The village is divided into three neighborhoods: Crooked Tree, Pine Ridge, and Stain, with a total population of about 1,000. Villagers operate farms, raise livestock, and have a small fishery. Visitors will find the village spread out on the island, with more cattle trails, half roads, and fence line than roads. There are a few well-grazed athletic fields, four churches, and scores of stilted wooden houses, each with its own tank to catch rainwater. It’s a tranquil community with children playing football, racing horses, or whacking a ball around the cricket pitch.
Archaeological site Chau Hiix is being studied nearby. Archaeologists have made some startling discoveries, including a ball court and ball-court marker, along with small artifacts. Preliminary studies indicate the site was occupied from 1200 B.C. to A.D. 1500.
Sapodilla Lagoon is south of Crooked Tree on Spanish Creek.
There are only a few options in this low-key village, starting with the Tillet’s Village Lodge (tel. 501/671-7100, www.tilletvillage.com , US$40–80). The famous Sam Tillet, renowned as one of the premier Belizean naturalists, passed away in 2007, but his family is carrying on the tradition. They are in the middle of the village (not on the water), and the rooms are small, plain, and clean with private baths and tiled floors. Nature walks are US$15, and you can also go horseback riding or do a “jungle survival” trip.
On the shore of the lagoon to the north of the causeway, Crooked Tree Lodge (tel. 501/626-3820 or 501/623-5035, michaelcjwebb [at] hotmail [dot] com, www.crookedtreelodgebelize.com , US$40–60) is a peaceful family-run retreat of 11 acres and six stilted en-suite wooden cabanas, including a bigger one for families (US$120, sleeps up to 7). Your hosts, Angie, a Crooked Tree native, and Mick, an ex-helicopter pilot for the British Army, loved it here so much, they got married, stayed, and have two boys. Camping is welcome (US$10), and so are pets and children. Three daily meals are available for reasonable prices. Wide-ranging boat and birding tours are available with local guides. There is wireless Internet, a restaurant and small bar, and it’s all on the water’s edge.
As you approach the island on the causeway, on the shoreline off to your left, you’ll see Crooked Tree’s most upscale property: Bird’s Eye View Lodge (tel. 501/225-7027 or 501/203-2040, www.birdseyeviewbelize.com , US$80–120 for a couple). This hotel stands above the rest in modernity and service, and this is reflected in its higher rates. The 20 rooms all have private baths and various comforts, including air-conditioning. Miss Verna will take good care of you—she’s been hosting nature-loving visitors for nearly two decades! The rooftop bar and patio is a wonderful spot to take in the breeze and keep on bird-watching, even after your four-hour, daybreak bird-watching boat cruise on the lagoon—or a hike along the shore. Meals are US$7 for breakfast and lunch; dinner is US$10. Boat rentals, tours, and airport pickups can be arranged. Boat tours for up to four people cost about US$100; ask about village tours and cashew-making tours in season (Mar.–June).
In the village dine at Triple J’s or Suzette’s Burger Bar, which is a fine little spot for burgers and hot dogs. Both are found by walking into Crooked Tree Village, and their hours vary depending on demand.