I'm inclined to say it would be a toss-up as between the jungle camp at Chaa Creek and a room at Black Rock. I think management at Chaa Creek is terrific, the location is a bit closer in (Black Rock is really way out in nowhere) but Black Rock is nice too for the money.
As to Tikal lodging, here are a few ideas from my Belize First Guide to Mainland Belize.
ACCOMMODATION AT TIKAL: Because of the strong demand, it can be difficult to find a room here, especially on weekends, and you may not find good value for what you get. Hotels at the park have electricity only part of the day; most do not accept credit cards.
The Jaguar Inn (tel. 502-926-0002) is the least expensive hotel, but it has only a few rooms and they’re not all that nice. Rates are around US$50 double. An interpretive trail runs past the property.
The largest hotel is the Jungle Lodge (tel. in Guatemala City 502-476-8775, fax 476-0294; e-mail [email protected]
, and it even has a Web page at www.junglelodge.guate.com).
It has a pool, and the white-walled bungalows are priced at around US$70 double. Some guests complain about the thin walls.
The Hotel Tikal Inn (tel. 502-926-0065) charges from around US$55 double. With rustic cabañas around a pool, it is perhaps the best of the lot.
Cheapest of all is the once-free camping area, which now charges US$6 per person per night for the privilege of hanging a hammock or pitching a tent. There are no facilities, not even water, but you can rent a hammock at a similarly inflated price.
If you want to get more bang for your buck (and don’t mind a bit of a commute) stay in the village of El Remate. Tourist minibuses from El Remate to Tikal cost about US$5. Here, there are several budget places to stay including La Casa de Don David (tel. 502-306-2190, fax 926-0807, e-mail [email protected]
) Rates are around US$18 double and good meals are under US$5. Another comfortable place is La Mansión del Pajaro Serpiente, with two-story thatch cabañas with lake views. Less expensive (around US$5 per person) and with lots of atmosphere is El Mirador del Duende (tel. 502-926-0269). Odd-looking stucco cabañas perch on the top of platforms, with views of the lake. The restaurant has vegetarian food.
The top international-style hotel in the Petén is Hotel Camino Real Tikal (tel. 502-926-0204, fax 926-0222, or in the U.S. or Canada 800-278-3000, e-mail [email protected]
) on Lake Petén Itzá about 3 miles west of El Remate and a half hour from Tikal. The air-conditioned rooms are big, and the restaurant is reliable. It even has a private yacht to take guests on trips on the lake.
FOOD AT TIKAL: There are a number of rather pricey restaurants near Tikal, but several comedores are affordable, including an inexpensive and very popular one next to the campsite. Water is difficult to obtain from the restaurants; some will try to sell you bottled water with your meals. You should bring a good supply, along with snacks to munch on while atop the ruins.
FLORES AREA LODGING: There is an increasing number of places to stay in and around Flores. The best hotel on the Santa Elena side is the modern, Spanish-style Hotel El Patio Tikal (502-926-1229) which has 22 rooms with color TV and fan. There is an attractive garden and a restaurant which will prepare a box lunch for you to take to Tikal. Rooms run upward from US$60 double.
Set between the town and the airport, the 36-room Hotel Tzquina-ha (tel. 502-926-0174) has a pool, tennis court, and restaurant; it’s popular with tour groups. It has rooms with color TV and air-conditioning. Rates run from around US$65 double.
In Flores itself, Hotel Sabana (tel. 502-926-1248) is set far from the causeway. Rooms at the rear overlook the water, and there’s a small island offshore which is connected to the hotel. Rates are under US$30 double. The similarly priced, three-story Hotel la Casona de la Isla (tel. 502-926-0692) has a swimming pool and 31 attractive rooms.
About 7 miles east of Santa Elena on Lake Petén Chel is Villa Maya (tel. 502-926-0086, fax 502-334-6235), second only to the Hotel Camino Real-Tikal (see below) in luxe and price. The bungalow rooms have mahogany floors and white walls with Guatemalan art and fabric wall-hangings. A small zoo is on the 67-acre grounds.
FLORES AREA RESTAURANTS: El Toucán and Mesa de los Mayas are moderately priced and popular, with exotic “jungle-style” decor and local game on the menu. Café Bar Las Puertas is an inexpensive spot with live music, good pasta and some vegetarian dishes.