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We booked our Belize trip somewhat late (3 months early), for the high season. But by this time, many of the better hotels in San Pedro were fully booked. So we ended up booking the Sapphire Beach Resort based on many positive reviews from TripAdvisor. We knew ahead of time that there would be construction, as part of the hotel is still under construction. We also knew that the resort was secluded without road access to town, but that there are complimentary shuttle services. But these were all things I experienced in Bora Bora (another tropical resort) and I was expecting a similar level of service at Sapphire Beach Resort. And to be fair, the views of the ocean, remoteness from any towns, and pricey restaurant food were similar. But that is where it ends.
The ride via boat was a long one, about 20 minutes when not overloaded. For most of the rides, we were able to find seats, but other guests ended up standing. The boat can seat approximately 10 people, and another 5 can stand in the back by the captain of the boat. The boat does cut through waves at a fast speed, so it can be a bumpy ride, especially at the front. The distance of Sapphire Beach from San Pedro can make it prohibitively far from town for tours booked in town to do hotel pick-ups. And if you plan on going to town a lot, be prepared for a 20-30 minute boat ride each direction. There are daily scheduled pickups and drop-offs (times that align with shuttle rides to the airport). The last boat ride is usually 5pm to 6pm. If you want to stay later, you can take the Xpress Boat, which also runs on a schedule for $20 USD per person.
The two bedroom poolside condo we reserved was smoky, due to the previous guests. This wasn’t the fault of hotel management, and they were kind enough to put us up in a three bedroom ocean view condo for one night while the room “aired” out. We could only stay one night because it was the only other room available for the evening. Every other room was booked for the remainder of our stay.
The three bedroom ocean view condo had an amazing view of the ocean. There is one building blocking the full horizon, but still an amazing view of the ocean, palm trees, and beach. The entrance of the condo is on the third floor with a spiral staircase leading to the 3rd bedroom on the 4th floor. The space inside was very roomy with a full kitchen, large dining table, and balcony access from every room. Each room had its own full bathroom. Overall, the rooms looked amazing! Now for the odd quirkiness that made me glad we only stayed for one night. Only one shower could be used at a time (I’m not sure if there was a plumbing issues, as I only heard rumors there were). The window blinds were amazingly difficult to open and close. Every door leading to the balcony could lock, but the locks were not user friendly and required a key to lock from both the outside and inside. There is tons of balcony space over two levels, but only two wooden chair and a small drink table. With all the space, it would have been nice for more furniture (ones with padding) and possibly a hammock (like what we had in San Ignacio hotel). There is a TV, but there isn’t any channels (but there are DVDs). There isn’t any phone in the room, but they do they do they provide the group with one cell phone to contact the front desk.
The two bedroom near the rear of the resort with a pool view was similar in overall design when compared to the three bedroom. A lot of the hinges and wall decorations were different, with almost everything being more user friendly compared to the three bedroom. I also noticed that the decoration in other units were different making me believe units were individually owned and decorated.
The beach itself had soft sands, the water was warm (but not as warm as I remember Hawaii). The beach is not huge, just a small strip of sand. It takes about 5-10 seconds to walk past the sand into the water. And there was a lot of kelp washed ashore and in the shallow waters. Other than that, there are hammocks setup between trees, scattered about lawn chairs and their boat dock. Otherwise, not much going on at the beach.
We booked one tour through the hotel, which was a ½ day snorkel tour (about 1 hour in Hoa Chan Marine Reserve and 1 hour in Shark Alley). I believe the tour was via 18 degrees Tour Company. The boat pickup was at 8:30 from our hotel. It was approximately a 30 minute ride back to San Pedro where we spent 15-20 minutes loading up on supplies for the 2 divers that as aboard the tour. We then took a ride out and spent about an hour in a tour of the reef (follow the leader style) and another 30-45 minutes at shark alley where they attracted sharks and sting rays with raw fish. Our diver even picked up both a sting ray and a shark for the group to feel. Overall, if you have not seen sting rays and sharks before, this is an opportunity not to be missed. However, the sting ray and shark tours in Bora Bora were far more amazing. As for the coral snorkeling, there are much better experiences in Hawaii, so I’d recommend only to first timers or those who are interested in seeing fish more than amazing coral. As for scuba diving, based on what I heard, this was the shallowest dive they have been on, going about 25 feet down. They also have to swim past shallow areas where it looks like they got scuffed up. If you’re an diver, I’d recommend not just booking, but following up when questions on how deep the dive goes. You can probably find a tour company with different degrees of experience. Overall, we decided to go based on the reviews of Hoa Chan being impressive. I’ll be honest and say I was a bit disappointed, but only because I’ve seen so many more.