Cay Party

What do the world's most rejuvenating island escapes have in common? Empty sand, lonely surf, and new adventures of the strangest kind.

Belize's islands: only a 12-hour commute from New York.     Photo: Nina Buesing/Corbis

Easy Does It
What a tough guy can learn from an island off Belize

EXACTLY 12 HOURS after walking out the front door of our Brooklyn apartment into a snowstorm, my wife and I stood on the dock at St. George's Caye Resort, in Belize. I was holding my fly rod while she sipped a fruity cocktail and teased me about my bombastic claim that commercial flights do not count as real travel. Any self-respecting adventure traveler, I often say, needs to follow his flight with a couple of days on a train or the top of a bus in order to feel as though he's actually gotten somewhere.

My perspective on the issue was not well supported by St. George's Caye. It's only a 20-minute boat ride from Belize City, yet it feels like a place that should take a couple of days to reach by outrigger canoe. The two-mile-long island is sandwiched between the Belize Barrier Reef and hundreds of square miles of mangrove swamps and bonefish flats that support raucous colonies of seafaring birds and a few local manatees. You could count the permanent human population on your fingers and toes. But my wife didn't need to mention any of this or cite the relevant statistics. Instead, she simply pointed to the school of tarpon lolling in the shallows 30 feet away.

For the rest of the trip I continued to eat my words—along with immense amounts of spectacular food, such as spiny lobster delivered directly to the kitchen by local fishermen. Between meals—served communal style, on the beach, by a smiling crew in flip-flops—we joined a few planned expeditions. There was snorkeling and diving on the reef; a night cruise in search of crocodiles; and fishing for bonefish and permit with a private guide. But, mostly, we took off on our own makeshift adventures. The resort provides plenty of kayaks and sailboats without the fees, rules, and boundaries that too often turn island getaways into chaperoned walks on the beach. We discovered secluded sand, secret swimming holes, hungry schools of fish, and a curious manatee. At night, we kicked back in one of a dozen thatch-roofed cabanas. We could hear the Caribbean roll in just beyond our front porch. Beyond that, nothing. This self-respecting adventure traveler slept well.

GET THERE: St. George's Caye Resort (gooddiving.com) provides guest transport from Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport. Cabanas for two from $218, including meals and local rum punch. One-tank dives, $60; half-day fishing trips, $325.

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