The Do’s and Don’ts Of Staying On A Private Forest Reserve In Belize

Author Credits: Carolee Chanona for Caribbean Culture + Lifestyle

belize waterfalls

If you’ve already started looking for ways to beat the heat this summer, we’re boldly suggesting the respite of the rainforest as the cure you’re looking for. Switching city lights for firepits and solar-charged trail illuminators, embrace the wilderness of Belize in one of her most verdant corners: the Cayo District. Besides being home to the Chiquibul National Park⁠, Belize’s largest national park at 264,960 protected acres⁠, Cayo also has the privilege of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve carpeting its southern highlands. The same feel as a wildlife safari, it’s almost inexplicable: the sun stirs over mountains that stack like echos, its unique ecosystem enables all these different species to co-exist, and nature thrives with everything in its perfect place. There are a few jungle lodges sitting in the lap of nature inside the Mountain Pine Ridge, but just one offers a playground of 7,200 acres, and it’s Hidden Valley Inn. If you’ve never stayed on a private forest reserve in Belize before, here’s your crash course on the do’s and don’ts.

Do: Take A Birding Tour 


A violet sabrewing. Image by Francix Canto Jr.

With 85 ecosystems and nearly 600 bird species to explore inside 9,000 square miles, Belize is an avian adventure, and Mountain Pine Ridge yields high-elevation species like the critically endangered Orange-Breasted Falcon and the mega-rare Solitary Eagle. Self-guided tours throughout the Hidden Valley’s reserve include two-way radios, property maps, and even canoes to bird on Lake Lolly Folly.

hidden valley

However, especially for first-time birders or pros unfamiliar with their newfound neotropical feathered friends, birding with one of Hidden Valley Inn’s guides make your experience all the more enriching. Mostly, you won’t know what you’re looking at without a guide. This is their turf, and it shows—a few seconds and they already have the ID to that obscure bird call, plus species-specific stories of your ‘lifer’ that might not be in your (handy but limited) field guide. 

Don’t: Stay Inside

With no TV and limited mobile connectivity, but dependable WiFi, Hidden Valley Inn promises an unparalleled experience in the wilderness of Belize. That’s not something to squander when over 90 miles of well-maintained trails beckon beyond your cottage with the complimentary mountain bikes, walkie-talkie radios, and property map. 

Don’t get me wrong—waterfall-like showers, stand-alone tubs, and in-room fireplaces inside all make for cozy lodgings. And they feel even better after a day of adventure, too; Hidden Valley Inn’s heated tub and jungle spa guarantee your exhaustion fades in no time.

Do: Book Any Time of Year For Any Occasion 

Whether’s it family travel, solo jaunts, or romantic escapades, I promise—Belize is the answer. Delightfully accessible by just one 2-hour (or less) flight from the continental U.S., Belize sits in the middle of Central America. Although, it boasts more in common with the Caribbean than our neighboring Mexico and Guatemala. Four paved highways (yes, in the entire country) connect one corner to the next, English is the first language, and the U.S. dollar is also widely accepted thanks to a 1:2 conversion to the Belize dollar.


Its 240 miles of coastline is peppered by more than 450 cayes, while inland, teeming mountains are lush with broad-leaf rainforests that conceal ancient Maya temples. Visiting seasonally throughout the year has its benefits; the dry season coincides with peak tourism and the rainy season equals extra savings on both flights and stays. Do stay flexible: prioritizing what activities you’re most interested in can help you decide what time to visit. Otherwise, there’s plenty to keep you entertained for any month of the year.

Don’t: Be Too Ambitious

Caracol – Maya Site © Duarte Dellarole Photography

Biodiversity. It’s the big, bright heart of Belize, and the country’s only caveat is perhaps not being able to experience it in solely one visit. Places like Mountain Pine Ridge—and by extension, Hidden Valley Inn—are meant to be savored. Sure, there are five major waterfalls onsite at Hidden Valley Inn alone, but what about Big Rock Falls, Rio On Pools, or the 1,000 Foot Falls that’s around the corner? Or the towering Caracol Maya Site and Rio Frio Cave? And that’s just within the Pine Ridge; you’ve barely scratched the surface of inland adventure, much less ventured offshore. However, don’t pack too much into an itinerary that you burn out by check-out time; instead, let the experts curate a package instead.


You can however split your time evenly down the middle; Hidden Valley Inn has a waterfall to reef package with SunBreeze Hotel in San Pedro Town of Ambergris Caye for a sample of snorkeling the world’s second-largest barrier reef. Plus, we promise you’ll be looking for an excuse to plan your return by the time you’re through. 

If you want to experience forests up close, Belize’s Mountain Pine Ridge is one destination with a myriad of destinations within itself. And perhaps the best part of all? Wilderness is just within reach at 50 minutes or less from Cayo’s commercial hub, San Ignacio Town. With summer fast on its way, it’s time to warm up to the idea of staying on a private forest reserve in Belize—start here with our do’s and don’ts. 

This article originally appeared on Caribbean Culture + LifestyleRead here