“Ecology and archaeology come together in this remote jungle lodge with its own Maya ruin on beautiful Lake Petexbatun”
It's actually a peninsula rather than an island, its neck scattered with impressive fortifications from the Petexbatun Maya's last stand 1,300 years ago. The only 'modern' buildings are the 6 stilted bungalows of this eco-lodge, built of local thatch and reclaimed mahogany, plus a central lobby with a restaurant and a bar. Wonderful walkways weave through pristine jungle, every step resounding to the screech of noisy parrots and howler monkeys. Such is their passion for Maya conservation that owners Juan Carlos and Mynor Pinto work for free, investing proceeds in local communities.
- You have a nature sanctuary with jungle wildlife on your doorstep (toucans, monkeys, crocodiles) and fabulous bird-watching
- Within easy reach of fascinating and rarely visited Maya sites
- There's great fishing, lovely canoeing and an 'underwater garden' for snorkellers
- Absolute tranquility - the cabanas are set hundreds of feet from each other
- A water treatment plant, locally generated electricity and propane gas range minimise the ecological impact
- It's definitely off the beaten track, so getting here requires effort and expense
- It's relatively costly as everything has to be imported by boat
- The staff only speak Spanish but are very helpful and friendly
- It's not for those uncomfortable with nocturnal noises and creepy crawlies (we saw a boa slithering past our bungalow)
- The food is nicely presented but patchy; the drinks list is understandably limited
- There's nothing to do but sleep after the generator goes off at 9pm
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Jungle Lodge
- All meals included
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
Hidden apart from each other in the forest and reached by stone paths and wooden walkways, the 6 square bungalows are constructed of fallen hard timber. They're raised on stilts to limit wildlife intrusion, with traditional arched and palm-thatched roofs overhead. All have views of the lake, and glimpses of morning sunlight. There's a small deck with a mahogany table and chairs, and a delightful coatstand, all handcrafted from sustainable sources. The entire bungalow is shrouded in insect screens - the mesh forms the windows and an internal ceiling - which is very effective in preventing insects from invading your territory.
The beds (a kingsize double plus 2-3 singles, or a second double) are large and simply dressed with firm mattresses. Basic bedside tables have candles and oil lamps for when the generator is turned off. A ceiling fan keeps you cool and the mesh windows allow breezes to flow through. Cleverly designed wardrobes and shelves provide plentiful storage. The toilet and hot water shower are ensuite and accessed through saloon-style swing doors. White fluffy towels, flannels, water and basic toiletries are provided, and there's a dressing table and basin opposite the main bed.
- Extra beds
- Safe box
Prices are full-board, but don't expect haute cuisine: all the provisions have to come in by boat, which probably accounts for the patchy nature of the food we experienced. But it's more than adequate, and greatly enhanced by the beautiful surroundings: hummingbirds dart overhead and cormorants fly past in regular formations. Portions were very generous, service was attentive and friendly - it's amazing how far gestures can get you! - and the table was beautifully presented with a different napkin arrangement for each meal.
Some dinner dishes were truly delicious, such as the signature cucumber gazpacho and the fresh fish cooked in white wine and herbs; others were more pedestrian (but healthy) home cooking, like stir-fried beef with rice, or chicken pasta with steamed vegetables. Puddings were small treats such as chocolate mousse or fruit salad.
Breakfasts include lovely pancakes with honey and fruit, plus homemade bread, Guatemalan coffee and fruit juice.
Lunchboxes can be easily made up for excursions, in lieu of lunch at the lodge.
The central lobby is open on all sides, with a dining area facing the lake, and a kitchen and bar at the back. It has an earthenware tiled floor, mahogany tables and alarmingly rickety wicker chairs.
The bar list was a little limited but we weren't here for gastronomic delights so didn't mind. Beside the bar are some communal hammocks, a sofa and a rocking chair - perfect for a post-prandial snooze overlooking the lake. Stools are made of tree trunks and even the waste paper bin is a hollowed out stump.
- All meals included
- Vegetarian menu
- Curl up in the hammock with a good book
- Explore the 'jungle island' along marked trails amongst enormous ceiba trees and a variety of tropical plants
- Spot birds on the lake and in the forest - herons, cormorants, egrets, ducks, kingfishers, parrots, toucans; you should make sure you go on a sunset cruise
- The lodge can arrange English-speaking birdwatching and archaeological guides - see Rates
- Rent a small canoe to explore on your own - potter around the lake and get much closer to birds than you would with the noise of an outboard engine
- Fishing is excellent, with plentiful snook and bass
- Swim from the jetty (though it's a bit muddy)
- As waters recede through the dry season (November-April), you can snorkel at El Pucté Underwater Gardens, a crystal clear river, tributary to La Pasión, where flowers blossom under water
- Aguateca, rediscovered in 1957 and still wonderfully empty and atmospheric. Perched on a high defensive ridge, it features the only known Maya bridge, which crosses a natural chasm. The guards will enthusiastically take you on an extensive tour - especially informative if your Spanish is good
- Dos Pilas, also unreconstructed and buried in the jungle. Set up by a renegade group from Tikal, the city was finally abandoned in the 9th century. Today it's renowned for amazing stelae (carved stone pillars) and hieroglyphic stairways
- Ceibal, is an hour north of Sayaxché by boat, and so best visited at the beginning or end of your stay. Its ruins are partially restored in a mix of untamed jungle and open plazas, with famous carvings and a stone observation platform
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Plantlife / flora
- Traditional cultures
Children are welcome, although this isn't an ideal environment for toddlers and babies and there are no facilities or provisions made for them. If they're adventurous kids will love the dense jungle and its myriad noises. There's a family villa which can sleep up to 5 in comfort.
Family friendly accommodation:
Extra Beds Available, Family Rooms