This Hidden Belize Resort Sits In a 7,200-acre Nature Reserve — With Waterfall Hikes, Birdwatching, and More

What was once a family home has been turned into an opulent jungle retreat.

<p>Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure</p>

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Set deep in the rolling hills of Belize’s Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is Hidden Valley Wilderness Lodge. Once used as a logging residence before the reserve's creation in 1944, it was purchased by locals and occupied as a family home.

Today, Hidden Valley spans 7,200 sprawling acres and welcomes guests into a genuinely unique natural oasis, home to dozens of hiking trails, countless waterfalls, and several natural pools, all available to lodge guests. Hidden Valley takes a particular interest in preserving not only the local flora and fauna but also the indigenous culture of the surrounding land, working with local Mayan community members and a famous local chef to incorporate native customs, ingredients, and practices into nearly every aspect of the resort.

I arrived at Hidden Valley Wilderness Lodge at night, unaware of the breathtaking landscape surrounding me — but the warm welcome made up for that. As one staff member opened my car door and another grabbed my luggage, I was handed a delicious welcome drink made of rum and lemongrass before being escorted into the main building, once the home of the Roe family.

The frozen-in-time living room now functions as a lounge and library for guests, fully equipped with a wood-burning fireplace. The house wraps around to other updated rooms where guests can find spaces like the cafe, front desk, and restaurant. What was once the family's backyard is now home to the pool, a private event space, and a specialty restaurant. Personal touches are everywhere that remind you of the family and give the lodge a cozy ambiance.

Hidden Valley Wilderness Lodge

  • The lodge has an upscale, cozy atmosphere that feels like a home away from home.

  • Each room is unique, but all offer luxury amenities and private comfort.

  • A multitude of activities on-site means guests can build their own adventure.

  • The sustainability efforts are truly ambitious and admirable; the resort pays respects to the green space that the resort calls home.

I spent my days hiking through the vast forest to swim beneath a waterfall, lounging by the pool, and simply observing a bird feeder, set up to attract one of the more than 600 species that live nearby. During the evening, I enjoyed a special dinner at their outdoor restaurant and took part in a traditional Mayan blessing, then later cozied up to a good book by the fireplace in my suite. At Hidden Valley Wilderness Lodge, I found that learning and relaxing are not mutually exclusive, and cozy and luxury go hand in hand, making Hidden Valley a getaway unlike any other.

<p>Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure</p>

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

The Rooms

There are several types of accommodations available at Hidden Valley. While each offers the same rustic luxury and high-end amenities, they all have a unique layout, location, and features. Some suites are adults-only, and others have family-style dining areas. Some have views, while others have private patios.

I stayed in the Fire Tower, reminiscent of the towers used to watch for impending forest fires. While my room sat at the top of four flights of stairs, I was provided a nearly 360-degree view of the Pine Ridge Forest, making it arguably the absolute best spot for sunrise and sunsets in the whole resort. My bed faced the floor-to-ceiling windows that opened up onto a balcony. Each morning, I sat on the patio with a cup of coffee and watched the fog roll over the trees as the sun rose.

My room also included a kitchenette with a coffee bar stocked with beans sourced from nearby farms and freshly made cookies. The bathroom had a massive stand-alone tub and a rainfall shower with soaps made by local artisans that smelled woodsy and decadent. In the corner of the bedroom was a small wood-burning fireplace that staff would set up for me at night, along with the turndown service.

Other accommodations available include Estate Cottages, which have private patios, hammocks, and outdoor showers, and the Valley View Villas, which can hold up to four people and include dining areas and a coffee valet.

<p>Courtesy of Hidden Valley Wilderness Lodge</p>

Courtesy of Hidden Valley Wilderness Lodge

Food and Drink

The culinary team at Hidden Valley is led by native celebrity chef Sean Kuylen, who has made a name for himself by embracing traditional Belizean cuisine. At Hidden Valley, Kuylen has put an emphasis on using indigenous ingredients in traditional ways that celebrate the local culture, like using a traditional fogon, an underground oven, to cook meats.

Hidden Valley's two restaurants focus on "nature-based conscious cuisine," a concept taken very seriously by the property, which sources all ingredients from within a 15-mile radius.

Sap is an indoor restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It features a casual yet delicious menu, with items like fish tacos, burgers, and fresh salads. Meanwhile, Slate is located on the outdoor patio with an open kitchen and is currently only open for service on Friday, Saturday, Sunday lunch, and special events. Slate provides an elevated experience with a curated and changing menu.

<p>Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure</p>

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Activities and Amenities

With more than 7,000 acres on the property alone, there is much to explore in the Pine Mountain Forest Reserve. Hiking trails abound, with even more outside the resort's boundaries. Feel free to explore on your own without fear of getting lost — Hidden Valley provides walkie-talkies in case you need assistance while out — and transportation can be provided to trailheads farther away.

However, guided hikes and tours are also available, such as a property tour with a waterfall picnic, a birding tour, and a guided flora and fauna tour — or you can take advantage of night walks, which give guests a great chance at spotting unusual wildlife. Guests have also booked special events along these trails, like weddings at a waterfall with a catered picnic or engagement shoots in the mountains. If you have a special moment to celebrate, Hidden Valley Wilderness Lodge can make it happen.

On days you’re feeling less adventurous, you can relax by the pool (which is heated at night) and the hot tub. Chocolate-making and cooking classes are available in Slate’s outdoor kitchen, complete with authentic fogon. At night, guests can request a fireplace turn-down service where staff will bring supplies and start a cozy fire in your in-room fireplace. Or upgrade to the bonfire and s'mores package, where you'll be set up with a bonfire and a basket full of s'mores supplies outside your villa.

If you’re interested in exploring off-property, there are even more options: Hidden Valley can arrange everything from a Caracol ruin tour to a Mayan cooking class.

<p>Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure</p>

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Family-Friendly Offerings

Several of the on-site hikes are easy, and suitable for all ages and abilities. The resort also offers a Kids Club with half-day excursions that include jungle ecology lessons and wildlife spotting.

<p>Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure</p>

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Accessibility and Sustainability

Sustainability is a major focus of Hidden Valley Wilderness Lodge. Currently, the lodge generates 90 percent of its electricity from solar power, and they’re working on covering that last 10 percent. Hidden Valley has also eliminated single-use plastics on site and, as previously mentioned, sources almost all kitchen ingredients within a 15-mile radius.

While Hidden Valley doesn’t currently have any ADA-compliant accommodations, it plans to build a room for mobility-impaired guests and aims to open it before the end of 2024.

<p>Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure</p>

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure


The Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and Hidden Valley Wilderness Lodge are about two hours from the Belize City airport. Renting a car to drive to the resort is the easiest option, but it comes with one caveat. Until recently, only a dirt road through the wilderness led to the Pine Ridge Forest. However, in the last few years, the Belize government has been working on a paved road to give visitors a more direct route. Now, the paved road gets visitors about halfway before returning to a dirt road, making a four-wheel drive vehicle recommended. The paved section of the road has already seen a jump in hotels and other businesses as the area draws many tourists, so visiting the non-paved part while you can promises a peaceful and more personal experience. 

If driving isn’t for you, the lodge can arrange airport pickups with a personal driver and private transfers from smaller nearby airplanes and helicopter landing pads.

How to Get The Best Value

As a family-owned boutique lodge, Hidden Valley isn't part of a major rewards program or alliance. However, the hotel does offer guaranteed best rates for direct bookings, and the helpful and responsive sales team will work with you to get the best deal and package for your specific trip.

For more Travel & Leisure news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Travel & Leisure.