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“What an incredible experience!! Thanks, Caves Branch!”

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Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
42 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 52 helpful votes
“What an incredible experience!! Thanks, Caves Branch!”
Reviewed 24 June 2010

Caves Branch is really, really fantastic at what it does. This is not a beach resort but an adventure lodge, albeit a high-class one. If you are not into jungle adventures, this place isn't for you and you won't enjoy yourself. The whole point of this place is to go on their adventure excursions every day. There are many to choose from, and they are all awesome. We did the Belize Zoo and zip-lining, cave tubing, the Black Hole Drop, and saw Mayan ruins. We thoroughly enjoyed all of it!

First of all, the accommodations are wonderful....BUT...this place is smack in the middle of the jungle. You should know that before spending any money. The resort is not sanitized from their surroundings, so you will run into lizards, spiders, large insects, snakes, and you hear howler monkeys at night. The rooms are lovely and spacious though. We stayed in a treehouse suite. The outdoor shower was the best part. :)

The pool and dining area are quite nice too. We spent every afternoon at the pool. You need a pool after some of those rigorous excursions! My one complaint about this place, and it's rather minor, would be the food. Don't get me wrong, it's good. Very well-executed. But it's American food. I'm a huge foodie, and I'd been hoping for local food, and I was a bit disappointed to be served stuff like beef stew and mashed potatoes. But it probably doesn't bother many guests, and like I said, it's quite tasty. You're not getting rubber chicken and mushy rice or anything like that. Breakfast was probably my favorite part!

The staff is amazing, they are so welcoming and friendly. Ian Anderson is usually around, and he's a great guy who really welcomes and interacts with his guests. His family is really nice too. Dinner is a social thing, you sit in long cafeteria-style tables and talk with the other guests. It's really fun. The guides who work there take you on the adventures during the day. All our guides were knowledgeable, friendly, and really good at what they do. Safety comes first at Caves Branch. These guys and gals are professionals.

I would recommend every excursion we took. And overall I would definitely recommend this place. However, you will only like it if you are somewhat physically fit, enjoy the outdoors, like adventurous activities like rappelling 300 feet off a cliff and/or crawling around on rocks in caves in the dark with a flashlight helmet, don't have a problem with creepy-crawlies, and are social by nature. If that does describe you, then you simply must visit Caves Branch once in your life! You will LOVE it!

  • Stayed May 2010, travelled as a couple
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1 Thank jwall915
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Phoenix
Level Contributor
104 reviews
42 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 76 helpful votes
Reviewed 20 June 2010

We recently spent 4 nights there with our kids ages 9 and 11 and we had a fantastic time! We stayed in a treehouse and thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and the sounds at night, though it did wake us up, it was a unique experience. We also had both a mouse and a scorpion in our room at various times, just remember you are living in the rainforest (and luckily we are used to scorpions being from Arizona). The treehouse was nicely decorated and clean, kind of a luxury treehouse, even the tree going through the bathroom had just a few ants on it. Lighting is dim though, making night time reading a little tough. Had to keep the fan on all night making it bearable to sleep. Make sure you take some outdoor showers while there.
Communal dining was a high point for us - getting to know other travelers and hear about their trips was great. Food was fine. Our kids ate at least something each meal. Beware, my husband and I both got pretty sick for a day - luckily we took along some Cipro and Immodium and started them right away, so it only lasted about 24-36 hours. Not sure however if it was something we ate at the lodge, while on our cave hike, or at a restaurant we had stopped at during an excursion (Hode's). Just be prepared. If you can, take Cipro (antibiotic), Immodium, and anti-nausea med, and bug spray for sure. DEET is a must.
The previous review was helpful in terms of what to bring - flashlights are very important to have at night. Long pants are required on some excursions. Long sleeve fast drying shirts are helpful for the tubing. We wore closed toes Keen sandals and they were just fine. You definitely need some shoes with traction if you go on the Waterfall hike or into the caves - it's slippery.
As for the excursions - they were fun, some a little more adventurous then we imagined with our kids, but exciting. They were all very well organized, they know what they are doing at Caves Branch and we quickly learned we could trust them wholeheartedly.
The cave tubing was fun, though got a little long by the end and the water level was low at the time so you hit your bottom on occasion. We also had a group accident over a little rapid that made us glad we had life jackets on our kids. Lunch afterwards at Jaguar Paw was good. Ziplining was the highlight of our kids trip, and a good way to help conquer my fear of heights. Esperanza did a good job guiding us though the other guide spoke little English which was a little odd.
Local mayan ruins were interesting and not too far of a drive. Abel gave us some great insight into the Mayans and was nice to talk to about life in Belize. This was a good break between more rigorous excursions.
The Waterfall cave Hike was the most rigorous by far - 20 minutes through the rainforest (eyes on the ground looking for snakes) then about 1.5 hrs into the cave to the waterfall. Midway in there is the optional climb up a huge rock face to a cavern with some Mayan ruins in it. Beware, this is a slippery climb up and down, but worth it if you are strong and capable (our kids did great - no fear, but some young adult woman were a little freaked out). Glad we had the very capable and strong Julio and Auner as our guides. They fly up those rocks. Julio was very cognizant of our kids and helped a lot. The Waterfall at the end is no piece of cake, but having the rope and harness helps. Then lunch in the cave was pretty awesome on the way out. This was a great excursion, but my legs hurt the next day from using all those muscles! Take a dry shirt if you can, it gets cold after the swim for a while. Also wish we had a waterproof camera for that one.
The pool is awesome in the afternoon, and the river is a nice place to stroll and swim as well.
If you are looking for some well planned and executed adventures with a nice comfortable place to rest your head at night and meeting others, this is the place.

  • Stayed June 2010, travelled with family
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Helpful?
3 Thank travelingagain08
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Long Island NY
Level Contributor
270 reviews
51 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 153 helpful votes
Reviewed 12 April 2010

This was exactly what we were looking for. It was my kids first time in a jungle lodge and we were hoping for them to have a great experience. Caves Branch did not disapoint. We loved our room a Jungle Suite where 2 beds were brought into the sitting area for the kids. The day trips were fabulous and the guides treated my kids like their own.

  • Stayed April 2008, travelled with family
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Helpful?
Thank travelingNYfamily
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Wisconsin
Level Contributor
5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 April 2010

I was skeptical about staying at Ian's at first -- it seemed a little too commercial because of the steep prices and pretty pushy salespeople. But I was impressed when we arrived, and we had an excellent stay. We only wish we'd stayed with them longer!

If you stay at Ian's, I strongly recommend splurging for a treehouse. It's hard to envision luxury accommodations in the middle of the jungle with half of your house screened-in instead of walled-in, but that's exactly what it is. It was beautiful yet exposed to nature, and not even a single mosquito got into our room the entire time. If you're a light sleeper, though, you will hear animals and trees moving throughout the night, so consider earplugs. We thought it was neat, actually (except for the howler monkeys).

There are always people in the lobby available to help you with questions and to put your valuables in the lodge's safe (the rooms only have latches, not locks). During dinnertime, the tour staff will come around and ask everyone what tour they'd like to take the next day, so you have some flexibility in your schedule and can find out more information in person before signing up. The tour guides at Ian's are extremely knowledgeable about every trip and especially about Maya culture and civilization. They are highly trained in safety procedures -- at least one of our guides was on the Belize search and rescue team.

The tours are authentic, not cushy or dumbed-down in any way. (But they are certainly safe for people of average fitness.) We loved the Actun Tunichil Muknal tour, where we swam, waded, and climbed through the cave to get to the Maya remains at the end.

Breakfast and dinner at Ian's start at specified times and everyone at the lodge eats together. My husband didn't care much for the communal style of dining, since you're forced to be sociable for most of the evening. But all of the people we met were fun and had interesting stories to tell, and the food was delicious and varied -- fresh fruit, different cooked veggies, several meat choices, rice, fresh bread, and always two kinds of desserts!

The only real downside we had at Ian's was that, for some reason, they didn't have our reservation scheduled properly and didn't pick us up at the airport as we had arranged. An airport taxi driver helped us call the lodge and ended up driving us there, and they reimbursed him. We heard him mention that his flat rate to Caves Branch was about $115 US, and we had paid Ian's about $130 for the pickup. So if you're planning to go straight from the Belize City airport to the lodge, you may as well just hire a taxi from the airport instead of scheduling the pickup through Ian's.

Apart from that, we thought Ian's was a unique, well-run combination of luxury and adventure, exactly what we were looking for in our vacation.

  • Stayed March 2010, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank garfsnerky
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Killingworth, Connecticut
Level Contributor
89 reviews
22 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 102 helpful votes
Reviewed 3 April 2010

Our family had a great vacation at Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Jungle Lodge. We stayed for six nights, and went on five excursions. They have the adventure vacation down to a science, and while it can have a very processed feel, they do such a great job that we didn’t mind.
The positives: The location is excellent. The property is well maintained, the gardens are beautiful, and the jungle setting is lovely. The property is on the banks of the Caves Branch River, which looks like it would be lovely in the right season. Because we were there in March – the beginning of the dry season – the river was bone dry. They added a great pool and hot tub about 1 ½ years ago, and it is a tremendous addition.
We LOVED the accommodations. We stayed in a 2 bedroom treehouse – a building on stilts built right into the hillside jungle. Although they claim they are NOT a resort, the rooms were as nice (or nicer) than many resorts I have visited. The first level had a small outdoor deck and an outdoor shower. Through a screen door was a large living area screened on 3 sides. This contained a sofa and chairs, tables and a set of bunk beds in the corner with a tile floor. Up a few steps was a bedroom (open to the living area) with a king bed. The bathroom had a beautiful stone shower. There is a water cooler style bottle in every room for drinking water. Upstairs was a large deck and a second bedroom with a king bed and half bath. The “no resort” claim is probably to give fair warning of the following: 1) this is the jungle! We shared our shower with a resident cockroach we named “Willie”, and one night we rescued a large spider and put it outside, 2) the shower is described as a “warm shower” (which was fine), 3) electricity is a precious commodity – there are a few small, dim lamps, so our headlamps came in handy for reading in the evening. They discourage electrical devices. Most lamps are wired directly into the wall, although we did find one outlet where we could charge i-pods etc. 4) There are no phones, TV, radio, clocks etc. They do have free wi-fi in the main eating area.

The adventures were great. Many of the adventures are right on the property (cave tubing, waterfall expedition, black hole drop, Mayan ceremonial caves, jungle hikes etc.). The guides were excellent. They all have wilderness rescue certifications and most have many years experience. Abel and Esperansa were the main organizers. They made the rounds at dinner and signed groups up for the next day’s adventure, which was then posted on a white board. We found them to be very accommodating. The minimum group size was 2 people, and our largest group was 12 for the waterfalls (which was more fun in a large group anyway!) The Black Hole Drop and the Waterfall Expedition were the most popular. They are both moderately strenuous and quite fun. Be aware with the waterfalls that they will not allow Keen style water shoes. I had Columbia water shoes which are more like sneakers. These were acceptable, and I wore them with socks to keep out the sand and pebbles. I actually wore these on all our expeditions. They rent hiking boots for $5 per day. This is a good idea because if you wear your own, they will never dry. I also highly recommend the Mayan ceremonial cave trip. Since many people are only there for a couple of days, they stick with the most popular, but we loved this adventure.
I loved the local wildlife. I didn’t even mind when the howler monkeys woke me up at 3:45 AM! One night we were surprised by a kinkajou eating a tree off our deck. We went on a night hike in search of anteaters and other creatures (unfortunately we did not see any). They offer early morning bird hikes which I heard were great. I loved going to sleep with the sounds of the insects and frogs, and waking to all the sounds of the jungle coming to life in the morning.
The negatives: the food was not great. Meals are all served buffet style, and the seating is at large tables. One of the problems is the lack of variety. Breakfast included watermelon, papaya and pineapple, tortillas (homemade and delicious – at first), scrambled eggs, refried beans, salsa, potatoes, and pancakes. Only the meat rotated – sometimes sausage, ham or bacon. The tortilla was tasty on day one, but by Day 6 I couldn’t stand eating another one. Cereal was also an option. You could squeeze your own OJ (from oranges growing in the surrounding groves). They had coffee and tea out all the time, but the coffee wasn’t very good. Lunch was always the same: tortillas (again) with a mystery meat (usually salami or pastrami), cheese, hard boiled eggs, cabbage, tomato, onion, carrot and condiments. We were so excited on the last day when we visited Xunantunich and could eat lunch at a restaurant. Dinner had slightly more variety, always starting with a different soup and salad, and more vegetable and entrée choices.
The days were very structured, which we usually avoid on vacation. Breakfast is at 8:00 sharp. Trip groups meet at 9:00 to start their adventures. Chips and salsa are served at 6:00 and dinner is served immediately following. We were prepared for a more structured environment, and it was run like a well-oiled machine, so we did not mind it.
I would definitely recommend a trip to Caves Branch. It was a very memorable family adventure.
A few tips: the jungle is very humid, and if it rains or is overcast, not only will nothing dry, but your clean clothes will be damp. I packed my clean clothes in 2 gallon zip lock bags, so they stayed dry. The mosquitoes were not bad while we were there, but it is important to use repellent when going on the jungle adventures. While at the Jungle Lodge we did not have to use much repellent.

  • Stayed March 2010, travelled with family
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Helpful?
2 Thank connecticuttraveler6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
New Hampshire
Level Contributor
11 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed 24 March 2010

We stayed at Caves Branch for five nights with our 10 and 4 year old. The lodge is beautiful and wonderful to wander around looking at the flowers, butterflies, and lizards. We were able to see howler monkeys right at the lodge. We stayed in a bungalow for 4 nights and spent our last night in the treehouse. Although the treehouses are incredible, our family preferred the bungalow because of the location and the hammocks. I cannot say enough about the staff at Caves Branch. They were all exceptional and the guides were so incredibly good with my children. They went above and beyond and my 4 year old preferred the guides over me to carry her. We did the cave tubing tour, the horseback riding tour, the snorkel tour, and the belize zoo. They were all wonderful. We also met really nice, down to earth people staying at Caves Branch. The zoo was fantastic for children- spend the extra $50 and do the jaguar encounter- it was wonderful. I would highly recommend this lodge to everyone.

  • Stayed March 2010, travelled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank baobabgurl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Montana
Level Contributor
3 reviews
Reviewed 22 March 2010

We spent three days at Cave's Branch last week and had a wonderful experience.
We particular enjoyed our Jungle Suite room, being able to lay in bed and be surrounded by the jungle and it's sounds was a real treat.
Our favorite adventure was the waterfall trip. The snorkel trip to the South Water Caye area was outstanding.
The staff were all extremely friendly, very knowledgeable about the area and added to the enjoyment of our stay.
Food was great and plentiful.

  • Stayed March 2010, travelled with family
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank MTtraveler802
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge

Property: Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge
Address: Mile 41.5 Hummingbird Highway | P.O. Box 356, Belmopan, Belize
Phone Number:
Region: Belize > Cayo > Belmopan
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 12 Speciality Lodging in Belmopan
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge 3.5*
Number of rooms: 23
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Nestled in the lush rainforest of central Belize, Caves Branch Jungle Lodge offers visitors the opportunity to immerse in a culture of mid-range to extreme adventures. From the guest rooms that are open to the sights and sounds of the jungle, some of which are thatched in the ancient style of the Maya to our luxurious Treehouse suites, your experience should be something that must be experienced to be believed and once experienced, truly-never forgotten! ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Ian Anderson`s Caves Branch Jungle Hotel Belmopan
Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge Belize/Belmopan

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