Punta Gorda, a fishing town in southern Belize, sits at the foot of the Maya Mountains, with the turquoise Caribbean Sea lapping its shores. Mayan ruins and the rainforest are just minutes away, while the cayes – small islands – and Port Honduras Marine Reserve are a bit farther. To be near all the action, stay at one of these hotels – bookable on Culture Trip.
Belize presents all the fun of the jungle without having to forfeit the beach, and you’ll need some serious energy for all the activities on offer in and near Punta Gorda, including scuba diving, fishing and jungle hikes. But this area also produces some of the best cacao in the world, so sample some treats at a Mayan chocolate farm before you move on along the coast. Our pick of the best hotels in Punta Gorda puts you near caves, the rainforest and long stretches of idyllic coastline.
Not far from Punta Gorda, the rustic yet comfortable Chaab’il B’e Lodge and Casitas is the perfect base for exploring some of the trails in the nearby jungle. Wander along the creek and listen for howler monkeys in the trees, or stay on-site for a swim in the natural pool, watching out for the 200 species of birds that regularly soar past.
Travel farther up the Rio Grande, behind Punta Gorda, and stay in a traditional Belizean thatched cabana at the Lodge at Big Falls. The surrounding gardens have been planted specifically to attract birds and butterflies, and you can sip on a cocktail on the veranda while watching them flutter by. Order the cohune cabbage at the restaurant; it’s a hearty curry made with the heart of the cohune palm that grows in the area.
Venture high into the jungle above Punta Gorda to find this luxury ecolodge surrounded by a rainforest preserve. It has a rum distillery and a 3,000-acre (1,214ha) farm on-site, meaning that your every need is catered to – you might never want to leave. Once you’ve created a personalized tipple at a cocktail mixology class, languish in the Jungle Spa or kayak down the Rio Grande. The farm-to-table restaurant tailors a Copalli rum flight to pair with your dessert, which is reason enough to try the Mayan chocolate budino (custard pudding) topped with salted caramel and caramelized banana.
About 5mi (8km) into the rainforest on the banks of the Moho River, the Cotton Tree Lodge offers an authentic jungle-lodge experience immersed in nature. Stay in a riverside cabana and go on a fishing expedition with knowledgeable and experienced guides who’ll show you why Belize is a paradise for anglers. Got a sweet tooth? Book yourself onto a chocolate-making tour with a Mayan cacao farmer nearby, and finish the day with an equally sweet sunset river cruise.
The Sun Creek Lodge offers villas and cabanas, along with space for camping if you want to immerse yourself further in nature. Get in touch with your adventurous side by participating in local activities, such as zip-lining, caving or tubing. And if you really want to feel at one with nature, how about a hike into the jungle to spend a night in a hammock beneath the canopy of leaves, leaping monkeys and birds? Back at base, learn fire-hearth cooking from the Indian Creek Mayan Arts Women’s Group. Mrs Rosa and her five daughters will give you an authentic Q’eqchi Maya culinary experience.
A couple of miles from downtown Punta Gorda, the family-run Hickatee Cottages is a charming base from which to explore the area. Borrow a bike and cycle into town, or take a look around the butterfly farm (only open to guests) to learn about the property’s work in conservation. The resident troop of howler monkeys make for an exotic dawn chorus – it can be a bit of a shock to hear for the first time – and you can even take a garifuna drumming lesson.
BlueBelize is a relaxed guesthouse in the heart of Punta Gorda, with one- and two-bedroom suites right on the water’s edge. What started as a private house evolved into a B&B, providing a home away from home, with views of the Caribbean and Guatemala. The suites all face the sea and have spacious verandas, complete with hammocks to swing in the breeze after a day baking in the sun.
If you like to be self-sufficient when traveling, each cheerful accommodation at Beya Suites has a kitchen and a dining area. Try out all the recipes picked up from local cooking classes, but don’t miss the tasty Belizean breakfast of fry jacks (deep-fried pieces of dough) with eggs and refried beans each morning. On the outskirts of town and right on the seafront, this hotel’s rooftop terrace makes the most of the views and is the ideal spot for a drink.
These recommendations were updated on August 24, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh. This article is an updated version of a story created by Rosanna Stevens