GAIA River Lodge
Rain Forest Adventure in BelizePerched atop the Five Sisters waterfalls in the heart of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, GAÏA Riverlodge is a secluded getaway of stylishly appointed thatch roofed cabanas, located about an hour drive from the twin towns of San Ignacio/Santa Elena. The drive from the Belize International Airport (Belize City) to GAÏA Riverlodge is approximately three hours, one hour of it on unpaved road. Transfers can be arranged directly with the lodge.
In this natural haven, guests may breakfast or dine on local cuisine in a restaurant high above the sounds and sights of the falls, take stairways or a tram down to a human made beach facing The Five Sisters, rent bicycles, explore the gardens on the grounds, or relax inside the lush cabana. The property has a business center for convenience, there is no WiFi inside the cabanas, as the goal is to unplug.
During this escape from the routine, take a half-day guided hike to the underworld, and antiquity. This includes an expedition through the Elijio Panty National Park, trekking both the Pine Forest Savannah and Tropical Broad Leaf Forest. The hike, led by one of the property’s nationally certified guides, leads to the Mayan Underworld (Xibalba), a hidden cave that was once a Mayan ritual and ceremonial center. Your guide will show you, by flashlight, special ceremonial sections of the cave, natural formations, and wonders which are millions of years old. On the route back from exploring Xibalba, guests may enjoy a refreshing swim at Little Vaqueros Falls, a decent size waterfall down a steep, but accessible incline for the reasonably fit. You'll have water, towels, snacks- wear your swim gear underneath. The expert guide will show you by demonstration, the trees which produce rubber, chewing gum, chocolate, and palm oil. 90% of wildlife here is nocturnal, and one may also book night hikes. All onsite activities may be scheduled at the front desk- the staff and wait staff here are special. There is a spa, ask for the therapist Miriam, whose expertise will further distance you from your everyday cares or aches.
Inside the cabanas, the polished hardwood floors, stately canopy bed with mosquito netting, boutique accents, and spacious stone floored and wall showers and bathroom provide the comfort of luxury amidst nature. Restaurant fare ranges from Western to Belize traditions, anything from pancakes to a lunch of formaggio pizza large enough for two. The virgin pina coladas are heaven, cantaloupe juice is also very tasty. The deck section of the eating establishment is screened, with several more tables affording a waterfall vista. Diners are serenaded by the rush of The Five Sisters. This lodge was once named for the falls, and paired then with a sister property which still exists, a beachfront resort hotel called Matachica Resort & Spa. Visit that white sand paradise if you choose to divide your time in Belize between rain forest and sapphire coastline. Matachica Resort & Spa, with very similar luxe cabanas to those at Gaia- offers watersports rentals onsite. The contrasts of Belize's topographical features makes for a rejuvenating tour of jungle and beach, with plenty of Mayan lore, fine food, and active travel built in.