BEST IN BELIZE

OUR PICKS FOR THE BEST BEACH RESORTS, LODGES, B&Bs, RESTAURANTS AND MORE

By LAN SLUDER

Copyright 2006

Here are some of my picks for the best in Belize, in a variety of categories.  Your mileage may vary:

Best Destinations to Stretch Your Dollars:  Caye Caulker; Tobacco Caye; Corozal Town;  Placencia Village

Most-for-Your-Money Budget Lodging:  The Trek Stop, Cayo; Hotel de la Fuente, Orange Walk Town; Casa Blanca Guest House, San Ignacio;  Martha's Guest House, San Ignacio;  Hotel Aguada, Santa Elena, Cayo;  Lydia’s Guest House, Placencia

Top Jungle Lodges:  Chan Chich Lodge, Gallon Jug, Northern Belize; The Lodge at Chaa Creek, Cayo; Blancaneaux Lodge, Mountain Pine Ridge;  Hidden Valley Inn, Mountain Pine Ridge;  Ek’Tun Lodge, Cayo

Top Jungle Lodges for Not a Ton of Money:  Black Rock Lodge, Cayo;  Pook's Hill Lodge, Belmopan;  The Lodge at Big Falls, Toledo;  Five Sisters, Mountain Pine Ridge;  duPlooy’s, Cayo

Greenest Eco-Lodges:  du Plooy's Lodge, Cayo; Mama Noots, near Dangriga;  Black Rock Lodge, Cayo

Most Romantic Hotels:  Turtle Inn, Placencia; Blancaneaux Lodge, Mountain Pine Ridge; Victoria House, Ambergris Caye;  Portofino, North Ambergris Caye

Most Romantic Restaurants:  Rojo Lounge, North Ambergris Caye; Capricorn, North Ambergris Caye; Harbour View, Belize City;  Rendezvous, North Ambergris Caye

Most Upscale Condotels:  Chabil Mar Villas, Placencia; The Phoenix, Ambergris Caye;  Grand Colony, Ambergris Caye;  Bella Maya, Placencia;  Sueno del Mar, North Ambergris Caye

Most Charming Small Hotels:   Coral House Inn, Punta Gorda;  Casa Blanca by the Sea, Consejo, Northern Belize;  Iguana Reef Inn, Caye Caulker;  Seaside Cabanas, Caye Caulker

Best Restaurants:  The Bistro at Maya Beach Hotel, Placencia;  Rendezvous, North Ambergris Caye;  Rojo Lounge, North Ambergris Caye;  Harbour View, Belize City;  Chon Saan Palace, Belize City

Most Deluxe Accommodations:  Azul Resort, North Ambergris Caye; Seascape Villas, North Ambergris Caye; Caye Chapel Island Resort (villas), Caye Chapel; Grand Colony, Ambergris Caye;  Cayo Espanto, near Ambergris Caye

Best B&Bs:  D'Nest Inn, Belize City; Villa Boscardi, Belize City;  Lazy Iguana B&B, Caye Caulker

Most Knowledgeable Travel Agents:  Katie Valk,  Belize TripsBarbara Kasak,  Barb’s Belize

Best-Run Hotels:  Banana Beach, Ambergris Caye; Lodge at Chaa Creek, Cayo;  Inn at Robert’s Grove, Placencia

Most Atmospheric Bars: Sugar Reef, Placencia; I&I, Caye Caulker;  Palapa Bar, North Ambergris Caye;  Rojo Lounge, North Ambergris Caye;  Putt-Putt, Belize City

Best Snorkeling:  Glover's Atoll; Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Ambergris Caye;  Silk Cayes, Southern Belize

Best Diving:  Turneffe Atoll; Glover's Atoll; Lighthouse Reef Atoll

Best Beaches That Don't Take Forever to Reach:  South Water Caye; Placencia Peninsula; North Ambergris Caye

Postcard-Perfect Little Islands:  Silk Cayes, Southern Belize; South Water Caye, off Dangriga;  Half Moon Caye, Lighthouse Reef Atoll

Best Beach Resorts:  Caye Chapel Island Resort, Caye Chapel; Inn at Robert's Grove, Placencia; Hamanasi, Hopkins;  Turtle Inn, Placencia

Most Memorable Belize Experiences (not requiring extreme physical effort):  Caving at Actun Tunichil Muknal; snorkeling with nurse sharks and sting rays at Shark-Ray Alley; diving with whale sharks at Gladden Spit; seeing the barrier reef for the first time

Uniquely Belizean Experiences:  Belize Zoo; Belize Botanic Gardens, duPlooy's;  cave tubing, Caves Branch River

Best Gift Shops:  Caesar’s Place, Cayo;  National Handicraft Centre, Belize City; Maya Centre Women’s Co-op, Maya Centre

Greatest Adventures:  Hiking to the top of Victoria Peak, Cockscomb Preserve;  skydiving into the Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef;  going on Lost World adventure trip with Caves Branch Adventure Co.;  exploring the Columbia River Forest on the Maya Divide trip

Best Birding:  Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, Northern Belize; Chan Chich Lodge, Gallon Jug, Northern Belize; New River Lagoon, Northern Belize

Best Wildlife Spotting:  Belize Zoo;  Chan Chich Lodge, Gallon Jug, Northern Belize; Programme for Belize, Northern Belize;  (also, in the Petén, Tikal Park) 

Most Astounding Views: Views into Guatemala from El Castillo, Xunantunich; the Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, seen from above; views around Baldy Beacon area, Mountain Pine Ridge; also, panoramic jungle views from Temple IV, Tikal

Best Fishing Lodges:  El Pescador, Punta Gorda; El Pescador, North Ambergris Caye; Turneffe Flats, Turneffe Atoll; Belize River Lodge, Belize City

Best Belize Web Sites:  Toucan Trail (www.toucantrail.com);  Belize Tourist Board (www.travelbelize.org); Ambergris Caye (www.ambergriscaye.com);  Destinations Belize (www.destinationsbelize.com)

Scenic Drives:  Hummingbird Highway; through the Mountain Pine Ridge to Caracol; through Programme for Belize and Gallon Jug lands

Most Colorful Local Markets:  San Ignacio (Saturday); Punta Gorda (Wednesday, Saturday);  Belmopan (the old market, daily except Sunday)

Don't-Miss Mayan Sites:  Caracol, Lamanai, Xunantunich (plus Tikal in Guatemala, of course)

Interesting Off-the-Beaten-Track Spots:  Sarteneja Village, Northern Belize; Blue Creek Village, Northern Belize; Blue Creek Village, Southern Belize

Friendliest Villages:  Hopkins; Sarteneja; Crooked Tree