This small village is at the turnoff to the famous Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary . Many of the 400 or so Mopan Maya who live here were relocated when their original home within the Cockscomb Basin was given protected status.
Since then, they have had to change their lifestyles; instead of continuing to clear patches of rainforest for short-term agriculture, many men now work as guides and taxi drivers, while the women create and sell artwork. Still, the people of Maya Centre are struggling to support their town with tourism. Ever since they were prohibited from using the now-protected jungle for subsistence farming and hunting, tourism has been their only hope, aside from working for slave wages at the nearby banana and citrus farms.
The village has a few places to stay, eat, and experience village life, literally right down the road from the famous reserve.
At the very least, make sure that you—or the driver of your tour bus—stop at one of the three Maya crafts stores, all on the road into the park. At the turnoff from the Southern Highway, you’ll find the Maya Centre Women’s Group (7:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily), which sells local crafts and collects the entrance fee for Cockscomb. The group also offers Jaguar Mountain Cafe, which serves traditional Maya food. A quarter mile farther toward the park is the Nu’uk Che’il Gift Shop, offering fine jewelry, slate carvings, baskets, herbs, and other crafts. Another small shop is in between.
Right across the road from the women’s co-op, look for the sign and trail across the creek to William Sho’s Butterfly Farm (7 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, US$2.50, possible fee to take photos), boasting several dozen species.
Julio Saqui runs the store next to the women’s co-op and offers satellite Internet access (US$4/hr) and taxi service. Julio is also a great guide and offers many services and tours, including Victoria Peak ; information is available on his website (www.cockscombmayatours.com ).
The Saqui family runs the Maya Centre Maya Museum (tel. 501/660-3903 or 501/668-2194, US$10 pp), which provides hands-on cultural activities; learn how to make corn tortillas or process coffee beans, and take home Mayan Coffee to share with friends while you retell your adventures abroad.
There are two guesthouses in Maya Centre, owned by different families that each offer transport in and out of the preserve, guides, meals, and other services.
Nu’uk Che’il Cottages and Hmen Herbal Center (tel. 501/520-3033 or 501/615-2091, nuukcheil [at] btl [dot] net) offers tranquil accommodations more removed from the highway than the village’s other guesthouse. Bunks with shared bath are US$10 per person, and private rooms are US$30 (hot showers available, tax not included). Camping is US$4 per person. There are also a few shared-bath units for US$23. The place is very well kept, with beautifully planted grounds; the guesthouse has experience hosting student groups and can arrange seminars on herbal medicine, cultural performances, and the like.
Proprietress Aurora Garcia Saqui’s husband, Ernesto, was director of the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary until 2005 and is extremely knowledgeable about the area. Her late uncle, Don Eligio Panti, was a famous healer; she took over his work when he died in 1996. Aurora offers Mayan spiritual blessings, prayer healings, acupuncture, and massage (each for under US$15). Aurora also has a four-acre botanical garden and medicine trail (US$2.50 entrance), offers herbs for sale, and can arrange homestays in the village (US$30 includes a one-night stay with a local family, one dinner and one breakfast per person).
Another decent option is right on the highway, about 100 meters north of the entrance to Cockscomb: Tutzil Nah Cottages (tel. 501/520-3044, www.mayacenter.com , US$14–22) is owned and operated by the Chun family (they helped Dr. Alan Rabinowitz in his original jaguar studies and appear in his book, Jaguar). There are four screened wooden rooms, two with private baths, two with shared bath and shower; all have queen beds, fans, ample space, nice furniture, and a raised deck. Meals are US$6–12, as is camping on the grounds or in a separate campground about a quarter mile into the bush. Inventive trips are available as an alternative to the standard fare, including kayak floats and night hikes.
Maya Centre is accessed by hopping off any bus passing between Dangriga  or Punta Gorda . Taxis will take you from the village to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary for about US$15–20 (per cab, not per person).