Here's the scoop from the first leg, which took us from Belize International Airport up to a far flung lodge on the New River:
Getting There: A driver was waiting for us when we arrived at the Belize International Airport, quickly whisked us into his van, and drove us about an hour to a jungly but tidy landing on the New River. A way cool--and kid-pleasingly fast-- little motor boat then snaked us up the river for about an hour to the Outpost.
The Spot: Directly adjacent to the lush Lamanai ruins, Lamanai Outpost truly feels like an Outpost. About 20 thatch-roofed cabins crouch among the palms, overlooking an enormous, lake-size lagoon and acres of rustically tended plantings. Paths lacing the property lead to a beautiful open-air pavillion, where down-to-earth guests hang at the bar, eat meals, and sign up for daily activities.
Our Digs: Our woodsy cabin--hewn from local materials-- struck that perfect balance between comfort and rusticity: No A/C, TV, or shiny tiles, but good linens on the bed, screened and louvered windows, a stylish yet lowkey bathroom, and our own private little porch with chairs for reading. The coolest amenity: A troop of howler monkeys who inhabited the overhead canopy of trees. Waking at sunrise to their insane, gutteral shrieks rates as one of the most mystical and hilarious experiences we've had together.
Action Plan: Each day, we could sign up for two activities--which was generally enough to keep us busy and provide some time to just hang out at the cabin or swim and sun off the river dock. These included sunrise canoeing (think birds, birds, birds) and spotlight safaris on land or on water (think bats, scorpions, crocs). We toured the neighboring Lamanai Maya ruins in the early morning with a guide who knew just how to engage the guys and how to avoid the daily cruise ship crowds. We zipped out on an airboat in the pitch black (the guys were blown away by how cool these things are) and helped preservationists tag baby crocodiles. We took a guided "medicine walk," and learned about trees and plants that traditional Belizeans use to treat everything from anemia to athlete's foot. One afternoon, our guide walked with us into the nearby village, where the guys helped the cooks at a small restaurant grind hominy and make chicken tamales --I think the simple, Belizean meal we had there was the best we had on the trip.
Grub: Since there ain't that much else around, guests generally eat all their meals under the gorgeous thatch canopy of the central lodge. The food is okay--beats me why they're serving up heavy, American style meals in the middle of the tropics. But the waitpeople are all very accommodating and the kitchen is pretty good about whipping up something to placate picky kids and health-conscious parents.
The 411: Three nights at the lodge was plenty for us. After that, you might have to start repeating daily activities. But hey...if you like just chillin' at a remote river outpost, you might want to stay longer. All-inclusive rates--which even cover transport from and to the airport--start at about $260 per adult/$80 per kid from December--mid-April. The beauty part: From mid-April -December, those numbers drop to $149 per adult/$55 per child. A Screamin' Deal we happily took advantage during the kids' spring break. The weather was perfect. And yes, there's Internet in the main lodge. For rezzies and more go to www.lamanai.com. Or email me and ask!