I have a running list of things I hope to accomplish in my life that includes:
- Become a backup dancer for a pop star
- Live in a Disney castle
- Write a bestseller
- Own a trampoline
- Ride a killer whale
- Get stranded on a deserted island to see if I have what it takes to survive
- Visit the jungle
As you can see, I like to work from the bottom up. It’s how I get dressed in the morning and also how I tackle life goals. Besides, it was in the jungle that I learned many of the survival skills I’ll put to use on my deserted island: how to eat termites for protein, how to carve slate for mandatory arts & crafts day, how to capture tarantulas for when I just really need something fuzzy to cuddle up next to, and how to run an entirely off-the-grid ecolodge with power generated by sun and water. What a great help that will be. There is hope for my survival after all!
BLACK ROCK LODGE – SAN IGNACIO, BELIZE
You know where you are? YOU’RE IN THE JUNGLE, BABY! ⇠ Can’t help myself.
Staying at the Black Rock Lodge in western Belize was a dream come true. Specifically, the one where I find myself a guest of the owner in the newly constructed dinosaur park and that guy from Seinfeld is there. Only in reality it wasn’t so much an express helicopter entrance as it was a sweaty arrival via a repurposed 1970’s Bluebird school bus from Arizona. And instead of that guy from Seinfeld and some shaving cream canisters, it was a woman who yanked her breast out to feed her child who maintained eye contact with me the. entire. time.
However, there is a roaring river and trees with leaves as big as Jeff Goldblum. They’ve got lizards that look like Dilophosaurus, howler monkeys that sound like Tyrannosaurus, and to write this I’m using a Thesaurus. The similarities are UNCANNY.
Much like Jurassic Park, Black Rock Lodge is completely off-the-grid. Located in the dense rainforest above the Macal River in Belize’s Cayo district, they produce 100% of their own energy through the use of solar and hydroelectric power, organically grow the majority of food served at the lodge, and compost their own goat poop. See? The same.
Black Rock Lodge in all its off-the-grid splendor is virtually impossible to get to without some serious 4-wheel drive and a PhD*. I haven’t experienced a ride that bumpy since I was 12 and walked my dog while roller blading. He took off down the street, dragging me on my stomach up over the curb and through the neighbor’s front yard.
Luckily, they offer shuttle services to/from just about anywhere in Belize. Even airport pickups in Belize City which we forewent in exchange for the authentic experience of riding the $4 public bus across the country. And even to pick up two sweaty, parched and hangry strangers on the street in downtown San Ignacio buying Ibuprofen by the pill.
*As previously mentioned, a degree in pothole diversion
THE BLACK ROCK LODGE EXPERIENCE
If you had told me when I was a bloodied and bruised 12-year-old that I’d one day sleep in a hammock in the jungle under a gazillion stars, get my skin exfoliated by a thousand river fish, and learn firsthand that spiders’ eyes sparkle like diamonds in the dark, I would have said, “YOU’RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING RIGHT SOMEDAY, ASHLEY! Now spit the grass out of your mouth and get your shit together.”
Nothing about our experience at Black Rock Lodge was ordinary. Nothing was sub-par. Nothing was anything short of my jurassic jungle dream. It was the surprise upgrade to first class of hotel stays. It was getting two bags of Cheetos from the vending machine when you only paid for one. It was your next door neighbor installing a swimming pool.
A DAY AT BLACK ROCK LODGE
5:30 am // The sun rises. The birds chirpety-chirp. The howler monkeys scream violently on the other side of the river. In your sleepy state you try to remember if you activated the electric fencing around the T-Rex paddock. You wake with a jolt when you realize you DON’T KNOW HOW!
5:35 am // Your alarm goes off and brings you back to a serene, less frightening reality. You don’t care that you’re on vacation and awake at this hour because there’s more going on in Belize than there is at a summer camp for kids with ADHD. And there’s coffee.
6:10 am // You arrive in the restaurant and pour yourself a cup of the best coffee you’ve ever consumed. You order breakfast and sip your bean juice at the ledge overlooking the jungle and river below. Elvis, the resident bird nerd, searches for nesting toucans for you with his telescope.
6:20 am // You enjoy your breakfast of lodge-grown fruit, homemade breads, and just-down-the-path-laid eggs. You discuss the epic shit you did the day before and what epic shit you will do today with the new friends you’ve made.
7:00 am // Whichever jungle adventure you chose for the day begins!
5:30 pm // You arrive back at Black Rock Lodge and immediately run down to the river and jump in, the first moment of relief from your day in the hot jungle sun. Tiny fish gather to nibble on your legs, an unexpected but titillating welcome.
7:00 pm // You head to the bar for cocktails and complimentary tortilla chips and cheese dip. You can’t decide what to drink so the bartender gives you whatever is leftover in the blender from making drinks for others. This makes you happy.
7:15 pm // You find your seat for dinner. You’re seated with different groups of visitors each night and everyone has a great time discussing all the things they did that day that they swore they would never do. Live insects were consumed. Gargantuan arachnids were handled. Hiking shoes were worn with linen pants.
7:20 pm // Your 4-course dinner is served. You can’t remember what’s coming because you chose your options at breakfast when you were still mostly focused on velociraptors. Fresh baked breads, salad, soup, an entree the size of two entrees, and dessert. Somewhere in there is something made from coconuts.
10:30 pm // Black Rock Lodge shuts off all pathway lights and tiki torches so you can experience a truly dark night in the jungle under a gazillion stars. You relax on your deck arguing with your husband over which planet that really bright star is. You admit your husband is right–something you swore you’d never do. It’s Mars.
You fall asleep rocking in your hammock to the faraway bone-chilling screams of the howler monkey, the Guinness Book record holder for loudest animal on the face of the earth.
THE ROOMS AT BLACK ROCK LODGE
We stayed in two different lodging options during our time at Black Rock Lodge–both with totally unnecessary hot water and absolutely vital ceiling fans.
The rooms at Black Rock Lodge are rustic jungle perfection. Open-air rooms and showers, complimentary bottled water, full decks in a rainforest setting, and views too stunning to be taken seriously. The Sophia Vergara of landscapes, if you will.
The rooms lack all the crap you don’t need in the jungle: a television, wi-fi, the Bible, a phone, and a hairdryer. Wi-fi is available in the restaurant/lounge area if you absolutely need it. And no matter what you think prior to your visit here, YOU WILL NOT NEED A HAIRDRYER IN BELIZE. And that’s a bigger understatement than Andre the Giant saying, “I can reach that.”
RIVERFRONT DELUXE CABIN
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the perfection of this locale? That’s Cabin 17, the riverfront deluxe king cabin and, if all goes according to plan, my future home. Boston lacks the soothing rush of river rapids and fluttering butterfly wings. I miss the high-pitch clicks of bats trying to find their way in the dark and being able to see Mars from my freaking porch. If I have to become an evil genius to make this happen, so be it. [evil laughter]
It felt so great to go totally off-the-grid. No lights. No unnatural sounds. No electrical hum. No Twitter notifications. No constant reminder of how far behind I am on work. Only the jungle, my wild imagination, and endless Jurassic Park one-liners.
I loved the coziness of the classic cabin but the riverfront deluxe had something that far outweighed all else: a freaking spectacular breeze. I’m guessing because of it’s location closer to the river and the lack of surrounding trees (putting my biology schooling to work here), the deluxe cabins get much better air flow. Our night in the deluxe cabin we actually needed the comforter–the comforter!–a hilarious fact we would marvel at for the rest of our time in Belize.
ACTIVITIES & ADVENTURES AT BLACK ROCK LODGE
Black Rock Lodge has a long list of activities and tours both on-site and off. I was very excited about this. So was my husband. I believe his exact words were, “And when do we get a day to do nothing at all?”
This is where we met our dilemma–too much to do, too little time. In our three days at Black Rock Lodge we fit in:
- Day trip to the ATM cave
- Day trip to Tikal in Guatemala
- A guided night hike
- Stargazing–sure, we’ll count that
- River swimming
- A hike to the mountain summit
- Mountain biking
- And a self-guided walking tour of the property.
What we couldn’t fit in, we’ve already added to our itinerary for our return. We could easily have spent three more days there–river tubing, canoeing, birding, and horseback riding to nearby Mayan ruins. I’m coming for you, birds!
They also offer yoga, caving, and tours to all of these places. It’s downright stupid the amount of stuff you can do there. And even stupider that I only planned a three day stay. Amateur move, Smith.
I CAN’T RAVE ENOUGH
Black Rock Lodge went above and beyond my expectations to become my absolute favorite hotel stay. Everything was phenomenal. The wait staff and tour guides learned our names and order preferences. Victor drove us from the lodge all the way to the water taxi in Belize City. He escorted us on our trip to Guatemala. The food blew our minds.
They took our bags to our rooms for us. They arranged our day trips with zero effort on our part. They told me I could steal the fan from the restaurant if it got too hot in my room.
They provide all the free water you could possibly consume (it will be A LOT). They welcomed us with an orientation to the property and the best damn watermelon juice I’ve had in my life.
If I had to pick a downside to Black Rock Lodge I guess I’d say… the piña coladas were too cold. Definitely, too refreshing. And the birds, they just sang too much in the mornings. And don’t even get me started on the trees and flowers–way too many colors. And that coconut pie? Ruined me for all coconut pies to follow. The nerve.
HAVE YOU EVER STAYED AT A PLACE THAT JUST BLEW YOUR MIND?
LET ME KNOW BELOW!
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Tyrannosaurus-sized thanks to Black Rock Lodge for hosting us and for everyone on staff for making this the best trip ever. As always, all opinions and dinosaur puns are my own. Seriously though, I couldn’t find anything wrong with this place.