Perched atop the hill, overlooking the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena, is Cahal Pech Village Resort. San Ignacio is an unassuming town in the Cayo District of hill country (mountains as the locals would say) of the western Belize mainland. Standing on the balcony and looking down over the thatched roof cabañas makes you feel like you are in a Maya paradise. The cabañas add charm to the grounds of Cahal Pech Village Resort, making it feel like a community all its own. Misty mornings adorn the hills with blankets of fog. Nights are humid, so much so the dew dripping from the roof sounded like rain.
Expect gorgeous sunset views over the town with palm trees and multi-coloured homes adorning the deep-green Belize River valley and hills surrounding San Ignacio. Looking to the north are the hills of Yalbac. To the south, the graceful Maya Mountains. To the west lies Guatemala, and to the east, the flatlands and Mennonite farms of Spanish Lookout.
A Little History of Cahal Pech
We were welcomed at the front desk of Cahal Pech Village Resort by O’Neill, a former tour guide and informative host who knew Maya history. O’Neill was proud of his town and the antiquity right next door to the resort. The resort is named after the Maya ruins, Cahal Pech, which are not even a five-minute walk from the property.
O’Neill told us the Maya ruins of Cahal Pech were deserted because there was an uprising of the Maya commoners against the royalty in the town. The rebellion caused a dissolution in society and the town was abandoned.
Cahal Pech Village Resort
Cahal Pech is a three-star hotel. This casual, hillside resort is 7 miles (11 kilometres) from the Xunantunich archaeological site and 10 miles (16 kilometres) from Belize Botanic Gardens. The staff were professional, and the reception desk was helpful. They are willing to arrange any tours or transfers you need to make your stay as fulfilling and enjoyable as possible.
Rooms have tile floors and traditional décor. Some rooms have balconies. Wi-Fi is complimentary, a must for this day and age. There are also 1- and 2-bedroom suites with living rooms. Thatched-roof cabañas featuring verandas with hammocks steal the show.
Conference and event facilities are also available.
From Cahal Pech Village Resort, you can walk downtown to the market or browse shops and restaurants. Do note, the climb back up to the resort is steep. The dirt road is rocky and bumpy, but it is possible to trek back up if you want to challenge yourself. Just take your time and enjoy the views on the way back up. If hiking up the hill isn’t your thing, you can get a taxi, which can cost anywhere from BZD$10-20. Negotiate the price before you get in the cab. Also, verify if the taxi is quoting Belize dollars or USD. Remember, the Belize dollar is pegged to the US dollar at 2:1, resulting in easy conversion. BZD$10 = USD$5.
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The rooms are modest but comfortable and clean. If we needed anything, the staff was always quick to respond.
Seeking a quiet room? Book one of the cabañas. The tranquillity of having a private building and covered outdoor veranda with a hammock is the picture of serenity.
We were checked into a room with a king-sized bed. Ask at the front desk if you require extra blankets. They are happy to make your stay as comfortable as possible. The bed was comfortable and the pillows were good. Some rooms have been remodelled.
The cozy cabañas come with screen-enclosed verandas, the perfect way to enjoy the outdoors in Belize as mosquitos can be pesky. The verandas are complete with hammocks, table, and chairs. If you want the great outdoors and feel the need to sit outside and enjoy nature privately, book a cabaña.
Two cabañas do not have thatched rooves. According to O’Neill, these are the better units to rent as little geckos live in the thatched rooves and can be a bit of a nuisance. Some people insist on the thatched roof for the authentic Belizean feel. It all comes down to what you want in your getaway.
The cozy interiors come with a bed, couch, and all the standard amenities of a hotel room.
Cahal Pech has three lovely swimming pools lighting up in different colours at night. It’s a welcoming area for children and adults alike. There is a waterfall for added tranquillity.
Steps away from the restaurant and the thatch-roofed cabañas, the pool is a great place to let the kids burn off some energy or enjoy a drink. Colourful flowers peek over the walking paths, smiling at you as you explore the grounds.
Make sure to take a stroll along the lit-up pathways in the evening after you finish a hearty meal at the restaurant.
The Restaurant – The Cooling Rack
The large, open-air space and tasteful decor is inviting at The Cooling Rack. The restaurant was also impeccably clean. The soft lighting adds the perfect ambiance and instills a feeling of peace. Timber beams and railings add to the jungle feel. Discover the flavours of true Belizean cuisine by chefs trained by the Culinary Institute of America.
The classic margarita at The Cooling Rack is excellent. The seasoning on the rim tasted like celery salt and had a touch of heat. The blend included salt, cayenne (there’s your heat), paprika, and a little secret spice. The drink went down easy on a hot evening—a great way to cool off and reflect on the day.
Sky juice, as lovingly referred to by our server, was filtered and delivered to the table at no charge. A nice touch when so many people charge for water at restaurants. You could bring your reusable water bottle and fill it up with fresh, ice-cold water every morning before heading out to explore or go on a tour.
A special addition to meals at The Rack is their homemade hot sauce. I’m not a hot sauce fan, but this one is addictive. Each meal, including breakfast, is accompanied by a small bottle of the delectable, reddish-orange sauce. The sauce has a smoky heat, not too hot. The level of heat to hot sauce lovers is relative. Let’s say my lips and mouth were not on fire. The flavour is unique and a secret.
The breakfast menu had great choices including chicken and waffles. Choose something light such as a yogurt parfait or something hearty like the Belizean breakfast consisting of stewed chicken and potatoes. Prices ranged from BZD$15-18. The Breakfast Melt was the boss’ favourite, according to our server. The coffee was strong and plentiful.
Coconut milk is a staple in Belize and is used in almost every dish. The flavour is undeniable and adds a richness regular milk does not provide. The eggs on my breakfast melt had a hint of coconut flavour.
A perfect place to start the morning, the restaurant has gorgeous views overlooking the town and hills with tropical birds singing in the gardens. Imagine enjoying this delight every day.
Mornings are cooler, so you may need a light sweater when you head down for breakfast. It is cooler in the mountains due to the elevation with temperatures around the high 60s (low 20s in Celsius). Humidity is higher, adding dampness to the cooler air—which coastal people call “a damp cold”. The air is also thicker and heavier in the mountains.
We noticed vehicles honking each morning, stopping abruptly at 8 am. We asked our server at breakfast to explain this strange routine. Vendors sell corn tortillas and tacos around town starting at 5:00 am. The early honking didn’t wake us up as we were far enough away from the main streets. We noticed the excessive honking while we were getting ready for breakfast.
There is something for everyone at lunchtime at The Cooling Rack. Choose from burgers, sandwiches, tacos, Belizean favourites, fajitas, burritos, and more. Prices for lunch range from BZD$16-28, also a reasonable price for a resort restaurant.
Burger lovers must try the Xunan burger, a hulking, double beef patty extravaganza. The monster of a sandwich was at least six inches high. It was held together by a steak knife piercing through a couple of pickle slices, a black and white sesame seed bun, bacon, two huge homemade patties, tomato, and lettuce. An abundance of potato wedges comes along for the ride.
Entrees included chicken, beef, pork, fish, and seafood selections. Prices ranged from BZD$24-65. The meals were tasty, hearty, and fresh.
Pasta options like creamy alfredo, marinara, pesto, and eggplant parmesan are also available. Prices of pasta ranged from BZD$18-26. Many Belize restaurants include the taxes in the price so there are no surprises when it comes time to pay.
We don’t order pizza often but changed our mind when we saw a pizza come to a neighbouring table. Our waiter suggested we try the Go Belizean, which consists of crispy chicken (think chicken fingers), longaniza (a Belizean style sausage), ground beef, mushrooms, onions, and sweet peppers. The toppings are plenty and so is the cheese. The price was BZD$48, a fantastic price for two people to share.
Get yourself a bucket of beer for BZD$25 to take to your room. You get a choice of what is in stock, and it comes in a bucket with ice and a bottle opener, to boot.
Cahal Pech Village Resort: A Great Place to Stay in San Ignacio, Belize
The resort is affordable and the food is some of the best we ate in Belize. Belize is an adventure destination, and the hotel offers packages for the adventurous soul. Try cave tubing, rafting, ziplining, horseback riding, or visiting ancient Maya archeological sites. Then head back to Cahal Pech Village Resort and enjoy the sunset with the best margarita on this side of the planet. Do you have champagne tastes and a beer budget? Cahal Pech will fit your needs.
All photos by Charlotte Tweed
Charlotte Tweed is an adventurous soul with a goal to take you on a journey where you don’t just visit—you live it. Graduating with a Travel and Tourism Honours diploma, Charlotte is channeling all her passion and skills into writing for Escape Artist. She began her expat journey on June 15, 2021, and will be chronicling her expat roadmap in the Escape Artist newsletter. Reading, writing, and researching the best expat destinations in the world are how she fills her days. As a recently published author, her mission is to transform your life with expat travel—one destination, one adventure, one story at a time.
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