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Cayo Espanto, Belize

Carrie Loranger Gaska
Posted: August 22, 2003

Rosita quietly grooms my toes while I sit beneath the filtered shade of a palm tree sipping my new favorite drink; freshly squeezed lime juice. Speaking very little English, Rosita prefers to work in silence, but I decide to break it with a game of "name that word in Spanish."

"Rojo," I say when she asks which polish color I'd like to top off my pedicure. "Si," she responds, and plucks a bright red bottle from her basket, looking up only long enough to flash a quick smile. She's on to my game, so I practice rolling my Rs with a popular children's rhyme. "R con R cigarro, R con R barril," I blurt out and she finishes it for me with a laugh.

I glance over at the dock where my husband has spent the afternoon. In the 16 years I've known him, I've never seen John nap except when he was sick. But there he was, stretched out in the sun, on a blue-cushioned wooden Adirondack-style lounge chair at the end of our private dock overlooking the sea foam green Gulf of Mexico, snoozing away at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

With three kids, a house and two extremely busy careers between us, we decided to ditch it all for a long-awaited vacation, and Cayo Espanto, a private island in Belize seemed the perfect spot to totally relax.

We'd both visited Cayo Espanto over and over again in our minds, but when we finally arrived at the perfectly groomed three-acre island, just a seven-minute boat ride from San Pedro, the biggest city on the Ambergris Caye, we found it met all of our expectations and more.

This I must attribute to Jonathan, our soft-spoken and unobtrusive houseman who tended to our every need. When it was time to go snorkeling, Jonathan would come and get us. When it was time to eat, Jonathan would bring us our meals. After serving us, he would, without fail, stand back with one arm behind his back and say, "Would you care for anything else?" What else could we possibly need that he hasn't already thought about, I wondered? Jonathan had an almost surreal way of anticipating our every need before we even realized we needed something.

He set up the Hobie Cat one afternoon for a day trip into the sheltered waters around the island, arranged for massages and snorkeling trips, and even greeted us at the island's main pier with cool drinks and warm towels to wash the salt away upon our return.

It is this kind of personalized and pampering service that is the hallmark of this private island resort and the main reason my husband and I were able to completely relax. It was the first time in many years that we didn't have to think about five or more schedules at one time. We didn't even have to think about our own schedules here -- Jonathan did it for us.

Cayo Espanto is the brainchild of Jeff and Susan Gram, an Atlanta-based couple who wanted to create a perfect island getaway with top-notch service.

It took four years to haul in enough crushed shell and sand fill to build five oceanfront villas, each with a private splash pool, dock, alfresco shower and a panoramic view of the western Caribbean. The pearly white-sand grounds are raked daily and an array of stocky palms, hibiscus and other tropical plants are tended with care around every path and villa, contributing to the sense of well being that guests feel at all times.

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