Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, or Panama--which one?

Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 01:17 PM
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Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, or Panama--which one?

My wife and I are planning 5-day trip in January. We have been to CR four times (Arenal, Manuel Antonio, and Monteverde) and absolutely love the country, the people, and the food. We are considering a fifth trip, but we are itchy to visit a new (perhaps less developed) country. We love hiking, rafting, and exploring, as well as getting to know locals (Long taxi drives are the best) and eating local fare (particularly arroz con pollo with Salsa). However, we also like our creature comforts and generally stay at upper end properties (Xandari, Peace Lodge, Finca Rosa Blanca). Good, local food is an absolute must.

I've read great things about La Lancha in Guatemala and the other Coppola properties in Belize. Also read good things about Chaa Creek. Our other option is to return to CR and stay at Cabo del Bosque. Other thoughts? So many places, so little time--HELP!!!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 01:22 PM
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We did a combo of Chaa Creek and Victoria House - both really wonderful. You could head over to Tikal to explore. The food in Belize was excellent. Even though Ambergris has development, Victoria House seems very quiet and away from it all. Bosque del Cabo is wonderful too if your primary interest is hiking and seeing wildlife. You could take a look at Chan Chich too; we haven't stayed there yet, but it always gets rave reviews.
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Old Oct 24th, 2011, 05:37 AM
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Have you looked at the Lodge at Pico Bonito in Honduras?
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Old Oct 24th, 2011, 09:08 AM
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Thanks to both volcanogirl and RAC. We're leaning toward more of a cultural hiking vacation (with good food) this time around rather than a nature trip. I really want to go to Peru, but January is not the best season to hike the trail. Not to be picky, but Belize seems a bit too westernized (and expensive)while I worry that Honduras is not quite westernized enough, although I'm admittedly not familiar with either.
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Old Oct 24th, 2011, 09:32 AM
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Take a look at the Lamanai Outpost Lodge in Belize--it's literally across the road from one of Belize's top 2 Mayan ruins, offers fantastic service, great ecotourism options, cultural opportunities, and free transfer by road+boat to and from the international airport. The boat ride there is particularly stunning--everything from jabiru storks to crocodiles.

http://lamanai.com/
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Old Oct 24th, 2011, 11:09 AM
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Just a few thoughts. I doubt you'd find Belize near as westernized as Costa Rica, though it depends on where you're looking in each country, of course. The vast majority of folks visiting Belize stick with Ambergris but there are fabulous outdoor adventures and a variety of interesting cultures and lodging options available in addition to fine snorkeling and diving. Whether it's expensive or not also depends on where you choose to stay; looks like Bosque del Cabo (I thinks that's what you meant) would set you back $500+/night so I'm guessing budget wouldn't be an issue in Belize.

Honduras has developed and undeveloped places, too. Although I prefer the latter, if what you're wanting is high end you'll find it. It offers easy access to snorkeling and diving and Maya ruins that aren't available in CR.

Guatemala is the absolute cultural gem of Central America. If you're truly interested in culture, go there! You can check out my photos with blog, travelogue, and review links on t;he main page of each collection. Happy trails!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections/
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Old Oct 24th, 2011, 05:21 PM
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jdp, we thought Belize felt a little bit westernized - probably because the official language is English, things are calculated in miles, etc. but in terms of culture, great food, and hiking, it has it all.

Another spot you could look at - Casa Chameleon if you decide to go back to CR. It looks amazing. Good luck finding your spot.
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Old Oct 25th, 2011, 03:41 AM
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Thanks for the replies. Casa Chameleon looks awesome. Seems like a smaller and more private version of Makanda in Manueal Antonio (which we loved)
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Old Oct 25th, 2011, 04:36 AM
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We've always wanted to stay there. I discovered it on tripadvisor. Lots of wonderful reviews, and I believe you can arrange for a private chef. Looks amazing.
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Old Oct 25th, 2011, 05:47 AM
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If you decide on Belize, be aware that the food isn't very highly regarded at the Coppola property in Placencia, Turtle Inn.

Have you looked at Chan Chich? It's on my 'list', maybe this winter. Can't decide whether to go there for a couple of nights, or go to Roatan. Decision....
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Old Oct 25th, 2011, 11:09 AM
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Thanks for the tip on the food, Jean, as good local cuisine is very high on our list. We're leaning toward three nights at Chan Chich and 3 nights at Chaa Creek. If so, I'll post some follow up questions soon. Thanks to all
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Old Oct 25th, 2011, 04:47 PM
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jdp,
I'll be anxious to hear how you like Chan Chich as I hope to stay there in May!
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Old Oct 25th, 2011, 07:21 PM
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Me too; people always take wonderful pictures there, and there seems to be a lot of wildlife. jdp, are you sure you don't want to spend some time on one of the cayes? It's really beautiful. I feel like a traitor saying it, but we found the food in Belize to be better than in CR, or at least a little more sophisticated with more variety.
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Old Oct 26th, 2011, 03:10 AM
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We're not really beach people. We prefer hiking and adventure to lounging and tanning. Also, we prefer cooler weather or at least A/C. I've definitely decided on Chaa Creek for 3 nights. I'm now trying to decide on the next three nights. Either Chan Chich or La Lanchas in Guatemala. Jungle/culture rather than jungle/beach. Any idea whether travel between Belize and Guatemala (with a driver) is difficult? Any experience flying into one of these countries and flying out of the other?

By the way, thoroughly enjoyed your trip report on Belize and your helpful hint regarding luxlink. It was very helpful
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Old Oct 26th, 2011, 03:52 AM
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belizefirst.com

victoria-house.com

robertsgrove.com

cavesbranch.com

La Lancha for some Tikal

would be an awedome new place for u in winter

mayan-traveler.com I love the Mayan history ruins

little dodgier than CR always do driver/guides of quality

Do not rent a car there too risky tourist hotels are fine.

travel.state.gov entry safety info insuremytrip.com wise

Happy Planning!
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Old Oct 26th, 2011, 03:55 AM
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aa.com open jaw in BZE out GUA best for short stay

or for budget

spirit.com in CUN out GUA

what I usually do first class for the price of coach

pick up some ecotulum.com xel-ha.com on the way down.
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Old Oct 26th, 2011, 03:56 AM
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Make more time if you can 5 days is not a lot
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Old Oct 26th, 2011, 05:04 AM
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I'm not positive, but I don't think a Belizean driver can drive you into Guatemala. When we went, we had to change drivers at the border, but doublecheck me. Glad you enjoyed the trip report.
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Old Oct 26th, 2011, 05:04 AM
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Last I heard, Chaa Creek doesn't have air conditioning. Belize to Guatemala is not a difficult trip with a driver, though I haven't been tempted to drive myself. I fly "open jaw" (into one airport and out of another at least every other year, usually into Guatemala and out of either Honduras or Belize. Search engines like www.kayak.com and www.momondo.com have "multi city" links to accommodate your searches. With your planned itinerary, though, flying in and out of Belize but perhaps flying from Flores to BZE for your flight home might make more sense $-wise. Happy trails!
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Old Oct 26th, 2011, 05:07 AM
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hopeful, I said the same thing on another post regarding the a.c. and someone corrected me that their room did have it, so I think there may be some a.c. there somewhere. Ours definitely did not. We just had a big huge fan.
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