Black Rock Lodge and Surroundings

We arrived into Belize International Airport right on time. There was a bit of a wait at passport control and then at customs after claiming our bags, but we were out in the Belizean heat in no time. Waiting for us was Elvis from the Black Rock Lodge. He helped us with our luggage on the short walk to the awaiting van. After a short visit to the bathroom, we were off for the Belize Zoo!

The van was comfortable and the drive was scenic, passing through small villages on our roughly 45 minute jaunt to the zoo. Once we arrived, we realized that we were basically the only ones there for a visit. And it was awesome. It was one of my favorite zoos I’ve ever visited.

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The zoo was part zoo, part rescue effort. Many of the animals there were rescued from external danger or death, either being kept as pets or abandoned while young by their families. In particular, their black jaguar (Lucky Boy) arrived quite young and very malnourished and is now a stunning cat.

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My favorite animals at the zoo were the tapirs. I had never seen a tapir before although one is a prominent character in one of my kid’s favorite book, “There was an Old Monkey Who Swallowed a Jungle.” I love their noses! It’s like part snout, part trunk. And they were so curious! But my favorite part was learning that the males urinate backwards after one took a leak on my husband’s foot!

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After our visit to the zoo, we made our way to the lodge. It was probably a two hour ride through small villages and was a great way to take in the countryside. The length of the ride was perfect because it allowed both kids to nap. Something they desperately needed after being awake since 230am!

The last 20 minutes or so to the lodge is on a very bumpy dirt road. We drove past cows and horses into the jungle. Once we arrived, we were greeted by the staff and owners who explained a bit about the lodge before taking us down to our river view suite.

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ROOM

The lodge has several levels of rooms available. They all are pretty basic but contain a bed or two, ceiling fan(s), and a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower (no tub). Generally speaking, the main difference in the rooms is the price and view. We chose the suite for the additional space (about twice the size of a standard room) and because they were almost new. My husband can be a little high maintenance and I knew that his comfort level while staying in the jungle would require a nicer room.

Upon arrival at our suite, we were pleased with the size and furnishings. The kids were disappointed that there was no TV. We quickly explained that there were a lot more exciting things to see and do all around us so a TV wasn’t necessary. They soon learned that we were right and never asked about a TV again.

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The room had a king size bed and a sunken living room with two couches that converted into beds at night. There were playing cards and dominoes on the coffee table that the kids made use of.

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The bathroom was nice as well. It had a large shower separated from the sink area with a separate toilet room. Everything was very clean and it was evident that the rooms were quite new. The deck was also quite nice with patio furniture and a couple of hammocks which the kids loved.

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All in all, it was a great room in the middle of the jungle. I would have probably considered it average in any city hotel, but it was great for the jungle. I should mention that the Black Rock Lodge is off the grid so there are no energy guzzling appliances in the room like air conditioning, refrigerators, or hair dryers. On our first night at the lodge, we weren’t sure how well we would sleep given the heat and the fact that we didn’t want to open the doors or windows which might allow uninvited critters in. But we all fell asleep quickly and woke up with the blankets over us so the heat ended up not being a problem.

One thing to note about the suite is that it is a bit of a walk down the hill to the suite. It wasn’t a problem for us but may be for anyone with mobility challenges. Also, the wifi did not work in the suites while we were there. There was a signal for “BRL Suites” but the connection was too weak to work. Most of the time the wifi worked in the main dining area.

AMAZING EXPERIENCES

There are many onsite activities at the lodge, although we didn’t get a chance to avail ourselves of most of them. They have river tubing, hiking, birding, swimming in the river or their fresh water pool, and a behind the scenes look at the way the property is run, among many others. We spent a lot of time at their pool and we took a short 15 minute night hike, but we did not get a chance to participate in the other onsite activities.

They also have just about every off site tour that you can imagine both near and far from the lodge. The only tour we took was to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich and Cahal Pech but we could have chosen just about anything to do. Fernando was our guide and he used to be a park ranger at Xunantunich. He was very knowledgable about the ruins and rolled with the punches when our kids had had enough. He also took us to a great place for lunch that we all thoroughly enjoyed!

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Xunantunich

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Cahal Pech

One day at breakfast Cam, one of the owners, had mentioned that they had taken their young son on a night hike and that it might be something our kids would enjoy. We agreed! So that night, even though his son was exhausted from a busy day, he got someone to take us out to the wetlands in the back of the property to see a red-eyed tree frog. They are somewhat rare and we knew that we may never have a chance again to see one in the wild so we were thrilled when our guide identified one nearly right away. We also got to see a tarantula in the wild. All told, our kid friendly night hike probably took 15 minutes, but it was so awesome of them to arrange it for us.

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The morning of our departure, we were eating breakfast at the lodge when Kelly, the other owner, came down from the office to let everyone know that Elvis (our pick up and zoo guide) had found an injured toucan in the middle of the road not far from the lodge. He had a gash on his chest, a small cut on his head, and his wing was injured enough that he couldn’t fly. It was determined that he was the loser in a fight with another toucan. Luckily, they have a bird rescue program right in San Ignacio so within a few hours, they came to the lodge to pick up the injured toucan to get it back to the wild as soon as it was better. It was such a great experience seeing the toucan up close.

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FOOD

If you’re staying at the lodge without a rental car, you’ll be enjoying your dinner there. It is a hike into town so there really is no feasible option other than eating there. But luckily, the food is excellent. My husband has not stopped talking about the chicken curry dish he had on the first night. I had the vegetable curry dish which was also as good, but nothing I would rave about like he has.

The second night we had a twice-baked potato and ratatouille which was good as well. Dinner on both nights came with a soup starter, then an awesome salad, the main course, and then dessert. It was a ton of food and the price of $11 per person (1/2 price for kids meals) was quite reasonable for what you got. The kids had grilled cheese the first night and macaroni and cheese the second night. We were glad that they had kids options because they never would have eaten the regular meal.

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It’s important to note that outside of the kids options, there was basically a meat and non-meat option each night. So there wasn’t a whole lot of choice, but the quality made up for the lack of options. Everything was so fresh and flavorful.

We also had breakfast both mornings. We chose French toast one morning and the egg sandwich the other morning. Both were quite good! Breakfast items are a la carte so you pay for what you want. French toast was $5, for example and the breakfast sandwich was $8.

Before we knew it, our short two night stay was over. We departed late morning for the Maya Flats airstrip where we caught a direct flight to San Pedro on Ambergis Caye.

PRICING

Given that we chose to stay at the Black Rock Lodge during “low season,” we paid the lowest accommodation rate that the lodge charges. Excluding a 9% hotel tax, our room was $165.75 per night. This was for a stay in the most expensive room on the property. The other rooms are less expensive. The transfer from Belize International Airport was $170 for the 4 of us ($140 for the transfer plus $30 for the zoo stop). Our excursion to Xunantunich and Cahal Pech was $195 but based upon the price list, it appears it should have been $180 so I’m trying to sort that out. The entry fees to each were $5 per person. Lastly, our transfer to the Maya Flats Airstrip at the end of our stay was $30.

When we checked out there were a few restaurant charges on our bill that we did not incur. Additionally, we were charged for three nights when we only stayed two. So do review your bill in detail. It would have been helpful if I had had their excursion price list with me at check out so I could have dealt with the discrepancies right there.

Overall, our stay at Black Rock Lodge was wonderful. We had never stayed in a jungle lodge or off the grid before so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. But we were pleasantly surprised on all fronts. The room was great, the food was wonderful, and the staff and service couldn’t be beat. We’d highly recommend the Black Rock Lodge to anyone considering a trip to Belize. Mixing a jungle and beach stay allows you to see what the jungle is all about and doing so at the Black Rock Lodge was amazing.

 

** There was no compensation received for this review.

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