Here is an excerpt from my book, Belize First Guide to Mainland Belize, on some of the better budget and moderate choices around San Ignacio and Benque.
Belize First Magazine http://www.turq.com/belizefirst/
Note: H means Star, hotels rated 1 to 5 stars
San Ignacio Area
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
; 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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
Benque Viejo and San José Succotz
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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.
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 [email protected]
; 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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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.
HH 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 [email protected]
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.
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/.
Cayo has more camping options than any other area of Belize. A number of the hotels and lodges in the area will permit overnight camping or RV parking.
Clarissa Falls. This popular Belizean-owned cabaña colony on the Mopan River (see above) also allows camping. Beds in the bunk house are US$7.50, and camping is US$3.75 per person. RVs and trailers are permitted to camp here, but there are no hook-ups. P.O. Box 44, San Ignacio, Western Hwy.; tel. 501-9-23916.
Cosmos Camping. About 3/4 mile north of town, has tent sites (US$4) and a swimming hole. Hammocks are available for rent. Branch Mouth Rd., San Ignacio, tel. 501-9-22116.
Hilltop Camping. Located in the village of San Antonio, about 1 1/2 miles from the Mountain Pine Ridge reserve boundary, this is a good choice if you are interested in the Pine Ridge. Sites are US$2.50 each; hammocks or palapas may be available at no extra charge. No phone.
Inglewood Camping Grounds. A newer, more upmarket camping option is on the road to Benque just west of San Ignacio. Owners Veronica and Greg offer tent camping with hot and cold showers, rustic cabañas and hook-ups for RVs. Mile 68 1/4, Western Hwy., tel. 501-9-23555.
Midas Eco Resort. About 1/4 mile north of San Ignacio, Midas has 38 tent sites (US$4 per person) and six thatched-roof cabañas (US$34 double in-season) located near a sandy beach on the Macal River. Meals are available at US$4-8. Branch Mouth Rd., San Ignacio, tel. 501-9-23172, www.belizex.com/midas_resort.htm.
Trek Stop. At this friendly spot about 6 miles west of San Ignacio, on the road to Benque, you can rent a tent for US$6, or if you just need a place to camp, it’s US$3.50. For meals, ask to use the common kitchen. San José Succotz Village; tel. 501-9-32265; e-mail [email protected]