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The Lodge at Chaa Creek Rainforest Reserve, Adventure Center and Spa

P.O. Box 53, San Ignacio, Cayo District, Belize

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.

The Lodge at Chaa Creek Rainforest Reserve, Adventure Centre and Spa

There are quite a few places to stay in Belize'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 (complete with hooks and woven hammocks), and are furnished with fine fabrics and traditional Maya art. Two "treetop Jacuzzi suites" reside above the riverbank, their wide porches with private whirlpools allowing views of massive orange iguanas basking in the branches and of the lodge's many brightly–colored tropical birds and flowers.

Orchard villa Chaa Creek Reserve

The Orchard Villa set in the middle of the property was designed with families in mind. The upstairs loft has two twin beds for the kids, along with a separate bathroom and wooden animal toys. The large screened–in porch on the front of the villa is a great place to relax after a day of hiking. The Honeymoon Sky room sits high above the orchard and is equipped with a large living space and absolute peace and quite for lovers on a romantic getaway.

screened in porch Chaa Creek Reserve

The chef, originally from Guatemala, prepares wonderful meals, with many of the ingredients coming from the resort's organic farm (which you can visit). The menu consists of a variety of international fusion dishes with a Belizean touch. You will find tapas inspired by the Middle East, Asian stir–fry, and traditional Maya pibil and fried conch.

Blue morpho at chaa creekBe 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. There are also night creature walks where you can see a range of nocturnal animals and insects. The Chaa Creek guides are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about jungle flora and fauna.

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. The spa is a project of owners Mick and Lucy Fleming's daughter Bryony, who says that it has increased the resort's business by 20% since it opened in 2008.

Chaa creek organic gardenIn 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&Mdash;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, biking and horse riding. 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. The Lodge also has a newly–built saltwater infinity pool in the center of the property at just the right temperature for the jungle weather.

Chaa Creek is 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. Their passion shows throughout the operation and they are as committed to the environment as their guests: the lodge gives 10% of its accommodation revenue to environmental, educational and community programs.

Web Address:
Total Number of Rooms: 23
Published rates: $125 to $235 per person in cottage collection, $380 to 625 for villas, no transfers.

Review and Photos by Lydia Carey