About a half mile up the bank of the lagoon from the Lamanai archaeological site , Lamanai Outpost Lodge (tel. 501/223-3578, U.S. tel. 888/733-7864, www.lamanai.com ) is one of Belize’s premier jungle retreats. From the moment the staff greet you at the dock, you know you’re in capable, welcoming hands. The lodge boasts 17 elegantly rustic thatch-roof, rough-hewn wood cabanas detailed with converted brass oil lamps and other amenities that contribute to an old-fashioned feel (although a couple of rooms add plasma-screen TV, air-conditioning, and wireless Internet access to the old-timey mix). Outside, lush, landscaped grounds of orchids, ceiba trees, and palmettos provide cooling shade as you walk the gravel paths.
Below the resort’s lodge and dining room (which are the only parts of the complex visible from the river) lies the shore of the lagoon, where you’ll find a dock, a swimming area, canoes, boats of various types, and an assortment of deck chairs. The dock is particularly peaceful at sunset. Activities keep you busy from pre-dawn hikes and canoe trips to nighttime “spotlight cruises.” All-inclusive packages start at US$676; there’s a two-night minimum stay, and rates transfer to and from Belize City, meals, and two guided adventure activities per night booked. See the website for summer specials and individual pricing options.
The owners of Lamanai Outpost are involved in several scientific research projects that also allow nature-study opportunities for guests. Study topics include local bats, archaeology, howler monkeys, Morelet’s crocodiles, and ornithology. Guests with some group programs can participate in the work.
Lamanai Outpost offers a low-key, escape-to-nature kind of setting, perfect for the bird-watcher, Mayaphile, naturalist, or traveler who wants to get away from the tourist trail for a while. The area is rich in animal life, including close to 400 species of birds, as well as crocodiles, margays, jaguarundis, anteaters, tayras, arboreal porcupines, and the fishing bulldog bat.