Victoria House, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Every once in a while you happen upon a vacation destination that will fill your expectations and then go beyond them. While many resorts have wonderful facilities, including fine restaurants and access to many varied activities, ultimately it’s the ambience that makes a place or specifically a vacation resort, special. It is this special ambience that makes Victoria House a place to remember.
This last visit in March was my second one, the first being twenty-five years ago. Obviously lots of changes have taken place during that period of time. San Pedro Town, in the center of Ambergris Caye, the Caribbean island off the coast of Belize, has expanded with many more shops. There are still, however, only three main streets. Recently, the center of town has laid paving stones around the small plaza. The rest of the island still maintains its sand roads which are navigated by the ubiquitous golf carts. In addition to small boats which ferry people everywhere, this is the main means of transportation.
Located in the southern part of the island, Victoria House used to be one of the last constructions. Although new resorts and private homes have grown up around them, it still maintains its feeling of standing alone. The long, stately lawns make its entrance feel like the entrance to an English Manor house. Everything is carefully groomed, and the tropical plants and trees are beautifully maintained. Entering into the lobby, though, is anything but formal. Here, Belizean hospitality immediately is extended with a warm welcome and open smile.
One of the charming things about Victoria House is the differences in the architecture, giving it a unique feeling. Rather than having a room or suite of rooms like every other, here there are many choices. From the charming Plantation Rooms to the individual Suites and Private Villas, not only the accommodations but the architecture is unique. All are furnished with beautiful hand made Belizean furniture and in the suites and villas there is extensive use of the magnificent Belizean hardwoods. The exterior of the casitas and some villas are topped with thatch, providing a tropical look. Our villa had interior soaring ceilings which were lined with hardwood beams and paneling. There is beautiful art throughout and impeccably maintained gardens outside.
The most recent addition to the 42 luxury guest rooms of this small, intimate but luxurious resort is the Infinity section. Here are three Luxury Villas and four Infinity Suites as well as a private Infinity pool. Set back from the beach, but providing an extensive sand area, they are the perfect choice for family reunions or larger groups of any kind, providing a special, private area.
Because the resort has several sections, each of which includes a separate pool, there is a prevailing feeling of spaciousness. There are separate garden areas as well as an extensive snow white sand beach where you can swing in your hammock, read on the lounge chairs or have a massage under tall, swaying palms.
The restaurants offer choices of either indoor or outdoor dining at the poolside patio of Restaurant Palmilla. At night you can dine outdoors at candlelit tables and appreciate the warm, tropical breezes and sound of the water close by. The night we were there I had pecan crusted grouper with cream sauce on a bed of mashed potatoes. The other dish was a delightful grilled shrimp shish kabob. Purely in the interest of research, we had their special dessert of molten chocolate accompanied by rich decaffeinated coffee. Another option is Admiral Nelson’s Beach Bar, thatch roof and informal, located directly on the pier where the fishing boats come up in the mornings with their catch. The cuisine is always outstanding and, like most of the restaurants on this island paradise, there is an abundance of fresh sea food, beautifully prepared and presented.
The long-time managers of Victoria House, Janet Woollan and Brent Kirkman, have had 16 years of overseeing all that takes place at this small, intimate resort that has been described as “barefoot luxury.” According to them, “It’s the staff that makes it special.” With their 85 staff members, some have had many years there including the Dive Shop which has had the same family members working there since its opening. It’s pretty obvious that Janet and Brent infuse this resort with their own high standards of excellence as well as the distinct ambience of informal luxury that describes it. It’s a perfect place for weddings and honeymoons, one year hosting 52 weddings!
Returning after twenty five years, I found Victoria House to have both a similar feeling from that time as well as updates and additions that have only enhanced the original charm.
Ambergris Caye is located approximately 15 minutes by air from mainland Belize. Hourly flights from the Philip Goldson International Airport as well as the Belize City Municipal Airstrip to Ambergris Caye are provided by the local airlines Maya Island Air and Tropic Air. Visitors to the Caye can also travel from Belize City and Chetumal, Mexico by local water taxis. These are open speedboats with outboard engines with the ride lasting between 45 min. and 2 hours depending upon whether there are stops at the other islands in between.
San Pedro Belize Express
San Pedro Water Taxi
Susanna Starr is a well-traveled and published travel writer, photographer, entrepreneur, speaker and artist. She holds a degree in philosophy from Stony Brook State University of New York. Susanna is Contributing Editor at FWT Magazine. She has over twenty years experience in the hospitality business as owner of Rancho Encantado, an eco-resort and spa in Mexico. She lives in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. Susanna is the author of two books: Fifty and Beyond: New Beginnings in Health and Well-Being AND Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers: An Odyssey of the Heart, both published by Paloma Blanca Press. Susanna Starr