Cahal Pech Resort (http://www.cahalpech.com/)
This resort is worth it for the view alone. It’s located on the top of the rolling hills of San Ignacio and the locality provides a panoramic view of the lights at night and a breathtaking view of the town sheltered by the lush greens of a multitude of trees and shrubs everywhere you look. The resort provides a choice of lodging options. You can choose to stay in a private cabana with a large screened porch looking out at the town, or you can choose a room in their hotel type structure which also looks out on the town. The cabanas provide you with more of a outdoorsy type experience and, in my opinion, give the place a unique charm.
Cahal Pech does mean land of the ticks so make sure to be on the lookout for these little critters burrowing in – I had a couple start digging in to me and I would still go back – just do a quick check and be on your way.
The staff at this resort are absolutely friendly and totally willing to do anything to help accommodate you. The feeling you get from them is that they will do anything to try and make your stay as memorable as possible. They are happy to set up any tours you would like to take and give any information you may need about the surrounding areas.
One night in San Ignacio we were trying to figure you where to eat and just roaming around town looking for a place. We stopped and asked a taxi driver what he would recommend and he pointed out Hannah’s. When we arrived we recognized the place as being recommended earlier in the day by a local guy who lives in a village just outside of San Ignacio. If you ask two people where to go eat and you get the same answer just go for it. So we walked in and the tiny little placed was packed wall to wall – we knew it must be a good sign.
It’s a simple little wooden structure and really looks like a total hole in the wall, but don’t be fooled – the food and service at Hannah’s was absolutely outstanding. I had the sliced eggplant with mozzarella, tomato, and basil with a side of coconut rice and my friend had rice and beans with stewed chicken. Our waiter was very friendly and attentive. We didn’t wait long for service, drinks or food even though the place was crowded. Dinner started with a garden salad and we could have just stopped there and been impressed. I’ve spent the last 10 months here ordering a side salad and receiving a tiny serving of iceberg lettuce, some tomato and maybe a cucumber. Dressing choices are ranch and ranch typically. This salad was superb – visually it was impressive – mixed greens, onion, star fruit, cucumber, cabbage and possibly a few other items. Then we got to choose from a selection of about 6 different dressings. Wow.
The main courses didn’t disappoint either. First of all I have never even seen an eggplant entrée on any Belizean menu so that was a great start. It was delicious and the coconut rice was packed with flavor. My friend’s rice and beans with chicken was also outstanding. You may think that if you’ve tasted one rice and bean dish you have tasted them all, but this is just not the case. The rice had the perfect amount of coconut and the chicken practically melted in your mouth. In fact, we attempted to find the same flavor in the rice at other restaurants on our trip and it was never duplicated.
Make sure to stop off at Hannah’s to eat if you find yourself in San Ignacio.
Alyson – Horseback riding guide
Alyson has a piece of land on the road leading to San Ignacio and runs horseback riding tours through the jungle. Along the road you will see a sign stating his name but you can most likely ask around town for him and get in touch with him for a tour. Alyson provided a fantastic tour through the jungle and on to the Barton Creek Caves and for us it was all at the last minute. We had woken up late that day and were trying to find something to do – it was suggested to try and get hooked up with Alyson for a afternoon tour. Our friend in town called him up and Alyson had no problem taking us out.
The amazing thing was that Alyson had just been in a horse riding/traffic accident the day before in which he was thrown from the horse on to the pavement of the highway. No matter – he told me that cowboys don’t go to the hospital, I happen to disagree with him but I was impressed by his ability to provide a fantastic tour for us despite the pain he was in.
As we rode along in the jungle he pointed out the various plants and animals and gave us explanations of each – I even learned how to make a thatched roof from him. The horses were easy to handle and knew just what they were doing. They had packed a delicious lunch for us which we stopped to eat before our trip in to the caves.
It was a perfect day and Alyson made it easy. Unfortunately I don’t have contact information but make the effort to try and locate him by asking around San Ignacio – you won’t be sorry. Plus you can say you’ve met the bull riding champion of Belize if you do!
Five Sisters Lodge (http://www.fivesisterslodge.com/)
We stayed at Five Sisters lodge off a recommendation along our way through San Ignacio. We had been told the falls were a ton of fun to play in so we thought we’d check that out first and then decide if we wanted to stay there for the night. When we arrived it was so gorgeous – the landscaping was breathtaking. There are so many trees, shrubs and flowers around that you will see something new every time you walk along the various pathways.
The falls themselves were so much fun. We spent half a day playing around in the water and on the falls and it could have easily taken up the entire day but we didn’t arrive until the afternoon. Hammocks, restrooms and thatched structures are provided in the water area. You make a steep trek down to get to the water but of course it’s worth it. I was easily distracted from the steepness by looking at all the plant life around me – in fact I almost tripped a couple of times from not paying attention so beware.
We decided to stay the night but the office was closed when we got back up to the lodge. No matter, the host at their restaurant was happy enough to find someone to get us in a room. While we waited for the room to get ready we decided to eat at their place. They have a nightly menu with about 4 choices including one vegetarian dish. I had the tropical pasta and it was fantastic. The flavor was phenomenal and the pasta was cooked to perfection. It topped any pasta I had had in the states or Belize for a very long time.
After dinner we went to check out the rooms. It was a cute little cabana with a mountain view. A screened in porch was attached with a nice hammock to relax in and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. The rooms were comfortable and cute – perfect for the setting.
The staff was super friendly and very helpful the next day when we were trying to figure out what we wanted to find the next day without a guide. In fact we got the best recommendation of our entire trip from one staff member – he suggested we check out Big Rock since it was so close to the lodge. This was my favorite spot of the trip and he was the only person who suggested it. Even if you don’t want to spend a night here make sure to stop off for lunch and a swim.
Ian Anderson’s Adventure Company & Jungle Lodge (http://www.cavesbranch.com/rates/)
We stopped off at Ian Anderson’s for a night on the way to Placencia. It was off of Hummingbird highway and I had heard that they had tree houses. Of course this was intriguing. This place was an incredible experience. It is set in mostly uncut jungle and accommodates travellers of every budget. You can choose the $15 per person bunk house all the way up to Jungle Tree houses for around $250 US per night (there may have been a discount for the off season).
The resort is set up as a jungle adventure experience and most people staying here also make use of the adventure tours that the resort sets up. We did have to sign our life away before we could stay there since we are in the jungle and they do not want to be liable for a snake bite or any other such thing – I have to say that this was a first for me, I’ve never had to sign a waiver before staying in a hotel, resort or lodge. I signed away and we made our way to the bungalow. It is totally screened in rather than solid walls with an indoor and outdoor shower with hot/cold water. The screens rather than walls make available the jungle noises of the night – we even had a tropical rain come through with some thunder. It was a cool experience – a jungle noises CD come to life. The resort is completely jungle except for the pathways, bungalows and lodge so there is a wealth of foliage and animal life.
The food is set up buffet style with family seating so the opportunity is there to meet new friends during the dining times. There are set times for breakfast, lunch and dinner so make sure you’re on time to eat. They also have a pool and Jacuzzi at the lodge area which was extremely refreshing after our few days of hiking and riding through the jungle.
Tutti Frutti Gelato
While we were in Placenia we had passed this little gelato shop a couple times and commented about it but had failed to go in for the first day and most of the second that we were there. It was only after I had checked my Twitter account and had a message from @PonchosTravels to make sure I stopped by Tutti Frutti and tried the best gelato in the world. Well, I had to go now. So I went back to the hotel room and told my friend that we had to go check this place out. It was close to 5pm so we were trying to make it before the hour in case they closed down.
We got there just in time to try it out. Visually the place was fantastic with a glass case full of every color in the rainbow whipped in to the perfect creamy treat on a hot day. I tried the lime and coconut – I cannot tell you if it is in fact the best in the world since my gelato experiences are limited but I can say that it was delicious. Certainly something you don’t see often in Belize so if you find yourself in Placencia make sure to stop in and try it out.
On a side note I will also recommend that you try a seaweed shake while in Placencia, sounds a little gross to some but it was a yummy treat as well and they are sold all over the small town.
Hopefully you will find some of these recommendations useful if you find yourself travelling through this beautiful country. If you don’t have it on your destination list you should get it on the list and check this amazing place out.