Situated alongside the beautiful Mopan River, on a family ranch, this resort provides guests with a peaceful stay in a natural setting. We recommend this location as an alternative to the more expensive resorts in Belize. Just 5 1/2 miles west of San Ignacio, Clarissa Falls is a good base for your exploration of the Cayo District, including the Maya ruins of Xunantunich, Cahal Pech and Caracol. Tours can be arranged for you with local operators. You can also go swimming, tubing or canoeing on the river, take nature walks into the forest or just relax in a hammock with a cool limonada, watching for beautiful birds. A favorite outing of the guests is a visit to the Xunantunich ruins (also near the Mopan River), with a refreshing return trip by inner tube, floating back to Clarissa Falls!
While one of the objectives of Belize Report is to promote interest in the more elaborate and well-known tourist facilities and sights of Belize, there are many smaller, as yet undiscovered, areas that deserve special attention.
Clarissa Falls is just such a place. While life in this part of the world does change with the times, it changes somewhat more slowly and still clings to traditions and lifestyles that most modern folk can only dream about. This area began as, and still is, a working cattle ranch. We discovered this peaceful place on one of our several day trips around the Cayo District. Driving towards the Guatemalan border, about 5 1/2 miles west of San Ignacio, we saw a small sign that read “Clarissa Falls”. Looking beyond the sign, we could see one of the prettiest ranches in Belize; rolling hills of green pastures dotted with large trees and grazing cattle. Who could resist?
Upon arrival, we walked up a small hill to the restaurant and bar to say hello. The woman who greeted us said we would find “Chena” the owner and manager down by the river. We walked down to a small construction project that was underway and introduced ourselves to Azucena Galvez. She is a very friendly individual and we spent a good deal of time visiting with her, learning the history of the settlement.
Chena has spent all of her life here on the ranch that her father started. Before long, she realized she was living in a little paradise and decided to build some thatched cottages so she could share the place with a few tourists. While the furnishings are simple and sparse, the location and budget prices are very appealing. In addition to the cottages, those wishing to camp or park a trailer or motorhome are also welcome. Clarissa Falls has one of the best locations to accommodate this type of travelling.
As we were talking, Chena told us that the cowboys on the ranch were bringing over a few head of cattle from the pasture on the other side of the river. The only way to get them across was to coerce them into swimming while tied to a large dug-out canoe. She said that, as a small girl, she always helped in this operation because it took all the hands that were available. Even as she spoke, we heard an unbelievable noise coming from the opposite riverbank as a few cowboys had accumulated a small herd of Brahman/cross steers in preparation for crossing. To say that any one of these steers was cooperating would be the biggest understatement of the year. Imagine trying to get a 900 pound fighting steer that is tied to a dug-out canoe to swim across a swift river without getting drowned! We watched this endeavour for almost an hour as they brought 3 or 4 animals across, and decided we had had all the stress and excitement we could stand for one day. Hard to imagine the cowboys looking forward to another day of this!
After the river episode, we walked with Chena back up the hill to the open air restaurant/bar, and sat down to relax with a cold drink. Chena told us we were now sitting atop a Maya temple. There are several on the ranch and she selected this location because it was right alongside the river overlooking the falls. What a view!
We always recommend the restaurant here, even to those just passing by. They serve plenty of local dishes, mostly Mestizo style. Our personal favorites are the tacos and enchiladas, which cost US$0.40 and 0.75, respectively. They’re small, so order several! If you’re really hungry, try the Relleno Negro. This is a huge bowl of dark soup with boiled egg, meatballs, chicken and lots of onions, served with a basket-full of fresh, hand-made tortillas; a full meal for US$7.50. Don’t forget to have Chena’s famous, rum-soaked, tropical fruitcake for dessert…it’s as decadent as chocolate!
Update: Ever since our initial report on Clarissa Falls, Chena Galvez has been hard at work improving her tourist facility. Some new cottages have been built, bringing the total number of rooms to eleven. Eight rooms have a private bath, two of them being styled as suites. All rooms have electricity. Also available are rooms with detached, shared bath facilities and a hammock room (also called the bunkhouse), which is a screened in area for “no frills” accommodation. All bathrooms have hot and cold water.
This recent expansion enables the resort to accommodate small groups, in addition to the independent traveller. Improvements have also been made to the open-air bar and restaurant area to increase the comfort of the guests. Motorhomes and campers are welcome.
Power and water are provided, along with use of the bath facilities, and a soon to be completed barbecue area.
Rest assured, every time you visit Chena, she is working hard on something to make sure her guests get the most out of their stay. The rooms are simple, clean and comfortable, and the friendly hospitality will make you feel right at home. There are some resident pets that add to the ambience here. Have breakfast with Larry, the pet parrot, who drinks his coffee HOT only, thank you very much, and likes it with white bread. He is also the local weather man, crying “Agua, agua!” every time rain is approaching. A sheep named Prince wanders in and out of the restaurant at will, and two large geese, named Cupid and Venus, may follow you around.
The popularity of Clarissa Falls has grown tremendously…leading to a substantial increase in rates. Chena has made several improvements, however, and all rooms now have a private bath. She also has built a suite. Promotional rates are often available; for groups, and individuals staying at least 3 nights.