Trip planning for Belize & Tikal
Replies: 8 - Last Post: Nov 1, 2012 10:40 AM Last Post By: hopefulist
Sep 28, 2012 5:36 PM
Trip planning for Belize & TikalI'm planning to a trip to Belize & Guatemala (12 days total) in a few weeks, and have a few questions:
1. Planning on about 4 days in/around San Ignacio. I was looking at various jungle lodges, trying to stay around $50/night for a double with bath. I came across Cohune Palms website last month, but now it won't connect. Does anyone know if they are still in operation? Looking for something laid back with river access. Plan on seeing a few local ruins, doing ATM tour, maybe a little tubing, and otherwise kicking back in a hammock with a Belekin or rum drink. Any other lodges in my price range that I should consider? (Looked at Trek Stop and Parrot Nest.)
2. Going from SI to Tikal, looking at Tikal Inn. Does anyone know if they have off-season rates, or are the rates stated on the website it? Also, can anyone offer info on the differences (other than cost) between the different room offerings? Bungalows vs. Suites vs. Ranchon? Staying 2 nights.
3. What can I expect for tour guide rates for ATM and Tikal? Do they charge by the group or by the person? What is the standard for tipping tour guides?
4. May spend the last few days on Caye Caulker. Looking for recommendations for places - ideally with beach view/access, hammocks, somewhere to relax.
5. Girly question - any places for a massage/manicure in SI? :)
Sep 29, 2012 4:43 AM
1In that price range I'd go with Parrot Nest. Nearly everybody who stays there likes it. It's in the same general area, Bullet Tree, as Cohune Palms. Trek Stop is a great value but not really a jungle lodge, as it's beside the road. Cohune Palms has gone through some management changes, but not sure if it's that or that it's just closed in September and October, as a lot of places in Belize do in this slow season.
Not sure when in a "few weeks" you're going to Tikal, but if it's anytime near Christmas and the end-of-the-world event nearly everything will be booked and no deals.
Rates to ATM don't vary much. Around US$85-$90 now including transport and lunch. BUT note that due to the government increase in admission fee at ATM on November 1 most companies will have to raise their rates to around US$110. This fee increase has been delayed for a couple of years but is now going into effect. Rates are per-person. I recommend PACZ. I think a tip to the guide of 10% is okay, not including the entrance fee; some will give more.
At Tikal, it's a little less structured in terms of guide costs. If you go in a small group, maybe US$10 a person, perhaps a little less. You can also get a private tour. That's in addition to the approx. US$20 entrance fee, and there's an extra fee (waived with some hotel packages) if you go early to see the sunrise in the park. Bungalows are nicest if it's in your budget. You can probably get a ride with PACZ to Tikal for a rate competitive with taking a taxi from the Guatemala side of the border.
Lodge at Chaa Creek near San Ignacio has the best spa in Belize, but it's expensive. Some of the other hotels and lodges, including San Ignacio Resort Hotel and Ka'ana also have spa services. There are a couple of independent places in town, Gretel's and I think it's called Emanuelle's plus a couple of beauty salons that do manicures -- don't know anything about them.
For Caulker, lots of good choices. Among the cheapest would be the hostel Yuma's, very popular, lots of young backpackers, and right on the beach. Also, in the moderate range I like Tree Tops, De Real Macaw and Maxapan (though it's not on the beach). Ditto Oasi and Sea Dreams.
Sep 29, 2012 7:45 AM
21. A friend stayed at Parrot Nest and loved it.
3. Try this guide...
5. I know a couple of salons in SI, but never been in them so don't know what they offer. Once you get there, ask around -- that's the way it works here.
Sep 29, 2012 7:53 AM
Sep 29, 2012 11:19 AM
Sep 29, 2012 11:21 AM
Oct 20, 2012 7:09 PM
6"Also, can anyone offer info on the differences (other than cost) between the different room offerings? Bungalows vs. Suites vs. Ranchon? Staying 2 nights."
I stayed in one of the Ranchon rooms for 1 night in September. The Ranchon rooms are further away from the main hotel central area (i.e. restaurant/bar/pool) and you have to walk on a trail to get there. I actually liked how it was a bit more removed since the trail is surrounded by some trees/flowers & I saw some wildlife on the walk. However, it is probably a bit more inconvenient and although there's lights along the path, a flashlight is still helpful for walking along it at night. In general, you do sense that the Ranchon rooms are more "out there." Howler monkeys started howling at 3 or 4am too (which was helpful for getting up for the sunrise tour)...their noise might not be as noticeable with the more central lodging options but I can't say for sure.
There were bungalows (with thatched roofs) along the poolside that look great (from the outside) and looked like they would be fun to stay in. The suites (from the outside) also looked fine.
For what it's worth, I really enjoyed staying in the Ranchon rooms and appreciated the more remote aspect (seemed like a more distinctive experience), but I could easily see why others might choose to stay in the bungalows.
Also, be aware that all electricity shuts off by a fairly early time in the evening (i think 10pm), which would be true of all the rooms and all of the hotels in the park.
Nov 1, 2012 10:36 AM
7Thanks to everyone for the responses. I'll post a separate trip report with more detail, but in general:
1. Stayed at Parrot Nest, and loved it! It is about 3 miles from San Ignacio, but it was easy to get into town when we wanted. The cabanas were comfortable, and with the exception of the 4am rooster and some birds, very quiet. The meals are excellent! Went to ATM - it was as great as everyone says, more rock climbing than I expected, but was worth the effort. Used PACZ and had Luiz as our guide. He was really funny and a great guide.
2. Stayed at Tikal Inn, and had one of the pool side bungalows. Paid $115 US per night, which included breakfast and dinner, and the sunrise tour (but not the 100Q entrance fee). The sunrise tour is worth getting up for - not a great sunrise (too misty), but still a great experience. Didn't get Roxy (we really didn't have a choice) but our guide was very good.
3. Went down to Flores for 1 night, stayed at Sabana Hotel. $50 US per night, nice location, great views of the lake, nice staff.
4. Stayed at De Real Macaw on Caye Caulker for 4 nights. $50 US per night for the beachfront rooms. Great location, owners are very friendly and helpful. Even though it is next to a bar it was quiet once inside with the AC on. Great place to chill out at.
Nov 1, 2012 10:40 AM
8Thanks for coming back with an update! Re: Roxy Ortiz, you'd have to set up a tour with her well in advance. The Tikal Inn is her base (she practically grew up there and her brothers manage it) when she's in Peten but she keeps her own schedule book.
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