East of San Ignacio
As you drive toward Cayo from Belize City and Belmopan, after passing the Hummingbird Highway junction you are greeted with a jarring series of speed bumps at the roadside village of Teakettle. Turning left at the Pook’s Hill sign carries you past cornfields grown atop ancient Maya residential mounds.
Covering 6,741 acres, Tapir Mountain is one of the newest jewels in the country’s crown of natural treasures. The deep, steamy jungle is ripe with an abundance of plant life. Every wild thing native to the region roams its forests, from toucans to tapirs, coatis to kinkajous.
At present, the reserve is off-limits to all but scientific expeditions. However, you can see a piece of it by going on an Actun Tunichil Muknal trip.
Between Pook’s Hill and San Ignacio on the Western Highway, Orange Gifts (tel. 501/824-2341, www.orangegifts.com) is a popular gift shop, restaurant, bar, and lodging. It’s at Mile 60, about 10 miles west of San Ignacio; you can check your email, browse the shop, and then enjoy a glass of wine or a meal in the shaded café.
The food (restaurant opens at 6:15 a.m. daily) is fantastic; the menu includes real salads (US$8.50 for the works), shepherd’s pie (US$12), and a beef tenderloin for two (US$40), making this an excellent pit stop as you explore the region.
Orange Gifts’ five clean garden rooms, each with private bath, hot and cold water, tile floors, and ceiling fans, go for US$75.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition