Resident shaman Joe Colli waves a smoldering wand of copal incense around my shoulders and delivers his blessing: “Ah yum hunab ku evam maya ema ho” (Let the peace of nature and the cosmos be with you). Standing in the midst of this stunning natural environment, I already feel lucky to be here. But now — magically, perhaps — I also feel connected to the ancient Maya who wandered these same verdant coastal forests many centuries ago.
I head deeper into the forest of sapote, ceiba and tulip trees, where troops of spider monkeys parade in the afternoons, iguanas slither along at a languorous pace and birds trill contentedly from above. A labyrinth of pathways flanked by tropical palms and palmetto and guava trees winds circuitously through light and shade to secret hideaways and, eventually, to my own spacious palapa.
Privacy is prized here, and the resort’s 41 villas, crowned with traditional thatch, are all concealed from their neighbors by fences draped in layers of palm fronds and resembling giant grass skirts. Each sanctuary boasts spacious living and sleeping areas, an outdoor shower, a dining terrace, private plunge pool and a hand-crocheted hammock for midday naps. Beyond the plush cloisters, there are myriad places on this six-acre preserve where guests can revel in nature’s splendor. Voile-draped swinging beds overlook the sea, seven miles of pearly sand invite early morning exploration, cabanas sit mere steps from the water’s edge, and trickling waterfalls secreted within the lush undergrowth provide even more opportunities for personal contemplation. I can’t wait to discover them all. —Debbie Snow
Viceroy’s all-inclusive package includes three meals daily, plus select beverages. Room-only rates are also available. From $675.
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Enjoy a barefoot-chic vibe and attentive service on this private island, where a handful of pastel-painted cottages draped in bougainvillea overlook three miles of palm-fringed beaches. The Guest of House rate includes food, drinks and house wine with meals.
From $797; 800-790-7971; kamalame.com
Kanantik Reef & Jungle Resort, Belize
Far-flung and remote, 25 miles south of Dangriga and north of Placencia, Kanantik offers two-dozen hand-built thatched-roof cabanas decorated with locally crafted furniture. Set on more than 300 acres near the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the resort also gives guests an opportunity to see wildlife, discover Maya ruins and explore the surrounding rainforest. Inclusive rates cover meals, local drinks and select tours.
From $402 per person; 877-759-8834; kanantik.com