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In the Jungle Near San Ignacio, Belize

The Mystic River Resort

sunny 77 °F

After a relaxing, easy & lovely vacation week, we had to leave the Alaia.We took the 15 minute Tropic Air flight across the sea, back to Belize City International Airport.

I had booked 4 nights at the Mystic River Resort that is located in a rainforest jungle in the center highlands of Belize, outside of the small city of San Ignacio. After reading one amazing Trip Advisor review after another. I booked our stay through Agoda. Here's their website:

We were celebrating our 45th anniversary just past & my upcoming big birthday next month with a Belize vacation. And, The Mystic River Resort Staff made certain we celebrated!

As seniors understand, we still feel young; we want adventure. But what we are able to do perhaps changes.
The resort website outlines all of the many Tours & Adventures available, with the cost of each. That helps with planning. After booking, I emailed the resort to confirm that they had received it. That’s always a good idea when booking with Agoda or other booking sites. “Sylvia” promptly replied to my email, answered all of my questions & arranged drivers for our Belize City airport to Resort transportation. It’s a two hour paved road drive. This interior road is the only paved road on the Belize mainland. And, it was just paved 5 years ago. The last mile to the resort is dirt, steep, rocky, and has a tendency to washout with heavy rain. We met guests who drove themselves in rental cars. If you do that, the best plan is to get a 4 wheel drive!

We arrived at the airport early after our scenic flight along the Barrier reef and lowlands of Belize. The Belize International Airport had good Wifi. I used it to email the resort and alert them that we were there. Abias, our driver was already on site. He found us & we headed out of the airport. We did not go through Belize City. The City is reputed to have a poor tourist safety record. Lots of crime, drugs, gangs, and poverty. The recommendation is to avoid it.

The airport was outside of the City. In 5 minutes we were in very flat wet, rural areas. The 2 hour drive gave us an opportunity to see some of the Belize towns & countryside. The first hour plus, was flat. As we approached the turnoff to Belmopan, the capital city of Belize, we learned that Belize City had suffered such damage from Hurricane Hattie in 1961, that plans were made for a new capital to be built at a higher & more interior site. At 249 feet above sea level 51 miles inland from Belize City, Belmopan was built as a planned community in 1970. It only has a population of about 20,000. It’s one of the smallest & newest Capital’s in the world. Belize was a British Colony, until its independence in 1981. So in the 1960’s when Belmopan was being planned, Britain played a large financial role. This is a good point to mention that because of it’s British History, English is the official language. It is spoken throughout Belize, along with Spanish, Mayan languages & German.

Once we passed Belmopan, we were in the River Valley area, The Mopan & Macal Rivers and the higher elevation create a very fertile landscape. We began to pass through farmland. We were very surprised to see horse pulled wagons & Caucasian people who appeared to be Amish or Mennonite. We began to learn about Belize in earnest. The Mennonites started coming in the 1950’s. Their culture is to preserve the old ways, including maintaining German as their spoken language.They are very skilled at farming, building construction & furniture making & they are extremely diligent workers. Their colonies and population continues to grow. And, most of the food produced in Belize for Belizans, vegetables, dairy & meats come from Mennonite farms & ranches. As the Mennonites community grows, more land is cleared for farming & cattle ranches. That comes with advantages & disadvantages as deforestation removes wildlife habitat and displaces native species of birds, plants & animals. One guide told us that in 10 years the Mennonite population will be 1/3 of al Belizans. Interesting fact.

After the last bumpy mile up to the Mystic River Resort, we got there! The Resort acreage has been carved out of dense jungle. There are stone walkways, labeled flowers, bushes & trees, a very large garden used for the “farm to table meals, hiking trails, an animal farm, included canoes & tubes for the river, yoga mats & blocks, a wading pool & a swimming pool, added in 2020 to keep some of the staff working during Covid.


Our lodging was a cottage overlooking the Macal river. We had Room #1 & we only heard the birds; we did not see or hear others from the room. It was charming & clean. King bed plus futon couch. The shower was good. Daily housekeeping. There’s no AC here, but it shaded by the trees with two strong ceiling fans. The private deck overlooks the river. Fireplace, wood & matches are provided for cool nights & we used it one night! The Mystic River Resort’s guest services are really as good as all of the Trip Advisor Reviews report.. Everyone introduces themselves by name & the staff will go out of the way to meet requests & needs.

We ate breakfast & dinner at the resort each day during our stay. It's pretty far down that bumpy road to go out for those meals. The outdoor covered restaurant patio is relaxing. Our food was customized & tasty. I would describe it as healthy, farm to table Belizan food, rather than “gourmet dining”. It was satisfying. The bar made us yummy tropical smoothies. The housekeeping & restaurant made our celebrations special.
In the mornings get a table facing the bird feeding platform. We saw many colorful birds & knowledgeable guests and staff identified them for us.

The resort offers a complimentary guided bird walk every morning between 7:00 AM & 8:00 AM. We got up for it one morning. Abias was our guide.
Here's the report from our walk that we received by email afterwards!
Feb 12, 2023
7:02 AM
0.42 miles
72 minutes
All birds reported? Yes

1 Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
1 Black-headed Trogon
1 Gartered Trogon
1 Lesson's Motmot
3 Keel-billed Toucan
1 Pale-billed Woodpecker
1 Lineated Woodpecker
1 Olive-throated Parakeet
1 Ivory-billed Woodcreeper
1 Masked Tityra
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
2 Social Flycatcher
1 Gray Catbird
1 Wood Thrush
1 Scrub Euphonia
2 Melodious Blackbird
2 Great-tailed Grackle
1 Magnolia Warbler
2 Summer Tanager
1 Red-throated Ant-Tanager
2 Yellow-winged Tanager

Number of Taxa: 21

A big benefit of staying here was that it was unnecessary to use a travel agent. The reception staff will help you choose appropriate tours & arrange them upon your arrival. With only 15 rooms, the tour arrangements & upcharges appear partly how this resort funds its expenses. The prices for transportation, transfers to town and all of the tours are disclosed on the website. Those who drove themselves could probably do some of the activities more cheaply. But we were happy to have our personal driver & guides. We were ok with the charges.

We chose two 1/2 day Tours. A Canoe Cave tour to Barton Creek & a visit to the two nearby stunning Mayan Ruins, Cahal Pech & Xunantunich. We enjoyed our knowledgeable guides & added a couple of stops along the way. We went to San Ignacio town on our own Saturday for the large local market & a chocolate making class.

On our last evening after dinner, I was exhausted after our active day of climbing around the Mayan ruins. I tripped & fell in the room. The general managers Peter & Petro insisted on taking me to the San Ignacio hospital for an arm X-ray on a Sunday night. I had plenty of ice, they showed so much concern, the hospital was quick, efficient & emailed copies of the images the next day to bring home. (Turns out I fractured my elbow in 2 places, oops.) Now, 8 weeks after the trip I'm finally getting to this blog!

The Mystic River Resort is such a special place from which to experience this area of Belize. My photos of the resort give a good sense of place.
I’ll write about our Barton Creek Day Trip, the Mayan Ruins, & San Ignacio next so stay tuned!

Posted by Nsevers 20:20 Archived in Belize Tagged birds temples food hotels resort belize mayan belmopan

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