In short, we loved our stay and would return in a heartbeat. While not perfect, we found the property was just what we were looking for and felt it a great value. Below are the details.
The resort location:
It is located about 7 miles north of San Pedro. While there is a road going all the way up the island it is bad anywhere north of the bridge (by San Pedro) and nearly impassible once you get more than 3 miles north of San Pedro. So you rely on water taxi or bikes to go to/from town. The water taxi service (Costal Express) is reliable and comes something like 8 times a day each direction. It costs $8 US per person each way which can add up if you are going to town often. The water taxi normally takes 25 or so minutes but once at “rush hour” it took us 50 minutes. The resort pays for a private taxi to take you to/from San Pedro on the day of arrival and departure which was great. They also arrange and pay for a taxi service to take you the few blocks from the taxi terminal to the airport terminal. We really enjoyed biking to and from town along the beach (locals have a nicely worn path that makes for easy biking). Our leisurely pace got us to town in about 50 minutes. We once started back too late and rode the last few miles in the dark which I wouldn’t recommend. The only downside to the bike rides was the view of the garbage along the beaches. Any unmaintained beach in Ambergris Caye has seagrass and washed up garbage. The further you get from town, the more often you have unmaintained/undeveloped property between the developed ones. So if you are really close to town, you might not see any on the beaches. When we took walks along the beaches it was more noticeable but as we rode our bikes, we didn’t seem to notice it much at all. The location can be a small obstacle to those wanting to do tours or activities but we didn’t have any problem. You would have to take a water taxi rather early in the morning to do many of the tours our trips. However, they have a local tour/dive operator on site. Also, there are several operators at resorts close enough that they are willing to pick you up. We dove with White Sands dive shop which is about half-way to town and they were willing to pick us up and drop us off each day. Also, neighboring resorts are willing to pick you up by boat if you wish to dine at their restaurants. Some feel the resort is too remote but we felt it perfect. We loved the serenity. At night you couldn’t hear anything but waves and birds – no cars/boats/bars. The nice bike ride or water taxi ride was a small price to pay for the beauty and tranquility of this unique resort.
The resort property:
One of the resort’s greatest assets is its beach. As we biked to/from town multiple times we can absolutely say it was the best beach on that 7 mile stretch. Even if you were not going into the water, the turquois view from your balcony is awesome and you only get that if you have a seagrass-free beach. The sand is not only on the beach. All the pathways in the resort are the soft white sand that is raked several times a day for a very manicured look. The resort buildings, office, pool, and other facilities all seem new and well maintained. The nice pool is about the same temperature as the ocean and refreshing. My wife wished they had a hot tub for late evenings or cool days. They are expanding the property with a group of 10 or so buildings behind the restaurant. They are just finishing those and are starting to sell the units (to investors who will rent them out I think). They are building a new but smaller pool in that area. I was close to this area and never heard any noise (the pool is being dug by hand!). Behind the resort (walking away from the ocean) you can cross the road and walk to the canals and pond that connect to the brackish lake. I know some guests found that to be good fishing right there.
The room was well appointed for the price. It had great air conditioning, four ceiling fans, a comfortable king bed (comfortable after we removed the somewhat crinkly mattress pad), a comfortable living room, DVD player (with 30 or so free DVDs to borrow from the office as well as games and books), a nice bathroom, and a nice kitchen. My favorite was sitting on the balcony and enjoying the view and the serenity. The kitchen had quality items but was somewhat sparse (i.e., no cheese grader and only four plate/bowls/etc.). It worked well for us. My only complaint about the room was probably a slight sulfur odor in the tap/bath water. You notice it a bit at first (especially in a hot shower) but it is quite mild. If you have a really sensitive nose this might be an issue. For most, I wouldn’t expect it to be an issue and it wouldn’t deter me at all from returning. They ensure your room always has a full 5-gal dispenser of bottled water which was great for all our drinking/cooking needs. We brought our teen ager and did wish there wasn’t an opening between the bedroom and the living room where he was sleeping. There is a window-like opening between the rooms which is great for getting a nice breeze through the room. There are blinds for visual privacy but as the beds are sharing the same wall the lack of sound privacy could make some couples a bit shy in the bedroom.
We love to be active on our vacations. X’Tan Ha is perfect for those who want to just relax as it is so serene. However, the plethora of free toys made for a great way to stay active on a budget. They have bikes, kayaks, paddle boats, paddle boards, beach volleyball, a huge water trampoline structure, and other beach games. None of their hammocks or deluxe lounge chairs are extra and there never was a crowd so you didn’t have to rush out and stake out a claim in the morning. They even have a 14’ Hobbie Cat sailboat but it was unfortunately being repaired when I was there. Ambergris Caye would be a perfect place to sail or learn to sail as they have a constant breeze and the barrier reef ensure little to no waves to deal with. In town you would probably have to pay $200 or so a day to rent that. One of the best things about the resort location is its proximity to Mexico Rocks – the best snorkeling spot on the island reachable by kayaks (Hol Chan is better but it is too far for a kayak). A 15-20 minute kayak ride gets you to the buoys where you tie off your kayak. We really enjoyed that a lot. A few tips: 1) Make sure you know how to get back in a kayak when you can’t touch the ground. 2) If the wind is blowing towards Mexico Rock, you might want to try paddling into the wind first to make sure you don’t find that too hard before you commit yourself. Other resorts have kayaks but most have no place to kayak to. If you are near town, there is so much boat traffic that I wouldn’t enjoy or feel as comfortable being out in a kayak. X’Tan Ha was a perfect pace to enjoy the water and reef.
Sometimes they had evening bonfires. They no longer have Sunday BBQs that you may read about on older TripAdvisor reports. However, the bonfires are fun. The staff build HUGE bonfires of driftwood and usually have some additional fun element to the experience – music, s’mores, or teaching you how to twirl firesticks, etc. We asked once when the next one was and they said, “Just let us know when you want one and we’ll do it.” That exemplified the service we always found there.
While we enjoyed all the people we met in Belize, it seemed the staff at X’Tan Ha were particularly professional, accommodating, fun, and willing to go the extra mile. I consider myself a rather high-maintenance customer and they always made me feel like they enjoyed every minute with us. That includes the back-office staff that handled my many email questions before arriving, the front desk staff, the bartenders, our housekeeping staff, and the many groundskeepers. I picked up a coconut while on a bike ride and Elder (who normally works the bar) spent about 10 minutes not only opening it but carefully removing the meat for us. He did this cheerfully while making friends with my son. The property managers, Oliver and Della, are from the US (Great Lakes area if I remember) and are always around and are delightful. All the staff found the perfect balance of being available while allowing you your space. X’Tan Ha has the professional service quality of a high end resort with the small resort feel. They learn your name and treat you like family.
Other things to keep in mind:
- I wish the WiFi reception was a little stronger throughout the resort. Some locations are great but the signal is weak in some areas. Like many examples of them going the extra mile, when I needed to ensure I received an Internet call they loaned me a MiFi personal hotspot to ensure I never had an issue. Download speeds are very slow across Ambergris but it was sufficient for Skype calls.
- While it rained occasionally while we were there, we only had to deal with mosquitos a bit at dusk. The only time we got bit was at dusk riding our bike through tree-line trails by the beach. We got a LOT more bites during our cavetubing and zoo tour on the mainland. There are mosquitos though so if you are the type to get bit, bring some DEET.
- Older TripAdvisor reviews mention a free water taxi service provided on Tuesdays and Thursday by the resort. This was discontinued a few months ago.
- Most of the property and equipment is very well maintained. Some of the bikes we rode could use a tune up and the water trampoline isn’t too bouncy now as the ocean has corroded many springs (stainless steel replacement springs are apparently on order).
- The head caretakers have a dog (golden retriever if I recall) who was exceptionally well behaved and always on a leash if out. His name is Buddy.
- We didn’t use the restaurant or their new on-site dive/tour operator. Betty who runs the dive/tour shop was born on Ambergris and seemed extremely nice and helpful to us even though we were diving with another shop. They seemed to have good equipment so I wouldn’t be concerned going with them.
- We really enjoyed the flights to/from Ambergris via Tropic Air. The views were great (they will let you sit in the co-pilots seat if you ask). The flights in and out of the Belize City municipal airport is half the price of the flight to the International airport. Our flight home left Belize at 5pm. We took the 7am flight to the municipal airport and did a cavetubing and zoo tour. Since we left so early we have a private tour (though only $90/person) with just the three of us. We were the first ones to the caves and so we got to see all the bats (really cool!), had lunch, and had nearly two hours at the zoo. Then they dropped us off at the international airport. So with the money we saved flying to the municipal airport, our tour was only $55-60/person – totally worth it. Also, the flight in the early morning light was particularly beautiful.
- Two blocks south of the airport is a good grocery store (note that the airport terminal is just one small building – like the size of a house). It is not the cheapest grocery but was perfect for us to grab a few starter items.
- As long as you avoid the items custom’s list, you can bring in some food that will help a lot (either with costs or with meeting a specific craving).
- Tropic Air says they have a 33lb bag limit but they didn’t seem to care at all about our bags being over and others (who flew different days) said the same thing.
Wow! This turned out to be a novel. Hopefully it helps. We loved our stay at X’Tan Ha and would happily return in a heartbeat. It was the perfect match of value, seclusion, great service, and great location for an active family. We envy those of you heading that way.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Escape to a tranquil, luxurious and romantic destination at X'tan Ha Resort, located just 7.2 Miles North of San Pedro Town. This truly exotic, tropical resort offers one bedroom suites, with spacious kitchens and living areas. Each villa offers a private verandah overlooking the pristine Caribbean Sea. X'tan Ha offers complimentary water sports- kayaks, paddle boards, paddle boat, hobie cat sailing, and a water trampoline. X'tan Ha offers complimentary transfers upon arrival/departure from/to San Pedro town upon arrival and departure. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Belize Legacy Beach Hotel San Pedro
- Hotel Belize Legacy Beach
- X'Tan Ha Resort Belize/San Pedro