COVID-19 Travel Advisory: Stay up to date with the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.   Learn More >

Jungle Fever - Can You Help With Belize Itinerary?

Old Mar 28th, 2010, 07:01 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,340
Jungle Fever - Can You Help With Belize Itinerary?

Hubby and I are home from a recent third trip to Costa Rica, and are already planning our trip to Belize next year; I know that you guys understand! Having done our research (thanks y'all!), we would like to split our time between beach and jungle. We're leaning toward somewhere in Hopkins and Macal Camp near San Ignacio. Probably sometime between January and March next year to escape New England winter. We'll have 2 weeks, more or less. Our perfect location would be laid back and friendly, with trails or beach to explore, surrounded by nature, opportunity to tour interesting areas, people to meet, hammocks to relax in.

Initial Questions: We also like the description of The Trek stop for its proximity to ruins and small town. We prefer to stay put rather than waste time transferring a few miles, but would it be worthwhile? Hmmm... if we stay put, what is the best way to go about seeing local ruins and booking tours?

Tikal vs Carcol: O.k. you'll probable think I'm nuts, but, as much as I'd like to see Tikal, descriptions of suffering animals and children puts me off. I'd be too sad to enjoy it! Carcol just sounds less crowded and depressing, lol! Lots more questions, I'm sure, but this is a good start! Thank you! Cattail
Cattail is offline  
Old Mar 28th, 2010, 07:34 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,224
If you haven't read my travelogues, you might enjoy them:
http://flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections (linked on the main page of each collection).

Our 1st visit, 2003, we stayed at both the Trek Stop and Macal River Jungle Camp and loved both for different reasons. I think a week in either place might be a lot, though, so spending time at both might be a good idea.

We went to Tikal in between and I've been twice since then (Guatemala 2007 and 2009 collections, above). If you spend the night, you'll practically have the place to yourselves in the cooler evening and early morning hours and the wildlife is more active then - awesome! I've never seen suffering animals or children - can you explain? I don't see what's depressing unless it's the fact that the population of the city disappeared a thousand years ago. I haven't been to Caracol.

We loved Hopkins and I can recommend The Hopkins Inn without reservations: http://www.hopkinsinn.com

Let me know if I can answer questions! Happy trails!
hopefulist is offline  
Old Mar 28th, 2010, 08:05 PM
  #3  
RAC
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,951
We didn't see suffering children and animals in Tikal. Only monkeys and birds.

I'd recommend seeing both, of course--we've seen both, but seeing Tikal isn't like wandering the streets of Mumbai.
RAC is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2010, 03:50 AM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,340
This is a prime example why one should never post right before bedtime! To clarify: The suffering humans and creatures were seen enroute to Tikal, not at Tikal. According to a post on Thorntree (I think),the sight of large numbers of starving animals and overall poverty made the author sob!

RAC, did you have a preference?

hope, it was largely after reading your reports that we decided on Hopkins,Macal and possibly The Trek Stop. So thank you loads! Question: If we should decide to base ourselves at the Macal River Camp, can we easily catch a bus or taxi to town and the ruins, or do you think we'd need to book a tour? We know that we want to visit at least one major ruin (overnight if Tikal) and ATM; is it much cheaper to book from town? Assuming, that is, that we don't decide to do make the trip ourselves, as I know you did to Tikal.
Cattail is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2010, 05:44 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,224
Hey - good! I've made that trip between Belize and Guatemala on 2 of my Tikal visits and what I've seen there is typical of much of Central America, I'm afraid - a harsh reality. In my opinion they're not starving, just marginalized as so much of the world is. Whoever said that likely hadn't been out of a resort much imo. I can't compare Caracol to Tikal personally but would be sad if you missed Tikal - it's one of the most amazing places on earth.

We chose to split our time between the Trek Stop and Macal River Jungle Camp, knowing that it would be harder to get in and out for tours from MRJC. It's miles to the road and you typically have to pay for shuttles to town or for a tour or taxi to pick you up, although we road into town in the supply truck the day we left, no charge. That said, you can hike for miles around there and canoing is free is you just go up and back on the river yourselves. You have free access to the butterflies, natural history museum, internet, pool, etc. at Chaa Creek, too, so there's plenty to do right there. We spent 3 nights there so 2 full days to explore; 1 day we just read in our hammocks, hiked, and checked out the offerings at Chaa Creek, the other day we canoed down the Macal to town for market day and to look around and had a shuttle arranged to head back out (there was a charge for that). I've read good things about Chaa Creek's tours but they're spendy. According to the CC website it would be $308 for 1-4 people to go to the ATM cave + $15/pp for the entrance fee - that's $92 each if there are 4 of you and $169 if only 2 compared to the $70 or $7/pp5 you can get in town.

The Trek Stop is just off the main road between San Ignacio and the border so you can hail a taxi or ride a bus to wherever you want to go. As you know, you can hike to Xunantunich from there and they can help arrange tours/visits to ATM, Tikal, etc. As you know, we loved both MRJC and the Trek Stop, but for different reasons and they both have nice hammocks.

Let me know if there's more I can do to help!
hopefulist is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2010, 12:32 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 5,545
I didn't see any starving animals and children on the way to Tikal.

However, we didn't drive we flew into Flores (which I don't think is still offered).
RBCal is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2010, 02:47 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,224
Actually, the flights have started again, though they're spendy: http://www.tropicair.com/
hopefulist is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2010, 04:36 PM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,340
hope, the worst poverty we've seen so far was in Kenya, but it was in the US ironically, that neglected animals made me cry! I agree, the poor girl may have been a bit sheltered.... I think we'll plan on an overnight there. Based on your description, I think we'll split our time between The Trek Stop and Macal. They both sound right down our alley,and inexpensive enough not to worry as much about how many days. I'm excited! Now for the logistics...

How far in advance did you book your accommodations? Also, my husband "retired" early from teaching, and would be interested in bringing school supplies if they still need them. Any idea?

RBCal, good to know that air flight is available, thanks! We do enjoy ground transport, if feasible. Less expensive, and gives us more of a sense of the country. Still, good to explore all options...

So far, our VERY rough itinerary: Hopkins/ The Trek Stop/ Macal/ Tikal.

Thank you!!!
Cattail is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2010, 05:58 PM
  #9  
RAC
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,951
We didn't seen any suffering on the way to Tikal. It's definitely third world, but there wasn't any indication of malnutrition or disease or that kind of thing.

We were able to stay overnight in Tikal National Park--that's not an option at Caracol and it made a huge difference. But, if you can't do an overnight at Tikal I'd probably lean towards Caracol because it gives you a chance to see features of Mountain Pine Ridge since as the Rio Frio Cave and the Rio On pools.
RAC is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2010, 05:58 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,224
I'd book those places well in advance as they do fill up. They're both popular with families and with groups.

I pack school supplies along every time I go to Central America and it's never hard to find a grateful school. When we were staying at the Trek Stop in 2003 one of the owners, Tino, was setting up an education program for the San José Succotz Village in the downstairs of his house; I enjoyed visiting there and learning about their work. If they're still doing that I know they'd be grateful for whatever you could donate. If they're not, I'm sure he could recommend a local school.

Also, some dear friends of ours were Peace Corps volunteers in Hopkins Village 20 years ago and helped build the school. They are still fondly remembered. At the time there were no toilets of any kind or running water or electricity in Hopkins! We visited a dear friend of theirs, a teacher at the school, on our 2003 visit. We had a big suitcase of school books to take there last summer but, sadly, the teacher, Mary, died suddenly a few months before we arrived of a heart attack in her late 40's - a terrible loss for the village. My nephew Tyler was traveling with us and hauled the books down and donated them to the little library - there are pictures in my Belize 2009 collection. I know the school there would appreciate supplies, too. If you happen to choose the Hopkins Inn, rita would be happy to help with connections, I think.

I know it sounds like an awful lot of traveling around but you might consider spending your last few nights on Caye Caulker. It puts you within easy range of the airport (ferry/taxi or a quick flight) and has really great lodging and food options in a range of prices. If for no other reason, dinner at Wish Willy and the sailing/snorkeling adventure with Raggamuffin were highlights of our trip. Just something more to toss around. Happy trails!
hopefulist is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2010, 07:08 PM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,340
Gee, thanks, hope! Just what I need - more great ideas...lol! I just read the reviews of the Hopkins Inn, and it sounds perfect, so yes, I think that's where we'll stay. Perhaps I can e-mail beforehand enquiring about school supplies. You've been a tremendous source of information, and your travel preferences mirror ours. Only thing, is that we may be looking at closer to 3 weeks. Another question: What is "well in advance"?

RAC, it sounds as if you liked both Tikal and Caracol. I agree, definitely an overnight.

I'm going to plan a tentative itinerary, and will be most grateful for comments!
Cattail is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2010, 08:12 PM
  #12  
RAC
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,951
Here's a link to our trip report from the area,including pictures:

http://www.fodors.com/community/mexi...ary-2010.cfm?8
RAC is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2010, 08:17 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,224
3 weeks will be WAY BETTER than 2 weeks!! How far in advance you should book will depend on the time of your trip, how soon you're sure about your dates (buy flights 1st), how badly you want those particular places, and luck. I checked my emails - we booked Hopkins Inn 8 months out. I don't remember exactly how far out I booked the Trek Stop and MRJC because it was 7 years ago, but my guess is at least 6 months. I'd fallen in love with them and didn't want to chance it.
hopefulist is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2010, 03:59 AM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,340
Sounds like a great trip,RAC!

hope, I'd better get my act in gear!
Cattail is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2010, 04:25 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 999
Cattail - we went to Tikal in August and drove to get there. We didn't drive, but were driven there and definitely did not see any suffering - not in the people we passed or in the animals. We drove through beautiful farmlands. The people were poor by our standards for sure. But they were not begging on the side of the road if that's what you're thinking. Their homes were tiny, shacks I suppose. But the farms were large and the animals did not seem unhealthy. There were dogs roaming, but you see that all over Central America. We stopped by one of the lakes to take pictures and there were many women at their "spots" washing clothes. They had kids with them. They were not sad looking - they seemed ok - not miserable - this was their way of life. There were pigs by the road. It never crossed my mind to be sad for these people, other than that they have a simple life in a different way than the poor people do in the US. This is the life that they know. We did not come across anything that was so horrible that I felt the need to sob, as you mentioned someone on Thorntree posted.

I think you'll really enjoy Tikal! It was such a magical place for us!
ShellD is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2010, 04:33 AM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,340
O.K. Itinerary, Version One: Night 1: Near airport IF flight comes in late, then -
The Trek Stop, 4 nights,inc. trip to ATM, explore local ruins, river tubing, explore towns, etc.
Overnight to Tikal, Pacz Tours?
Transfer to Macal River Camp, 4 nights, enjoy on-site activities.
Transfer to Hopkins Inn 4 nights, finally,
Caye Caulker 4 nights.

Opinions, comments? Thanks!
Cattail is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2010, 04:35 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,340
Thanks so much, Shell! Your comments sets my mind at ease!
Cattail is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2010, 05:58 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,224
Sounds wonderful, Cat! Unless your flight is really late (not typical) but in the event you don't want to head clear to the Trek Stop the 1st night, consider the zoo. That was a great 1st stop for us in 2003 (but find out about food availability for sure) and you can do a night tour of the zoo only if you stay there. We didn't do that but I've read some great reviews.

If you're cutting time anywhere I'd suggest a day off MRJC since you can fit lots of hiking, canoing, and hammock lounging into 2 full days and parts of 2 more, and also Hopkins. From there you can do a day trip to Cockscomb Reserve and spend a day locally (don't miss an evening of Garifuna drumming at the Lebeha Drumming Center!) but that might be enough for you. You might want to add to your Caye Caulker time since that's your main reef access - you can snorkel from Hopkins but it's a 20 mile boat trip to the reef. We'd had a week on Glover's Atoll before we headed to Caulker last summer and still wished we'd had more than 4 days there.

You're a lucky duck!!
hopefulist is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2010, 07:39 AM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,340
Hope, initially we were looking for somewhere (Jungle Jeanies?) with kayaks on Hopkins, so that we could kayak to a fair snorkeling spot (have you heard of this?), but Hopkins Inn just sounds best. My job is very flexible, luckily, so we can add a day to Caye Caulker. Neither of us dive.

With snorkeling gear and camera equipment, traveling extra light may not be an option. So I don't know about taking local buses, our first choice mode.Looking into shuttles.

My revised plan: Overnight only if necessary, Trek Stop and MRC each 4 nights (can't bear to cut a night!), Tikal overnight through Pacz, 3-4 night Hopkins, 5-6 nights Caye Caulker. Plane home.

Are you planning any trips this summer?
Cattail is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2010, 08:50 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,224
That really sounds wonderful, Cattail. You've read my travelogues regarding what we loved from each of those bases but let me know if you have questions.

Do keep your bags as light as possible - even with my mask and snorkel (but no fins), my small camera with charger, etc., a few books and Spanish study things, and my little laptop my bag weighed well under 20 pounds last year. Especially in Belize your shoe and clothing selections can be minimal; my generic packing list is #14 on the FAQ thread of the Thorntree Forum:
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntre...hreadID=828622
Since I'm usually at higher altitudes during part of each trip I pack a light fleece jacket you won't need. Here's an excellent pack light site: www.onebag.com

I'd rely on the public buses part of the time and pay for shuttles only when convenience dictates. Logical times would be airport to wherever (to avoid the $25US taxi to the bus station and the extra change to a bus) and maybe trips involving Hopkins which has a more limited public bus schedule. If you're staying at the zoo, for example, you just wait by the road and soon a bus will stop and take you clear to the Trek Stop - very cheap and a fascinating cultural experience.

Shuttles are really surprisingly expensive in Belize, especially compared to Guatemala where there are regular routes. In Belize they're basically all private shuttles and cost +/-$100US for something that would be a small fraction fo that in Guatemala. Let me know if you want referrals beyond those in my 2009 travelogue.

I haven't heard of any fair snorkel spots off Hopkins close enough for basic kayaking. I'm sure Rita at Hopkins Inn could help you arrange kayaks if you want to give it a go. They've lived there for years (15, maybe?) and are very helpful and knowledgeable.

I'm heading to Mexico this summer for the first time, splitting a month between the Yucatan with my husband (Tulum, Valladolid, San Felipe, and Isla Mujeres - lots of diving, snorkeling, flyfishing, ruins, and people watching) and San Cristobal de las Casas for 2 weeks of Spanish study and volutneering. I may add a week to swing down into Guatemala at the end as I'm wanting to check out a project I have going there. Happy trails!
hopefulist is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO