When you consider where to stay in Belize, odds are, you’re going to be deciding between the Caribbean coast, the sandy cayes, and the jungle mainland. If you’re looking for a beautiful, romantic retreat, this Gaia Riverlodge review is for you.
I recently spent a month in Belize on a solo trip and wanted to experience each of the country’s various regions for myself. Over the course of 4 weeks, I stayed in a beachfront resort in Placencia on the coast, a small boutique hotel on Caye Caulker, and both a hostel and ultra luxe eco resort in the inland Cayo District. While I am a beach girl at heart, mainland Belize dazzled me with its jewel-toned green jungles, sparkling teal rivers, rich biodiversity, and impressive Mayan ruins.
Gaia Riverlodge and other accommodations like it in the area are geared towards romance and escape for adventurous couples. So, why was I here, after a month of solo travel in Central America?
Well, at the end of my month in Belize, my boyfriend, Jacob, flew in so we could celebrate our 6-year anniversary together! When I was searching for boutique hotels in Belize, Gaia Riverlodge stood out to me because of its remoteness, jungle-inspired cabanas, and private waterfall (I repeat, private waterfall). Just by looking at pictures online, I knew it would be a memorable place for us to celebrate our relationship – and reunion after 1 month apart – together.
While this is no doubt one of the pricier places to stay in all of Belize, the experience makes it all worth it. Read on to learn why.
Location: Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in Cayo, Belize
San Ignacio and the greater Cayo District are one of the most popular places to stay in all of Belize’s mainland, as it is considered the eco-adventure capital of the country. From waterfall kayaking, to touring Mayan ruins, to exploring the famous ATM Cave, San Ignacio is an ideal base for adventure and culture seekers.
Now, you might have discovered Gaia Riverlodge by searching for hotels in San Ignacio (Belize’s most populated city), like I did, but let me be clear – Gaia is very, very remote.
The Gaia Riverlodge is located in the heart of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, about 1 – 1.5 hours outside of San Ignacio, Belize. That might not sound too far, but considering the country’s gas prices and the gravely, unpaved roads you need to take to get here, San Ignacio day trips aren’t exactly easy. That may be changing in the near future with the creation of a new, paved road system in the area, but until that’s completed, you should expect to spend the majority of your time exploring the areas closer to the hotel itself.
Fortunately, the area around the hotel is unbelievably beautiful! Gaia Riverlodge is perched high above the Privassion River and Five Sisters Waterfall, and surrounded on all sides by tall pine trees. Its prime location, while remote, undoubtedly makes for one of the most unique settings in all of Belize.
The Gaia Riverlodge Property
You won’t find any close proximity to the city, the beach, or really anything for that matter, but the Gaia Belize does a good job of feeling like an oasis in itself.
A central lobby, restaurant, terrace, and communal fire pit anchor the property, woven together by gardens, natural landscaping, and gravel pathways. When you arrive, you don’t even realize yet that you’re perched high above the falls. It’s not until you walk through the lobby, grab your welcome drink, and enjoy your first few moments on the terrace that you can begin to really see what all the fuss is about.
Gaia Riverlodge (named after Gaia, the Greek goddess of the Earth) is a Green Globe Award-certified hotel, one of few properties in Belize to carry such a distinction. The entire property is hydro-powered and grows a majority of the ingredients found on its food and drink menu at a private garden onsite.
And, Gaia replaces the traditional hotel pool for more natural approach to cooling off – the Five Sisters Waterfall. Descend 300ish steps straight down from the lobby, or take the hotel’s hydro-powered funicular, to visit the waterfall for a swim, or to lounge around on a shaded hammock nearby.
Despite all there is to brag about, the hotel never felt pretentious or holier-than-thou. In fact, you’ll find some of the friendliest and warmest hotel staff, from the hotel’s general manager Nigel, to the hotel’s night staff Chris (be sure to ask him about his magic tricks, and his snake!), to the hotel’s farmer and resident vegetable whisperer, Sam.
The Gaia Riverlodge Rooms
Gaia Riverlodge has 16 rooms in total, including cabanas, suites, and villas. Each room features a thatched roof, locally sourced hardwood floors, and handmade Belizean decor. We paid extra for a waterfall view room, but there are also mountain and garden view rooms available that are typically priced a bit lower by comparison. I loved opening the windows and hearing the rush of the falls below and the distinctive call of toucans hidden amongst the trees above.
While minimal, the rooms evoke the sense of a luxe jungle hideaway. There are no TVs, there is no WiFi, and in fact, you won’t even find air conditioning (though you are provided with a floor fan that is useful at night). Here, it’s all about the view and enjoying it with whoever you’re with.
One thing you should remember is that you are in the heart of a jungle, and this jungle is alive. The hotel does as good of a job as it can keeping bugs and other creatures at bay, but you may encounter bugs from time to time even in your room. Bug spray is provided for guests in all the rooms at no extra charge, and you’ll find a mosquito net draped above your bed to use at night.
Food and Drink at the Gaia Riverlodge
Gaia Riverlodge’s onsite eatery, Five Sisters Restaurant, serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks. The food has Belizean, Italian, and American influences, and the ingredients are all either grown onsite or sourced locally from farmers in the area. Unless you plan to visit one of the other hotels in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, this is where you’ll be eating daily while staying at Gaia Belize.
I found the food to be tasty and well-made, but what really stood out to me were the drinks (also sourced from the onsite farm). They change their menu up regularly to align with what’s in season, and when I was there, a cocktail by the name of Gaia Chaya absolutely blew me away. It was a gin drink with chaya leaves local to the region and tasted so refreshing, like a salad in a cup (in a good way).
Plan to arrive at the restaurant before sunset at least one evening during your stay. The outside terrace is the best seat in the house when it comes to witnessing Belize’s unforgettable sunsets.
PRO TIP: During the day, you can have your meal brought down to enjoy at the waterfall! Be sure to grab a cooler from the bar and fill it with beers so you can spend the day lounging around with a cold one, too.
Tips to Know Before You Go
1. HOW TO GET TO GAIA RIVERLODGE
Because of its remote location, you’ll want to organize your transportation ahead of time. If you’re not renting a car in Belize, you can email Gaia Riverlodge ([email protected]) and set up transportation from Belize City or San Ignacio. From Belize City, it’s a 3-hour trip, and from San Ignacio or the San Ignacio Airport, it’s about 1-1.5 hours. I recommend flying into San Ignacio to reduce your drive time (and, because the view of Belize from the sky is spectacular).
For day trips to and from San Ignacio, you can also ask the front desk onsite to help you arrange that for about the same cost as an airport transfer.
2. WHO IS GAIA RIVERLODGE BEST SUITED FOR?
Gaia Riverlodge is best for honeymooners and couples. It’s romantic, remote, and luxurious, so it’s definitely best for those who want to unplug together and enjoy the hotel and the adventures in the area. Gaia does allow children, but they need to be at least 10 years of age in order to stay at the hotel.
3. WHAT IS THERE TO DO NEAR GAIA RIVERLODGE?
Some of the most incredible things to do near Gaia Riverlodge include:
- Visiting the Caracol Ruins
- Day-tripping to Tikal (in Guatemala!)
- Visiting the Xunantunich Ruins
- Canoeing down the Macal River
- Exploring the ATM Cave
- Go caving at the Rio Frio Cave
- Learning how to make traditional Mayan chocolate
- Swimming at Big Rock Falls and the Rio On Pools
Ready to pack your bags? Book your stay at the Gaia Riverlodge here.