Though Belize is replete with Maya sites, including some spectacular archaeological examples that are open to the public, Chan Chich may well be the only hotel in the country that can claim to sit atop a known former Maya site. In the late 1980s, owner Barry Bowen sought and received permission from the country's Department of Archaeology to build on the site, whose plaza was beyond repair. No doubt guests are surrounded by the spirits of ancient Maya as well as actual artifacts that remain hidden in the soil around the lodge. Accommodations are individual casitas and cabanas decorated with local art, fresh tropical flowers, and simple but sturdy furnishings. The hotel is part of the historic 130,000-acre Gallon Jug Estate, which is, among other things, a private nature preserve. Guests enjoy wildlife spotting on the property, whose staff has kept a running list of the bird species seen here: the current count tops 350 types.
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Chan Chich, in northwestern Belize, is a true jungle lodge: remote, difficult to access, and surrounded by abundant wildlife, including hundreds of bird species, mammals such as peccary, and even big cats; the elusive jaguar is spotted here on a regular basis. Some guests claim that the land surrounding the lodge has a particularly special energy given its history as a Maya site, and many enjoy learning more about Maya history and culture from the knowledgeable hotel staff, whether informally or through tours arranged with the hotel.
Need to Know
Rooms: 2 casitas, 12 cabanas, and 1 villa; from $205. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: The on-site restaurant serves three meals a day, most of which reflect the influences of traditional Belizean cuisine. The menu changes daily, with a choice of two entrees typically being offered at dinner; some guests who book longer stays might find the menu a bit limited. Spa and gym details: Chan Chich has neither a spa nor a gym. It does, however, have a pool.
Who’s it best for: Birders and other nature lovers. Our favorite rooms: Cabana 9 is farthest from the reception and common areas of the main lodge, which means a quieter stay. It’s the journey: Getting to Chan Chich is an adventure, and guests who intend to drive there must rent a 4WD vehicle to access the property. They must also get advance permission to drive onto the estate, notifying the hotel prior to their arrival. The alternate way to arrive is by plane. The hotel can help with schedules and logistics during booking.