Track jaguars and whales from a Caribbean eco-lodge

Oct 18, 2011
Outside Magazine
Snorkeling Thatch Key

Snorkeling Thatch Key    Photo: Michael Hanson/Aurora


 Doubles from $195; ­­Hamanasi Resort, Doubles from $285; Turtle Inn, coppolaresorts
. HOW TO GET THERE: American, Delta, and ­Conti­nental fly direct to Belize City; take a puddle-jumper to Dangriga (for Hamanasi) or Placencia (for Turtle Inn). WHEN TO GO: April to June, between the dry and rainy ­seasons. ALSO CHECK OUT: From San ­Ignacio, hike to Actun ­Tunichil Muknal, a rare archae­­ological wet cave lined with Maya ­relics and the tomb of a young maiden. Go with Pacz Tours, whose guides are certi­fied in caving and wilderness rescue; ­

SANDWICHED between Mexico and Guatemala, English-speaking Belize boasts more than two million acres of forest, 180 miles of pristine ­Caribbean coastline, and dozens of innovative eco-lodges. Two of the best? The Hamanasi Resort has treehouse bungalows on a 12-mile stretch of beach minutes from 100-foot waterfalls. The soundtrack is chacha­laca birds calling raucously, and daily activities include tracking jaguar prints in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, ringed by the Maya Mountains. For diving, head to Francis Ford Coppola’s posh Turtle Inn, where the Meso­american ­Barrier Reef—the largest in the Western Hemisphere—is just offshore. From April to June, you’ll dive with migrating whale sharks, which come to feed on coral spawn during the full moon.