Crystal Paradise was everything we had hoped for and more. From the moment we landed at the airport with two little girls, ages 4 and 7, we felt more like actual guests than hotel guests. Take a moment to get to know this family right away. Trust me, it's worth it. Once you arrive you can pretty much book any excursion with them the night before. But with so much you can do, have an idea of what you are interested in as the time will fly by. Always good to give them a heads up of your interests and they can plan and recommend some wonderful experiences. It's of course possible to rent a car and find your own excursions, but we found that it seemed much more relaxing to trust the Tut family (pronounced Tuut).
Upon first arriving at Crystal Paradise, we found a beautiful resort hand built by the family. They take a lot of pride in keeping it up. Our girls loved roaming around and discovering the property. For birders, this place is awesome. I had hoped to maybe catch a glimpse of a Toucan and hopefully a Blue Crowned Motmot. Boy did I set my expectations low on that one. The variety of birds we saw during breakfast alone was incredible.
Each evening we discussed our plans for the next day with Arleni at the front desk, and each night after dinner big brother Geroni sits down with a laptop and plans out the next day's activities for their guests. Be respectful of their time, because they really do everything to make sure everyone's visit is perfect. It is a family owned operation after all.
Eric Tut, one of the sons, picked us up at the airport and made sure we got a chance to stop for supplies and lunch before heading west into Belize. Pay attention even on the drive, as there is so much to see in this little country. One of the many things we loved about this place was that Eric ended up being our guide (and hero to my little girls) every day but one. This was quite nice for us, as our girls got to know him and as a result learned a lot more. This is his country. He knows and has studied thoroughly just about anything you run across. From history and cultures to plants and animals. Once you visit Belize you will understand how much of those 4 things there really is here.
A very unique experience we had was to go riding with younger brother Andy. He took us all out for a 3 hour ride on his horses with a stop at Christo Rey Falls. Bring a camera and a bathing suit. This is the stuff you only see in movies.
Eric took us to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich, paddled us into Barton Creek Cave and took us to a nearby butterfly farm that is definitely worth a stop as well. He also took us to the wonderful Belize Zoo on our way back to the airport to head out to the islands. Once again, a personal tour of the zoo by someone who knows Belize this well is a great experience. While not necessary, we recommend reading up on Sharon Matola, the founder of the zoo, before visiting. The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw will really connect you with this this place.
The cabanas are beautiful and hand built by the family as well. We loved the thatched roof and netted windows because it allowed us to listen to the sounds of the jungle as we slept. We also enjoyed the distant and nearby sound of fireworks and children celebrating on Christmas Eve. To us, that was part of the local charm. The open air dining area was also very cool and the family was more than willing to accommodate our vegetarian needs. Perhaps it's just our preference, but we would choose a charming place like this over a fancy 5 star resort any day. It offers a little bit of everything you feel much more at home.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.