Belize is an amazing country – just about 70 miles from east to west, 170 north to south- so tiny but containing so many natural gifts & wonders. The 2nd largest coral reef in the world, the greatest density of manatees in the Caribbean, the highest waterfall in Central America, hundreds, if not thousands, of Maya sites, flocks of wild scarlet macaws, neon blue Morpho butterflies…
Almost 40% of Belize is classified as protected – from bird sanctuaries to national forest. * That in itself is incredibly special.
Last week, I visited one of these protected areas, a place unlike any other in the country – the Mountain Pine Ridge reserve. Set up in hills and mountains, it’s an area with a totally unique landscape. Pine trees and rugged granite – perfect for hiking, mountain biking and exploring but even more perfect for WATERFALLS.
And within this area, I spent two nights at beautiful Hidden Valley Inn. The property is totally unique within this unique area. They have 7200 acres of land – covered in 90 miles of trails. 90 miles – all for Hidden Valley guests! Trails, steps, wooden bridges all maintained by a full time team of 7 men.
Where most properties within Belize market themselves as a gateway to the wonders of the country, Hidden Valley is a natural wonder. The Inn & Reserve has enough on-property to keep you happy, busy and…in awe for days.
As usual…I’ll try to stop blabbing and just show you my pictures.
The HV van picked me up in San Ignacio and we drove for just over an hour watching the landscape change.
A cool wash cloth and a small iced coffee. Perfect for my 11am welcome. I wanted the full day. Lots of land to cover!
But first…to my cottage. It’s so crazy seeing firewood – AND a fireplace – but this is the coolest region of the country. The air, while still warm, was crisper up here. And in the winter, it can dip into the 60s at night!
My room was beautiful. I especially loved the water pitcher and my own aluminum water bottle – to take with me on my adventures.
And a huge plus – great wi-fi. That is NOT always the case in Belize especially when you are off-the-grid.
Beautiful outdoor shower. Those plants on the shower are orchids.
And a perfect little set-up for coffee. My own tiny French press with coffee grown on property AND yummy peanut cookies for snacking.
I consulted the birding information since Hidden Valley is a favorite for those who love birds. They are known for three in particular…the swallow tailed kite, the King Vulture and the orange breasted falcon.
I don’t take a challenge lightly. The hunt was on…I even made a graphic to show you how cool they were. And I’ll ruin the ending…I only saw 2 out of 3.
Now I need to go back!
My short walk to the main lodge – with the library, bar, dining room and lots of couches and private areas to sit.
And just beyond…the pool. Sigh…
I headed to the new spa area for a massage- one must ease into life in the mountains.
It might be tempting to stay in the resort area (this pool! massage!) but that is not why you come to Hidden Valley. The amazing location and the huge property is what really sets it apart.
And the size of the inn. There are just 12 rooms on this huge property. You have your own guide and can walk miles and miles without seeing a soul. Feeling like you have the jungle to yourself.
Marvin was my guide for the trip. A guide and a birder and a mushroom specialist. Perfect! I love asking questions about new things.
We first hit the Cascade Trail – the most spectacular hike I’ve ever been on. About an hour and a half all along a stream…waterfalls and pools – tons of them. Each with a name and a sign and an easy place to get in and swim.
You can go guided or unguided – either way, you have a two-way radio – that ensures pick up and your safety.
Grab a walking stick.
Beautiful cool stone bottom pools…
The natural beauty is stunning.
I want to go back just for this trail and spend the day swimming and laying on the platforms in the sun…or the shade of the forest. With your loved one or your whole family, this would making an awesome day.
Next, we headed down to another waterfall for lunch. You can rent this pool for lunch and an afternoon lounge in the sun if you want complete privacy. I wasn’t able to capture it but we saw so many blue butterflies around the waterfalls. It’s like something from a fairy tale.
There are waterfalls for swimming and then there are those just for gawking at. 1000 Foot Falls used to be part of the property but is now a national site. It’s the highest waterfall in Central America – is really about 1800 feet high. You can’t see it all from the lookout (hence the misnomer) but it’s beautiful.
One day I shall see it by helicopter. One day.
The view in the other direction.
On the way to the next water fall – piddly at only 1000 feet high – we saw the swallow tailed kite nesting in a pine tree. Hurray! HV bird #1.
And it was right on to #2. The next waterfall is called King Vulture Falls. And it does not disappoint. We saw about 6 king vultures sunning and circling.
A buzzard that is actually handsome.
It was early afternoon and time to head back to the inn. Perhaps a swim in the pool and another adventure? It’s really the draw – you can swim hike from waterfall to waterfall in the morning, have lunch, maybe a massage, take a nap, if you please, and head out again.
If you want to visit a Maya site – Hidden Valley Inn is one of the closest to Belize’s largest – Caracol. Still on my bucket list.
Hidden Valley Inn & Reserve is pretty incredible – I can’t say enough about how unique the property is. It’s like finding a secret place. If you’ve visited the cayes or the beach in Belize (or if you live here!) and have never been to the mainland – I highly recommend this spot.
I’ll stop talking – You’ll just have to see for yourself.
For lots of information and fab pictures and videos, check out Hidden Valley’s website. And for really cool pictures of a wedding at Butterfly Falls (probably the most famous in Belize AND on the HV property) – click here. Adventurous.
*Here is the full list of countries and %s from the World Bank – who would have guessed thatVenezuela would be leading the way on conservation?
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