In Belize, an under-the-radar bobo-chic destination in Central America, twin properties revere their environment.
One spreads out along a forgotten beach. The other has taken refuge in a dense rainforest. Both invite you to discover two sides of Belizean beauty. Welcome to award-winning Matachica Resort and Gaïa Riverlodge!
Imagined by Montréal lawyer Daniel Lighter, the two properties echo each other, sharing the same mission: to offer comfortable stays that respect the local people, culture, and ecosystems.
On Ambergris Caye—the largest of this small country’s islands which many believe is referenced in Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita”—not far from San Pedro, Matachica Resort is a quintessential sand and surf destination. For good reason: it is on a pristine beach lined with coconut trees, next to an impossibly turquoise Caribbean Sea. This particular location also makes the haven quite intimate. To reach it, one must a take a flight out of Belize City (or sail with Belize Ocean Ferry) to San Pedro. From there, it’s a short boat ride.
But then, divers are only a few fin strokes away from the Mesoamerican Reef, the second-longest coral reef in the world! The famous Great Blue Hole—a cenote as the Mayans would say—is close by, too.
Scattered about, the 32 casitas and villas as well as the common areas, notably the Mambo restaurant and the Mambo bistro, have been remodeled by Byron and Dexter Peart, cofounders of Goodee. “The result of this work is a redefined Belizean seaside experience that honours craftsmanship, sustainability, and a functional design concept,” says Dexter.
The dining experience has also been reviewed and enhanced. In that realm, French Chef Léon Cerredo and Montréal Baker and Pastry Chef Stephen Lighter aim for nothing less than putting Belize on the culinary map. And there’s no doubt that they will succeed, one grouper dish and key lime pie with burnt local honey at a time! Of course, quality and freshness are on the menu as produce and products come from local suppliers, farms, and Gaïa Riverlodge’s own two-acre organic vegetable garden.
On the mainland, deep in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and overlooking the beautiful Five Sisters Waterfalls, the lodge invites its guests to explore other facets of the country: the rainforest, a showcase for some 450 species of birds and plants as well as Mayan archeological sites.
To preserve this rich natural and cultural environment, the small 14-room lodge adheres to the most stringent sustainable tourism practices, is hydro-powered and Green Globe certified.
While there is Wi-Fi, there are no telephones or television sets in the rooms of the two boutique hotels and, for owner Daniel Lighter, this is a very good thing. “It allows guests to read, reflect, nap, swim, kayak, snorkel, sail, chat, and thank us at the end of their stay for having helped them disconnect from home, kids, work, and the news!”
One month from the start of the high season, November is ideal for a Belizean getaway. It is the dry season, the sun shines daily, and temperatures vary between 29 °C during the day to 24 °C at night. In addition, November 19th is a national holiday. It marks the arrival, in 1802, of the first members of the Caribbean people, the Garifuna. Local immersion guaranteed during events scheduled all over Belize!