Villa Gemma. The upper deck puts you – in hammocks, rum drinks in hand – at eye level with tropical birds. You are drinking Travellers Classic Gold Rum, fruit juice (papaya, pineapple) and coconut water that was purchased at a sandy-floored grocery store in town, after a morning swim at The Cut at the northern end of the island, and transported in a bike basket over potholed dirt roads back to the hardwood kitchen countertop and perfect-sized fridge. That upper deck is shady in the afternoon and faces east to the ocean and its trade winds, beyond the trees, a few streets away. You can hear the single-engine arrival of a Tropic Air Cessna Caravan at the small airport just to your south. Children in uniforms are biking past, returning to school after a long lunch at home. You have eaten an omelet with fresh eggs, black beans and rice for lunch. Plus a dash of homemade hot sauce purchased on Day One at that little restaurant next to the beachfront cemetery. You and your traveling companion (perhaps you too have been married for a quarter-century like we have) just swam in the sparkling pool that is the perfect temperature and mysteriously leaf free. (Kim, the Canadian owner/manager from Caye Caulker Rentals, probably stopped by while you were gone). The warm air feels good on your pool-cooled skin. "I'm in a hammock, drinking rum, listening to the call of white-winged doves, and not shoveling snow." This is one of the small perfect moments you are here for.
There are inconveniences. It can be hot. You don't flush anything down the toilet, including toilet paper (there's a basket – save your plastic bags to line it). You buy water to drink (and to make ice cubes), after the first complimentary 5 gallons. You must lock up when you are away and at night. A couple of nights we were wakened several times by little screaming lizards chasing each other around in the thatched ceiling. No dishwasher, no TV, no problem. No AC (plenty of fans) but it feels good, eventually, to adapt to the climate. And even to be able to hear the strange night noises. You sleep under mosquito nets, if necessary (it wasn't while we were there).There is wifi; sometimes it's slow.
Read all about Belize, Caye Caulker, and the villa itself before you go. I did, and this five-star rating is based on my expectations (and the price) rather than a magazine-type rating of "five star" accommodations. Great information and advice (and excellent service) is available at www.cayecaulkerrentals.com and, when you are on the island, from Kim and Amie.
This is an island for the people who live here... and for respectful, curious, do-it-yourself, go-with-the-flow independent travelers who are not searching for a resort or all-inclusive type experience. We stayed at Villa Gemma for 7 nights in early March (when the pool was brand new). It was in the mid- to upper 80s and mostly sunny every day. Loud, windy thunderstorm with light rain one night. Cloudy the day we left.
If we visit again (I hope we do!), we might stay at Villa Gemma, or at another rental if we travel with more family or friends – and we would definitely rent from Caye Caulker Rentals.