After over 2 months spent within a few hundred feet of my couch and computer, it felt glorious to get out my trusty duffle bag and TRAVEL! I was headed less than 100 miles away (as the crow flies) – to Gaia River Lodge in Belize’s beautiful Pine Ridge Forest. To this…
So close to Ambergris Caye but SO DIFFERENT! My long weekend was totally magical. And now I can dream of going back…I actually have so much more to do there!
But it’s my small luxe cabana perched over the waterfalls above that is calling loudest to me.
Let me start from the beginning of my trip – and tell you how I got there. Especially since many people combine their trip to Gaia River Lodge with time at their sister property on Ambergris Caye – Mata Chica Resort on the beach.
Here is a great map of the area (dated – but good) that shows the area near the western border of Belize.
We hopped on an 8 am Tropic Air flight from San Pedro to the Belize City Municipal airport (20 minutes.) Our Gaia driver, Isael, was waiting…in an incredibly chic branded Land Cruiser (which is now my dream vehicle.)
Belize is such a small world that I knew Isael – in fact we had “lived together” – camping in the Chiquibil rainforest protecting two scarlet macaw chicks from poachers!
The paved road turned to some unpaved road…coastline savannahs to farmland to leafy jungle to the red soil pine ridge area…
A rainy weekend was forecast…the first one of the year…but the cooling clouds ended up being perfect. Rain held back (except at night) and the entire lodge was just gorgeously green.
Belize’s National Flower – the Black Orchid. (I always scream when I see it. THIS growing in the wild!) I took too many photos of flowers at Gaia – I’ll try to sprinkle them judiciously in this post.
I was greeted with a rum-less punch (with fresh papaya, lime and watermelon juice) at the lodge.
I spent quite a bit of time here during my three day, three night trip. Chatting with the staff, eating DELICIOUS food (the homemade thick flour and corn tortillas were the best I’ve had in Belize and the veggies grown on property…especially the cherry tomatos…SO GOOD)…
Ordering the lime juice with fresh basil and mint…
Just a beautiful comfortable spot to hang out…
A wall of masks.
Inside and outside dining areas. The view from inside over the Maya Mountains.
The entire lodge and cabanas are at the top of a hill that slopes down to the most gorgeous waterfall. The Five Sisters.
I wanted to walk down immediately but first…let me show you my river view cabana!
The Breeze Cabana
All 16 cabanas are nestled in the forest…flowers and vines. Very private.
The AMAZING flamboyant trees all in bloom.
My outfit for a good portion of my trip…
The palapa-ed cabana, two walls screened and open to the jungle…and BRIGHT blue red-legged honeycreepers flitting through the trees.
Five Sisters Waterfall
Time to walk down to the waterfall and the hotel’s “swimming hole”. There are 250 paved steps down…and you must do it at least once for the VIEWS.
It may be the most incredible swimming set up I’ve ever seen anywhere.
For swimming, having lunch, or just lounging in a hammock listening to the waterfall.
Fear not – there is a tram (a funicular – I like that word) that can take you (or your lunch and arecocktails) back up…and then back down again.
There is so much to see in this area…so many tours that visitors can take from Gaia. You can go to the country’s largest Maya site, Caracol (a group went while I was there and RAVED about the trip) – you can go canoe-caving at Barton Creek (top of my to-do list) – you can head out to what I think is THE most amazing tour in all of Belize – The ATM cave.
I wanted to enjoy the lodge itself but I did get off property…barely…to see and swim at an even bigger waterfall just upstream called Big Rock.
Big Rock Falls
Just up the road, less than a mile away, is the entrance.
The way down was much easier on this pandemic-couch potato than the way up.
But it was VERY worth it. For those who are risk-takers, the pool at the bottom of the falls is over 30 feet deep. The waterfall is 150 feet tall. Instagram magic!
I dipped my toes into the deliciously chilly water as the sun started to creep out.
The Organic Gardens
Back at Gaia, I visited the organic gardens.
Pretty eggplants flowering…
I brought home some small plants to try to grow my own local spinach or vine spinach. Delicious with eggs (it tastes SO much like regular spinach) and such a beautiful plant.
All served at the restaurant.
My time went too quickly…
The lodge lit up at night.
I can’t wait to return. I loved my time at Gaia River Lodge – thank you guys SO much for inviting me!
And the STARK contrast between the Pine Ridge area compared to Ambergris Caye – the green and the mountains vs. the sand and the sea felt like perfection.
A view flying over the Split at Caye Caulker on the way home.
For more information about Gaia River Lodge (and their sister property Mata Chica), check out their website.
My Top Three Things that Made Gaia River Lodge Stand Out
Here are the top three things that made Gaia really STAND out to me:
- The staff. Nigel, the manager, is…amazing. He visited this property as a child, has endless stories about Belize and he makes his incredibly difficult job – coordinating everything from the organic garden and nightly turndown service to guests on tours and trips all over – look effortless and fun. The service at Gaia is perfect while being warm and friendly. Thanks, Derby, Freddie, Ezra, Lucy, Isael, Oscar, Juan-Carlos in the garden, and the whole team. I’ll see you again!
- The sheets. This may sound silly but the pillows and sheets are gorgeous. Add in the waterfall rushing just below my cabana? It was hard to leave the bed.
- The waterfall. This is the most gorgeous swimming set-up I’ve seen anywhere. You can easily lounge in the sun, enjoy the hammocks and swim in this waterfall all day.