillow or bar maids attending to your needs while relaxing on the beach. It's a simple lifestyle, a very slow pace, and an opportunity to unwind. Again, if this isn't what you're looking for, you may find yourself disappointed.

- Mike is in construction and he is continously improving the property. They have a recreation room with pool table, international phone, television, shelves of books and some movies. Our suite didn't have base boards yet. Not a big deal to us. The kitchen was stocked enough for the basics, and the full size fridge was a great plus for keeping water and leftovers cold.

- The locals were very friendly on the whole. No complaints.

- Pack half as many clothes as you think. Swimsuit and t shirts will suffice for literally everything, even dinner at the nicer restaurants. At Mambo's there was a guy playing pool with his shirt off as I spent $150 on dinner. Bring less.

- Bring cash and pay Mike in dollars. You'll save money.

- Rendezvous House was recommended by Mike, is owned by a Canadian couple that makes their own wine, and their food (Thai inspired) is delicious. Colleen can come across as a little rough, but go see them. Just don't get the spider crab - it's cooked in a tremendous Thai sauce, but the crab is so tedious that you'll be exhausted by the time you work it out of the small shells.

I hope I'm not only sharing our opinion, but also helping readers decide if Belize is the right place to visit, and if so if Ambergris Caye is the right place to stay, and if so, if you would be comfortable at Xaman Ek. We spent five nights there, truly loved the fact that we were off the grid, got spa treatments, read books, lounged in hammocks, relaxed and enjoyed ourselves and the beauty of this place, this island, this country. But I have zero hesitancy in saying that it is not a place for everyone. Quite frankly some of the criticisms of Xaman Ek are more the result of people going there with unreasonable expectations of the island.

  • Stayed: August 2008, travelled as a couple
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11  Thank jrh22
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 August 2008

How to describe Xaman Ek? First off, it's tiny! Overall, there are 6 units (4 suites and 2 cabanas) and the entire 12 days we stayed, there were never more than 11 guests. While this means that it's heavenly quiet and super-relaxing, it also means that there is no 24-hour coverage at the reception or any kind of structured anything. Breakfast & Lunch hours are whenever you can find Mike, the refrigerator housing the beer and sodas is on an honor system, dive and snorkel tours are when you feel like it and Steve is available (and he's usually there every day). Because of it's small size, you're very likely to meet and socialize with the other guests and we have met some very nice people during our stay (Xaman Ek tends to attract friendly, laid-back folks)...the impromptu fish fry was one of the highlights of our time there. If you like to just go with the flow, this is your kind of place...if you do best with a time table, this might not be for you.

Like the previous reviewer we initially had some issues with the room (I think we may have stayed in the same cabana). The first night, we noticed that the AC was pretty much non-existent and there was a sewage smell coming from the shower...not a good combination. To make things worse, my partner has a medical condition that gets exacerbated by heat and was a wreck that first morning. In a larger place, I would have called the front desk in the middle of night...not an option here. However, when we told Mike about our concerns the next morning, he immediately moved us into a suite. We remained there even after the problem was fixed (for a small upgrade fee) because we loved the back room that another reviewer so disliked. It had a very competent AC unit and was a welcome refuge after a day in the heat.

I received my PADI instructions at the resort and, in retrospect, should have done things a bit differently. Because we had 12 days, I figured that I'd do the entire certification on site (rather than a referral course/just the open water dive portion). What I didn't consider was that in Belize, ALL instructions take place in the ocean...there is no pool available for confined water dives. To me, this was very scary...I think I would have been better off building some confidence surrounded by safe blue tiles rather than cruising nurse sharks. But I'm now the proud owner of the Open Water card, so I guess all's well that ends well (the diving as well as snorkeling is, of course, fantastic).

Another thing to consider is the location. The idyllic remoteness and seclusion (and it IS gorgeous) of Xaman Ek comes at the price of a 6 mile island ferry ride every time you want a reasonably priced meal (the surrounding resorts are about twice as much as comparable fare in town) or get some groceries. The boat ride to and from San Pedro can be great fun, the coast line and the water is beautiful and at night the moon lights up the Carribean just so...but it can also be tedious when it stops at every single dock and/or nauseating in choppy waters. If you don't like boats or don't do well on them, again, not a good destination.

The massages at the spa are sublime, as all the reviewers have acknowledged. Enough said.

I will take Xaman Ek over an impersonally managed time share facility or a rundown former luxury resort anytime. Mike has a sincere desire to make his guests happy and takes great pride in his place. The beauty of the grounds and the area itself make up for whatever shortcomings there are, in my mind, and I definitely plan on visiting again.

  • Stayed: August 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
4  Thank gigglypug
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 August 2008

Let me start by saying, if you are looking to lay on the beach all day and listen to the waves, then San Pedro (Ambergris Caye) may not be the place for you. Because of the barrier reef the water is calm (the waves crash at the reef which is about 1/4 of a mile out) and there is an abundance of sea grass near the shore. However, it is a BEAUTIFUL island and there is plenty of adventure.
Xaman Ek was overall, unfortunately, a disappointment. It is a nice-enough resort, but we did have some problems. We stayed in one of the cabanas, which was cute, but ...the sheets were stained, our toilet did not work properly, the shower was dirty and never properly cleaned, we were given half used shampoo (which luckily I had brought my own), the toilet paper sat on a basket on the floor, so it had been wet. When we needed supplies that should have been in our room, such as ice, drinking water, and coffee, we had to ask and they seemed very put out towards any request. So, we certainly didn't feel "pampered" or that anyone was going out of their way for us.
The breeze at night was nice, but did not reach our room, so leaving the windows open was not an option while sleeping. The AC unit in the room was inadequate so there was no comfortable sleep.
Mike, the owner serves great food for a light breakfast or lunch, but again you have to ask for it to be made and it seems as though you are interrupting their "other" tasks. It is easy enough to go into town to get a good meal. There are also several options within walking distance. My advice is to avoid Portofino, but try Mambo it is good, but a little pricey. You MUST try Rojo. We actually ate here twice during the week, it is so good! The manager waited on us and was very nice and fun to talk to. Ask him for recommendations if you cannot make up your mind! Its the best restaurant nearby.
The pool is below par. It is simply an above ground pool and is not properly pumped. In fact, one day we return from a excursion to find the pool completely drained! There was no prior notice and it was never fully filled again during our stay.
It was not all negative though! One of the best parts of Xaman Ek is the spa. My husband and I had several treatments during our stay and fully enjoyed it. Also, Scuba Steve is awesome! He is the on-site dive guide. We went snorkeling with him twice and on an all day fishing trip with him and his son. The fishing and cook out that followed was the highlight of our trip. He is a knowledgeable, laid-back, and personable guide! Another highlight was our trip to Mayan ruins. The resort books this trip through a guide company called "Tuff Enuff." This was a great group of guides, and some of the friendliest people we met during our stay. I highly recommend a trip with them!
We truly enjoyed our stay, but it was certainly a learning experience. When we return to Ambergris Caye, and we will, we will find another resort!

  • Stayed: July 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Thank kpc42107
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 July 2008

I had the time of my life being treated and hosted at Xaman Ek......
The girls gave excellent massages and pedicures and Mike makes a seafood plate to die for!!!!

Stayed: July 2008
1  Thank jungledoc63
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 July 2008

Okay, so I hate to trash the place completely because, Mike, the owner is a nice guy and really trying to make a go of it. I do feel, however, a need for full disclosure so that others are not disappointed as we (and our neighbors) were. We were two families that had just come from Chan Chich which was incredibly beautiful, well run, professional, and overall luxurious despite being the middle of the jungle.

We stayed in the middle two apartments which are huge, but only have windows in the front. This meant that the wonderful July breezes off the ocean never made it in our front door. Instead, we slept in completely windowless back rooms with the AC roaring all night. There were multiple fans but those cheap kind that don't seem to actually push any air around. Mike was really nice, if a bit clueless and forgetful. The kitchen were functional but bare bones when it came to utensils. We asked for a blender and was given one that we ended up sharing with our neighbors. The whole experience reminded me of camping.

Both the diving guide and the front desk guy were pretty surly and generally not that helpful unless you really pushed it. The pool was a joke. Be careful because it really cloudy and only about 3 feet deep so don't dive in (despite what your devious little children tell you about it being "soooo deep"!)

On the plus side, the apartments were clean. I would be a great place for large families or groups who want a large space (I think it could have slept 8 people easily). For our small kids, it was great because the units were right on the beach so they could run around easily on their own. They had a great time chasing hermit crabs all day and wading in the water. The kids all thought it was the best place ever, but for us, we expected more for the money.

Couple of pointers. Definitely load up on groceries in town. It costs US $26 round trip to town for each adult. There's a small store about a five minute walk away that has a lot of staples (no vegetables), but we didn't hear about it until the second day. The 3 restaurants that our close to Xaman Ek rival the top restaurants in SF as far a prices, so we only ate out once. Also, don't trust Mike to make arrangements for a taxi to the airport when you leave. In both our families, the taxis didn't show up.

  • Stayed: July 2008, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
1  Thank critterchaser
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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