Belize is one of those places that you might unknowingly pass by if you didn’t know any better.
But boy, would you be remiss. Belize, a small country in Central America roughly the size of New Jersey, lies nestled between Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea. Although Belize is small at under 9,000 square miles, it is surprisingly diverse. With beaches, coral reefs, vast and winding rivers, mountains ranges and rainforests, there’s more biodiversity in this tiny strip of land than I though was even possible. Its eastern coast and offshore islands certainly appear to fit right into the Caribbean, but Belize’s neighbors have influenced the strong Central American energy that exists here. Belize is a great place to visit as a solo traveler because it is affordable, beautiful and exotic!
While less explored than the beaches and islands of Belize, the lush tropical jungle is home to beautiful and exotic wildlife and plants, expansive rivers, and “sleeping” mountains. With close proximity to ancient caves and Mayan ruins, I found the rainforest to be the most tantalizing and exciting place in Belize.
It is no doubt that my love of the Rainforest in Belize was influenced by the wonderful hotel I stayed in: The Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge. If you are craving an exotic getaway, this is where you need to stay!
Luxury in the Jungle
The Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge is located just outside Belmopan, about an hour and a half drive from Belize City. Once you pass Belmopan, the winding road becomes increasingly scenic with gentle mountains and lush greenery taking over the surrounding area, and The Sleeping Giant lies in the middle of it all.
Upon arriving at The Sleeping Giant, I was led down a path, past the exquisite gardens filled with hundreds of exotic plants and flowers, and towards the open-air lobby. The concierge, as well as the rest of the Sleeping Giant staff, was incredibly warm, kind and accommodating. She offered to give me a brief tour of the grounds before showing me to my room.
The Grove House: The Best Field to Table Eatery in Belize
Our first stop was the The Grove House, which was named the #1 Best Restaurant in Belize, and the highest ranked restaurant in the area on TripAdvisor. As a welcome, I was offered my choice of drink: beer or a virgin lime spritz, from The Grove House’s Viki Bar. I opted for the lime drink and sipped as we strolled out to the thatch-covered deck. I could see rolling mountains in the distance and lush palms all around me. I learned that The Grove House served breakfast, lunch and dinner, each with a crafted menu of local-inspired dishes made from local ingredients. I must say, every meal I had there was divine and very reasonably priced!
The Oasis Pool
A short walk from the main hub housing the restaurant and bar, lies a beautiful swimming pool with gentle arching fountains, a hot tub, comfy lounge chairs, a gazebo- like structure with suspended swinging chairs, and an abundance of tropical plants and flowers. Although I did not get a chance to spend a day lounging by the pool, if I had stayed longer, I would have absolutely opted to have drinks by the pool and maybe even get a massage at the on-premise Wellness Spa.
Note: there’s even also option to have a private massage done in your room
The Mountain-View Suite
Thank goodness that the concierge had a staff member bring my luggage up to my room, because the walk there is a hike. We climbed probably 10-15 flights of stairs before reaching the room, but it was so worth it. Upon walking into my room, I thought “This is a dream.” The suite was equipped with a king-sized bed with fine linens, a private bathroom with a rainfall shower, and a private deck with a jacuzzi tub, a swinging hammock, a plunge pool, and an unbeatable view of the sleeping giant mountain. The concierge explained to me that they call this mountain “sleeping giant” because it looks like a profile view of a person lying on their back with a billowing belly and broad nose.
No Distractions, Just You and the Jungle
At night, I would sit out on the deck -in the hammock or in the plunge pool- and let the sounds of the jungle envelop me. I could hear Howler monkeys, a symphony of cicadas and what must have been at least 20 species of birds. While there is wifi in the restaurant and “lobby” there is no wifi in the rooms, which I found to be appropriate, because there truly was no need for it. It was so nice to be able to detach and be fully present in that moment in time. I wasn’t worried about the rest of the world. I was focused on soaking in my environment in its entirety, because moments like these are fleeting, and they should be treated as such.
One of my favorite parts about staying at Sleeping Giant, was the close proximity to so many interesting activities both on the grounds and in close proximity. This resort lies on a 600-acre property, and there are a number of excursions offered directly and exclusively by the resort. From sunrise birdwatching to horseback riding to mountain rappelling, Sleeping Giant has something to offer everyone.
One of my favorite activities was a simple sunrise hike that I took by myself to a mountain-top gazebo on the property. Halfway to the top, I remembered that jaguars are rumored to be lurking all over the jungle in Belize. The word of a previous tour guide echoed through my mind: “You won’t see them, but they’ll see you.” he had said. I jogged the rest of the way to the top of the gazebo, and thankfully emerged the other side unscathed. Rest assured that jaguars will most likely keep their distance from you. If you do want to see jaguars and a variety of other native animals, you could always check out the Belize Zoo.
If you have any interest in learning about ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, I highly recommend visiting some Mayan ruins when in Belize. While only a few have been uncovered, Xunantunich (pronounced shu-nan-tu-nitch) is one of the most well-known Mayan sites in Belize. This site is home to a myriad of different structures, including private residences, ceremonial buildings and temples. In fact, one structure at Xunantunich, Castillo, is the tallest building in Belize still to this day. The journey out there is an excursion in and of itself. In order to drive to Xunantunich, you have to take a hand-cranked ferry across the Mopan River and drive through the small town of San Ignacio.
Travel tip: Make it a point to stop in San Ignacio for lunch if you have time!
San Ignacio is a tiny town in Belize’s interior, about an hour west of Belmopan and Sleeping Giant. Its closeness to Guatemala has perhaps influenced the culture here which feels much more Central American than Caribbean. With lively street markets and an abundance of cheap, delicious street food, San Ignacio is a great place to stop to get a taste of Belizean Creole and Mestizo culture.
St. Herman’s Cave
On the way back from Xunantunich, I decided that I wanted to squeeze in a cave tour. I was able to get a wonderful tour guide, Alex, who took me on an excursion of St. Herman’s Cave, just few miles from Sleeping Giant. A subterranean river flows through this cave, so the best way to experience it is by floating down the river in inflatable tubes.
After a brief walk through the jungle, we reached the mouth of the cave, and I stood in awe. The cave was being bathed in light from the afternoon sun, and the gentle mist which emerged from the cave seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. I half expected Indiana Jones to come swinging out. Alex explained not only the geology of all the formations we were seeing, but he shared with us Mayan history as well as the legends surrounding this place. He was passionate about the history of his people, which made him a captivating speaker and teacher. I highly, highly recommend Alex as a tour guide if you are in the Cayo District of Belize. He recently opened his own tour company whose Facebook page you can find here!
A Luxury Retreat
My favorite part about staying in The Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge was getting to come back to a place of peace and tranquility after a long day of exploring and activity. We at Astrid Solo Travel Advisor are big proponents of finding the perfect hotel. As a solo traveler, finding a place to stay where you can feel comfortable, relaxed, and at home is so important. Your accommodations can either be a downer, or they can be a highlight. If you are planning a trip to Belize, do yourself a favor a book at least 3 nights at The Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge. The facilities are spectacular, the food is delicious, the service is outstanding, and the scenery truly can’t be beat.
A Few Things You Should Know About Belize
Belize used to be a British colony and was formerly known as British Honduras. While Belize gained it’s independence in 1981, it remains in the British Commonwealth. To this day, the official language of Belize is English, though most everyone speaks both Spanish and English.
Belize City used to be the Capital of Belize, but extensive damage caused by a hurricane prompted the country to move the capital to the more inland city of Belmopan. Thus, Belize City has a fascinating historical feel to it. However, I must say that I personally would not feel safe staying in Belize City as a solo traveler. There are so many other beautiful, safe, desirable and inviting places to visit in this country, it’s just doesn’t make any sense to spend any considerable amount of time there.
Ambergris Caye has some gorgeous beaches, and in fact, I stumbled upon some of the most pristine sections of coral reef I have ever seen just offshore from Ambergris Caye. That being said, this tropical island has become a very popular stop for cruise ships, so expect this area to be very touristy.
While I certainly recommend experiencing island life while in Belize, as Belize is home to the largest living reef in the world, I might suggest opting for a less touristy island option on Caye Caulker. On my trip to Belize, I chose to stray even further off the beaten path and stayed on a remote island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea just 7 miles from the famous “Great Blue Hole” at a beach resort called Itza. This resort is a mix of rustic (simple rooms without AC) and refined (gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner included). If you’re interested in diving, snorkeling or searching for an adventure, I highly recommend checking this place out!
For any questions you might have about visiting Belize or Sleeping Giant, please feel free to leave a message in the comments or send us an email via Ask Astrid!
Check out this video highlighting some of the amenities and excursions offered by The Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge below!
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Author: Madeline Freret
Madeline joined the Astrid Solo Travel Advisor team as a Content and Digital Marketing Manager in 2018. She believes that traveling is an essential aspect of life that allows you to see yourself, other people, places and things in a new light. She is passionate about trying new things, having a curious mind and seeking joy wherever she goes. To read more about her and each one of our Solo Travel Advisors, head over to the About page!