I always return from vacations and restaurants intending to write a review, but never get around to it. Not happening here. I cannot give Christine, Jason and their warm, welcoming staff enough praise. Our family of five ( includings sons ages-20,23,24) went from xmas eve to new year's eve and experience the most well thought out, seemlessly organized vacation we have ever enjoyed. While for us it was a perfect family destination, their accomodations and side-trips would delight couples, seniors and younger families, too. We arrived at Belize Intl to find Alfredo, sign in hand, to van us 15- 20 minutes to Orchid Garden. We had an hour to settle in then met for the 6PM dinner. Christine, plans and oversees the meal preparations which are often tailored to individual needs and even makes different meals for different guests to avoid duplication and they are excellent. Several courses including delicious vegetarian dishes- soups, flans, salads, chicken, fish even grilled lobster one evening, ice cream or fresh fruits for dessert. On a side note, my wife has never traveled south of the border without succumbing some degree of tourista despite precautions- until this trip! None of us had a moment of GI upset, and I understand that Christine ensures that only purified water is served and even used to wash all the fresh produce. The rooms are clean, large and comfortable and on the utilitarian side of the spectrum. Another digression, this is not a ritz-pampered, marble-fountained spa retreat destination- it's all about fun activities, beautiful nature and adventure with really, really nice, knowledgable staff and proprietors taking care of ALL of the details.
I emailed back and forth to Jason several times trying to make sure that we would maximize our time there with the various excursions, but I needn't have worried. They have this down to a perfect science, knowing just how much can be done enjoyably in one day-and even know the cruise ship schedules to work around the times when the sites are mobbed. This often involves early starts but we got into that routine easily, even with three boys that generally sleep late, but were awake and eager for the next adventure. While the itinerary will vary based on what you select I would like mention ours. Day1 arrival and dinner as I mentioned, Day2 Zip-Lining (fun but very safe with DOUBLE wires- unlike our trip in Costa Rico), Then Cave tubing with headlamps, nice buffet lunch there then Belize Zoo with Pedro. I was a bit skeptical about the Zoo based on some reviews, but it was actually very good and animalcentric. Their denizens were not captured but this is more of a sanctuary for indiginous injured animals, confiscated "pets",etc with a goal of release whenever possible- so perhaps the exhibits vary, but we saw many animals in nice habitats that we had never seen before in many other zoologic exhibits. Dinner at Orchid Garden. Day3 breakfast, then water taxi to San Pedro abt 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Arrived early enough to have lunch of our choice and move up our Hol Chan and Shark Ray half day snorkeling to this afternoon. The Sun Breeze Suites (not Hotel) afforded a beautiful ocean front view with very nice modern rooms- again exceeding my expectations. Dinner, drinks and visiting San Pedro each evening. Day4 fit in a second half day of snorkeling at Mexico Rocks and Tres Cocos (Our favorite for variety of corals and colorful fishes). Day5 8:00 AM water taxi back to Orchid Garden grabbed new clothes and jumped back in van with Alvero for ride to Guatamalan border. Then Into Rene's van to complete 3 hour journey to Casa Don David. Again a well vetted, english-spoken hotel with very interesting grounds- (fun to discover on your own) a late lunch then back with Rene to visit the very colorful town of Flores- we did most of our souvenier shopping here. Back to Don David's for dinner and turned in early, Day6 Rene and Juan (our tour guide) picked us up at the hotel at 5:30 AM to begin the absolute highlight of our vacation- TIKAL! Must see to believe type of place- the only thing I want to mention is to give huge kudos to Juan. One of the most knowledgable interesting guides we have had, his understanding of the Mayans: history, language, calendar, astronomy, politics, agriculture is vast, but his ability to tie in climatology, nature, botony is very thought-provoking and leaves us questing for more. So back to the hotel to check-out and reverse border trek. Note the border is one of the only out of pocket expenses we had other than meals at San Pedro. Expect to pay about $18 US to leave Belize and about $3 to leave Guatamala per person. Dinner at Orchid Garden. Day7 ATM leave Orchid around 730AM and hour plus ride to ATM. The ATM tour was probably the most adventurous and physical part of the trip and may not be for everyone. About an hour rain forest hike in, 3-4 hours in cave, swimming, squeezing thru cracks and climbing rocks with a surprising amount of maya artifacts, pottery, skeletons,etc. Lunch outside cave before or after atm and then trip back and dinner at Orchid. Final Day8 breakfast and 1 1/2 hour tour of grounds with Alfredo, the main guide for Orchid Garden- an extremely warm and kind person with an obvious and contagious love of his country and the Eco-Village. Excellent tour with discussions from history and regional geopolitics to nature and use of local plants for food, construction, medicine and alcohol.
I believe one of the truest measurements of the vacation was the DAILY affirmations from our threee boys of how much fun and interesting everything was and one of their "best trips ever". Again thank you to Christine, Jason, Alfredo and all the wonderful staff of Orchid Gardens for a truly amzing vacation. Also two side comments. First I feel that the cost of this "package" was VERY reasonable for the quality of all the meals, accomodations, fees, admissions, transportation, etc. and it is so nice not to have to reach for your wallet multiple times a day. WE just left a tip with Christine at the end of the week to distribute to the staff. Second is to compliment Trip Advisor and its community of users- I had no previous experience or knowledge of Orchid Garden outside of Trip Advisor's reviews, so went into this with a little trepidation- but absolutely none now. Thanks, Christopher G.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.