Portofino Resort- Now with a new BEACH BAR!!
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#13866 - 04/10/01 09:29 AM Maya Mountain Lodge
maitaikpl Offline
Does anyone recommend this place? I'm looking for somewhere decent, but close to the caves and mountain pine ridge. I'm more looking for adventure than touring the ruins.

#13867 - 04/10/01 11:00 AM Re: Maya Mountain Lodge
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
Here's my take on Maya Mountain and also San Ignacio Resort Hotel which you asked about in another message, and other hotels and lodges around Cayo ... from my book, Belize First Guide to Mainland Belize.

--Lan Sluder
Belize First Magazine http://www.turq.com/belizefirst/

Price categories are for in-season double without meals, not including 7% hotel room tax or service charge, if any. To make comparisons equitable, rates for hotels which include meals or other items in the tariff are adjusted, reflecting an estimated cost for room only. However, specific rates shown in the listings below are actual rates but do not include 7% hotel room tax, 8% sales tax on meals or service charge, unless otherwise stated.

Most hotels listed, except low-cost budget places, receive a star rating of from one to five stars. Only a few hotels in the country are rated five stars. Keep in mind that, although there is no direct correlation between the price of a hotel room and the hotel? star rating, three- to five-star hotels are likely to be considerably more expensive than average. Some travelers may be willing to accept a lower level of amenities and services in exchange for a lower price, or they may even prefer staying in inexpensive lodging to better appreciate the local culture.

HHHHH One of the top hotels in the Caribbean, well-run with striking location and/or facilities.
HHHH One of the best hotels in Belize, with a dependably high level of hospitality.
HHH Excellent accommodations, with above-average amenities, service and/or hospitality.
HH Good accommodations and often a very good value.
H Functional accommodations, meeting basic needs, and often a good value.

copyright by Lan Sluder 2000/2001


San Ignacio and Santa Elena Lodging
Under US$125
HHH Mayaland Villas. This spot, which opened in early 2000, is a nice compromise between being in town and being way out in the boondocks. Owned by the operator of Mayaland Tours & Travel, a well-known Belize City tour company, the hotel has 10 large units in duplex cottages with verandahs, breakfast nooks, fans and 24-hour electricity (but no air-conditioning), plus three rooms in the main lodge. Rates: Villas US$105 double Nov. 1-May 15, US$84 rest of year; rooms in main house, US$85 double Nov. 1-May 15, US$68 rest of year. AE, MC, V accepted. Mile 69, Western Hwy., Cayo; tel. 501-9-12035, fax 9-12037; e-mail mayaland@btl.net; www.mayalandbelize.com.

HHH San Ignacio Resort Hotel. This is the closest thing to an international-style hotel in San Ignacio Town. But, in Belize, that can mean anything, and in this case it means cinderblock walls in the hall and a green iguana project out back, with 14 acres of bush. We
Lan Sluder/Belize First

#13868 - 04/14/01 05:46 PM Re: Maya Mountain Lodge
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
Oops, I see that only a short part of the Cayo section got through. I'll try reposting this again, starting with San Ignacio Resort Hotel ...


HHH San Ignacio Resort Hotel. This is the closest thing to an international-style hotel in San Ignacio Town. But, in Belize, that can mean anything, and in this case it means cinderblock walls in the hall and a green iguana project out back, with 14 acres of bush. We’d like this hotel even more if rates wereabout a third less, but we admit the location is convenient, the more-expensive deluxe rooms are comfortable, the pool relaxing, the Running W Steakhouse satisfying, the Stork Club bar a good place to grab a cool one and watch a big-screen TV, and the management and staff accommodating. In the off-season, the hotel does have a pay-for-three-nights, stay-for-four special which helps a bit. Rates: Balcony rooms without air-conditioning, US$91 double; deluxe rooms with air-conditioning and TV, US$110 double. Plus tax and 5% service charge. Off-season specials available. AE, MC, V accepted. 18 Buena Vista St., P.O. Box 33, San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-22034, fax 9-22134; e-mail sanighot@btl.net; www.sanignaciobelize.com. From the police station in the center of San Ignacio, go up the steep hill and the hotel is on the left.

Under $100
HHH Windy Hill. This is another spot with a split personality. Windy Hill, with 25 cottages one of the biggest hotels in Cayo, has some elements of a jungle lodge, yet it’s only about a mile west of town and right beside the highway. A bonus here is a small above-ground pool. The cabañas, which have fans, 24-hour electricity and mini-bars, are arranged up a low hill, and all have verandahs with hammocks. Inside, they’re pleasant, with wood-paneled walls and ceilings, locally made furniture and hand-woven Guatemalan rugs. Windy Hill does a lot of tours, witnessed by all the vans parked out front. Three meals are served daily, though you’ll get a better deal at Sanny’s or one of the restaurants in town. Rates: US$80 double, in-season, with discounts available the rest of the year. Meals are around US$9 for breakfast, US$11 for lunch and US$19 for dinner. Windy Hill concentrates on packages, of which there are many, starting at US$500 per person including meals and tours. AE, MC, V accepted. Western Hwy. (Benque Rd.), San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-22017, fax 9-23080; e-mail windyhill@btl.net; www.windyhillresort.com.
Under US$75
HH Cahal Pech Village. This hotel on a hill has been joined by several other cabin and cabaña lodgings, plus the rockin’ Cahal Pech Tavern, making the hillside setting a little busier and more commercial than before, though the views over San Ignacio are still great. You have a choice here of traditional thatch cabañas (about US$50-$60) without air-conditioning or rooms in a motel (around US$50-$95) with air-conditioning. It’s a steep hike back up the hill, and after dark you should take a taxi, as the traffic makes walking dangerous. Music from the tavern can be loud, but the walls are sound-proofed. From what some readers tell us, things aren’t as good here as they used to be, but new ownership and management could bring this property back to life. AE, MC, V accepted. Tel. 501-9-23740, fax 9-22225; e-mail daniels@btl.net; www.belizex.com/cahalpech/.

H Caesar’s Place. On the Western Highway in the village of Unitedville, this spot, under the same ownership as Black Rock, has pleasant motel rooms and RV/camper sites. Bar (with live music at times), restaurant and large gift shop. Rates about US$50 double. AE, MC, V accepted. Western Hwy. at Unitedville village; tel. 501-9-22341; e-mail blackrock@btl.net; www.blackrocklodge.com.

HH Log Cab-Inns. Yes, these are log cabins, of mahogany, nine of them on a low hill on the outskirts of San Ignacio across the road from the Windy Hill lodge. Owners Carla and Iris Mahmud will do their best to make you comfortable. One of the best features here is a new pool, and there’s a restaurant on site. Rooms have double beds, fans, private baths and are furnished and decorated from the family’s woodworking shop. Doubles US$55, with a 15% discount May 1-Nov. 30. If you ask, you might even do a little better than the published rates. MC, V accepted. Mile 68, Western Hwy., San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-23367, fax 9-22289; e-mail logcabins@btl.net; www.belizex.com/log_cab-inns/cabins.htm.

Under US$50
H Martha’s Guest House. You can get a good night’s sleep, enjoy a tasty meal, and get your laundry done, all at Martha August’s little place in San Ignacio. Upstairs in the original section the three rooms, with fan and high ceilings, share a bath and a kitchen and living room. Recent renovations have added more rooms. Martha’s pizza is good, but probably a little different than what you’re used to. Rates around US$17 to $40. 10 West St., San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-23647.

H Mida’s Tropical Resort. If you want a thatch cabaña within a short stroll of downtown San Ignacio, this is it. The thatch-roofed Maya-style cottages on the river bank have private baths, 24-hour electricity and fans. The open-air palapa restaurant serves inexpensive lunches and dinners, from US$3 to $8. Rates US$34 double in-season. MC, V accepted. Branch Mouth Rd., San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-23172. fax 9-23845; e-mail midas@btl.net; www. belizex.com/midas_resort.htm.

H Piache Hotel. The rooms here aren’t much out of the ordinary, but the owners are. Godsman is highly knowledgeable about Garifuna culture and history. Daughter Zoila Ellis is a noted short-story writer (On Heroes, Lizards and Passion). The grounds and gardens here are attractive. Rates around US$30 double, or US$43 with air-conditioning. MC, V accepted. P.O. Box 54, San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-22032, fax 9-22685; e-mail piachehot@btl.net; www.belize.com/piache.html.

H Rose’s Guesthouse and Teagarden. Another nice moderately priced choice, with five large rooms in a private home owned by a Rose Marin, a friendly Creole lady. Restaurant in a small garden serves dishes like moussaka (US$7.50) and steamed or fried shrimp (US$9). US$40 double, including breakfast. MC, V accepted. 1178 Cahal Pech Hill, San Ignacio; tel./fax 501-9-22282; e-mail rosesguesthouse@btl.net; www.covely.com/rose/.

Under US$25
HH + Aguada Hotel & Restaurant. This little motel — just east of San Ignacio in Santa Elena — is a real find. You can stay here in a clean, modern room with air conditioning for US$25 double, or US$20 if you just want a fan. Prices are a few bucks less off-season. Rooms are not large, but it has a swimming pool, bar and a good restaurant. The café is a friendly, casual place serving Belizean and American dishes at US$3 to $8 for a full meal. Owners Bill and Cathie Butcher — he’s African-American, she’s Belizean — are doing a super job here, in a quiet location just a short walk from the Western Highway and across the river from San Ignacio. A bus into San Ignacio is about a buck, and a taxi, US$2.50. The commons room has cable TV and a collection of board games and books. Aguada will pick you up at either airport in Belize City for around US$25. MC, V accepted. Aguada St., P.O. Box 133, San Ignacio; tel. 501-92-3609; e-mail aguada@btl.net; www.belizex.com/aguada.htm. Across the highway from La Loma Luz hospital.

Central Hotel. Next to Eva’s. Cheap, clean and centrally located. Doubles US$11. Burns Ave., San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-24179; e-mail easyrider@btl.net; www.belizex.com/central_hotel.htm.

Hi-ET Hotel. Not a Hyatt, the Hi-ET is a 5-roomer, a cheap, secure and popular place to sleep. Doubles around US$10. 12 West St., San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-22828.

Venus Hotel. This two-story, 34-room wood hotel, centrally located, caters to backpackers. Shared-bath doubles start at around US$11, with bath US$21, air-conditioning US$5 extra. Ask for a discount if you’re staying several days. Look at your room first to see if everything works and that the door locks. AE, MC, V accepted. Burns Ave., San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-23203, fax 9-22225; e-mail emorfing@btl.net; www..belizex.com/venushotel.htm.

Benque Viejo and San José Succotz
Under $150
HHHH Mopan River Resort. The valu-o-meter got turned up to wow in Cayo when this all-inclusive opened in November 1999. Some visitors complain that Belize hotel rates seem reasonable enough, but at check-out the total tab is lot higher than expected, after adding the price of meals, drinks, transfers, tours, tax, and service charges. But here, owners Jay and Pamella Picon deliver everything for one price: transfers from your arrival flight in Belize City, room, all meals, daily tours (including trips to Tikal, Caracol and Barton Creek cave, plus kayaking on the Macal River), local beer and drinks, and even tips and taxes. And that one price isn’t a budget-breaker, either, starting at around US$115 per person per day. Fact is, it may be the best upmarket deal on the mainland. For the 2000-2001 season, the resort has loosened up a bit on its three-, four- and seven-day packages and now allows guests to start on any day, assuming there’s room. The location is a bit, well, unexpected, across the Mopan River from the back streets of old Benque, but once you’ve taken the short ferry ride (Jay had the steel ferry built to his specs) to the resort’s 10-acre coconut palm-studded grounds, you’re in your own private paradise. The thatch cabañas are done up in high Belizean style, with cabbage bark wood floors and mahogany cabinets, and they come with most of the modcons, including cable TV, VCR, 24-hour electricity, some of the best beds in Belize and refrigerators stocked with complimentary soft drinks and Belikin. Three of the cabañas are larger suites, with full kitchens. We think these are worth the small extra cost. Breakfasts are to order, and dinners usually have a theme such as Thai night, with recipes Pam Picon picked up from cooking courses at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. Pam is editor of the Belize Report newsletter, and she’s put to good use what she’s learned from visiting many of Belize’s top resorts. Over drinks or a barbecue at the expansive, art-filled Picon home which occupies a prime spot on the grounds, Jay, who admits to his share of serious tax problems in the U.S., will regale you with tales of his days as a pilot and head of large U.S. aviation companies. The resort has good security: Guards with Rottweilers patrol after dark. So what’s the down side? The location will be a turn-off for those expecting to be in the jungle — this is NOT a jungle lodge. And it’s not for those who want to do things entirely on their own, trying different restaurants, heading out on a whim, staying up late to sample local nightlife. As at many small lodges, the particular mix of guests when you’re there has a lot to do with your total experience. A pool is set to open for the 2001 season, and other pluses such as welcoming fruit baskets, free use of canoes and kayaks and a 100% satisfaction guarantee are planned. We recommend you do not swim in the Mopan River here, as it is polluted by discharges from Benque and nearby Guatemala. Rates: Seven-night all-inclusive packages are US$798 per person in a cabaña, or US$973 for a suite with kitchen; four-nights, US$548 and US$648; three-nights, US$426 and US$501. Christmas, Easter and several holidays are slightly higher. MC, V, Discover accepted. Benque Viejo del Carmen, Cayo; tel. 501-9-32047, fax 9-33272, e-mail mopanriver@btl.net; www.mopanriverresort.com. Closed July-October.

HHH Royal Mayan Resort & Spa. This 24-room spa hotel in Benque is literally upscale: It’s located on top of one of the steepest hills in Cayo. If your car makes it to the top, and if you can find a space to park, you’ll find that the rooms, along a motel-like corridor, are nicely outfitted with TV and carpeting. But the bad news is there are closets in Cayo bigger than some of these rooms. Apparently the renovation to the former budget hotel at this site didn’t allow for much change in room sizes. The pool here is beautiful, the spa accoutrements are fine, and the views into Guatemala and around Cayo are fantastic. But guests paying premium rates may expect more in the way of service and space. The owners are the Feinsteins who also operate Blackbird Caye Resort and are looking to develop the Tourism Village in Belize City. Rates: US$139 double Nov. 14-June 14, US$97 rest of year. Combo packages with Blackbird Caye Resort area available from $1,050 per person. MC, V accepted. Benque Viejo del Carmen; tel. in the U.S. 888-271-3482 or 305-969-7947, fax 305-969-7946; e-mail info@royalmayan.com; www.royalmayan.com.

Under US$50
HH Inn at Xunantunich. This 14-room hotel (formerly called Xunantunich Resort Hotel) is perched right on the Western Highway, across the road from the Mopan River and from the Maya site after which it is named. The better rooms (US$40 double) have air-conditioning, private baths and satellite TV; standard rooms (US$15 double) in the guest house have fans and shared baths. The hotel has a swimming pool with rock waterfall, small hot tub, and a restaurant/ bar with pool table. Mile 72, Western Hwy. (Benque Rd.), San José Succotz, Cayo; tel. 501-9-32264; e-mail xunhotel@btl.net; www.belizex.com/xunhotel.htm.

Under US$25
H Trek Stop. American expats Judy and John Yaeger and their Belizean partners opened this spot in 1998. It perches on a hillside near San José Succotz Village and the Xunantunich Maya ruins. Budget travelers will find cheap sleeps in six cozy, neat-as-a-pin cabins (US$10 per person), with outdoor composting toilets and solar-heated showers. A small butterfly farm and nature center, Tropical Wings (admission US$2.50) and a restaurant with inexpensive Mexican and Belizean dishes are also here. Camping is permitted. There’s also a common kitchen. MC, V accepted. San José Succotz Village; tel. 501-9-32265; e-mail susa@btl.net; www.tbcnet.com/dyaeger/susa/trekstop.htm. 6 miles west of San Ignacio, on the south side of Western Hwy.

Cottage Country Lodging
Most of Cayo’s lodges are on either the Macal or Mopan rivers. In general, the lodges on the Macal are more upmarket. With some exceptions (Ek ‘Tun is one) don’t expect to be in a “movie jungle” or rainforest. Most lodges share their locations with cattle ranches or citrus farms, though the bush is seldom far away.

Under US$200
HHHHH Chaa Creek Resort and Spa. Mick and Lucy Fleming started Chaa Creek in 1980 when tourists were almost unknown in Cayo. Over the years, they’ve expanded, improved and fine-tuned their operation until it has become one of the best-run, most-professional operations in all of Central America. Everything works here: The grounds, comprising a total of 330 acres on the Macal River, are beautifully planted and maintained. The 19 large rooms in whitewash-and-thatch duplex cottages, plus two upmarket suites, have high-quality furnishings set off with Guatemalan wall hangings and bedspreads, the perfect marriage of comfort and exoticism. The food and drink, if not of gourmet standard, are well-prepared and plentiful. Staffers are friendly, not fawning, and move quickly to solve any problem. There’s electricity, plenty of hot water and cold beer, and, if you like, Chaa Creek will sell you a Cuban cigar to smoke after dinner. The latest additions are a fully equipped, modern spa, by far the best in Belize, offering everything from aromatherapy to seaweed wraps, and a new conference and meeting center. The spa, and a name change (from Chaa Creek Cottages), mark a repositioning toward a more-upscale, less “lodgey” lodge. Whether that’s a good idea or not only time will tell. In any event, you won’t run out of things to do here, either. You can visit the Chaa Creek Natural History Centre and Blue Morpho Butterfly Breeding Centre, tour the Rainforest Medicine Trail (formerly Panti Trail) next door, go horseback riding or canoeing, or take one of the many top-notch tours offered by Chaa Creek Expeditions. Chaa Creek helped reintroduce howler monkeys to the Macal River Valley. Birding is excellent, with 247 species spotted on the grounds by Birds without Borders, which has an operation based at Chaa Creek. For those who want the Chaa Creek experience at a Filene’s basement price (US$100 double including meals), the Macal River Safari Camp has 10 small “cabinettes” on platforms, and Belizean-style meals that some say are better than meals at the main lodge. Rates: Cottage room, US$165 to $190 double, suites US$200 to $365. Meals are extra: US$10 per person for breakfast, US$8 packed lunch, US$26 dinner. Summer packages are a relative bargain: Room with breakfast and dinner, plus some tours, goes for around US$127 per person per night, double occupancy, on a four-night package. AE, MC, V accepted. P.O Box 53, San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-22037, fax 9-22501; e-mail chaacreek@btl.net; www.chaacreek.com. Directions: From San Ignacio, go 4 3/4 miles west on Benque Rd. (Western Hwy.) and turn left on Chial Rd. (look for signs to Chaa Creek, duPlooy’s and Black Rock lodges). Follow signs on this unpaved road 3 1/2 miles to Chaa Creek.

Under US$150
HHHH duPlooy’s. Since it opened in the late 1980s, duPlooy’s has been seen by some to play second fiddle to its Macal River neighbor, Chaa Creek. But that’s unfair, because duPlooy’s has its own style — a little more casual, a little more oriented to birders and tree-huggers and nature lovers. On part of the lodge’s 60 acres about 10 miles from San Ignacio, Ken and Judy duPlooy — he’s originally from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and she’s from South Carolina — created something very special: the Belize Botanic Gardens, with plantings of some 2,500 trees from all over Belize and Central America. An orchid house also is planned, although at press time construction is stalled, pending new funding. For most guests, the focus of the lodge is the remarkable deck, which rambles off from the bar. From vantage points on the long walkway over the Macal River, you’re sure to see a variety of birds, iguanas and other wildlife. Bring your camera and binoculars. About 300 species of birds have been identified within five miles of the lodge. In accommodations, duPlooy’s offers something for anyone. For the top-of-the-market segment, duPlooy’s has three large bungalow rooms, each with king-size bed, fridge and delicious hammock with a view down the hill to the Macal River, for US$150 double in-season. For mid-level travelers, there are eight rooms in two lodge buildings, with double beds and screened porches, at rates of US$115 double in-season. For the budget set, the lodge has six rooms, each with a double and single bed, sharing two baths in the Pink House, at US$40 double in-season. Meals are an extra US$35 per person. Note that duPlooy’s does not serve beef, due to what the owners consider rainforest deforestation associated with cattle ranching, but it does serve pork, chicken and seafood, along with vegetarian dishes. The lodge also has a good selection of tours to Cayo and Petén sites. Rates US$40 to $150 double in-season, 15% discount May 1-Nov. 30. Meal plans (including breakfast, lunch and dinner, US$35). Package plans of from two to seven nights including meals and tours are available, from US$350 to $1,230 per person. AE, MC, V accepted. San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-23101, fax 9-23301; e-mail duplooys@btl.net; www.duplooys.com. Directions: From San Ignacio, go 4 3/4 miles west on Benque Rd. (Western Hwy.) and turn left on Chial Rd. (look for signs to Chaa Creek, duPlooy’s and Black Rock lodges). Follow signs on this unpaved road about 4 miles to duPlooy’s.

HHHH + Ek ‘Tun. Do you want a deluxe bed-and-breakfast type experience, with personalized attention and delicious home-cooked meals, but in a remote rainforest setting? Then Ek ‘Tun may be for you. Owners Ken and Phyllis Dart, originally from Colorado, and their pet dogs have created a beautiful small lodge on 500 acres along the far reaches of the Macal River, about 12 miles upstream from San Ignacio. The two “rustically elegant” cottages can each sleep up to five. Hand built in the thatch Mayan style, each cottage has a large main room plus a loft and private bath with hot and cold water. Nearby are miles of hiking and horseback trails, river beaches and a stunning mineral water natural swimming pool. Birding here is excellent, and the serious birder is almost sure to add a number of rare species to the life list. Howler monkeys also frequent the area. Phyllis Dart calls the cooking at Ek ‘Tun “guerrilla gourmet” featuring healthful Belize and international dishes with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Rates: US$217 double including breakfast and dinner and hotel tax. Package plans start at US$426 per person double occupancy for a three-night package with meals, tours, transfers and tax. MC, V and Discover accepted with 5% surcharge. Fax in the U.S. 303-442-6150; e-mail info@ektunbelize.com; www.ektunbelize.com. Directions: From San Ignacio, go 4 3/4 miles west on Benque Rd. (Western Hwy.) and turn left on Chial Rd. (look for signs to Chaa Creek, duPlooy’s and Black Rock lodges). Follow signs toward Black Rock for about 6 miles. You cannot get all the way to Ek ‘Tun by road, as there is no bridge across the Macal River. Ek ‘Tun meets guests in San Ignacio or at the international airport, bringing them by Land Rover to the river, where they cross to the lodge on a skiff. Make arrangements in advance.

HHH Mountain Equestrian Trails. M.E.T. , as it’s known, adjoins the Slate Creek Preserve of more than 3,000 acres. It’s near, but not in, the Mountain Pine Ridge. The lodge has gone through a number of changes in recent years, but with the Bevis family back in the saddle things may be looking up again. Reportedly a cash infusion from a new investor will permit the building of additional cabañas and upgrades to the property. The four thatch cabañas here are some of the nicer ones you’ll find at a lodge in Belize, though they don’t have electricity and the lighting is from kerosene lamps. As it name suggests, the lodge long has specialized in horseback riding. The quarter horses here are in good shape, and the guides try to match riders with horses. Rates US$120 double in-season, US$85 May 1-Dec. 14. Meals are extra, with breakfast US$7, lunch US$10, and dinner US$18. For budget travelers, there’s the Chiclero Trails safari tent camp, with rates of US$15 per person including tent, mattress and linens. MC, V accepted. Pine Ridge Rd., Cayo; tel. 501-9-23319, fax 8-23361 or 800-838-3918 in the U.S.; e-mail AW2trav2Bz@aol.com; www.metbelize.com. Directions: Turn south off the Western Hwy. at Georgeville (Mile 62.7) and go about 8 miles on the unpaved Pine Ridge Rd. Watch for M.E.T. sign on left, near Green Hills Butterfly Farm.

Under US$100
HH + Black Rock Lodge. This lodge enjoys a beautiful, remote setting above the Macal River, about a mile upriver from Ek’Tun. The original dark and fairly basic cottages have been upgraded, and new units constructed. Rates US$95 double. Tel. 501-9-22341; e-mail blackrock@btl.net www.blackrocklodge.com. Directions: From San Ignacio, go 4 3/4 miles west on Benque Rd. (Western Hwy.) and turn left on Chial Rd. (look for signs to Chaa Creek, duPlooy’s and Black Rock lodges). Follow signs toward Black Rock for about 6 miles.

HH Crystal Paradise. This is one of the few lodges in Cayo owned and operated by Belizeans, in this case by the Tut family. Many of the numerous Tut family pitch in and help at the lodge, which is located near the village of Cristo Rey on the Macal River. You likely will be greeted by one of the junior Tuts. Mama and daughters do the cooking. Several of the older sons are guides. One, who goes to school in Cuba, even sells Cuban cigars at good prices. Granddad, now in his 90s, is an accomplished dugout canoe maker. With, or without? That’s the question: Do you want a cabaña with a thatch roof, or a simpler and cheaper room without? Either way, you get a private bath with hot and cold water, ceiling fan and 24-hour electricity. The Tuts offer horseback riding (US$65 per person for a full day), mountain bikes to rent, and a variety of tours. Rates: Thatch cabañas, US$95 double; regular roof cabañas, US$75 double, including breakfast and dinner, but not including tax or a 10% service charge. MC, V accepted. Crysto Rey Village, Cayo; tel. 501-9-22772, fax 9-12014; e-mail cparadise@btl.net; www. crystalparadise.com. Directions: From San Ignacio, take the Cristo Rey Rd. about 4 miles to Crystal Paradise. The lodge also has an office in San Ignacio, on Savannah St.

HHH Green Heaven Lodge. Run by a young French couple, Dominique Agius and Anne-Karine Chappaz, and opened in mid-1999, Green Heaven has quickly established itself as a top choice among moderate-priced lodges in Cayo. Dominique and Anne-Karine, along with Anne-Karine’s parents, frequent visitors from France, provide personal attention to guests and a friendly, casual atmosphere. The four wood and stucco cabins, scattered behind the main building on a low hill, are not deluxe, but they are attractively furnished with Guatemala fabrics and original art. After the generator shuts down around 11, you can light an oil lamp. There’s no river swimming here, but Green Heaven has the best swimming pool in Cayo, plus badminton, volley ball and pétanque. Dominique runs the restaurant, La Vie En Rose, serving French classics like Beef Bourguignon and crepes. Rates US$90 double Nov.-May, US$70 rest of year. AE, MC, V accepted. P.O. Box 155, Chial Rd., San Ignacio; tel./ fax 501-9-12034, e-mail ghlodge@btl.net; www.ghlodgebelize.com.

HHH Maya Mountain Lodge. If you’re confused about where to stay and how much to pay, Maya Mountain might be the answer. Can’t decide whether to stay in town or out in the bush? Maya Mountain is in a quiet area, but it’s less than a mile from San Ignacio. Want comfortable, family-friendly accommodations with several rate options, lots of tours available, and extras like a (shallow) swimming pool? That’s also Maya Mountain. Bart and Suzi Mickler, Americans who have lived in Belize since the 1980s, have done a good job putting together something for just about everyone except those wanting the top-of-the-line jungle lodge experience or a party-hardy spot (there’s no bar). In summer the lodge runs educational programs. The restaurant serves healthful meals at moderate prices. The eight cottages were upgraded with tile baths and new curtains and other soft goods in 2000. Rates: Cottages are US$89 double and modest rooms with private baths $49 double in-season, cottages US$59 and rooms $35 May 1-Dec. 14. Some dorm-style accommodation is available for groups. Rates don’t include 10% service charge or tax. There also is a somewhat bewildering selection of discount deals and package plans. AE, MC, V accepted. P.O. Box 174, San Ignacio, Cayo; tel. 501-9-22154, fax 9-22029; e-mail adventure@mayamountain.com; www.mayamountain.com. Directions: From San Ignacio, take the Crysto Rey Rd. about 3/4 mile to Maya Mountain, on the right.

HH Nabitunich. You can see El Castillo at Xunantunich from this small lodge on the Mopan River just off the Western Highway. On the 400-acre cattle ranch are extensive Maya ruins, some excavated in recent years. Owner Rudy Juan is one of Cayo’s gentlemen. This is one of the better values in Cayo, with doubles around US$55. There’s a small restaurant, but no bar. Tel. 501-9-32096. Directions: From San Ignacio, take the Benque Rd. west about 5 1/2 miles. Nabitunich is on the right.

Under US$50
H Clarissa Falls. This is a jungle lodge without the jungle, as it’s located on a 900-acre cattle ranch, down by the Mopan River. Popular with Belizeans for weekend outings, Clarissa Falls is loved by just about everyone, mainly because of the people who run it. Within minutes, owner Chena Chalvez will have you laughing, and her charming sister, Anna, cooks up some of the best Mestizo-style food in Cayo. The lodge, at the end of a dirt path through a large pasture off the Western Highway, has 11 thatch cabañas, nine with private bath, in a shady setting by the river. Two of the units are big enough for large families. No deluxe furnishings or air-conditioning here, but everything is clean, and there’s electricity and hot water. Most kids love Clarissa Falls, as they can swim, tube or canoe in the river, and then recharge with two soft tacos (US$75 cents) and a red Fanta. Besides the big brahma cattle and occasional sheep, you’ll see toucans and plenty of other birds; the resident parrot, Larry, slurps coffee. Rates start at US$40 double with private bath, though the family-sized units are well over US$100. MC, V accepted. Beds in a bunk house are US$7.50, and camping is US$3.75 per person. P.O. Box 44, San Ignacio, Cayo, Western Hwy., tel. 501-9-23916. 5 1/2 miles west of San Ignacio — turn right at green bus stop with Clarissa Falls sign and go about 1 mile through cattle pasture.

H Parrot’s Nest. Ever wanted to sleep in a tree house? Parrot’s Nest at Bullet Tree Falls on the Mopan River, about 3 miles from San Ignacio, can make your dream come true. There are two cute tree houses, plus four cabins, all with outside facilities. Operated by a hard-working young couple, Chris and Theo Cocchi, Parrot’s Nest is for those who don’t mind a little rusticity. “High adventure at a low price” is the motto here. Theo is the daughter of Meb Cutlack, a noted writer and author on Belize subjects. Rates around US$25 to $33 double. No credit cards. P.O.Box 108, San Ignacio, Cayo; tel. 501-9-37008; e-mail evas@btl.net and put “Parrot’s Nest” in the subject line; www.parrot-nest.com. Directions: From San Ignacio, take Bullet Tree Falls Rd. about 3 miles.

Under US$25
Martz Farm. Simple accommodations on a working ranch owned by the Martinez family (there are 14 kids) at the site of a former chiclero camp. Horseback riding (about US$65 for a full day’s ride) and nature walks are available. Rates: US$25 double (for another one of those “tree house” cabins), US$7.50 for a room; get three meals a day for US$13 per person. Mile 8, Hydro Rd., tel. 501-9-23742; www./members.tripod.com/~vacabush/.
Lan Sluder/Belize First


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