Belize, Central America

Travel to Belize During COVID: Socially Distancing on an *Almost* Private Island

Aerial photo of Thatch Caye island in Belize with blue water and overwater bungalows
How to get to and from Thatch Caye, an almost private island in Belize

After assuming for almost an entire year that our November 2020 trip to Belize we would have to be cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that Belize is back open for tourism as of October 1st! Click here to learn about how to travel to Belize during COVID, and then keep reading below to see how we stayed on an *almost* private island to keep up our social distancing even while traveling.

The main lobby on Thatch Caye, an “almost” private island in Belize
two words:
Overwater bungalows

One of my travel Bucket List experiences has forever been to stay in an overwater bungalow, so while researching “Gold Standard Hotels” in Belize I was so excited to discover that Thatch Caye (pronounced “key”) had overwater bungalows!

What’s funny though is that after thinking through the logistics of staying in an overwater bungalow with a 4 year old and 19 month old we actually decided to stay in a beachfront bungalow instead (which was SO much more spacious and relaxing since I didn’t have to worry about our toddler falling off the deck into the water below!). But the exciting prospect of staying in the overwater bungalow was still there even if we didn’t go for that option. I’ll just have to cross that off my Bucket List another time 😉

Transportation Logistics

How do you get to the islands?

Let’s talk about how we got to the island after we landed in BZE (for info on requirements for travel to Belize during COVID click here!).

After we got through immigration (including getting our PCR-Covid tests administered) and picked up our luggage, we exited the airport to find a friendly representative from Muy’Ono Resorts waiting for us holding a sign our name on it, ready to take us to our first stop: Thatch Caye!

Our luggage was disinfected (paying special attention to the handles) while we installed our kids’ carseats (check out our write-up on the best travel car seats!). We all had our hands sanitized and then we loaded into the van along with one other couple.

Capacity Limiting

Under normal circumstances the van would have been full of tourists, but between there being almost NO ONE visiting the country at that time AND the capacity limiting that the lodges are implementing it was only us and the other couple in the whole van. The van was clean and modern with seatbelts and air conditioning, and we were able to safely install our carseats (one rear facing and one front facing) with no trouble at all.

Fresh coconuts on Thatch Caye, Belize
Next Step: getting from Dangriga to Thatch Caye

We drove about 3.5 hours south from Belize City, taking the “Hummingbird Highway” to the beach town of Dangriga, and then seamlessly changed hands with someone else from Thatch Caye, who helped carry our suitcases over the sand and onto a small speed boat.

Aerial photo of Serenity Point on Thatch Caye island in Belize with turquoise blue water, overwater bungalows an
Aerial photo of the overwater bungalows at Serenity Point, at the southern tip of Thatch Caye island, Belize. The perfect spot to watch the sunset!

By this time it was dark and we could barely see the palm trees overhead as we made our way to the boat, but we could hear the little waves lapping on the beach and could almost taste the rum waiting for us on the other side of the short boat ride.

The Boat to Thatch Caye

About 20 minutes later we arrived at the teeny tiny island of Thatch Caye and were greeted with fresh watermelon juice and shots of rum, exactly what we needed after an exhausting day of traveling and slightly unexpected PCR brain swabs (we were told ahead of time they would be rapid tests, but they definitely were not!).

The island manager, Mr. Leslie, showed us to our gorgeous beach front bungalow, and we quickly settled in and made our way back to the restaurant to have a late dinner before heading to bed. The only thing we could see on the island at that point was what was lit up by bistro lights, a perfectly inviting area with tables and chairs under the palm trees blowing in the light breeze and we couldn’t wait to see what we would find when we woke up in the morning.

What Do You DO on a Private Island?

The following 3 glorious days were spent kayaking around the island, paddle boarding over orange starfish and baby nurse sharks, drinking fresh coconuts from the trees, searching for enormous hermit crabs (our toddler son was OBSESSED, and the staff even arranged a “hermit crab race” for us on the last day), teaching our 4-year-old daughter how to swim without floaties, and then subsequently how to snorkel in the world’s second largest barrier reef (we saw a huge sting ray the very first time we brought her out to snorkel!).

Girl learning how to snorkel on Thatch Caye island in Belize
Our 4 year old daughter learning how to snorkel during our trip to Thatch Caye in Belize

We ate the most delicious Belizean food, and the chef created wonderful vegetarian and vegan fare (like vegetable curry!), and even made some crowd pleasers like margarita pizza. Our favorite meal of the day was always breakfast, which was usually eggs scrambled with peppers and onions, with refried beans, fresh fruit, and Belizean “fry jacks” (fried dough that puffs up into little pockets, designed to be opened up and then stuffed with the rest of the yummy things on your plate). It was BEYOND delicious to say the least and we’re still daydreaming about it weeks later.

Mother and baby kayaking in calm ocean off Thatch Caye island in Belize
Kayaking in the crystal clear waters around Thatch Caye, Belize
Traveling during
Hurricane season

Besides that we apparently decided to travel to Belize during COVID, it was also the tail end of hurricane season in the Caribbean, which ALSO almost canceled our trip.

While attempting to depart the USA, a tropical storm (just shy of being classified as a hurricane) delayed our connecting flight from Miami from being able to take off and bring us to Belize, because it flooded the airport runway in BZE.

While we waited for hours in Miami to see if we would be able to leave the USA for a trip that continued to look like it wasn’t destined to happen, the storm moved right towards us and then caused all sorts of delays on our end as well.

Weathering The Storm

The storm almost wiped out all the beautiful little islands scattered along the coastline when it passed over Belize.

Thatch Caye fared relatively well, and by the time we had arrived the next day the staff was busy cleaning up from the storm. They were restoring the beach area by bringing sand back to where it had been carried away, and were cleaning up fallen branches and palm fronds that had scattered around the island. Even with the aftermath of the storm the island was so peaceful and idyllic.

Girl and her dad standing in front of "Wear a mask" sign showing a snorkel mask on dock on Thatch Caye in Belize during COVID travel
On the dock at Thatch Caye, “please wear a mask”!
Is Thatch Caye really a private island?

Even though Thatch Caye isn’t actually a private island, being that it was only us and just THREE other guests who we would somehow only ever see during dinner time, it sure felt pretty private.

It was so nice to be able to talk with the three other guests on the island, knowing that all of us had been deemed as “safe” (aka not infected with COVID), and to be able to let our guards down in a sense. After almost an entire year of wearing masks and being wary of being around other people, it was so refreshing to know we were actually safer on this adventure in Belize than we would be going to our local grocery store back in Colorado…

  • Oceanfront Bungalow on Thatch Caye island in Belize during COVID
  • Rooftop view from Oceanfront Bungalow on Thatch Caye island in Belize during COVID
  • Overwater Ocean Bungalow on Thatch Caye island in Belize during COVID
  • Overwater Ocean Bungalow on Thatch Caye island in Belize during COVID

What Does “Travel Better” Mean?

One of the reasons we decided to stay at Thatch Caye (besides beachfront and overwater bungalows, duh!) is because they are part of a group of Muy’Ono resorts which have adapted a “Travel Better” initiative. The resorts donate a portion of your stay to local charities (which you can match upon check out), they don’t use any single-use plastics, and they have invested in renewable power sources (Thatch Caye even had its own mini solar panel field set up!).

  • Two kids drinking fresh coconuts with reusable straws in an overwater bungalow on Thatch Caye island in Belize
  • Drinking fresh coconuts with reusable straws as part of MuyOno's "Travel Better" program on Thatch Caye in Belize
Pack For A Purpose

They also participate in the Pack for a Purpose program where you can fill the extra space in your luggage with school or medical supplies for their local charity partners. The resorts utilize reclaimed materials for their renovations (check out the furniture and decorative accents in our beachfront bungalow!), so we know that even with the storm creating a bit of destruction that at least the staff could use the wood for future projects.

Our Next Stop: The Jungle!

Exploring the jungle at Sweet Songs Jungle Lodge

After getting a great overview of living on a tiny island for a few days, it was time for us to experience a completely different side of Belize: the jungle!

We were given the option to either fly or drive to our next lodge, Sweet Songs, and for cost sake we decided to take the van transfer. We took the boat back to the mainland, and just as seamlessly as the arrival, we were picked up, had our temperatures taken with a forehead thermometer, health questions asked, and then were on our way.

About 3 hours later we arrived at Sweet Songs Jungle Lodge! Click below to read about our stay at Sweet Songs, or to learn more about Belize COVID travel requirements (PCR tests, hotels, etc.).