Forgotten But Not Unforgettable

Toledo, Belize’s southern most district with the town of Punta Gorda as its major hub, is blessed with a multitude of natural attractions, including caves, sinkholes, and waterfalls strewn throughout the rainforest. Jungle-covered ruins still exist as if just discovered, and many areas here are protected wildlife reserves.

Most of the people who live here are Mayan, direct descendants of the great ancient Mayan civilization. What makes Toledo unique is the very fact that it remains largely undiscovered.

“If Belize is ‘Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret,’ as the saying goes, then Toledo is the best kept secret of them all,” says Rob Hirons. “We sometimes call Toledo the ‘forgotten district’ because it’s not developed to the extent of other areas of Belize. But it’s for that very reason that visitors call our forgotten district simply unforgettable. It’s the ideal spot for anyone with a pioneering spirit, interested in nature, adventure and Mayan culture.”

Pioneering spirits themselves, Rob and his wife Marta arrived from the U.S. three years ago to turn their dreams into a reality – to run a rainforest lodge in the unspoiled southern Belize wilderness.

Eighteen miles west of Punta Gorda, the Lodge is the ideal base from which to explore the Toledo area. The intimate family-run lodge lies on a deep meander on the upper reaches of the Rio Grande. All six spacious cabanas look down on the water’s edge.

The Lodge makes all Toledo’s treasures easily accessible, with no compromise on comfort. The Lodge’s design combines high thatched ceilings, saltillo tiled floors and tall louvered windows to catch the afternoon breeze – a simple yet elegant ambience.

The Hirons are proud of the fact that the Lodge has become known for the quality of its food, combining flavors from around the Mediterranean from Lebanon to Spain, as well as offering fresh fish from the market in Punta Gorda.

Along with exploring area attractions by tour, guests can explore the trails around the lodge and enjoy the myriad butterflies, orchids bromeliads and birds. About 490 species of birds have been recorded in the Toledo district; 350 species recorded within five miles of the Lodge. Toledo is home to more than sixty Mayan villages, where guests can taste the local cacao (chocolate) drink; try their hand at making tortillas; listen to Mayan harp playing or learn about some of the medicinal plants that grow in the jungle.

Adventurers enjoy snorkeling with the reef fish around the Snake and Sapodilla Cayes, jungle trekking, kayaking and caving. The Hirons say Blue Creek Cave is an established favorite where visitors can swim deep inside the cave, hike through dry caves higher up in the system or trek over the mountain pass to the gorge, where the Rio Blanco abruptly disappears into the mountainside.

“With tourism so new in Toledo, we’re really excited by the opportunities to scout new tours and tour routes,” says Rob.