We just returned from a truly fantastic stay at Chaa Creek. At the risk of overinflating expectations, I really cannot say enough wonderful things about this lodge and the friendly, helpful people that work there. We were taking a family trip, with our two young children (2 and 5). So I will tailor this review to families. That being said, while we were there we saw retirees, honeymooners, couples,groups of girlfriends on a ladies trip, other families – and everyone seemed to be having a great time. I think this is one of those few places that can truly be right for everyone.
The Lodge is beautiful, and just a great place to take small kids. The staff went out of their way to make it magical for them: we came back to the cottage on the second day to find that they had put out toys and games for kids – and, most exciting of all, a chrysallis in a special jar next to the kids’ bed, which hatched into a butterfly a few days later. The kids watched it dry its wings, then set it free in the garden. They arranged a wonderful babysitter, Lily, for the children on three afternoons so that my husband and I could explore on our own. Lily was fantastic with the kids – both of them cried when we said goodbye to her on our last day. The staff arranged for an extra-long horse ride for the kids, putting them each on their own horse and leading them around the trails in the woods by the stable for a nearly 40 minute ride. (If you remember pony rides as a kid, you remember that they all seemed to go by way too quickly – our daughter was thrilled to the point of speechless to get to ride the horse so long). We had a tour of the Maya Organic farm (the kids were most excited by the chickens and patting the pig). We took them canoeing on the river, where we spotted lots of iguanas and toucans. The 5 year old went on an early morning birdwalk with her dad, and came back enchanted by birds. On our way from Belize City, we stopped at the fantastic zoo and saw all sorts of cool animals up close. We also managed to do a bigger tour with them – Barton Creek Cave is the “dinky” Belize cave, which tells you more about how spectacular Belize’s caves are than it does about Barton Creek, which would be the most fantastic offering in any other country! Chaa Creek arranged a great guide for us, who drove us through a citrus orchard and mennonite community to the cave, then paddled us in for a mile. The cave is really neat, and the kids loved the bats flying around. Then we stopped at a swimming hole/cafe in the middle of nowhere, where they managed to rustle up some peanut butter banana sandwiches for the kids. The butterfly farm is also really fun for kids.
My husband and I hiked every trail on the property. The trails are gorgeous, well maintained, and offer a diversity of environments (deep jungle, fields, forest, etc.) We didn’t bike, but there are great trails for biking (separately labeled from the hiking trails, which can get quite steep). Our best afternoon involved paddling up the Macal River about a mile to the Botanical Garden. The Garden is really well done, and should be a “must-see” on any trip. We grabbed some beers in Duplooy’s neat bar overlooking the river, then floated home as the sun was setting. At the end of our 6 days, we decided it was the best family vacation spot we could imagine.