A Concise Guide To Belize Resorts and Hotels

Belize Bikini Model Cahal Pech

Belize has more than 600 hotels, lodges, resorts and guest houses, with about 7,000 total rooms. Many resorts and hotels are family owned and operated. You will have the best chance of getting a good rate by contacting the lodge directly. Or, contacting a trusted local travel consultant.

Visitors can expect to find a wide variety of accommodations to fit most any budget or like. Accommodations feature well-known jungle lodges. These establishments are often in remote areas, but surprisingly offer modern amenities such as Internet access, mobile telephone, excellent bar service, hot showers and restful beds. Some of the better examples are Chaa Creek, Maya Mountain Lodge and Cahal Pech in the Cayo District, Jaguar Paw near Belmopan, Hidden Valley Inn in the Mountain Pine Ridge, the Lodge at Big Falls in Toledo, and Chan Chich in the Orange Walk.

Wildlife watching and birding around these lodges are excellent, and they offer all the comforts you may need after your day adventures. Most have bay thatch cabaƱas built according to Maya tradition.

Places like Cahal Pech, San Ignacio Hotel, Crystal Paradise and Parrot's Nest, all in Cayo, or Hickatee Cottages near Punta Gorda, are bargains for US$75 or less double. Another delightful type of lodging in Belize is the casual and small seaside resort. The best of these, places like Mariposa or Maya Beach Hotel in Placencia, or, on the budget level, Tradewinds in Placencia village, are sandy barefoot spots, with a friendly Belizean feel you won't find in other parts of the Caribbean. A couple can spend a night at the beach for US$50 to $150 dollars.

All around Belize you can find small guest houses with clean, safe rooms at budget prices. The Trek Stop, Aguada Hotel, Casa Blanca Guesthouse and Martha's Guesthouse in Cayo or Tipple Tree Beya Inn in Hopkins, are examples. At these places you can get a nice little room for US$40 or less.

At the other end of the scale, for those who demand luxury, you can find a slew of upmarket hotels. On Ambergris Caye and other cayes, places like Mata Chica, Victoria House, and A Private Island Resort have rooms that have been featured in Conde Naste.

On the mainland, Chaa Creek's villas are luxurious, as are the seafront villas at Almond Beach in Placencia. Jaguar Paw's and Maruba's jungle cabins are air-conditioned. In a few areas, mainly San Pedro, you can enjoy the extra space of a condo-style unit at a regular hotel-style price.

Ramon's Village is the granddaddy and still one of the leading resorts on Ambergris Caye, right on the beach and strategically located within walking distance of the town center. Other interesting resorts include the Villas at Banyan Bay, Grand Colony The Palms, Belizean Reef, Xanadu and Banana Beach.

In between are all shapes and sizes of personality inns, mostly run by their owners. Many lodges are run by ex pats who visited, fell in love with the country and ended up being hotel owners - the diversity of lodge owners will amaze you. Whether the owners are Belizean, American, British, Canadian or European, they're almost always friendly and helpful, willing to sit down with you and help you plan your day.

Hotels here generally do not enjoy high annual occupancy rates except during the high season. The economy traveler will do well to plan trips to Belize during the off season to enjoy reasonable rates. Due to its relatively small population, air travel to Belize is not cheap due to low visitor volumes - this is not a Cancun-type mass tourism destination. Traveling during the low season will offer reasonable travel and accommodation rates.

Factoid: According to Emory King's History of Belize, the first European settler in what is now Belize was the Spaniard, Gonzalo Guerrero, who was shipwrecked at Cozumel, Mexico, in 1511. The Maya did away most of his shipmates but spared him; he was sent to Chactemal - now Corozal Town, married a Maya Princess and became a Maya and the father of the Mestizos. Guerrero helped defend Belize against the Spanish in northern Belize and the Yucatan. In the 1630s the Spanish Crown lost several battles to the Maya and were for the most part prevented from occupying Belize.

King and others say it is unclear exactly when the first English settlers arrived in British Honduras as ut was then known. A popular story is that a Captain Peter Wallace (or Wallis), a buccaneer who was probably a Scot, discovered the mouth of the Belize River in 1827, and perhaps with some of his crew settled near what is now Belize City. Many historians agree that by 1650 there were a number of British "logwood cutters" in Belize, mostly former buccaneers or pirates. Perhaps some of them had been Puritans, but if so they had changed a bit, as while generally hard-working they were known also for hard drinking and womanizing with their African slaves.

Getting to Belize

The most economical way to get here is not to fly direct, but fly to Cancun (or sometimes Cozumel) and then bus from there. There are many charter flights into Cancun from the U.S., Canada and even Europe, often at fares that are one-third to one-half what they are into Belize.

From Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you can take a bus to Chetumal City (four to six hours and US$12-$20 or so for a nice, comfortable reserved seat) and there transfer to a Belize bound bus into Corozal Town or Belize City. Or you can fly (US$37) or water taxi (US$20) from Corozal Town to San Pedro.

If you need to fly directly to the international airport at Ladyville (Belize City), some of the on-line travel agents and consolidators offer fares that are less than those available directly from American, US Air, Delta, TACA or Continental. However, there is no one service that is always cheapest - you have to check with several to see which has the best deal on the dates you want to go. It's also a good idea to check the regular fares on Aa.com, Expedia.com, Orbitz.com and Travelocity.com, or directly with the airlines' Web sites, as on any given date these flights may be as economical or cheaper than a "consolidator" fare.

Book Belize Hotels

ambergris caye belize hotelThe answer, except around busy holidays such as Christmas and Easter, used to be that you could just wing it. Average annual occupancy at local hotels was low, and rooms in all price levels were plentiful most of the time. However, beginning in the late 1990s, tourism grew to record levels. Quite a few hotels, especially those offering the best value or top service and location, are now heavily booked in-season.

Despite relatively low average occupancies, if visiting in-season, roughly Thanksgiving through Easter, it's a good idea to book ahead for at least the first night or two. This doesn't mean that if you arrive without reservations you may have to sleep on the beach with the sand flies - you'll be able to find a room somewhere - but your first choices may well be booked and you may have to spend valuable vacation time hunting for a room. Tours and dive trips can easily be booked after you arrive.

Find Hotel Bargains

Most all hotels here have Internet access. All hotels that are advertising partners with us have email and web sites to help you choose your accommodations. Several hotels in are small and family owned, and would prefer you book direct, preferably via the Internet. That saves them 10 to 25% in agent commissions, plus the cost and trouble of faxing, mailing brochures and telephoning back and forth. In many cases, booking direct also will save you money. Some, but not all, hotels offer 10 to 15% discounts for direct bookings via the Internet. Many don't advertise this, but it won't hurt to ask. The cheapest way to communicate with hotels in here is via e-mail. If you find this information useful, please consider mentioning you saw the hotel you are interested in on Belize.com

Best Times to Visit

You can visit Belize most anytime depending on your interest, be it SCUBA, snorkeling, hiking, jungle or Maya Ruins explorations or just to enjoy the beaches. However most tourists from North America like to travel to Belize during the seven months that encompass September through April.

Best time for underwater Belize SCUBA and Snorkeling visibility, March-June.

Best time for lowest hotel prices, after Summer up to Thanksgiving.

Best time to visit Placencia, January to June.

Best time to visit the islands, October to August.

Best time to avoid hurricanes and tropical storms, October-July.

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