Hidden Valley Inn
Travel Blogs from San Ignacio
Friday 2nd August Chechem Ha, Xunantunich and Cahal Pech
We had a private trip booked to a less common place (Chechem Ha Cave), combined with Xunantunich and Cahal Pech. This was a very reasonable £170 for 2 including transport, entrance fees, lunch and guide.
We assumed they would not be too …
Wednesday 31st July Caracol
We had a really good sleep and woke in time for a good breakfast (Hidden Valley's own coffee, grown and roasted on site), fresh orange, kraabu (sweet yellow-white, bread-like texture fruit) and pancakes. We had a pre-booked trip to Caracol (35 miles, approx 1 hour drive) and Rio Frio, so we …
I can't believe that my last blog was so long ago. I am back on track health wise though eaten alive at the moment! Just had 10 days in Guatemala and I think it is a wonderful place, but the weather just is difficult at the moment. It's either extremely hot and humid so I can hardly breathe or it's raining like there's going to be a flood or if we are high up in the mountains it's cold enough to wear a fleece. All this in the space of a few hours. Sometimes it's hard to keep up. Since ...
... and rolling down).
Turns out that the first Star Wars movie that George Lucas made (Episode IV: A New Hope, released in 1977) was filmed partially in Tikal.
I think this must have been the best sight to see on this trip so far. Not only did we get to see the cool ruins, we were able to see some of the wildlife up close in person. Most of us got to see some monkeys, Some saw Tucans, we all some other creature (not sure what its called) and rumor ...
... When we walked in there were no other customers there and the employees were seated around a table chatting. They jumped up when they saw that there were customers and at first I was a little worried that we were the only people in the establishment. But as we sat and ate the place filled up quickly around us and we realized that we had arrived at just around 6pm when the sun was still setting, which was probably early for dinner in a city in such a warm climate. ...
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- Swimming pool
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TravelPod Member ReviewsHidden Valley Inn San Ignacio
Super. Friendly and professional. The staff and management were excellent. The food was well presented and freely available through much of the day. A pleasant warmed pool by hummingbird feeders. Set in a huge forest with multiple choices of walks including Butterfly Falls (waterfall), Lake Lolly Folly, King Vulture Point, etc. Free use of bikes and their own taxi service.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TravelPod member and not of TravelPod.com.
So far a hidden gem
This review is the subjective opinion of a TravelPod member and not of TravelPod.com.
Historical Traveler Reviews Hidden Valley Inn San Ignacio
My husband and I stayed at Hidden Valley Inn (HVI) for our Honeymoon over Christmas! Everything about the trip was absolutely perfect from the pre-arranged pick-up at the airport to the packed lunch on our last day.
We arrived in Belize on Christmas Day upon arrival at the Belize City airport; we had a driver waiting to take us to the Inn, about a 2 hour drive from the airport. The last half of the drive, the road leading to HVI, is extremely bumpy...our driver yelled back to us "Hold on, this road makes you feel like a popcorn!" He was right, but that only adds to the charm of HVI. We arrived at dinner time, Elmer can running out to great us and showed us to our room and told us to take our time but come out to the pool deck for the special Christmas dinner. All meals at HVI are OUTSTANDING...we ate sooooooo well, even our hiking lunches made our mouths water.
The second day we planned a hiking trip to Butterfly Falls, we arranged for HVI to drop us off at the trail head. We hiked all day and did not see one other person. The falls were amazing, perfect for swimming and relaxing, unlike any other place I have seen! HVI were extremely helpful in planning our trips, they reviewed hiking maps with us and provided us with 2-way radios for emergencies (which were never needed).
Our third day we went cave canoeing and it was AMAZING! Our private tour guide (RICK) knew everything; the experience was so relaxing and eerie!
The next day we did a group tour of Caracol...we saw Holler monkeys, Toucans, snake skins and a spiny orb spider...not to mention the Mayan Ruins. Rick, our guide was once again amazing.
Needless to say, we were sad to leave. The rooms at the Inn were so comfortable; ours had a fireplace for night which was extremely romantic. The bathrooms were clean and beds were comfortable. The pool at HVI is beautiful and perfect for sipping a glass of wine, frosty drink or cold Belekin. The hot tub, which stays open all night, is just what the doctor ordered after a day of mountain biking, hiking, or laying around finishing one book after another. Oh yeah, one more thing, The Pine Ridge area of Belize is perfect for ANY type of traveler...the weather is perfect, we had NO issues with bugs, there were no language barriers, everybody takes US dollars and the people are friendly and more welcoming here than in any other country I have visited.
Go now while it's still undiscovered.
A fabulous place to stay in the mountains of Belize. The hotel itself has several cottages that are clean and equipped with working fireplaces; food is terrific and they grow their own coffee which is also great. The staff are very friendly and willing to accommodate requests. Go before this place becomes overrun with tourists. You'll remember this one forever.
Hidden Valley Inn... A Hidden Jewel!!!
***Winner: TripAdvisor's Best Review with Photos Contest, week of August 4th, 2005***
My boyfriend and I stayed at Hidden Valley Inn from July 16 to 20, 2005 and absolutely loved it! We would recommend this charming eco-lodge to couples, hikers, mountain-bikers, bird-watchers and anyone else in search of a quiet, pristine paradise. The beauty of the region, the superior quality of the Inn's accommodations, activities and dining, and the personal attention of the staff far exceeded our every expectation. (If you make it through my LONG review and still have questions, send me an email!)
GETTING THERE: Almost immediately upon landing at Belize City Airport, we were greeted by one of the Inn's many professional drivers/guides. The Inn provides transportation to the airport and many other destinations via 4WD SUVs and trucks, which are a must on Belize's poorly maintained dirt roads. The roads can be so bumpy (especially after frequent afternoon thunderstorms), that if you have a back injury or other serious physical complaint, I might consider another travel destination. If you'll be renting a car in Belize, make sure it's 4WD and plan for extra drive time. It may take you an hour to go five miles! That said, the two-hour drive to Hidden Valley is well worth any minor discomfort! We were greeted at the front door by the Inn's resident manager, Lisa, just one of many friendly, helpful staff members. She offered us cold lemonade, took our dinner orders, and personally escorted us to our room.
ABOUT HIDDEN VALLEY: The Inn is situated on 7,200 acres of private property in the lush Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, a vast and wild region of broad leaf rainforest bordering Guatemala's Peten wilderness. (The Inn is about 10 miles from the Guatemala border.) The region has only a few small villages and a couple of roads, but new resorts like Hidden Valley Inn enable the active traveler to explore Belize's numerous unspoiled hiking trails, waterfalls, rivers, caves and lesser-known Mayan ruins. (Be advised that a recent beetle infestation destroyed many of the region's pine trees. While the forest is recovering and still quite breathtaking in its diversity of plant and animal life, the trees are not as mature as they appear in some Belizean tourism publications, including the pictures on the Inn's website.)
ACCOMMODATIONS: The Inn sits at the top of a broad, flat hill, overlooking Hidden Valley and its numerous jungle trails, water courses and waterfalls. The Inn consists of a central lodge and about a dozen guest cabins. The lodge (which could be in the Berkshires), has a comfortable sitting area with lending library (stocked with nature books), TV room, gift shop, full bar and formal dining room (which is impeccably set each evening with silver, crystal and china). Outside the bar, there's a beautifully manicured patio with heated pool and Jacuzzi, perfect for relaxing after long, hot days of exploring. Just above the pool's shower/restroom cabana is "The Birdhouse," an elevated platform where you can sip cocktails and take in spectacular nightly sunsets.
The guest cabins are quiet, clean and modern, with amenities and furnishings equaling those of any 3- to 4-star hotel in the United States. Every cabin has a ceiling fan, wood-burning fireplace, bathroom with plenty of hot water, and well-screened windows (which really do keep the bugs out!). Be advised that as with many other resorts in Belize, the guest cabins do not have radios, alarm clocks, TVs, phones or air conditioning. While you won't need A/C in the mountains, if you need to call home or use the Internet, you can do so for a small fee in the lodge. They also have a small collection of videos in the TV room.
FOOD/WATER: The food at the Inn was fantastic! Every day, the local chefs served up a different gourmet menu, a creative blend of traditional Belizean and European cuisines. Breakfast, served from 6 to 9, includes a buffet a fruits, breads and cereals, or you can choose from a menu of traditional hot fare: eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, etc. Lunch, served from 11 to 2, consists of sandwiches and salads, but you can request hot meals. Dinner, served from 6 to 9, is a grand candle-lit affair served in three to four courses. The breads, pastries, fish, meat and cheeses were especially good, as they come from local, organic Mennonite farms. We were also impressed by the wine selection, which includes good South African reds. In addition, you can drink the water! The Inn's water supply comes from local springs that (they say) are tested weekly for contaminates. Neither we nor any of the other guests we spoke with had any stomach problems. The staff said we could refill our water bottles on hikes at the waterfalls, but we didn't try that.
ACTIVITIES: Although we were only there a few days, we did and saw a lot! We were up early every morning, because it's difficult to sleep in when the melodious blackbirds start their "song" at dawn! The birding around the Inn was incredible, although we were told that the "high" season for birding is February to April. We did both early morning and nighttime nature walks with one of the Inn's great local guides, Ricky, who helped us spot many rare species, including an orange breasted falcon, king vulture, night hawk, mot-mot and golden hooded tanager. We also saw a grey fox, giant cane toad, tapir, coati and the hoof-prints of a peccary (wild pig). Ricky told us it's extremely rare to spot a jaguar, so don't expect to see one!
Exploring on our own, we hiked about 8 miles of the Inn's 90 plus miles of private trails, visiting waterfalls and crystal-clear swimming holes such as Butterfly Falls and Thousand Foot Falls, the highest waterfall in Central America. Don't miss Secret Falls and Pools, which you can "rent" for a private day of relaxing on hammocks and inner tubes! The Inn also provides maps, free bikes and picnic lunches for your expeditions, as well as two-way radios in case you need directions or a ride home. (We got lost on the property during a thunderstorm, during which old trees were coming down, and it was great to be able to call for help, and for help to arrive within minutes!)
We also ventured off the property a couple of times. The staff at the Inn arranged for us a full-day trip to the Mayan archaeological site at Caracol, a huge complex of recently discovered ruins and giant temples. If you can endure the bumpy, multi-hour ride there, you'll be rewarded with wonderful vistas from the heights of the tallest structures in Belize. Caracol isn't as popular with tourists as is Tikal in Guatemala, so we had the place to ourselves that day, (unless you count the green toucans, giant cicadas and howler monkeys!) On the long ride back, our guide, a Mayan scholar, stopped off at the Rio Frio Cave and Rio On Pools so we could swim and cool off.
We also took a half-day trip to Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Crystal Maiden). Only do this trip if you are in good shape, aren't claustrophobic or squeemish, and don't mind being wet and muddy all day. It's a 45-minute trek through dense jungle (coursing three rivers on foot), to the mouth of the cave, which you have to swim into. Then, you'll clamber over boulders for two hours underground to get to the immense inner "cathedral" chamber, where you'll literally trip over ancient Mayan pottery, calcified skulls and skeletons. It was the experience of a lifetime (Actun was featured in a '92 National Geographic), but I can't believe we didn't have to sign some sort a legal disclaimer before entering the cave! I bet they'll close the cave to tourists someday, either after someone gets hurt or steps on a priceless artifact. Get there while you still can!
Although we didn't get a chance to take the canoeing trip through the Barton Creek Cave, some of the other guests at the Inn did, and said it was wonderful.
WHAT TO PACK: Pack plenty of waterproof sunblock, as the sun is intense in Belize, especially in higher elevations, and you're going to get wet. Also pack plenty of insect repellant with 30% DEET. Mosquitoes aren't a big problem in the mountains (as they can be in coastal areas), but I came home with plenty of other bug bites on my arms and legs, so be forewarned: Wear insect repellant on exposed body parts whenever you're outside, especially at dusk! We also took malaria tablets and a prescription of antibiotics (just in case), but ask your doctor what's right for you.
You will also want to pack a hat, sunglasses, binoculars, a Belize bird book (so you can check off all the new species you're bound to see!), a swimsuit, breathable poncho (it rains nearly every day in Belize for a little bit, even in the "dry" season), fast-drying shirts and pants (it can be hot and humid), old sneakers or hiking boots you don't mind getting wet, and a waterproof flashlight (the gardens around the Inn aren't well lit at night and you can use it in the caves). Don't over-pack clothes, because the Inn does laundry for just $5 (US) a bag.
WHO SHOULD GO?: There were no children at the Inn while we were there and I wouldn't recommend this destination to families with small children, as the Inn is pretty isolated, the roads are bad, and I don't think there are any good (by U.S. standards) medical facilities nearby in case of emergency. But I would have loved exploring all the trails and waterfalls as a teenager and think all the group activities could be great for families with older kids!
I also wouldn't recommend the Inn to those looking to do a lot of shopping, as there just aren't many places to buy things. On the main road to the Inn, Caesar's Place, which runs caving expeditions, has a small gift shop with slate carving, colorful woven textiles and shell jewelry. Beyond that, I think the faraway village of San Ignacio has a few arts and crafts shops.
But if you want to explore nature in an isolated, peaceful setting, and be pampered at the same time, Hidden Valley Inn shouldn't be missed!
Fine Choice in the Pine Ridge
My family and I greatly enjoyed Hidden Valley Inn in the Mountain Pine Ridge. I had visited several times before and stayed there a few years ago. With its thousands of acres of surrounding property, private waterfalls and great birding, Hidden Valley Inn always has had the potential to be one of the best lodges in Belize. But, lacking attention, Hidden Valley had been in a decline for years. Now, with new ownership (the Roe family, who also are involved in the SunBreeze in San Pedro, the Biltmore in Belize City and who have many other interests in Belize) and new management, Hidden Valley is quickly moving back to top form. Managers Craig and Lisa Milner, originally from South Africa, are doing a fine job.
The 12 private cottages, each with a bedroom (queens or two doubles), living room and tiled bath, are not your traditional thatch but marl daub with zinc roofs. They've been spruced up a bit. All have salt tile floors and comfortable furnishings, and the fireplaces come in handy in the winter. There's a beautiful new swimming pool and a hot tub, in a grand setting beside the main lodge building. We had several delicious meals, prepared by the new chef brought in by Craig and Lisa. At dinner, you select from a couple of entrees, with appetizers, soup or salad and dessert. I especially enjoyed the beef tenderloin, from Running W ranch in San Ignacio. It's wonderful to wake up early in the invigorating air of the Pine Ridge and walk some of the trails around the lodge. I'm told there are 90 miles of trails, several leading to waterfalls that are open only to Hidden Valley guests. Honeymooners or even old married folks can reserve Butterfly Falls or other falls for your own private day at a waterfall, complete with champagne. You can also walk through a small coffee finca - the lodge grows and roasts its own coffee. Yes, many of the Mountain Pines in this area have succumbed to the pine beetle infestation, but the pines are quickly regenerating. We saw many that are already eight or ten feet tall. The birding is actually better than ever here, as it's now much easier to spot the little feathered friends. A sizable percentage of Hidden Valley Inn guests are birders, who want to add to their life lists rare birds such as the Orange-breasted Falcon, King Vulture and Keel-billed Motmot. Check out ----- or tel. -----, fax -----.
Clean guest rooms, a cozy main lodge full of books, very friendly staff, excellent food, attentive guides, amazing scenery, private hikes through pristine forests..what more can you ask for? The ride from Belize City is worth it! We were welcomed with open arms. Our daytrips were planned perfectly and went off without a hitch. I wonder where else in the world a traveller is lucky enough to have a guide who is an expert in tracking wildlife and birds, can name every tree in the forest (and it's place in local folklore), knows local history inside-out AND keeps the guests comfortable and smiling through every bump in the road? Where else can you have a Mayan ruin all to yourself? Hike for hours, see a dozen waterfalls, take a dip in hidden pools, and not see another soul? Include Caracol, Rio Frio and Rio on Pools, Barton Creek Caves..and ask for Rick! What a wonderful experience. Food top-notch too! Thank you Elmer, Rick and the entire staff. Was also amazing to meet the group from the Peregrine Fund and hear about their project to release the red-breasted Falcon back into the wild. Informative, relaxing, adventurous....can't wait to go back!
The highlight of our trip to Belize
This place is a hidden treasure. 7,200 acres of private forest to hike through and discover beautiful waterfalls on the way. We stayed for 3 nights and walked everyday without seeing another soul - total escapism! The managers planned us different walking trails each day and the kitchen prepared us fabulous packed lunches. We were not keen walkers when we arrived, but were hooked by the time we left.
The hotel is lovely - very pleasant rooms, gorgeous pool and hot tub to ease the sore legs and a very socialable drawing room to read and relax in before dinner over a G&T. Food was excellent - different menu each day and very creative. The staff were passionate about the valley and very well informed - the best place we stayed in Cayo district.
From the moment we arrived at Hidden Valley my friend and I were treated like welcomed guests and served a cool glass of lemonade after our bumpy ride to the mountains. Elmer, the manager, was extremely pleasant and helped us to plan our daily itinerary. Just a few minutes walk from the lodge and you find yourself in a gorgeous broadleaf jungle with streams and log bridges. Our favorite hike was the one from Butterfly Falls to Devil's Falls. It's a tropical paradise complete with well marked trails and several pools to jump in along the way. That morning we had visited 1000 Ft. Falls. When we arrived, the entire valley was blanketed in a thick mist which magically parted for us long enough to view the falls. After we took it all in, the mist slowly consumed the valley once again. It was a thrilling experience. We spent one day in Tikal to view the Mayan ruins there, and one day with our fantastic guide, Rick, who took us to Rio on Pools, Rio Frio Cave, and the ruins at Caracol (which we had entirely to ourselves). We saw a lot of wildlife, including a peccary, a colony of coatamundi, monkeys, and huge tapir tracks. We loved Hidden Valley. The cottages were a bit small, but aside from that, everything was perfect.
Can't believe that more people don't know about this place
This place was our favorite spot in Belize. Where else can you hike to 3 waterfalls in one day and not see a soul except for your companion? we loved using the hotel's trails which are for the exclusive use of their guests. they have something like 1200 acres and with only 12 guest rooms or so, you do the math. the rooms are immaculate. It is a bit pricey and you pretty much have to eat all of your meals at the hotel unless you do a day trip that takes you to san ignacio. the food at the hotel is great and having a nice candlelight dinner by the pool is awesome after a day of getting muddy and sweaty on the trails. the staff does a great job of making sure that you don't run into any other guests on your treks. Must sees are butterfly falls- as soon as you see it from a distance you know you are in paradise; do the caving tour- the one off the beaten path, I forget the name of it but it is the type of place that will be closed off (or should be closed off) because it allows you to get closer to mayan artifacts than you ever will in your lifetime unless you are indiana jones.
Perfect Belize Hideaway
We spent 10 days in Belize and spent the first four nights at this resort before heading out to Abergris Caye. I wasn't sure what to expect, but our stay far exceeded whatever expectations we did have. The room was very comfortable and tastefully decorated, with plenty of hot water in the shower. The grounds were gorgeous, and it was very nice to relax in the pool & hot tub after a long day of adventuring.
The first day we did a day trip to Tikal in Guatemala which was excellent. The drive was a bit bumpy at parts, but worth it for Tikal is amazing. We saw several spider & howler monkeys and coatimundi (a large racoon-like animal with a long tail). advice : You should hire a guide or take a group tour or you won't really appreciate what you're seeing. The second day we hiked to various waterfalls on the property, which were incredibly beautiful - and we had them all to ourselves, as we were the only people on the property that day. I particularly recommend Manakin falls as there is plenty of room to lounge around on the rocks and you can jump in the pool at the base of the falls to cool off. Could have relaxed there all day. The last day we took a horseback riding trip to Barton Creek Cave, which was used by the Mayans at one time. We canoe'd almost a mile into the cave in pitch black, dodging the short-tailed fruit bats flying around (eek!).
The two BEST things about Hidden Valley are the service and the food. You really feel like a pampered guest in someone's (very nice) home. The staff came out to meet us when we arrived, greeting us by first name, and helped plan all of our excursians and activities. When sitting down in the lodge's library to use the wireless internet connection in the main house, we were immediatly presented with plantain chips and homeade dip. Each day at breakfast (mmm fresh papaya) you selected your evening meal from 2 appetizer and 3 entree choices (usually one typical Belizian dish, one more American dish, and a vegetarian option) The food at every meal was outstanding - we ate very, very well. Try the Soursop Ice Cream - It's fantastic!
In Ambergris Caye we stayed at Victoria House which was also very nice, but we enjoyed this part of the trip more. The super-friendly staff, fantastic food, and warm, personal service could not be beat.
All in all, if you're looking for an active vacation but want to be spoiled rotten when you come back tired & hungry, this is a perfect choice! You will not be disappointed.
A pearl hidden in the jungle!
This hotel is outstanding. If you are looking for a private, quiet and beautiful place, top service and excellent food, this is the place. Between visiting the maya ruins, hiking in the jungle, swimmimg in the cascades, we had a wonderful time!
Everything was "custom made"/arrange to fit our plans. We were only 2 couples present at the Inn because it's the low season right now.
One of the best hotel we ever stayed!