from San Diego, CA
Submitted on 05-30-2016
I found out about Portofino about a decade ago and it was always on our bucket list. It finally happened two weeks ago. Coming from San Diego was a long but efficient trip: SD to Dallas, Dallas to Belize City, then a 15 minute puddle jumper in a 15 person full flight to San Pedro, then a 4 block cab ride to the dock, where the capable Captain Mo picked us up for a bumpy 20 minute speed boat ride to Paradise. We reached the dock and Mo handed us up, our luggage was whisked away (in a wheel barr...
I found out about Portofino about a decade ago and it was always on our bucket list. It finally happened two weeks ago. Coming from San Diego was a long but efficient trip: SD to Dallas, Dallas to Belize City, then a 15 minute puddle jumper in a 15 person full flight to San Pedro, then a 4 block cab ride to the dock, where the capable Captain Mo picked us up for a bumpy 20 minute speed boat ride to Paradise. We reached the dock and Mo handed us up, our luggage was whisked away (in a wheel barrel, that‚??s how they roll, and it makes sense) and there was Sadhi, with a smile and a bowl with fresh flowers and 2 towels for our face that smelled of cucumber. Our vacation began at that moment. He led us into the lobby and gave us glasses of tropical punch and checked us in. Then he took us to our upstairs suite, the ‚??Sunflower‚?? and showed us all the features, and offered us an array of fragrant soaps slices.
One of the many things we loved about Portofino was that the whole staff was aware that we had the Tropical Island Package, which included, in addition to the roundtrip local flight and boat trip to Portofino - breakfast each day, a special 3 course dinner with a bottle of house wine, that was advertised as on our first night there, but they let us choose the night; a half day snorkel trip to Mexico Rocks, and another half day with 2 separate snorkel trips at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. We never had to tell anyone what package we had (they offer a number of them) it was just the opposite. Clinton would kiss me on both cheeks and ask me what day I wanted to schedule our Hol Chan snorkel, and the very kind and friendly Raphael would ask what night we would like our special dinner, and they really did make it special ‚?? we wanted to have it at the end of the pier, but we all had to admit it was a bit too breezy, but the table they set for us upstairs in the restaurant was so lovely! We‚??ve been married 16 years, but the table was dressed out like it was our wedding dinner ‚?? beautiful white linens draped over the chairs and table, fresh flowers, candles, and a bottle of wine in a bucket. We had snapper and stone crabs, with steamed veggies, coconut rice. Our table overlooked the beautiful swimming pool that was lit up at night.
One note on the tropical breeze: at times it‚??s gentle, at other times strong enough to blow your breakfast menu away. It has good points and not so good. The good is that it offsets the humidity and blows the bugs away (not a mosquito bite all week), and the not so good is that you sometimes can‚??t really enjoy an outdoor meal, and if you have any kind of natural curl to your hair (like we both do, and my husband and I both have long hair) you will have natural dredlocks by the end of the week unless you are vigilant about combing out your hair several times a day. Also, it‚??s hard to dry your clothes out, even if you hang them in the breeze. Belatedly, I see they have laundry service and I would use that next time.
It‚??s also true, as other reviewers have noted, that it‚??s not really a beach that you can just swim out on, there are no waves, owing to the barrier reef, so it‚??s like a bay, the sand is a bit squishy and not easy to wade out on, but it‚??s beautiful to look at and the staff is relentless about raking up the sea grass in wheel barrows so it looks pristine. They offer free kayaks and I meant to try it out, as I love to kayak at home, but never got around to it, and never saw anyone else do so.
The staff was awesome on all fronts. Anthony took us out for our trip to Mexico Rocks, just the 3 of us - talk about personalized service. He goes to that area every day, so no wonder 2 huge 6 foot nurse sharks showed up immediately, waiting for his chum, along with a friendly loggerhead turtle that he has named ‚??Tequilla‚?? who just about bumped noses with us, in addition to beautiful coral, schools of colorful fish, and an occasional barracuda, ray, or eel. The water was bathtub warm. Anthony really kept track of us both that day, and the next day with Clinton and 3 other couples when we went to Hol Chan, amazing snorkeling again, in 2 separate spots. They were always aware of where we were, assuring us of our safety, Anthony frequently swam by me underwater to check that I was ok. They also had a life preserver ring out in the water so we could grab onto it if we needed a rest. Maybe it‚??s not usual to tip the guides, because we didn‚??t see anyone else do it, but we did. These guys gave us their expertise, fitted us out with the snorkel, mask, and fins (we didn‚??t want to bring our own), helped us feel comfortable and safe in the water, gave a lot of information about the area and made it a really fun experience. I had a Moon guide book and it didn‚??t say anything about *not* tipping, so I really recommend doing it.
Nick is the general manger and was very informative and enjoyable to talk with, and helpful about local customs and trips.
Getting into town is a bit of an ordeal, you can either take the bumpy boat ride, or the bumpy golf cart ride (about 6 miles). We rented the golf cart one day and went to San Pedro and found Elvi‚??s restaurant, it‚??s been there since 1974. If you go, be sure to get the grilled corn appy, it was delicious. Also the stew chicken. I also got the shrimp tacos with 3 sauces. All good. I don‚??t recommend the Elvi‚??s special drink, unless you really like super sweet thick drinks. They also have an all you can eat buffet with live music on Friday nights, that we sadly missed.
Other reviewers have mentioned that the reality of this area of Belize, once out of the resort, consists of pools of fetid water with lots of trash and refuse (they burn their trash, at least some of it) and there are a lot of abandoned buildings. This is true. But at the same time, the locals seem to make do with what they have, and no one is standing on a corner with a sign asking for a handout, like at home. It‚??s a different world, just go with it. In town, we were a little taken aback when locals will ask for a ride on the back of your golf cart, then not wait for an answer, and hop on. But there was no sales pitch for jewelry, or scams, so it was no problem, they hop off when they get where they‚??re going and thank you.
Food at Portofino was mostly delicious, I highly recommend the Belizean breakfast with fried jacks. My husband has celiac disease so can‚??t have any wheat/flour/gluten, the staff were very accommodating and aware of that food issue and modified dishes to omit the flour, such as the almond crusted snapper, which was amazing. He also loved the smoothies, the Tropical Dream ‚?? banana, pineapple and coconut, was his favorite. I like my mimosas, which were a bit pricey at $12 a glass, but delicious. Marcos was behind the bar and was always ready to whip up another smoothie, order more champagne for me (just in case) and I liked the tapas menu for an afternoon snack after snorkeling.
One of the highlights at Portofino for me was the massage on the beach with Isadora, she was great and it was everything a fancy spa massage would include ‚?? music, lavender scented oil, fluffy towels, and a great head to toe hour-long massage. All that, and on the beach, true bliss.
Portofino is a very quiet tranquil place, which was perfect for us. If you are looking for big partying don‚??t go here, and I think children might be a bit bored. Even the music at the bar, which was a bit annoying at times with pretty loud, repetitive pop songs on a Sirius channel (I don‚??t ever want to hear Flo Rida‚??s ‚??My House‚?? again) quieted down after the second day or so with other tropical themed music like the Jimmy Buffet channel, and was quiet when I got my massage, which I appreciated so I could tune into Isadora‚??s spa music. Our huge room included a safe, small fridge, and great cable, so many local and premium channels, a nice way to relax in the evening, though we also had a huge balcony with a hammock and 2 chaise lounges that we also used.
We met some truly lovely fellow guests at Portofino, some that we are now staying in touch with. I saw one review that mentioned it was all honeymooners, which was not our experience. There was only one couple on their honeymoon we met, who had lots of great reports about their excursions. The rest were as diverse as at any resort, and we had a great time with everyone.
All in all, a stellar experience and we look forward to returning. The parting gift from the resort of the soaps slices on a wooden tray was such a nice touch.