I spent 7 months in planning our 9-day birding trip to Belize. We decided not to take any birding package because we are "DIY" kind of birders. We are serious birders with wide age range (from 7-year-old to 70-year-old) and various medical conditions AND on a budget, therefore we need to plan our trip carefully, PLUS we need to assure all lodge accommodations fit our needs.
We decided to stay at Crystal Paradise Resort for numerous reasons:
1. Its location: it is just a few miles from San Ignacio and not too far from Mountain Pine Ridge Preserve.
2. There are 3 units have A/C that we need.
3. They offer flexibility for bed configurations (from single to quad)
4. They offer a wide variety of birding activities via Paradise Expeditions (run by Jeronie Tut)
5. The room rates and meal charges are very reasonable
6. Their Customer Service Representative, Jeronie Tut, is friendly, prompt, helpful and efficient.
We stayed for 4 nights and went on the famous full-day Tikal tour. We specified that we are interested in a "birding focus" tour; our bird guide at Tikal, Hugo, did a superb job. He is friendly, fully aware of what we want to see, honest, and most importantly has super eye-sight and hearing so he can spot birds so fast!!
In addition to the Tikal trip, we also booked combination birding to El Pilar and Mountain Pine Ridge. Eric Tut did a fantastic job. He is truly one of the most positive things I observed in Belize: totally immerse himself in wildlife/nature/birding and promoting eco-tourism.
In terms of meals, Chef Catalina, Cousin Elena and all the dining helpers did a fantastic job. All meals are freshly prepared with local produce and ingredients. If there is a restaurant like this in the US, I will be visiting everyday. Most amazing thing is that both of my picky-eater kids love their cooking as well. On one morning, my son ate 9 fry jacks and then went on the Tikal trip. Experiencing Belizean cuisine is definitely a major bonus point to our fantastic birding trip.
In terms of the birding at the resort site is also out of this world. I can bird right from my porch and enjoy Blue-crown Motmot, keel-billed toucan, violaceous trogan, and tons of other beautiful birds. There were other birders stay at the resort and we often discuss our bird sighting and exchange notes during dinner.
Please keep in mind that this resort is in the jungle, it is unavoidable to see some ants or small insects crawling in the room or other facilities. I personally witnessed that the staff are diligently sweeping, raking, and mopping the entire resort every morning. I think Crystal Paradise did a superb job in providing their guests a clean, spacious, and cool room with friendly staff.
Last but not least, "papa Tut (Victor)" is very friendly, funny and hard-working. You can see him running around since early morning to make sure everyone is satisfied. He is also a visionary businessman; he mentioned that his another resort "Emerald Paradise" will be opened later this year located near Spanish Lookout.
Overall, we loved our visit at Crystal Paradise and we have decided to do this again next year!