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January 14, 2011

Best Belizean Bed & Breakfasts on a Budget

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Rio Frio River, Cayo District, Belize, Central America, National Geographic 72768541
Rio Frio River, Cayo District, Belize (National Geographic)

You might consider Belize to be the sole domain of honeymooners ready to splash the cash at exclusive eco-lodges and beachside villas. Or you may think of this Central American country as a hippy hangout for backpackers seeking a spot to pitch their tent or hang a hammock. You'd be right to assume Belize caters to both ends of the spectrum. But what if you want to stay somewhere clean, charming, and comfortable without breaking the bank or returning to your student days? Belize caters to you comfort-seekers as well. Characterful lodging can be surprisingly affordable and suitably stylish in this Caribbean-facing oasis, provided you're in the know. Here are five of the best bed and breakfasts in each of Belize's five districts.

Crooked Tree Lodge
Crooked Tree, Belize District
Double room from $60
One of my favourite B&Bs in Belize is perched on the southeastern edge of Crooked Tree lagoon. All five hand-crafted, hardwood cabanas—with lagoon-facing verandas—are tastefully decorated in neutral tones with soft, ivory bed linen. Embroidered, sequined textiles—fashioned into wall-hangings—add a touch of sparkle. Born and raised in Crooked Tree, owner Angie Webb serves excellent, home-cooked meals in the open-plan lodge, decorated with eclectic artwork from husband Mick's travels (they met when he was serving in Belize with the British army). I sat out by the fire pit and shared stories with the Webb family as night fell and wildlife called. I wouldn't leave without going birding by canoe with their neighbor and friend, Glenn Crawford. This gracious gent is one of Belize's best birding experts.

Hickatee Cottages
Punta Gorda, Toledo District
Double room from $60
When a business is a labor of love it shows. Owners Ian and Kate Morton could easily charge more for their beautiful Caribbean-style cottages, but of course I hope they don't. They're equipped with comfortable beds, soft cotton linens, local rattan and hardwood furniture, and ceiling fans (no A/C). With fantastic food—including Kate's Belizean breakfast pastries—and complimentary tea and coffee delivered to your garden-facing verandah every morning, you'll wonder what the catch is. As far as I can deduce, there isn't one. This delightful British couple's unmistakable passion for Belize makes them keen to share Toledo's natural and cultural treasures. Borrow a bike to explore Punta Gorda, Belize's southernmost district capital, or take a stroll on their carefully tended trails. They're really plugged into Toledo life—comes in handy when you need help deciphering those elusive village buses to get you to the nearby Lubaantun ruins or sparkling waterfalls just like a local.

Jungle Jeanie's By the Sea
Hopkins Village, Stann Creek District
Double room from $55
Charming Canadian retirees John and Jeanie Barkman have created a democratic guesthouse with options for a range of budgets in the Garifuna village of Hopkins. Two economy Seabreeze rooms—inside a colorful clapboard duplex building—are right on the beach. They're small and basic but include private bathrooms (hot water can be temperamental) and well-positioned to catch the ocean breeze. Within Jeanie's landscaped gardens, six spacious jungle lofts and cabanas stand tall on stilts with a few extra creature comforts. Meanwhile, the seaside treehouse is earmarked for laidback honeymooners with its shaded hammock deck and private balcony. Bask in breakfasts' of eggs with beans and deep-fried donuts—and enjoy a good old chinwag with John and Jeanie, provided she's not out for her morning sea-kayaking session. Guests get complimentary access to bikes, windsurf boards, hobie cats, and kayaks.

Moonracer Farm
Cayo District
Double room from $65
New Yorkers Tom and Marge Gallagher opened their rustic jungle lodge in 2007. A one-time wild cat rehab center, now the Gallaghers keep horses, dogs, and a family of paca, or "gibnut," a Belizean cousin of the guinea pig. Each room in their custom-built duplex cabanas contains two double beds—hand-carved from tropical hardwoods—and a private bathroom. Enjoy Marge's home-baked breads and pastries, or something heartier, on your private, screened veranda. There's no electricity; large flashlights and kerosene lamps light your way. A diesel generator charges batteries and runs satellite WiFi a few hours a day. Think of it as glamping and you won't be disappointed. The Gallaghers are atypical expats who work closely with their local community. Join them for a family lunch in a neighboring village before hiking at Ka'ax Tun, an otherworldly labyrinth of caverns and rocks, run as a community reserve. At the same time, you've got all of Cayo on your doorstep, from its jungle-thick foothills to cooler climes in the Mountain Pine Ridge.

Serenity Sands
Consejo Road, Corozal District
Double room from $80
Canadian hosts Penny and Don Lebrun have created a palatial B&B inside this Mexican-style hacienda. Choose from four spacious, air-conditioned rooms sharing a wrap-around veranda and a separate guesthouse, sleeping six (with fans but no A/C). I love their attention to detail right down to their organic cotton guest towels. They don't skimp on breakfast either. Typical days begin with chemical-free bacon, organic eggs, cinnamon buns, fresh fruit, artisan bread, and homemade jam. This beachfront B&B is ideal for a stopover en route to or from Cancun. It's also a handy base for exploring northern Belize. Hop aboard their complimentary kayaks and bikes or take a scenic drive to the waterside Mayan ruins at Lamanai and Cerros. Nearby you'll find ferries to San Pedro—Belize's well-heeled island beach town—and Chetumal in Mexico.

Kate Joynes-Burgess is the author of Belize: A Great Destination, part of the Explorer's Guide series published by the Countryman Press. Available on Amazon, it is a guidebook for extraordinary adventure and discovery dedicated to the eclectic country of Belize. Kate is a travel writer, political analyst, and photographer with a predilection for Latin America and the Caribbean. Her work has been featured in many international publications and guidebooks and appears regularly on the BBC News website and in Travel+Leisure.

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Related Topics: Central America Travel


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Kate Congratulations on the publishing of your book, we will be ordering some from Amazon in the morning, Thank you for your kind words and we wish you all the success you can handle, have a great 2011 with kind regards Mick Angie and the boys


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