Restaurant serving international cuisine using ingredients from on-site organic garden
Many outdoor activities and nearby natural attractions
No in-room TVs (a pro for some!)
No air-conditioning in most rooms
Most rooms lack exceptional views, in spite of the gorgeous riverside location
Chaa Creek, one of Belize’s first eco-lodges, has evolved from its humble beginnings as a working farm to become a premier luxury retreat. This sophisticated operation includes rustic-luxe, thatched-roof cottages, wonderful service, and modern amenities such as an infinity pool with jungle views and a full-service spa. The riverside setting on a private rainforest reserve is phenomenal, and myriad tours and outdoor activities are offered through the hotel. To top it off, room rates are fair for what you get -- and there are even budget accommodations available at Macal River Camp, located on the property.
A charming collection of tropical thatched-roof cottages on a well-manicured riverside plot
Chaa Creek lies a few miles down a dirt road from a turnoff on the Western Highway. The drive to the lodge makes a nice introduction to the property: Visitors will see green pastures bordered with forest that looks something like a tropical Pennsylvania countryside, and then pass the horse stables and spa before reaching the entrance to the lodge. From there, it’s a short walk to the reception desk, where guests are warmly greeted with a welcome beverage. The cottages are dotted across the grounds, built round the pool and restaurant area.
The grounds feature wonderful tropical landscaping. The bar has a cool wooden patio with tables and chairs overlooking the property, and there is also an open-air, thatched-roof restaurant decorated with indigenous artwork. The pool is a large, semi-rectangular, infinity-edge affair, with plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas around it it. The water tumbles over the edge of the pool and into the shallower kids’ pool below. A few steps above the swimming pool is the conference area, also with a patio containing tables and chairs.
The whole property tends to feel somewhat like a tropical forest version of Disney World. The charming whitewashed cottages look from the exterior like something Snow White and the seven dwarfs might live in. Everything, including the lawns, is well manicured and looks almost artificial. There are wonderful views of the property from the spa building, built at the top of the hill and looking out to the surrounding forested hillsides.
Although the Macal River flows next to the property, guests won’t hear it from the rooms (though rooms 9 and 10 do have river views). Also on the grounds of this large private reserve are the Rainforest Medicine Trail, Natural History Centre, butterfly farm, and the Maya Organic Farm. There’s enough to keep guests busy here for a week, easily, between the numerous on-site attractions and the tours that can be arranged. (Tours for cave exploration, zip-lining, and Mayan ruins are available, among others; sights are a one- to three-hour drive away).
The Macal River Camp, the budget accommodation option also located on the grounds, is decidedly more rustic and makes a fine choice for travelers looking to be in touch with nature (though critters do manage to find their way into these tents, so it may be too close to nature for some). Each canvas-roofed tent is set on a high platform, and shared bathroom and showers are available for the whole camp. There’s a separate thatched-roof dining area, and guests are welcome to use the pool and facilities at the main lodge. It’s definitely more camping than "glamping," though plenty of gas lamps after dark add a certain level of charm.
About a 25-minute drive from the town of San Ignacio, on 365 acres of hills above the Macal River
Chaa Creek enjoys a gorgeous jungle location in the Cayo District. It feels wonderfully secluded without being entirely remote and inaccessible -- it's a two-hour drive from Belize City. Popular cave tours and Mayan ruin tours are accessible in this region.
2-hour drive from Belize International Airport
15-minute drive to Belize Botanic Gardens
25-minute drive to San Ignacio town
30-minute drive to Xunantunich Maya ruins
30-minute drive to Cahal Pech Maya ruins
30-minute drive to Guatemala border
60-minute drive to Barton Creek Cave
60-minute drive to Belize Zoo
90-minute drive to Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave
90-minute drive to Phillip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE)
Charming whitewashed stone cottages with thatched roofs and many comforts inside
The rooms are as charming and stylish on the inside as they appear to be from the outside. All rooms are screened in to provide protection against insects, with one side fully composed of mesh screen with wooden frame, and the thatched roof materials visible above. Though decor varies from room to room, the style and materials are consistent throughout: Common elements include Guatemalan fabrics, Mexican tile floors, wood accents, and tribal art.
Rooms are cooled by ceiling fans, a standing fan, and breezes coming in from screened windows. Most rooms lack air-conditioning, though you probably won’t miss it unless you’re staying during the warmest months between March and May. The comfortable beds feature a variety of pillows and feather duvets accented with Guatemalan weavings. Private wooden patios have chairs for relaxation, and some have Jacuzzi tubs.
Bathrooms are spacious and feature walk-in showers with Mexican tiles, along with double sinks.
The Macal River Camp consists of canvas tent structures on raised platforms. Inside are two to four twin beds, a nightstand, and a gas lamp. There’s a small wooden patio with chairs.