I've stayed there.
Here's my review of it.
--Lan Sluder www.belizefirst.com
FOUR STARS Mopan River Resort, Benque Viejo del Carmen, Cayo; tel. 501-823-2047, fax 823-3272, e-mail [email protected]
. Closed July-October. 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 checkout 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 almost 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, though not admission fees), local beer and drinks, and even tips and taxes. And that one price isn’t a budget-breaker, either, starting at less than US$130 per person per day (based on a 7-day stay.) No tipping is allowed. Guests are responsible only for site admission fees, visa/border fees, departure taxes, usually adding up to about US$70 a week. Fact is, it may be the best upmarket deal on the mainland. 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 12 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 (but not A/C), 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. 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. Jay’s real name is Joseph Ross, and his tales of tax woes have been recounted in The Wall Street Journal and in the book, The Cheating of America by Charles Lewis and Bill Allison. 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. A few guests have reported noise from dogs barking in town. And it’s not for those who want to do things entirely on their own, trying different restaurants, heading out on a whim, and 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 swimming pool opened in 2001, and a wedding chapel in 2002. 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$898 per person in a cabaña, or US$1,073 for a suite with kitchen; three-, four-, five- and six-night plans also available, from US$598, but the weeklong package is the best deal. Christmas and Easter holidays are slightly higher.