Yesterday I flew to Belize for my Belize Tourism Board tour of hotels in Belize. I arrived one day early to visit Crystal Paradise Resort, our new Cayo eco-lodge. We will be staying there for two of our Belize packages next season… our Belize Adventure Week trip and our Mayan Odyssey tour.
Crystal Paradise was built by the Tut family. They own 21 acres outside of a small village called Cristo Rey, which is about 4 miles from San Ignacio, the largest city in western Belize, and the center of inland tourism in Belize. All around the countryside here there are numerous eco-lodges, from a couple of small cabanas in someone’s backyard to very high-end boutique spa resorts, nestled along river banks and beneath the tall jungle canopy.
Jeronie Tut gave Mary Avila and I the ten dollar tour, what a fantastic place! I saw every room, hiked down to the Macal River, climbed their bird platform, ate two fabulous meals there, listened to the birds early this morning, and even got to tour his private home that he built with local woods using the timber frame technique.
I can’t say enough good things about Crystal Paradise. It’s a medium-priced lodge, in a very quiet part of the country, but only 20 minutes from downtown San Ignacio. They offer horseback riding, birding, and caving. Every staff member is part of this large Belizean family. They built the whole thing themselves, using material from the jungle right on their own property. They have the really good kind of thatch (bay leaf palm) instead of the kind our staff knows how to build with that we use on the island (cahune palm). Their place is very nicely done.
Crystal Paradise is going to be the perfect home-base for our Mayan tours in Belize. We prefer a spot that is isolated, quiet, and small so that our guests feel like it really is their home. The rooms are spacious and private, and on good days, he even has internet access! And the location in Belize is close to all of our inland adventures: right on the Macal River where we teach kayaking, near Che Chem Ha Mayan cave which we explore, and near the road to Tikal, which we also visit on one day of this Belize adventure. On the way to the island we run the Caves Branch River, arguably the best one day activity in Belize, an underground river run by kayak or raft.
Now I am sitting in the bar at Ka’ana Boutique Resort outside of San Ignacio, waiting for the rest of the travel agent group to arrive. Tomorrow we tour something like six hotels, visit Cahal Pech ruin, and drive to Mountain Pine Ridge! Oh boy, it’s going to be fun!