It can be hard to find activities for multi-generational family groups in Belize. Often activities are too physical for older people or the very young, or not engaging for all ages. When my parents come to visit I often struggle to think of things we can do together, and now that I have very young children it is even more difficult. The Lodge at Chaa Creek offered to set my family up with a family day, and since it is right up the road from me but I have never visited, I decided to give it a try.
Chaa Creek is about 7 miles from San Ignacio, a 10 minute ride on a dirt road off the main highway. The lodge is tucked into the jungle, and immediately when we got out of our car we noticed how felt cool and refreshing it felt in the shade. Since we had toddlers with us, we decided to only check out easy on-site activities. Chaa Creek staff suggested the natural history museum, the butterfly farm, and the medicinal trail.
Our exceedingly knowledgeable tour guide David (who was also exceedingly patient with our not-so-perfectly behaved toddler) met us at the museum and immediately started impressing my parents with his seemingly endless collection of facts. The museum is petite, only 2 rooms, but it is the best exhibit of Belize natural history and Mayan history I have yet to visit, and that includes the national Museum of Belize. Chaa Creek tour guides each selected a topic they were especially interested in and prepared a display, so the topics range from reptiles found in Belize to a display of birds nests to a great collection of insects (a favorite with our kids). It is obvious from the meticulous labeling and well-crafted displays that these are topics that excite the authors. In the Mayan history room a thatch cottage is replicated, with lots of interesting tools used by both ancient and modern Mayans. The room also contains a nice sized collection of Mayan artifacts that were excavated by archeologists in Chaa Creek’s 365 acre reserve.
Next we moved on to the little butterfly farm where Blue Morphos are raised. David mentioned that nearly every morning between 7 and 9 you can see new gorgeous blue butterflies hatch from their cocoons. It is a treat to walk among Morphos, they are quite large and you can almost hear the fluttering of their huge shimmery wings as they pass by.
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Last we walked along the well-maintained medicinal trail through the jungle, while David pointed out the different uses of certain plants, such as the payal vine used to make baskets and the Cotton tree, which is sacred in Mayan mythology. My favorite was the grape vine (not the fruit type) that is like jungle bottled water—you cut a section of the woody vine, tip it perpendicular to your mouth, and out will come pure sweet drinking water.
With an oncoming toddler meltdown, we decided to stop there, but Chaa Creek offers many more family-friendly activities like horse back riding, canoeing, and hiking . My family appreciated the well-maintained trails that were easy for both 2 year-olds and “29” year-olds (cough) whose knees aren’t the best. Some stair-climbing was necessary to reach the history museum, but it was well shaded and the paths were wide and level. We also appreciated the many easily accessible restrooms, which might seem strange, but Belize is chronically short of bathrooms and this can an issue when traveling with a family. The staff is really friendly and welcoming to families. For those who choose to stay on site at the lodge, cribs and high chairs are provided for babies. The lodge is also wheelchair accessible, and a wheelchair can be provided by request.
I would definitely like to return to Chaa Creek in the future, because we did not get to see the Maya Organic farm which I have heard great things about. There is also a Spa, and maybe some day I will be lucky enough to have toddler-free time to pamper myself. Chaa Creek is really a great option for a family activity or place to stay in Belize. While it obviously would be a great destination for families with school-age children, our little kids were able to roam around a bit and keep mostly occupied while the adults listened to the guide. My whole family enjoyed our morning, and that was exactly what I hoped for.