I am guessing it won’t come as a surprise to you that I belong to several travel communities, groups and forums. I was reading in a Facebook community recently when I came across a post from Rena Scarletto describing her amazing vacation at the Gaia Riverlodge in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve of Belize from July 13-19 of 2017. I knew this gem needed more sharing so I asked Rena to share her travel experience at the Gaia Riverlodge with our readers.
Getting to the Gaia RiverlodgeThe Gaia Riverlodge is located in the northern region of Belize, about 3 hours from the airport in San Ignacio, Cayo. It is situated at the foot of the Five Sisters waterfall. On the way to the resort you will pass several small towns and countryside, including Belize’s only prison where inmates will walk out to wave as you drive by!It takes almost an hour and a half of off-road travel to get to the resort, which is down the path from Blancaneux, Francis Ford Coppola’s resort and home.
The RoomsThere are waterfall rooms and mountain garden rooms (where Rena was) that all have thatched roofs, private baths, and mosquito netting. Each room is unique, with impressive hardwoods, Mexican tiles and locally-crafted textiles.The resort goes out of their way to make the rooms comfortable with flower petals strewn all over the room and towel art like the kind you’d find on a cruise ship.
a break from the crowdsWhen Rena arrived at the Gaia Riverlodge, there was only one other couple at the resort, and during her stay, only three other rooms were occupied.
things to do
the five sisters waterfallYou can take a hydro-powered tram down to the foot of the waterfall (the resort is perched up in the mountains above) or you can walk down a winding stone staircase (300 steps) that takes about 10 minutes to climb. At the foot of the waterfall are cabanas, beach chairs, hammocks, and stone Portillos with thatched roofs. You can take a walkie talkie with you and call up to the lodge for lunch or drinks and they will bring them down in a picnic basket with linens. Rena says she enjoyed Belizean enchiladas and a drink for lunch while she relaxed all alone with a book and went swimming in the isolated forest.
The Gaia Riverlodge has a full-service spa to enjoy. Here you can enjoy a massage, facial or anything else you would expect a spa to offer.
Enjoy the wildlife
There are little geckos everywhere and beautiful butterflies that are attracted to all of Gaia’s overgrown flowers. You can also see a lot of birds around the lodge or take a dedicated bird walk.
The resort has complimentary bicycles that you may use to ride around in the forest.
There are a number of other waterfalls that take about 25 minutes to walk to from Gaia Riverlodge.
walks and tours
The lodge offers bird walks, nocturnal rain forest walks, and organic garden tours for patrons.
the foodThe lodge sources all their food locally and has an on-site garden where they grow their produce. Rena says the food was outstanding and her favorite meal was linguine with house-made pesto, tempura battered vegetables with a homemade citrus dipping sauce and fresh-squeezed watermelon juice. Yes please. Sign me up for that!The lodge has an indoor bar, as well as dining seating both indoors and overlooking the Falls. There is also a complimentary continental breakfast.
AmenetiesThis place is remote. There is no getting around that. If you are going to the Gaia Riverlodge, you are going to escape the world for a bit, so it comes as no surprise that your connectivity to the outside world is going to be limited. There is no cell service. You also, unfortunately, won’t have internet in your room, but you can access WiFi in the lounge.The individual rooms do not have air conditioning but do come with ceiling fans, which travelers have reported work well and offer all the cooling down you need.You also are not going to enjoy any televisions or be rudely awoken by any alarm clocks in the rooms. You will find, however, what you really need: flashlights, towels, purified water and mosquito netting.One of the most important offerings of any hotel or resort is its service. As you would expect at a place that will bring you food at the foot of a waterfall, the reviews across the web rave about excellent service at Gaia Riverlodge.
excursionsRena took two excursions while she was staying at the Gaia Riverlodge – one to Tikal national park in Guatemala and one to Caracol in Belize. Both of these locations are Mayan ruins.On her way to Caracol, Rena stopped at the Rio Frio Caves (a quarter-mile cave system full of ponds, waterfalls and interesting geology) to explore. On the way back, she stopped at some natural waterfalls to swim and play in the water. While at Caracol, she enjoyed meeting military police who protect the exotic birds in the park. Surprisingly, one gave her his rifle to hold after they climbed one of the temples together!Both of Rena’s excursions included lunches with local food, including grilled meat, black beans, and rice.Rena says the lodge offers other excursions you can choose from, including a butterfly farm, horseback riding, cave tubing, zip lining, Mayan cultural tours, and archaeological tours.
compared to blancaneuxRena offers the following comparison to the nearby Blancaneux Lodge:“On my last night, I had a driver take me down the road to Blancaneux for dinner, which was good, but not nearly as good as the food at Gaia. Although Blancaneux has a pool, they do not have a private waterfall, which makes Gaia extra special.
Rena’s TipsWhen asked for her advice to anyone visiting the Gaia Riverlodge, Rena listed the following tips:
- Bring a lot of reading material
- Try the vegetable tempura; and,
- Just relax and enjoy the beauty of Gaia Riverlodge.
conclusionYou would not be alone if you saw this place as a little jungle oasis of peace and seclusion. I know I could use the chance to escape the world and enjoy a good mix of peaceful relaxation and adventure. Rena sums up her experience as follows”“Even though I was mostly alone during my trip, it was a great opportunity to relax and unplug from the real world. It was like a private jungle paradise and absolutely beautiful. “And, don’t forget to join our Facebook group, Photography and Travel, to share tips, favorite locations and questions!