My husband and I stayed at Hidden Valley Inn for our honeymoon in January 2009. I can see why the place had such high reviews but we can only give it an average rating based on our experience. First off, we booked the transportation with the inn and there was a lot of confusion as to where he was going to meet us--we were coming from Caye Caulker and took a ferry to shore in Belize City and I guess there are a few drop off locations. We finally met the guy an hour later, which made our travel time pretty long.
But at HVI our biggest complaint was the value of our stay. Since we were traveling on our honeymoon, at every other place that we stayed, they remembered it was our honeymoon and whether it was a complimentary glass of wine or just some rose petals on the bed, there was some special touch (without having to purchase a "romance package"). At HVI, they didn't even remember it was our honeymoon until we reminded them.
And we had two unfortunate things that made our stay not as nice as it could have been--first, there was a huge birding group at the lodge during our stay. Because their group was so large, they had the two HVI guides to take them to Caracol and other activities, while we had someone who the inn calls when they need an extra person. He was nice and somewhat knowledgeable. but the last day of our stay we met the HVI guides and I think we would have had a better experience if they had accompanied us on our trips to Caracol, etc. They seemed more knowledgeable, very very friendly and spoke to us in Spanish, which we preferred. I would check with the inn prior to book to see if there is a large group when you are there. It is MUCH nicer when there are just a few other couples/families, as they put the tour groups first (seating for dinner/timing for things, etc.).
The second unfortunate circumstance, was the weather. It rained most of the time we were there--and according to the staff, because of the altitude it is often foggy--so this limited our ability to fully appreciate the grounds. However, we didn't let the rain damper our stay. My husband and I are very much into the outdoors, so we actually ended up hiking as much of the grounds as possible, despite the rain. We were unable to do the cascade trail because of the weather but we did walk down to Lolly Folly pond (couldn't actually see much of the pond because of the fog, but still a nice walk) and we hiked the Butterfly trail and the Secret Pools trail.
I can definitely see why the hikes would have been nice on a beautiful day--and once we were soaked through to our underwear, it actually was a fun adventure. However, when I think back, I believe the hotel should not have let us out. On one of the trails [I will post photos soon] towards the ending, there were two trees that had fallen down and blocked the path--under the tree the river water had risen so high it was on the path as well and I was very nervous I would slip into the river while trying to climb over the tree. Then towards the end of this trail--the trail washed away into the river. We had to walk ankle deep through what we thought was the trail (the maps they have are not that detailed)--and we finally found the road. I was so nervous that a tree would fall as we were walking--at this point it had been raining for a week and the ground was very soft--my husband was not that nervous, though.
Then once we got off that part of the trail, we planned to walk all the way back to the lodge on just a flat trail. But as we walked down the trail back, the water got progressively higher until we were almost knee deep and we still had awhile to go. At this point, we returned to the road, but this was also so watery that we realized we had to call the inn to pick us up. BUT, the radio did not work--they could barely hear us. We kept walking down the road until we were closer to the hotel and it finally worked and they were able to get us (for a $10 fee).
While I acknowledge that the inn cannot control the weather (of course!) and this was a risk we took in picking a hotel in a remote location with mostly outdoor activities, I just expected that the inn would have been more accommodating since they knew we could not have as nice a time on our honeymoon because of the weather. Perhaps, offering to waive the $10 pick-up fee, or offer two glasses of wine after we came in soaking wet from hiking. The manager did offer to dry our clothing for us when we got back from our hike--but then they tried to charge us for this, after the fact. (They did remove the fee, upon check-out).
There were many great things about HVI though---The rooms were fantastic--each with a very nice bathroom (the nicest we had in Belize) and a fireplace, comfy bed and sitting area. The lodge was fine for the type of place the inn is trying to be--a nature lodge, but not nice enough for a luxury hotel. The pool was also nice--we went swimming in the pool and hot tub despite the rain and very much enjoyed it, and the staff was for the most part very friendly. Since it rained, we also spent time at the lodge playing scrabble and reading our books (ones we brought--the selection they have is mediocre) by the fire--which we also enjoyed.
My advice to everyone is to spend only 2 nights there--in case of bad weather. And then on your last day, do Caracal or ATM (we could not do ATM because of the rain). Also, I suggest having the car stop at a grocery store in town before heading up to the Inn. That way you can get some of your own food and drinks and are not stuck having to eat their food every day. The food was okay but the dinner was not worth the $40 each night. And the breakfast was not as filling as one would expect, given the price. I thought the remoteness of the lodge was appealing, but just be warned, that there really isn't anywhere else around to eat/drink, etc. (Sidenote--we stayed at Lamanai Lodge as well, also remote with no other options for food--but their food was SO filling and so good (maybe $40 per person per day for breakfast,lunch, dinner) that we didn't mind the remoteness).
Also, when we were leaving, they drove us back to town (for a high fee) but they had already been planing to drive to town to pick up supplies/food, etc. So to bring us down, wouldn't have cost that much more. The entire time the guides were talking to each other as they drove us down. I guess it just disappointed me that we spent $250 a night on a room and nothing was included--even using the computer to connect to the internet was an additional fee. [sidenote: I just checked the prices on their new website and it looks like they are lower than what we paid in January 2009]. Also remember, that every excursion is an additional cost, and it adds up quickly. (Other lodge-type resorts in Belize tend to include the cost of excursions or at least food, in their prices).
Overall, we enjoyed HVI, we just think it should be priced a little bit less. The room was wonderful and the grounds were great---we were just unfortunate with the weather.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Hidden Valley Inn, a Luxury Life Style Boutique Hotel with only 12 rooms, is located on a 7200 acres private reserve in the Mountain Pine Ridge, Cayo District in Belize. This intimate eco resort offers quality accommodation, fine gourmet food and attentive service in a natural environment. The flora, wildlife and bird watching here are truly unique in the region. Guests staying at this Intimate Luxury Boutique Hotel enjoy exclusive access to over 90 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails as well as many secluded Crystal Pools and Waterfalls set in a tropical rainforest. For those seeking romance, one of the waterfalls may be reserved exclusively for the day.Situated in the Maya mountains, also serves as a convenient base for visiting the various scenic and historical attractions of the area. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Hidden Valley Hotel San Ignacio
- Hidden Valley San Ignacio