In a prime location on the picture perfect sandy beach of the Hopkins Village area, half way down the country’s coastline, Hamanasi, is an award winning eco resort on the southern coast of Belize. Voted number one for service, the guiding principle of this charming hotel on the shores of the Caribbean is to deliver a vacation experience of a lifetime for visitors to this beautiful country. From Mayan pyramids deep in the rainforest to pristine reefs teeming with coral, the staff at Hamanasi, will help you discover the best of Belize.
The hotel, although owned by Americans, is all about preserving the environment of this paradise destination. The Hamanasi philosophy is that thoughtful eco-tourism can make a positive impact on the environment and the local community, and they are keen to preserve this special location for the enjoyment and education of future generations.
Staying at Hamanasi Eco ResortCelebrating its 16th birthday this year, this beautiful high-end resort is still expanding with plans for new deluxe rooms to be built. The gorgeous two bedroom suite we stayed in had a beach and pool view, and a very comfortable hammock on the porch shaded by the jungle trees. The rooms are luxurious with tiled bathrooms, eco toiletry products and colourful artwork on the walls. There were flower petals on the bed and a personal welcome message written on a tree leaf — perfectly charming.
Most people stay at Hamanasi on an all inclusive basis and the elegant restaurant and reception area have handcrafted hardwood furnishings and quirky central American folk art. You can chill here or on the veranda with some snacks and a cocktail while using the free Wi-Fi before dinner. If you want somewhere a little different to sleep at this lovely resort nestled between the Maya Mountains and the Caribbean Sea, there is the option of some private tree houses as well as the villas on the beach. All rooms have air conditioning, filtered water and tea and coffee making facilities. There is a TV but there’s so much to do here that I can’t imagine anyone has time to watch it!
Diving and snorkeling at HamanasiThe coast here is unspoiled and spectacular. Hamanasi Eco Resort has its own Adventure Centre and caters for guests wanting to dive or snorkel off its stunning Southern Barrier Reef. Belize has the Western Hemisphere’s longest continuous barrier reef, approximately 185 miles or 2900 km of coral formations with a large variety of marine life. This pristine reef offers several different snorkeling sites to suit both beginners and experienced snorkelers. With visibility usually ranging between 60 ft/18 m to 100 ft/30 m, snorkelers are in heaven in Belize’s shallow reefs and channels. In this crystal clear water, you will see fish of every colour of the rainbow, and you might even experience a close encounter with eagle rays, tarpon, cleaner fish, stingrays, octopus and possibly dolphins.
Hamanasi dive trips explore areas in and around the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, the largest marine reserve in Belize, spanning from just north of Tobacco Caye to a cut five miles or 8 km south of South Water Caye called Grand Channel. The trip out to the Southern Barrier Reef is ten miles or 16 km and it takes 30–40 minutes to get to the first dive site. This section of the reef sees few divers and, with literally dozens of dive sites, Hamanasi divemasters can show guests a number of sites in this area. Costs vary for different activities as some are included in different all inclusive packages - check the Adventure Centre at the hotel for details.
If water sports aren’t your thing, the adventure centre has lots of other options. You can go bird watching, horse riding, or maybe try zip wiring through the jungle canopy or visit the nearby Mayan ruins.
Or if you just want to read your book next to the pool — you can do that too!
Hamanasi and sustainable tourismHamanasi is committed to protecting the ecosystems and biodiversity of Belize and is actively environmentally friendly and aware in all aspects of its business. This special hotel even has its own sustainability manager, Seleem Chan. Seleem showed us the organic garden, which grows vegetables for the hotel’s restaurant and the extensive composting scheme that recycles the food waste. Recycled bottles from the bar are used to line the edges of the paths and are also crushed up and mixed into cement to make the flagstones through the gardens and around the grounds.
Seleem also works with every department of the hotel to set sustainability targets for each part of the business and staff are encouraged to come forward with ideas.
The hotel also supports other community schemes such as Pack with a Purpose where travellers save some space in their luggage to bring supplies needed for community projects. Hamanasi supports the local school where supplies are distributed to the children once a month. In Belize, education is not free and school children face relatively high expenses as each school year begins. They must pay for tuition, uniforms, books, school supplies and more. By supplying a backpack filled with basic school supplies this scheme can really make a difference. Guests donate everything from backpacks, pencils, crayons, rulers, calculators, notebooks, to arts and sports supplies.
Hamanasi — a resort with a conscience
Although Hamanasi Eco Resort is a peaceful tropical haven, guests are encouraged to explore all the wonders of the coast, countryside and culture this little gem of a country has to offer. Here, the sea meets the skyline in a seamless stripe of clearest blue — it reminded me of the end of the Truman Show where Jim Carrey sails off into an infinity that isn’t actually there and it turns out to be just a film set. Here at Hamanasi Eco Resort, it’s not a film set, it’s real and that infinity view of sea to skyline is one of the most beautiful views in the world to wake up to.
The Caribbean sea here is myriad of shades of blue and green and clear as glass. Colourful fish and sea life abound here because of the extensive reef system and, unlike the great barrier reef in Australia where a lot of the coral has been damaged or has died, most of this coral wonderland is still pristine.
If you live in the US, it’s only a short flight from Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Miami or New York and you can easily swap your hectic life for the laid back pace of beautiful Belize. If you live further afield, I can assure you that it’s worth the trip. There is a local airport in Belize City, which is about a hour’s drive away and there are regular flights to the US from there.
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