Discover your inner adventurer (or just hit the hammock) at this Old Caribbean-style luxury outpost for diving, fishing, and castaway escape. 

By Tracey Minkin
December 16, 2019
Courtesy Turneffe Island Resort

You never really believe you're going to catch a bonefish.

Or, for that matter, that you'll peer into the sapphire depths of the Great Blue Hole. Or want to get up before dawn to drink a cup of fresh coffee that's just been delivered to your cottage's porch, watching the flare of the rising sun illuminate the rim of the Caribbean sea.

But you do all those things and more, because you're at Turneffe Island Resort.

An hour and a half by boat from Belize City, this coral island is part of the Turneffe Atoll, hundreds of limestone dabs that are part of the country's heralded barrier reef. Here, an intimate resort plays base camp to lovers of diving, angling, snorkeling, and general castaway life, but in a quietly luxurious way. With its brightly painted cottages and camp-style outbuildings, Turneffe breathes that Old Caribbean elixir of ease and adventure.

Courtesy Turneffe Island Resort

Let's be clear: You can come to Turneffe and do nothing. You can lollygag in your villa's sheer-draped four-poster bed, or pick a lounger on the white-sand beach and pull out your book. You can make the five-minute saunter to meals served family style in the original, circa-1960s lodge and enjoy the bonhomie with your fellow guests. And every evening at 6, you can join that same cast of characters (plus a resort dog) at Turneffe's weathered, open-air bar for a truly happy hour of passed treats from the kitchen and the tropical-forward beach cocktail of the day. You can do the sybaritic minimum and consider that adventure enough.

Old Caribbean charms in the villas
Courtesy Turneffe Island Resort

But Turneffe does inspire derring-do, and you find yourself heading out with one of the resort's top-flight Belizean guides to snorkel along the vibrant, life-filled coral reef. You join the weekly foray out to the Great Blue Hole, swapping sightings with the scubaphiles who return to Turneffe every year. You learn a parrotfish from a lionfish.

The Great Blue Hole
Courtesy Turneffe Island Resort

And although you know that bonefish are among the hardest game fish to catch, you want to try. You zip with your guide to the broad offshore shallows, pull on wading booties, and walk as the warm, crystalline water grazes your shins. He coaches you on how to cast—whether from the challenging fly rod or the easier spin reel—while also telling you exactly where.

And you get a strike. And all around you is water, and soft breezes, and the thrill of the old, glorious Caribbean filling your spirit. You gently pry the hook loose and set your fellow adventurer on its way. Because you know, here at Turneffe Island, who's really been caught for good.

Catching (and releasing) a permit fish, which is even harder to catch than a bone fish
Courtesy Turneffe Island Resort

Turneffe Island Resort is an all-inclusive compound on a 14-acre private island with 22 guest rooms in Old Caribbean style. Packages of three, four, and seven nights (Relaxation, Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Fishing, and Combination) include accommodations, daily excursions, and all meals. Rates start at $1,490 per person (double occupancy) for a three-night Relaxation package; turnefferesort.com.

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