More than just one of the top–rated jungle properties in Central America, The Lodge at Chaa Creek was the first cottage resort of its kind in the Cayo District. Chaa Creek’s 365 acres on a gorgeous section of the Macal River host the ever–evolving vision of owners Mick and Lucy Fleming, an American wife–British husband team who came to Belize in the late 1970s, fell in love with the land, and never left.
There are quite a few places to stay in BelizeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wild west, but only Chaa Creek keeps raising the luxury bar with its continually improving accommodations and retinue of incredible tours. The 23 thatch–roof cottages have electricity, private verandas for viewing wildlife, and are furnished with fine fabrics and works of art from around the world. Two “treetop Jacuzzi suites” reside above the riverbank, their wide porches allowing views of massive orange iguanas basking in the branches. The Belizean chef prepares wonderful meals, with many of the ingredients coming from a local Maya farm (which guests can visit).
Be sure to take in the short riverside hike highlighting the medicinal plants of the Maya and named after the Maya Goddess of Healing, Ix Chel. Chaa Creek also boasts the Blue Morpho Butterfly Breeding Center, the Chaa Creek Natural History Museum (with exhibit areas that examine ecosystems, geology, and Maya culture in the Cayo area), and a gift shop.
The spa is set on a beautiful bluff above the lodge, with views of the hills across the river; one feels relaxed just walking into the open–air lounge area of the spa and listening to the music over a cup of tea; a huge range of treatments are available to guests, including standard massages, facials, wraps, and scrubs––plus a massaging Vichy Shower and Hydrotherapy.
In addition to the standard retinue of day trips to nearby Xunantunich and Caracol ruins, Chaa Creek guests can choose from a number of on–site activities for no extra charge: early morning bird–watching walks, swimming in the Macal, hiking the trails, or venturing out in one of their canoes––San Ignacio is a two–hour paddle downstream, or you can work your way upstream to the Belize Botanic Garden (strong paddlers only). They’ve got a fleet of high–end Specialized mountain bikes and Chaa Creek guides are available for all trips, including canoeing, hiking, and biking; they all undergo an impressive training retinue––including U.S. National Park Service Ranger and rescue training, plus bike training in the Grand Canyon and Utah slickrock country.
For travelers on a slimmer budget, Chaa Creek’s Macal River Camp is a group of 10 canvas–roofed, stilted cabin–tents in their own clearing near the river, about a 10–minute walk along the medicine trail from the activity of the main lodge. The daily price ($55 pp) gets you a lantern–lit cabin with an almost–private porch, dinner and breakfast, and use of the shared bathroom and shower house. Meals are eaten communally under a thatch roof, with a bar available as well. And, of course, camp guests have access to all the main Chaa Creek facilities and activities.