Belize is a land of wonders – a heady mix of Caribbean reefs, lush rainforest and Mayan culture. Travelers come to this low-key Central American country to unplug, unwind and create their own personal eco-adventures.
The country's environmentally-focused resorts are agreeably uncrowded, providing luxury, community and amazing food – and exotic cocktails – without sacrificing sustainability. If you want to experience the natural beauty of Belize while reducing your ecological footprint, here are seven of the country's best eco-friendly resorts.
Blancaneaux Lodge, San Ignacio
Best luxury eco-resort
Part of an upscale family of eco-friendly resorts owned by acclaimed American film director Francis Ford Coppola (of Apocalypse Now and Godfather fame), Blancaneaux Lodge lies ensconced in the remote forests of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest in the Cayo District in southern central Belize.
For nearly 30 years, the property has combined Coppola’s love of style, luxury, fine food and sustainability. Blancaneaux boasts a hydroelectric system harnessing the power of the on-site Privassion Creek and all-saline swimming pools – a promise to eschew single-use plastic and use only timber from certified local suppliers highlights the resort's commitment to conservation. The resort also supports local artists, schools and the Belize Wildlife Clinic.
While staying at the resort, you can immerse yourself in the fauna and flora of Belize, enjoy waterfall views and seek out local wildlife in the nearby Elijio Panti National Park. Visitors can choose from an impressive roster of activities such as hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and sunrise bird watching. Or, if you're feeling more adventurous, sign up for a tour of Mayan ruins, cave exploration or even a detour into Guatemala for the day.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek, San Ignacio
Best sustainable jungle resort
An oldie but a goodie, this pioneering eco-resort located on the country's western fringe, was one of the first eco-lodges in Belize. A short drive from the town of San Ignacio, the lodge has been a home for luxury, adventure and conservation for over 30 years. Pick from a wide range of cottage-style rooms, a treehouse, comfy suites or even a private villa that comes with it's own Jacuzzi and personal butler.
Owners Lucy and Mick Fleming are the helpful proprietors of this 400-acre property, which is spread along the banks of the Macal River in a rainforest reserve. The owners donate 10% of all accommodation revenue to local environmental and community projects.
The lodge offers a soothing combination of wild jungle and comfort. On-site activities and amenities include an infinity pool, a full-service spa, a walking trail focused on rainforest medicine, an organic farm and a butterfly farm.
As an added bonus, the well-known Maya sites of Cahal Pech and Xunantunich are nearby. You can also hit local trails by foot or on horseback, or book an adventure to spelunk in a local cave, explore Mayan ruins, go ziplining through the forest or snorkel on the Belize coast.
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Chan Chich Lodge, Gallon Jug
Best eco-resort for Mayan encounters
Located on the Gallon Jug estate surrounded by the 30,000-acre tri-national Maya Forest, the Chan Chich Lodge was constructed to deter looters from raiding a genuine Mayan archeological site for artifacts.
The 12 luxe, thatched-roof cottages – situated on the main plaza of a Mayan Temple – were crafted using wood from the trees and palms that were originally cleared when the property was constructed, and each comes with a wrap-around verandah.
The resort has been devoted to conservation ever since it opened in the 1980s, and more than half of the food served at the restaurant comes from the resort’s organic, 3000-acre farm, which is committed to growing and saving Belize’s traditional crops. Rainwater is gathered and purified for cooking and cleaning, and the lodge provides sustainable housing, electricity and water for its all-local staff.
Visitor experiences include 9 miles of trails that can be explored on foot or on horseback, canoeing in a nearby lake and driving tours through the dense surrounding jungles. Alternatively, you can choose off-site experiences such as tours of Mayan caves or in-depth birding adventures.
Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, Stann Creek
Best eco-resort for diving
Nearly 1000ft of beachfront at Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort means easy access to the beauty of the Caribbean Sea and its dazzling coral reefs. And unlike many of the country’s beach resorts, Hamanasi is located on the mainland, south of Hopkins in southern Belize, so you’ll be able to easily extend your activities beyond the water and diving.
Hamanasi has set aside 26 acres of their property as a nature preserve, making a happy home for everything from birds, bats and orchids to fish, turtles and crocodiles. Its organic garden composts over 100 pounds of biodegradable waste per day.
Accommodation options include rooms, suites and 16 stilt-raised “treehouses,” all decorated with furniture handcrafted on-site using local materials. When it comes to activities, you can stick close to the sea for barrier reef diving or snorkeling, go canoeing, birding or hiking, or take a day trip to nearby Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the world’s first and only dedicated jaguar sanctuary.
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Copal Tree Lodge, Punta Gorda
Best eco-resort for rum and excursions
Tucked into a rainforest preserve in the mountains near the southern town of Punta Gorda, the Copal Tree Lodge offers a welcome respite from the norm. Guests can revel in privacy and eco-chic luxury in its 16 private villa, each with its own hammock and screened-in deck.
Rooms are spacious, bright and draped in earthy, natural tones, but it's the stunning spa-like showers with floor-to-ceiling, jungle-facing windows that will make you feel fully immersed in your stunning, green surroundings. Copal Tree Lodge also offers a three-bedroom villa for guests traveling with family.
Most of the resort’s food is produced from its 3000-acre organic farm or at the very least, locally sourced, and guests can fill their complimentary water bottle with filtered water at water stations dotted around the property.
The resort's on-site Copalli Rum distillery, supplied by organic sugarcane fields, is the largest non-government employer in southern Belize, paying three times the average salary. Copal Tree also donates five Belizean dollars to the local community for every booked room and has an outreach program to train employees and their families.
Activities abound. You can hang by one of the two pools with the monkeys, go kayaking or fishing on the river, or join cave expeditions and jungle hikes. You can also book onto the popular Snorkel with the Chef trip – you’ll travel down the Rio Grande river with the lodge’s chef and a local guide, and any fish, spiny lobster or conch caught during your snorkeling adventure will be cooked up on the boat’s wood grill.
Copal also offers a range of agritourism adventures, including a farm-to-flask rum initiative with mixology classes or a bean-to-bar chocolate experience, taking advantage of the resort's own organic cacao. And did we mention the craft cocktails at the bar?
Table Rock Lodge, San Antonio Village
Best eco-resort for privacy
Tiny and tasteful, this peaceful eco-lodge has just 10 guest cabanas located inside a 105-acre jungle reserve in central western Belize, five miles south of San Ignacio Town, on a raised bank above the Macal River. Guests can choose from garden-facing rooms, a thatched-roof cabana, jungle or river view suites, or a two-bedroom rainforest cabin that used to be the owners' home.
Because of its more intimate size, Table Rock Lodge has been able to stay completely off the grid, producing all its own electricity from solar panels. This means you’ll only have access to USB outlets in rooms, which have no larger electrical devices. Laptops and other items with a 110V power cord can be charged at a power station at the lodge.
Most of the resort's water needs are supplied using purified rain and river water, and the owners have spent years replenishing the local area through the Mahogany Reforestation Project, which has planted approximately 1000 new mahogany trees.
An organic farm offers a farm-to table dining experience and allows guests to pick Valencia oranges, Key and Tahitian limes, mangoes, coconuts and avocados. The only caveat – if you pick it, eat it. Activities and adventures around the property include canoing, tubing and hiking. You can also take a guided excursion to the Cahal Pech Mayan site, the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave, or the Community Baboon Sanctuary (an important reserve for howler monkeys).
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Black Rock Lodge, San Ignacio
Best resort for self-sufficiency
Sitting on the banks of the Macal River, tucked into a stand of dense rainforest across from Elijio Panti National Park, Black Rock Lodge serves up adventure, conservation and relaxation. Guests stay in one of 20 airy cabins – each comes with its own hammock and floors made from local slate stone to keep them cool.
A fully off-the-grid property, Black Rock Lodge relies on solar and hydroelectric energy to reduce its carbon emissions. To avoid polluting surrounding water sources, they also use a natural wetland wastewater treatment system, which won’t degrade over time. And there's a goat and chicken farm that provides milk, eggs, yogurt and cheese for the restaurant (don’t forget to pop in and give the goats some love).
Because of its close proximity to the river, guests can go tubing or head down to a nearby waterfall; other on-site experiences include hiking, canoeing and kayaking and spelunking in the Flour Camp Cave. You can also spend the day ziplining, exploring Mayan sites, or checking out the habitat of Belize's green iguanas.