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“Pricey but superb.” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge

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Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
London
Level Contributor
32 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“Pricey but superb.”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 15 April 2012

Let me begin by saying that this is not the place for you if you are a professional rock-climber, explorer, speleologist or naturalist in search of never-before-seen frontiers. While Ian Anderson's Caves Branch bills itself as an adventure company and does offer adventure tours, do not expect to come back with photos of where you planted your flag for the first time, nor anything that is more challenging that a day's hard hike or rappel. Second, if you don't like the idea of tramping through snake-infested jungle or wading through underground rivers, but just want to relax and see the jungle and Mayan ruins from deluxe comfort, you might consider going to Francis Ford Coppola's place instead.

If you fall in between those extremes, as we did, then Caves Branch is a delightful little treat in the heart of the jungle. Since it is all-inclusive, with accommodation, food and tours all part of the bill I will deal with each in turn.


Accommodation:

We were visiting Belize for our honeymoon and opted for the River View Treehouse. As accommodation, it was stunning. Fantastic views, privacy, incredible view of the sunset, sumptuous furnishings and the delightful novelty of the outdoor jungle shower. From that perspective, it couldn't have been better for us.

The staff are very friendly and accommodating, on the whole. Overall, we got on best with Carlos, who was very attentive all the time, as well as Pablo and Edgar who gave us fun (and informative) tours of the jungle and caves. Ian himself was away, so we didn't get to meet him, and talking to other guests it seemed they had been shown more attention by other guides and staff, so it seemed that responsibility for the guests was shared out, not that those we didn't get to know were standoffish. Otherwise, the bedroom was always immaculate, there were always fresh towels by the pool, the bar staff were always eager to serve us drinks (local rum punch and beer were included with the room).


Food:

We checked out the reviews beforehand, and after initial doubts, decided we would come in spite of what others had said of the food (and, to a certain extent, the tours). Actually, we are very happy to contradict what has been said before us, as we found the food very tasty on the whole. As we are a vegetarian and a pescatarian, we can't speak for the meat dishes, but so far as dinner and breakfast were concerned (the two meals served in the lodge) everything else was delicious. It is buffet and canteen style, i.e. everyone shares fairly large tables of 8, but we enjoyed that aspect as we met some lovely people while we were there, which contrasted with the slightly more isolated time we had in our hotel on Caye Caulker.

As for lunch, this is admittedly a little more basic - do-it-yourself burritos with a selection of fillings from boiled eggs, fresh vegetables, salads, tomatoes, ham, etc. Perfect for those on long adventures, but maybe slightly boring for those who expected to come to the jungle and be served by Gordon Ramsay.


Tours:

Apart from the accommodation, the real highlight of Caves Branch is the tours. They have a vast property (50,000 acres, we were told) which covers a lot of jungle, cave systems and sinkholes, most of which they keep as conservation land (a small part is leased to citrus farmers). A whole range of tours are offered from the pedestrian (horse riding, Belize zoo, Mayan ruins) to adrenaline-pumping ziplining, waterfall jumping and the ubiquitous "black hole drop". Frankly, it may not be worth coming here if all you wish to do is see the zoo and ride a horse, unless your childhood desire was to stay in a huge treehouse, but the rest of the tour menu is second to none.

On our first day, we opted for the waterfall caves expedition. I don't want to give too much away, other than that you should expect to get wet, to crawl on your hands and knees (and belly!), and that you can see the fairly impressive remains of state archaeological excavations of a Mayan ceremonial cave. The waterfall part must be experienced in its own right, but it is huge fun and a massive buzz. Not for the faint of heart (and probably not suitable for children under 12 - there was a 12-year-old with us on our trip and he managed beautifully but parts of the expedition are strenuous and challenging). However, what a way to begin our stay - we loved it!

After the highs of caving, we took the sedate route and went to see the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich and Cahal Pech. These were stunning, and our guide seemed reasonably knowledgeable about the history of the Maya and the cities themselves. An excellent day out.

Our third, and last, day was spent cave tubing. While the cave system itself is spectacular, and while our guide took very good care of us, we decided we would rather have opted for kayaks rather than tubes, which is also an option available - slightly more fun, slightly less sedate, and still offering the opportunity of seeing the same stunning vistas.

Two more brief mentions - we went on an after-dark jungle safari hike, which was also fun, although again may not be for the faint-of-heart (on this occasion it was just the two of us and our guide, and several times we switched off our torches to encourage the wildlife to come closer). Second, we were planning at one point to do the 2-day jungle exploration, which when it was explained to us sounds particularly fun and challenging. It is subject to availability, since if the lodge is too busy they may not have enough guides available, but you leave the lodge with just a machete and bag with water, and you must then catch you own food and build a shelter for the night. It sounded fantastic, and may go some way to mitigating my initial statement that this is not for the very hardy adventurer. Worth booking in advance if you plan on doing this (they also offer a 3-day version).


Overall:

All-in-all, we had an excellent time at Caves Branch. A wonderful way to get out into nature and leave the world of iPhones and facebook behind for a while, We found the isolation refreshing, the tours exhilarating, the company excellent and the accommodation second to none. Well done, Caves Branch! (Now work on not scaring people with your disclaimer, or warn them in advance).

Room Tip: For maximum privacy, take a treehouse. The Cabanas are very much more public, and no rooms have glas...
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  • Stayed March 2012, travelled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank BenSW
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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811 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (296)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Fairfax, VA
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 14 April 2012

We spent four nights at Caves Branch with our 16 year old son, 13 year old and 8 year old daughters at the end of March. The grounds are absolutely beautiful and wonderfully maintained. The variety of flowers with the backdrop of the jungle and the river are truly special We stayed in a Jungle Treehouse (No. 21) and highly recommend them. It was two floors with our children on the first floor and my wife and I on the second floor. Both spaces a screened in on the walls that overlook the jungle. It makes for nice sleeping conditions and falling to sleep to the sounds of the jungle (can be quite loud if the Howler Monkies get going but it adds to the ambiance of being in the jungle.) T.V.s and computers were not missed as we were all in bed by 8:30p.m. every night after days filled with wonderful treks and adventures. The paritally open, outdoor "bucket" shower was really cool and kept you feeling connected to the jungle. The view from our deck was simply amazing. The jungle with mountains in the foreground and less visible mountains in the background. Could have spent hours there just taking in the view.

What really "makes" Caves Branch -- as other commenters have noted -- is the staff. They are hardworking, attentive and terrific guides. We not only have fun and safe treks each day but we also learned a lot about the Mayan culture and history of Belize. We went cave tubing, did the 300 foot Black Hole rappelling (which included a vigorous hike), zip lining and took the journey to Tikal (the highlight of our trip). And the people of Belize are incredibly warm and welcoming. Be sure to ask Abel about the history of "Mayanaise."

We enjoyed the family style meals which allow you to meet and mingle with other guests and to compare your respective adventure experiences. Great for deciding what to do next. The food was very good quality and I enjoyed squeezing fresh orange juice every morning and the homemade vanilla (grown on the grounds) - infused sugar in my coffee in the morning.

All-in-all a memorable, one-of-a-kind experience. Bring an adventurous spirit and you too will have amazing memories of Caves Branch.

Brian C.

Room Tip: Jungle Treehouse #21. Excellent!
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  • Stayed March 2012, travelled with family
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Brian C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Olympia, WA
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 12 April 2012

I will start by saying that we 100% enjoyed our time in Caves Branch. The jungle is amazing, the resort grounds beautiful, and the room being open aired is a delight. The guides MAKE this resort. They are friendly, knowledgeable, and provided us with the most exciting experiences of our lives. We did the waterfall tour (my favorite), the Black Hole drop, and the ruins trip. The two hiking excursions were trenuos, beautiful, and made us push ourselves. They were exhilirating and extremely rewarding. The guides were a joy to spend the day with, funny, and made us feel safe. It is worth it to go to this resort for the experiences like these. The reason that I scored this a 3 out of 5 is based soley on hotel management. I will admit it is nice that the owners mingle nightly with guests, and I think overall they do a wonderful job in a remote location of providing good meals, and ammenities. Unfortunately, the owner was just not very nice to us. We had a hard time getting clear answers to our questions, though likely we were not asking the correct people, and wanted clarification regarding rooms. We had been there for 3 nights prior to us bringing this topic up, and mostly said anything at all because we were there for our honeymoon and wanting a king bed, etc. (we chose this hotel over others because of the accomodations we thought we were receiving). Because we felt the guides had alot of knowledge, we casually asked at dinner if we were in a suite, or confused. (Additionally we had no warm/hot water our entire stay, until the last night. We asked many times, and finally it was escalated to the owner who fixed the problem) I dont feel we were "complaining" as we are laid back people, with proper expectations of the type of lodge we were staying at. (it was lovely) One night at dinner, the owner approached us---seemingly insulted that we had commented at all---and was rather rude and defensive in his response to us. I was embarassed by the tone he used, in front of the entire dining area, and he made me feel terribly that I had spoke up at all. I understand that he prides himself on running a wonderful operation, which he does, but was taken aback with the way he delivered the message to me. I have never cried on a vacation before, but was embarrassed and upset when he left our table. We retired early that night, and said nothing else.
I do not think that this interaction should prevent any fellow travelers from choosing this hotel: it was worth it, and a wonderful experience. Our room, by the way, was lovely and we were not unhappy in any way----just a tad confused, and wanted to make sure we had paid for the right room. We were offered a price brake since in the owners mind "we complained", but were not looking for that to happen at all. It wasnt a money concern. We turned around and gave the "refunded" amount to the guides as a tip upon our departure: they deserves it.

Some Pros:
Tours---best I have ever experienced.
Guides and hard working staff
Lovely Breakfasts
Cave Burrito lunches were YUMMY after a hard days work.
The grounds were beautiful, night tour very fun, pool refreshing, and housekeeping staff was GREAT.

Cons:
Bad attitudes.

If you are looking to see the true jungle, and experience once in a lifetime moments: stay here. Would we go back?---I actually want to move to Belize, love the jungle and the people. I would not stay at Caves Branch again---but it would not be because the rooms werent lovely, and the tours werent amazing. It would onlly be because of the unfriendliness we received. Its unfortunate too, because we are most typically repeat customers everywhere we go.

Room Tip: We didnt stay in a treehouse---but saw them----if you can get one, DO IT, they are amazing. All roo...
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  • Stayed April 2012, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Jennifer B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pasadena, California
Level Contributor
10 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 10 April 2012

My husband and I stayed at Caves Branch for 4 nights at the end of March and had a fabulous trip. We stayed in a Jungle Suite, and while would have loved to stay in the more-expensive Treehouse, we were quite happy with our choice. The suite was far larger than we needed, and while I was concerned about not having air conditioning, the powerful ceiling fans and shade from the surrounding jungle kept us more than cool. I even had to turn off the ceiling fan at night because I was too chilly :)

If you're considering a stay here, it makes the most sense to choose a package, as the adventures are really what make the trip unique. (We did the Waterfall Expedition, ATM and Tikal. I wish we stayed one more night so we could do the Black Hole or Cave Tubing!). Because I read reviews that criticized the food, I had really low expectations, but I think I actually liked the food. There were always three courses when dining at the lodge (of course, lunches that the guides carry on their backs inside a cave during an all-day expedition won't be three courses). There were two kinds of salads at dinner and a soup. (All of the soups I tasted were delicious). The main course featured 3-4 kinds of meats and several different vegetables, and dessert offered at least two options. My husband and I also really enjoyed the communal dining style, as it gave us an opportunity to meet some really cool people and new friends. I know this is something common on cruises, but we haven't been on a cruise since we were kids, so this was an entirely new experience for us as adults, and it was great.

The service at Caves Branch is what made it stand out for me. Our flight was delayed, causing American Airlines to re-route us and arrive at Caves Branch a whole day later than we planned, causing us to miss one of the activities I was really excited about. I had read reviews here that Caves Branch was not flexible in allowing its guests to cancel any part of their trip or to move dates, but that couldn't have been further than the truth in my experience. They allowed us to either cancel a day, or let us move the whole trip by one day, which we happily accepted. (Our hotel at the beach and tropic air flights also allowed us to move things around), making a potentially sad start to our trip much better. My experience at Caves Branch is that if there is anything they can do to help you, they will. My guess is that if they're fully booked (as they may have been during trips that other reviewers have posted about), then they probably couldn't extend the same offer to others. The guides, bartenders and servers were all great, too. There were more kids at the resort than we expected, and when we asked to be on a non-kid tour, they split us up into a group without kids. Pretty much, these guys will do anything they can for you. They want you to be happy, and they want you to have a nice vacation. This made all the difference for us.

  • Stayed March 2012, travelled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank pnkyswr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Minneapolis
Level Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 9 April 2012

My husband, daughter and I spent three nights here on a 10 day trip to Belize.

The staff was courteous and helpful for the large part. Positive -- My husband forgot his passport at last place and staff was even willing to go get it for us for just gas. (We went and got it ourselves but they were wonderful!) Negative - morning checkout took a long time. I went there before 7 AM as we needed to get on road immediately after breakfast, and it took over 1/2 hour for computer to boot up!

The room was great! We knew going in not a "resort" - so no air or TV, wireless, etc -- and it lived up to our expectations! It was glorious!

The meals... well, it was not very native! I was disappointed! I am not a fan of buffets, and I hated the long, drawn out meals. I would have to say that if I was writing this based on the food, it would be below average. Too US like, too long drawn out, etc..

I also didn't like being "forced" to stop at a gift shop on the Tikal trip. I think the other guests on trip felt obligated to buy something there - but I didn't buy a thing! None of us wanted to stop there. The guide should ask and if no one wants to stop, then don't waste our time!

Great place for a destination trip and rooms and service were great!!!

  • Stayed April 2012, travelled with family
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank lahmcfan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Collegeville, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
2 reviews
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 8 April 2012

My 7 year old son and I just returned from Ian Anderson's Cave Branch Jungle Lodge and already are trying to figure out when we can go back. It was a great experience and really felt like we were staying with friends instead of guests at a lodge. The entire staff from Cheryl who took care of us like family to the guides who took time to talk to my little one and make him feel comfortable and prepared for the adventures. I am still surprised at how much my son was able to do. Even at 7, he was able to do the black hole drop and all the other activities we wanted. We were there 4 nights and were very sad to leave. I posted a video of my tree house on my Facebook to share with my friends because it was so amazing, I just had to share. We have been to other tree houses, including one in South Africa while on safari and nothing compares to the accommodations at Cave Branch. I also met a number of families with children who felt the same way as well as couples of all ages traveling without children....it really was a place for all ages. That is, all ages, so long as you are fit and willing to live with nature. The adventures are very physical (quite hard) but very rewarding. In addition, Ian himself took the time to meet with my son who sees him as a Jungle Superhero (those are his words) and I really appreciated that. Again, I cannot say more about the staff, including Kareem, Edgar, Carlos, and just too many to mention. The downside is that Ian has set the bar very high and my next adventure will be difficult to match! I give this trip 5 big stars...thanks Ian!

Room Tip: I stayed in tree house number 24 - Awesome! The canopy views are amazing but all other types of room...
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  • Stayed April 2012, travelled with family
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank thegypsyfamily
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Selma, Texas, United States
Level Contributor
54 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 30 March 2012

My son and I spent 3 nights in a canopy view tree house and 2 days hustling around the interior of Belize with Carlos and Pablo, our guides. It was awesome! We hit the Zoo, Xunantunich and Ziplines. Well worth the investment in my opinion.

The food could be a bit better at the lodge, but I'm not a buffet lover, so that's pretty standard. Also, if you're thinking of going here to have a big time partying, you might want to ensure it's the right time of year. We enjoyed NONE of the drunken party crowd that I've seemed elsewhere in an "all inclusive" environment. I was happy about that. Not an open bar sort of feel!

I loved everything else about the place and so did my son.

Room Tip: Canopy View Tree House was awesome, but there were LOTS of steps from the dining area up to the room...
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  • Stayed March 2012, travelled with family
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Allen H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge

Property: Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge
Address: Mile 41.5 Hummingbird Highway | P.O. Box 356, Belmopan, Belize
Phone Number:
Region: Belize > Cayo > Belmopan
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 11 Speciality Lodging in Belmopan
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge 3.5*
Number of rooms: 23
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Nestled in the lush rainforest of central Belize, Caves Branch Jungle Lodge offers visitors the opportunity to immerse in a culture of mid-range to extreme adventures. From the guest rooms that are open to the sights and sounds of the jungle, some of which are thatched in the ancient style of the Maya to our luxurious Treehouse suites, your experience should be something that must be experienced to be believed and once experienced, truly-never forgotten! ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Ian Anderson`s Caves Branch Jungle Hotel Belmopan
Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge Belize/Belmopan

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