They are two very different places, in part because of the location. Mopan River is a great value, but it's not really a jungle lodge, as it's located in (or rather right across the river from) the town of Benque.
Here's what I wrote recently about the two places in our Belize First Guide to Mainland Belize.
Belize First Magazine http://www.turq.com/belizefirst/
* * * * Mopan River Resort. The valu-o-meter got turned up to wow in Cayo when this all-inclusive opened in November 1999. Some visitors to Belize complain that hotel rates seem reasonable enough, but at check-out the total tab is lot higher than expected. At remote lodges where guests are locked in to a single provider, the price of meals, drinks, transfers, tours, tax, and service charges often is several times the room charge. 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 $115 per person per day. Fact is, it may be the best 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 out 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. Plus, 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 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, year-round, 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. (Note: Rate category for this all-inclusive is adjusted to make comparisons easier with other hotels where meals, tours, taxes, transfers, etc. are not included.) Benque Viejo del Carmen, Cayo; tel. 501-9-32047, fax 9-33272, e-mail [email protected]
MC, V, Discover with no surcharge. Closed July-October.
* * * * * 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 Feline’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 and 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 with no surcharge. P.O Box 53, San Ignacio; tel. 501-9-22037, fax 9-22501; e-mail [email protected]
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.