Good, Cheap Places to Stay in Belize
By LAN SLUDER
Belize has the reputation of being an expensive destination. To some degree, that reputation is deserved, but high quality and inexpensive lodging and meals are available, too, if you know where to look for them.
Here are my picks for good, cheap places to stay in Belize. (Of course, these are just the tips of the tropical iceberg, as there are more than 500 lodging options in Belize.) With only one or two exceptions, I have personally stayed in or at least toured all these properties. In most cases, singles listed here start at US$15 or less, and doubles at US$25 or less (both plus 9% hotel tax, and in a few cases a 5 to 10% service charge). A few cost a bit more, but are worth it. These hotels and hostels are universally clean and well run. You’ll enjoy them.
San Ignacio, CayoSan Ignacio makes a good base for caving, hiking, canoeing and exploring Maya sites. It’s also a jumping off spot for Tikal. Downtown San Ignacio has a number of budget and low-moderate hotels, along with many well-priced restaurants where you can enjoy stew chicken and beans and rice, or a plate of fried chicken, for around US$5. Around San Ignacio are several of the best jungle lodges in Belize, along with some budget lodges.
Benque Rd., San José Succotz Village, Cayo; tel. 501-823-2265; www.thetrekstop.com
. 6 miles west of San Ignacio, on the south
side of Western Hwy. (Benque Rd.). American expats Judy and John Yaeger and their Belizean partners opened this spot in 1998. They own 22 acres, perched beside the highway on a hillside near San José Succotz Village and the Xunantunich Maya ruins. Budget travelers will find cheap sleeps in cozy, neat-as-a-pin cabins (US$15 single, US$24 double), with screened windows, outdoor composting toilets (shared) and solar-heated showers. Larger cabins run US$28 to US$38, plus additional charges for occupants over two in a cabin. A small butterfly farm and nature center, Tropical Wings, a disc golf course and a restaurant are also here. Camping is available -- US$5 per night per person. There’s also a common kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Bikes, kayaks and inner tubes are available for rent. Highly recommended for those seeking quality budget accommodations.
2964 Pluto St. (off Mile 66 1/2 Western Hwy.), Hillview, Santa Elena; tel. 501-663-5580; www.folkmusicfl.tripod.com/adventuresinbelize/
. Email or call for directions. This is one of Belize's few true hostels. It's run by Ray Auxillou, a pioneer of tourism on Caye Caulker and one of the real characters in Belize, and his wife, Silvia. Hostel rates US$11 per person. Furnished apartments with kitchen are US$45. A bit out of the way, but clean and well-maintained, and nice folks.
A BIT MORE … BUT WORTH ITCasa Blanca Guest House,
10 Burns Ave., San Ignacio; tel. 501-824-2080;www.casablancaguesthouse.com
. While it's near the center of busy San Ignacio, this small hotel, winner of the Belize Tourism Board's "best small hotel award" a few years ago, is quiet and a great choice if you want to save money. The smallish rooms, with white plaster walls trimmed in mahogany and locally made wood furniture, are a big step above typical budget lodging. There’s Wi-Fi and cable TV. Everything is sparkling clean, and the hotel is well run. Rooms with fans start at US$20-$25 double. Some rooms have air-conditioning (US$30-$50). No restaurant, but you’re right across the street from the excellent Hannah’s restaurant, and you can prepare snacks or full meals in the shared kitchen. Reserve ahead: Casa Blanca is often fully booked.
FOR VALUE ALSO CONSIDER …
Venus Hotel, San Ignacio – US$14-$32
Aguada Hotel, Santa Elena – US$35 and up
Martha’s, San Ignacio – US$40-$80
Clarissa Falls Resort – US$38 and up
Macal River Camp at Chaa Creek, near San Ignacio -- US$55 per person including breakfast and dinner
Parrot Nest, Bullet Tree – US$40-$45
Corozal TownCorozal Town is usually viewed just as a stopover between Mexico and the Belize cayes or other points south, but it’s actually one of the most pleasant spots in Belize to relax by Corozal Bay and do nothing.
Sea Breeze Hotel,
23 1st Avenue, Corozal Town, tel. 501-422-3051, www.theseabreezehotel.com
. This aqua-colored hotel on Corozal Bay has quickly gained a reputation as one of the best bargains in the country. Even the four budget rooms here, at US$20, have cable TV and Wi-Fi. The two larger “premium” rooms are US$25-$30, and one has a bay view. Breakfast is available for US$5, and there’s a nice bar upstairs with views of the water.
FOR VALUE ALSO CONSIDER …
Corozal Bay Resort – US$60
Copa Banana – US$55
Tony’s Inn – US$65-$85
Hok’ol K’in – US$45-$50
Las Palmas – US$45-$75
Mirador – US$35-$65Sarteneja
Sarteneja village near the Shipstern Reserve is one of the most charming small villages in Belize, with a lovely setting on the water. Spending a lot of money is hard in Sarteneja, as the few hotels and restaurants are all budget or moderate. It’s accessible by boat or air from San Pedro or Corozal Town, or by car or bus from Corozal or Orange Walk.
Bandera Road, Sarteneja; tel. 501-403-2051; www.bluegreenbelize.com
. Backpackers Paradise, run by a French Canadian-Swiss couple, has snug (that is, tiny) and somewhat funky cabanas at a great price. Cabanas (single or double) are US$11--$17.50, and camping is US$3.25 per person. You can snack on free citrus and other fruit from trees on the site, but there’s also a restaurant and bar.
A BIT MORE … BUT WORTH ITCandelie's Sunset Cabanas,
North Front St., Sarteneja Village; tel. 501-423-2005; email [email protected]
. Candelie’s has just two cottages, set a few feet from the water. The high-ceilinged cottages each have double beds, cable TV and plenty of space. Wood Stork, closer to the water and with a large mural of the stork on the side, has air-conditioning, while Brown Pelican has a fan. Either is a bargain, at US$40 plus tax.
Orange Walk TownOrange Walk Town is mostly a base for day trips to Lamanai. There are several inexpensive, high-quality hotels in town near the New River.Hotel de la Fuente,
14 Main St., Orange Walk Town; tel. 501-322-2290; www.hoteldelafuente.com
. Orlando de la Fuente’s and his wife opened this nice addition to the very limited hotel scene in Orange Walk Town. The low rates starting at US$25 to $35 (single or double) put it among the best values in Northern Belize. Even the basic rooms have air-conditioning, cable TV and Wi-Fi. There are also 2 suites with kitchenettes (US$60-$70). The hotel can arrange tours at competitive prices, including a full-day Lamanai tour with hotel pick-up and drop-off and lunch for US$40 per person.
10 Main St., Orange Walk Town; tel. 501-322-2420; www.stchristophershotelbze.com
. This hotel overlooking the New River has attractive rooms, all with cable TV and some air-conditioned. Rates range from US$25 to $47.
NORTHERN CAYESThe Northern Cayes are the most popular visitor destinations in Belize, for good reason. They offer a Caribbean-style island resort atmosphere, easy access to the Belize Barrier Reef, lots of choices for hotels and restaurants in all price ranges and first-rate diving, snorkeling and fishing.
Ambergris Caye is Belize’s #1 visitor destination by far, with the biggest selection of hotels, restaurants, tourist-oriented shops and bars in the country. Even so, it’s not very commercialized compared with many destinations in Mexico and the main Caribbean. It’s also viewed as being an expensive place, and it can be, but there are a handful of inexpensive hotels. You can dine out at any price point, from inexpensive (and safe to eat) street vendor tacos and take-out broiled chicken to top-of-the-line restaurants.
Barrier Reef Drive, P.O. Box 56, San Pedro; tel. 501-226-2063; www.ambergriscaye.com/rubys/
. This is the favorite budget spot of many value-conscious visitors. Rooms in the original wooden building are basic but clean; those on the street side can be a little noisy. Singles with share baths and fans are US$20; singles with private bath and fan are US$25. Rooms in the concrete addition on the ocean side sport A/C and private baths and go for US$60 plus tax double, still a good value. Good inexpensive breakfasts and light meals in the first-floor restaurant. The hotel is often full.
FOR VALUE ALSO CONSIDER …
Hotel Sanpedrano -- US$15-$40
Martha’s – US$15-$35Caye CaulkerCaye Caulker is Ambergris Caye’s little sister, smaller, more laid-back and a cheaper date. Many prefer it to the more upscale pleasures of San Pedro. The island has more than 50 small hotels, quite a few with rates under US$25 even in high season, and many in the moderate range (US$25-$75).
Tina’s Bak Pak Hostel
, Beachfront just north of public pier, tel. 501-226-0351;www.cayecaulker.org/tina/
. For US$12 per person, you can grab a hammock or
a bunk bed at this hostel right on the beach. There’s room for 16 friendly people.
Beachfront, about 4 blocks south of the public pier, (P.O. Box 15), Caye
Caulker, tel. 501-226-0102; e-mail [email protected]
. This backpacker favorite, with 5
cabins and lots of rooms in a two-story concrete building, continues to attract a crowd.
Many rooms are small, share baths and can be very hot, but the quiet seaside location and low prices, starting at around US$20, keep regulars coming back.
A BIT MORE … BUT WORTH ITMaxhapan Cabanas,
55 Avenue Pueblo Nuevo, south end of village, (P.O. Box 63), Caye Caulker; tel. 501-226-0118; email [email protected]
. Maxhapan (pronounced Ma-sa-pan) is a Maya word for breadfruit, and there indeed is a large breadfruit tree near these three cabanas. While it’s not on the water, Maxhapan is otherwise nearly ideal, with sparkling clean rooms (all with private baths, A/C, microwave and small fridge) and friendly management. Rates start around US$40 double in the low season, US$60 in the high. Bikes are free.
south of the public pier, near the water, (P.O. Box 29), Caye Caulker, tel. 501-226-0240, fax 226-0115; www.treetopsbelize.com
. Belize needs more places like this one – the guest rooms are clean as a pin and the entire place is meticulously maintained. All rooms have cable TV and a fridge. Two have private baths (one has a composting toilet) and the others have shared baths. Rooms with fans and share baths are around US$50.
FOR VALUE ALSO CONSIDER …
Daisy’s – US$15-$20
Miramar – US$10-$20
Sandy Lane – US$15-$25
Mara’s – US$28-$35
Barefoot Beach – US$49 and up
Seaside Cabanas (for a splurge) -- US$84-$124
BELIZE CITYMany people think the best way to see Belize City is through the rear view mirror as you leave this bustling small city, the commercial, cultural and transportation hub of Belize. There’s truth to that, although Belize City has many excellent restaurants, a good museum and several important colonial buildings. In my opinion, it’s worth paying a little more to stay in a safe area at a pleasant hotel or inn, rather than trying to pinch pennies here.
A BIT MORE … BUT WORTH IT D’Nest Inn,
475 Cedar St., Belize City; tel. 501/223-5416; www.dnestinn.com
. (Directions: from the Northern Hwy. turn west on Chetumal St., turn right at the police station, go 1block and turn left, then turn right on Cedar St.) D’Nest Inn is a B&B run by Gaby and Oty Ake. Gaby is a retired Belize banker, and Oty is originally from Chetumal. The two-story, Caribbean-style house is on a canal 50 feet from the Belize River. It’s in an area called Belama Phase 2, a safe, middle-class section between the international airport and downtown. Oty’s gardens around the house are filled with hibiscus, roses and other blossoming plants. The four guest rooms are furnished with antiques such as a hand-carved, four-poster bed, but they also have modcons like wireless internet, air-conditioning and cable TV. With a private entrance and your own key, you come and go as you like. Rates are US$50 to $60 single and US$60 to $70 double and include a delicious full breakfast. Highly recommended.
FOR VALUE ALSO CONSIDER …
Belcove Hotel -- US$27-$52
Hotel Mopan – US$45-$75
Villa Boscardi – US$65-$79SOUTHERN BELIZESouthern Belize, especially Hopkins and the Placencia peninsula, has some of the best beaches in Belize.
HopkinsHopkins is a small seaside Garifuna village that is struggling to handle the 21st century. It’s one of the friendliest and most exotic places with Belize. Most of the budget lodging here lacks a good deal in the way of style, but the sandy beaches are pleasant. Damn those sandlfies!
Tipple Tree Beya,
Hopkins (P.O. Box 206, Dangriga); tel. 501-520-7006; www.tippletree.com
. The facilities are simple, though clean and well maintained, but the beachfront location is terrific. Rates US$30 to $50 double.
A BIT MORE … BUT WORTH ITHopkins Inn,
Hopkins (P.O. Box 121, Dangriga); tel./fax 501-523-7013, or tel./fax
in the U.S. 907-683-2518; www.hopkinsinn.com
. Attractive cabañas on the beach,
with full bath, fridge, fan and private verandah with sea views. The hotel is run by Greg
and Rita Duke, who are knowledgeable about the area. Rates US$50 to $99 double,
including continental breakfast, plus tax. Discounts available off-season.
Jungle Jeanies by the Sea,
Hopkins; tel./fax 501-523-7047; www.junglebythesea.com
. This group of wood cabanas on stilts is on 2 acres of beachfront shaded by coconut palms. You can rent kayaks and windsurfers here, or just relax in a hammock. This is a terrific, moderately priced beachfront resort. Owners "Jungle Jeanie" Barkman and husband "Jungle John" are Canadians who have lived in Belize for years. Rates US$55-$120 double.
PlacenciaPlacencia offers fewer cheap lodging choices than does Caye Caulker. Most budget places are in Placencia village. The village is also the place for inexpensive and moderately priced eats. Don’t miss Tutti-Frutti, which has some of the best gelato outside Italy.
Lydia’s Guest House,
Placencia Village; tel. 501-523-3117; www.lydiasguesthouse.com
. This is a popular budget choice at the quiet north end of the village. It’s run by Lydia Villanueva and offers 8 basic but clean rooms, with fans, shared bath, shared kitchen, fridge, and, on the second floor of the wood-frame house, a verandah with hammocks. Rates: around US$25 double in-season, a little less in summer. Cabanas also available, at weekly rates.
Placencia Village; tel. 501-523-3148; www.seasprayhotel.com
. Don’t expect fancy, and some rooms are a bit frayed, but the central location is hard to beat, and you’re next door to a good restaurant, De Tatch. Rates for a double budget room start at US$20 July-October and US$25 the rest of the year. Other rooms range from around US$35 to $65.
Placencia Village; tel. 501-523-4083; www.manateeinn.com
. Although not directly on the beach, the Manatee Inn offers value for your money. The six rooms on the second floor of a wood-frame, two-story building are simply furnished, but they’re extremely clean, and all have private baths. Two larger apartments, perfect for families, are on the first floor. Doubles are US$35 mid-May to mid-November, US$45 the rest of the year. Singles start at US$30. Discounts available for longer stays.
A BIT MORE … BUT WORTH ITMaya Beach Hotel and Bistro,
Maya Beach, tel./fax 501-520-8040 or 800-
. Before ending up here, owners John and Ellen
Lee (he's Australian, she's American) traveled and worked in 20 countries. They must
have figured out what travelers like, because their Bistro by the beach is one of the
best restaurants in Belize, and the hotel is a classic barefoot beachy inn. Rates for the off-season start at US$69 single or double and $89 in high season. In addition to the simple but pleasant hotel rooms with views of False Caye and the sea, the hotel rents four apartments and two houses nearby, some with access to a pool.
FOR VALUE ALSO CONSIDER …
Deb & Dave’s Last Resort – US$25
Tradewinds – US$65 and up
Westwind – US$50 and upPunta GordaToledo District is the way Belize used to be – green, friendly and untouristed. Punta Gorda is a little shy in the very cheap lodging category, but it offers exceptional values in the moderate range.
A BIT MORE … BUT WORTH ITHickatee Cottages Lodge,
Ex-Servicemen Rd., Punta Gorda; tel. 501-662-
. A delightful British couple, Ian and Kate Morton, created Hickatee Cottages in 2005 and turned it into one of the best small lodges in Belize. The three Caribbean-style cottages, with zinc roofs and private porches, are nestled in lush
foliage. Rates start at an affordable US$55 single, $75 double or triple and include free Wi-Fi, continental breakfast, bikes and airstrip/boat/bus transfers. Delicious meals are available (dinner is US$17.50, and a full breakfast is US$6.25 per person), with fruits and vegetables from the owners’ organic nursery next door. Highly recommended. A hickatee, by the way, is a river turtle, Dermatemys mawii.
Coral House Inn,
151 Main St., Punta Gorda; tel. 501-722-2878;www.coralhouseinn.net
. Americans Rick and Darla Mallory bought and renovated a 1938 colonial-era house and turned it into one of the coolest guesthouses in Belize. You’ll recognize it by the coral color and the vintage red and white VW van parked in front. There are Confederate graves in the cemetery next door, a legacy of the Confederate immigration to Toledo after the U.S. Civil War. Rooms start at US$83 double. They have tile floors, good beds, TV, air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi. There’s a small swimming pool, recently upgraded.
FOR VALUE ALSO CONSIDER …
Nature’s Way Hostel – US$15 and up
Tate’s Guesthouse – US$30-$60
Charlton’s Inn – US$30-$45
St. Charles Inn – US$20-$35
Blue Belize Guesthouse – US$70
Tranquility Lodge – US$60-$75 (thru November 2009)
Sun Creek Lodge – US$40-$100
About LAN SLUDER: Lan Sluder has been banging around Belize for 18 years. He is the author of a half dozen books on the country, including
Fodor’s Belize and
Living Abroad in Belize, along with several eBooks on Belize. Visit him at www.belizefirst.com.