September | Travel
Gaia River Lodge, Belize
Stay in luxe palapa-style cabanas near picturesque waterfallsSusan Ward Davies
When you christen your hotel after the goddess of the earth it has a lot to live up to – and this jungle lodge has nailed it. A true eco haven, Gaia is tucked away among the trees on the banks of the river Privasson, near the Five Sisters Waterfalls, in the heart of the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve in western Belize. Here, in the country’s largest protected area, where ocelots and jaguars roam, you’ll find 16 rooms in palapa-style cabanas, all made of local thatch and stone and indigenous hardwood. Some face the river and the waterfalls, others the garden or the mountain. The one we have our eye on is the Riverside Villa, more spacious and even more secluded than the rest, with an outdoor hot tub on decking perched over the Privasson river.
You don’t have to stray far to find Mayan ruins, horse-riding, cave kayaking, and ziplining through the jungle canopy, but if this all sounds a bit Bear Grylls, don’t worry, Gaia comes with plenty of luxe touches too, such as a jungle spa, Frette and Matouk linens and sink-into beds swathed in mosquito netting.
Whatever our American friends may think, it’s no hardship to manage without a/c (an eco no-no), with cooling forest breezes and ceiling fans (powered by their own hydro plant), and a little funicular to whisk you down to the river pools to bathe.
In the main lodge – the only place you will find wifi – there are hammocks to swing in and cocktails to drink, and if you want to diversify from Gaia’s tasty farm-to-table menu (they have their own organic garden), you are just a ten-minute jeep ride from celeb-spotting dinners at Francis Ford Coppola’s famous Blancaneaux Lodge – so pack accordingly.
Gaia is one of Small Luxury Hotels, a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC . Their hand-picked Considerate Collection of 26 hotels launches this month, ‘a new ethos-driven green and ocean blue standard for boutique hotels that go the extra eco mile.’
Gaia Riverside Lodge, Belize, Doubles from £150, B&B, book through slh.com