International, Travel

Our Journey In: Caves Branch | Belmopan, Belize

One of the first questions people had a tendency to ask when we would mention that we were going to Belize is “Why Belize?”  I mean, they’re in awe because they know it would be beautiful, but it’s not a very popular destination when people have an itch to travel.

Back when we were planning our honeymoon, we had every intention of going to Belize because it wasn’t too far and gave us the same benefits we were looking for when it came to natural beauty and relaxation — all within a reasonable budget.  Well, as our guestlist kept growing, we had to cut back on our honeymoon budget.  Instead, we found ourselves on Isla Mujeres for that trip which I wouldn’t dare take back a second of.  It was beyond perfect.

Well, once we found out we were expecting our first little one, we knew we had to squeeze in one more unforgettable trip with just the two us while we’re still able to be a bit more carefree.  There were no other big expenses holding us back, so we decided to finally fulfill the experience of staying in a treehouse in the jungles of Belize.  Don’t get me wrong; we definitely considered going to other must-see destinations within the likes of Europe, Australia and Asia, but my “sweet spot” of traveling during the second trimester landed during the time of the year when costs were a bit out-of-range.  Also, when it came time to book, I had no idea how I would feel as a preggo and didn’t want to risk dealing with aches and pains on a 12+ hour flight.

The flight ended up working out perfectly as it was a flight from home to Houston then from Houston to Belize.  The layover was nice to let me walk around for a bit and stretch.

From Belize City, we had someone standing at the exit of the airport with a sign with Tristan’s name on it.  So VIP.  We took a van to our treehouse lodge at Caves Branch in Belmopan.  I knew that if we went to Belize, we HAD to stay in a treehouse.  Where else can you get an experience like this?  We were welcomed with some fruit punch (no rum for me!) and some cold towels to cool us off a bit from the heat and humidity.

Here’s a few snippets of our lodge…
No AC!  The entire wall you see here is made of screen doors so we could see, hear and feel like we were in the jungle.  There was no way you could forget.  I mean, check out that lush, green rainforest!  The birds and the monkeys were hanging out, and the cicadas were always singing some sort of tune.  When the rain fell, it was just… beautiful.  Gentle raindrops just falling from leaf to leaf.  I miss it.  If it weren’t for the heavy humidity after rainfall, I’d miss it even more… if that were possible.  This photo is of the lower part of the treehouse where we would rest on the bunks and the couch.  The pole you see on the left is actually a tree that ran through the house.  We’re probably a few stories off the ground.
The upper part of the treehouse was our bed and bathroom.  Not too shabby for a lodge in the middle of the jungle, huh?


Walkway up to the treehouses.  Thankfully they gave us the first treehouse on the hike up.  They knew we were on our babymoon :).  There were several other units as you climb upward, and there were even some that sat above the entire jungle canopy.
Once we were settled in, we got some lunch (which was delicious) then wandered around to get to know our home for the next few days.  We took a peak at the river that runs alongside the lodging and wandered around the vast gardens.  It really was beautiful.  We were just engulfed in nature.  While talking to other guests staying at the lodge, we all definitely agreed.  Pictures don’t seem to do this place any justice.




On our first full day, we decided to take a day trip to Guatemala to check out the Mayan ruins of Tikal.  These ruins are AMAZING.  We couldn’t believe how extensive this site was, and we were so thankful for such a knowledgeable guide.  More details in this post… because it deserves it.
Guatemala was a full day trip.  By the time we got back, we got to wash up then have dinner.  The next day, we decided to do something more leisurely and went on a bird tour with Abel of Caves Branch.  This man is passionate about bird watching.  We saw over 30 different species of birds, and this guy was able to name every one of them!  If he wasn’t 100% sure, he whipped out his handy book that listed all of the native species of Belize.  His coworkers called him crazy, but I thought it was pretty awesome.




While we were out and about looking and listening for these beautifully colored birds, we ran into some other critters as well…

My favorite was — without a doubt — the leaf-cutter ants.  Does that make me total National Geographic nerd?  We’re staying in the jungles of Belize, and I’m stoked about leaf-cutter ants.  You should’ve seen my excitement when I saw a crowd of leaf bits dancing across the concrete.  Ever since I saw them on TV when I was little, I wanted to see them in person.  I thought I was going to see them in Brazil, but that didn’t happen.  I then found out that I may  be able to find them in Belize.  I didn’t get my hopes up, but I saw them on two different occasions!  It was undoubtedly cool to see these guys in action.  Okay, it was bad.  I might have been slightly obsessed because I sat there for a good minute watching them while Tristan and Abel just waited for me like 15 feet away.

We also took a stop by the Blue Hole which was a small, natural body of water that was always this beautiful iridescent shade of blue.  It was a little surreal because typically in a surrounding like this, you would assume the water to be dark, but it really did look like it was glowing.  Apparently if you swim down, you’ll find your way to a cave on the other side.

Once we were done bird watching, we decided to take a dip in the pool.  I felt oddly comfortable in the bikini.  I guess there were no excuses to be made for the extra weight on me.  I was proudly carrying a little person 🙂



Above: Me having a silly zen moment at the swim up bar, and Tristan showering in the outdoor shower of our treehouse.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided at Caves Branch, but you can opt to drive out for meals if you decide to rent a car.  There aren’t any places within walking distance, but I can honestly say there’s no point in renting the car to find food because the food here was plentiful and delicious.  Everything was made with local ingredients and organic just the way things should be.  Breakfast was a buffet with varied Belizean flavors, lunch was plated if you were in the area (most people end up having lunch while on their excursions), and dinner was a full course buffet – soup, salad, pasta, fruits, sides, main dishes, and desserts.  My favorite was this pineapple cake they made with a scoop of coconut ice cream.  Mouthwatering.

Every day for breakfast they also left out these basket of oranges beside this juicer.  The oranges here are so sweet.  They were like honey with a hint of citrus.  Tristan had fun juicing the old-fashioned way.


One of our favorite local food finds was the fried jack.  It’s the puffy piece of dough you see above.  At some point, I’m going to try to make it.  Such a fun substitute for bread.  It kind of reminded me of a Chinese donut and a little bit of a beignet.

Before we headed out, we wanted to take a tour of the botanical garden on site.  Sadly, there were no tour guides on our last day so we did our own self-guided tour (and almost got lost, but that’s another story).  There were so many different species of flowers — particularly orchids.  I really wish we had someone to share more information with us, but it was still a good time sight-seeing.  Apparently tarantulas hang out around these areas a lot, but we didn’t happen to stumble upon one.  I’m not gonna lie; it was still a bit nervewrecking since I didn’t know where they would pop out.  Haha.



After our little adventure in the garden, we hopped in a van that drove us out to our next destination – Hopkins, Belize.  The drive out there was about an hour and a half, but some of the sights along the way were pretty interesting.  We drove by the “Sleeping Giant” and also got to check out the gravity hill.  It looks like you’re supposed to go downhill, but when the driver put the car into neutral, it started rolling uphill.  We also got to see farmlands and homes on the outskirts of the jungle while learning that most homes in the area are actually built by the families that live in them.  Most of the time, people buy a plot of land and take time to build their home exactly how they want it.  It really opened our eyes to the different ways of life in the country.
If anything, I really miss the view, the service, and the food at Caves Branch.  It really made the experience priceless.  On the nights that it rained (2 out of the 3 nights), however, the next morning would be at 100% humidity which was pretty rough.  Natural sauna, anyone? Haha.  You can’t control nature though which I feel was the powerful message you leave with.  You feel pretty small and out of our element, but appreciative of so much more than what you walked in with.
Anyway, we’re off to the beach in Hopkins… on the next post.
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