Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A stylish jungle lodge in a remote corner of Belize, right smack in the middle of the rainforest
It’s hard to find a place that’s so remote and yet retains so many elements of civilization. If you fly in to the airstrip at Gallon Jug Estate, you’ll soon realize this place is literally out in the middle of nowhere. If you drive here, you’ll see the progression from deforested and logged hillsides to a very well-preserved rainforest ecosystem. The lodge itself, while charmingly rustic, is more tamed than areas outside the estate -- but the wildness of jungle is still close at hand. White-tailed deer and Ocellated Turkeys strut carelessly along the grounds by the roadside, as if placed there on cue for guests’ arrival. A large chalkboard in the main lodge attests to the variety of wildlife sightings, which runs the gamut from toucans to jaguars.
Speaking of the main lodge, it’s a handsome, thatched-roof, wooden-sided structure built with local hardwoods gathered when the jungle was cleared out to build the lodge back in the late 1980s. The area occupied by the lodge literally sits in the plaza of an ancient Maya city, Chan Chich (meaning "Little Bird"). Part of the site is lightly excavated, and you can marvel, for example, at looter’s trenches. The main lodge houses the restaurant, with indoor and outdoor dining areas; the front desk; gift shop; and a cool bar with whirring ceiling fans. The cabanas are built in similar fashion, and lie spread out in a horseshoe-shape on the wonderfully tropical and well-manicured grounds. Ancient overgrown Maya temples, really just grassy hills at first glance, lie interspersed.
Also on the grounds is the screened-in swimming pool. The screening-in makes sense, as leaf litter constantly falls from the surrounding trees, and it keeps out critters from cockroaches to coral snakes.
A 30-minute flight from Belize City or a 3.5-hour drive, partially on rutted dirt roads
It’s not easy to get to Chan Chich, which is why most visitors prefer to fly to the private airstrip in Gallon Jug Estate, about 15 minutes from the lodge itself. From the Western Highway leading from Belize City to the Guatemalan border, a turn-off near the town of San Ignacio leads down private logging roads to the lodge. Access is with prior approval only.
The Gallon Jug Estate is in Belize's Orange Walk district in the northwestern part of the country. The lodge itself is built on the plaza of an ancient Maya city, the remains in evidence mostly as overgrown temples.
Rustic luxe, with rattan furniture and wood construction
The rooms at Chan Chich are high-end jungle cabanas. They are built on elevated platforms, and look like huts from the outside. They feature wonderful wraparound wooden decks with hammocks, chairs and chaise lounges. Inside, they have high, visible thatched-roof ceilings, screened-in windows on all sides to let in the cooling breezes, and wood walls. Plantation shutters on three sides of the room can be closed for greater privacy. The beds lie on platforms and feel slightly on the hard side. Chan Chich is one of the few jungle lodges in Belize where you won’t find Guatemalan textiles in evidence in the room decor.
Bathrooms have a cabin feel to them, with no tile in evidence. Everything from the shower stall to the vanity is made of wood, save for the sink.
Delicious international cuisine prepared using fresh ingredients
When it comes to stylish jungle lodges, Chan Chich is the real deal. Nestled in the remote northwestern corner of Belize, the lodge sits on a private nature reserve located within the 130,000-acre Gallon Jug Estate. Accommodations consist of 12 rustically charming yet comfortable thatched-roof cabanas and one two-bedroom villa set amid the grounds of an ancient Maya ruin. Nature lies at your doorstep, as do phenomenal hiking and bird watching opportunities. Modern comforts include outstanding cuisine at a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating, cocktails in the tropical-themed bar, and a screened-in swimming pool with Jacuzzi.