The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve of Belize is a perfect example of the diversity this country offers. With its reddish soil, tall pine trees sweeping the sky, and somewhat drier atmosphere, this region presents a sharp contrast to the dense jungle by which it is surrounded. In the heart of this locale rests Five Sisters Lodge, perched high atop the edge of a steep valley, overlooking the Five Sisters falls which cascade over the rocks far below. (The falls are so named because there are five of them, side by side.) With wonderful vistas of the falls, and over the surrounding hills, this lodge invites you to sit back, relax, and be lured into tranquility by the sound of cascading water.
Since Five Sisters Lodge opened in 1995, it has been a popular escape for ecotourists and nature lovers. Being situated on ten acres of privately titled land in the midst of the national reserve, you can truly get away from it all here. The lodge is about a one hour drive from San Ignacio, on the Caracol road, just a few miles beyond the gate at the reserve’s entrance. The location is ideal for anyone interested in exploring the region, including Caracol, the ruins of Belize’s largest Maya city, only a 1-1/2 hour drive from the lodge. You will also enjoy lounging in your hammock, or sitting on the deck enjoying the view. The outgoing and efficient staff works well under the guidance of William Chun, the pleasant, amiable manager. He will see to all your needs, and ensure that your accommodation is comfortable.
The lodge, owned by Belizean Carlos Popper, consists of 14 cabañas of varied size, each opening onto screened verandas with wonderful views, and a hammock. All cabanas are well screened, and mosquito netting is provided over the beds, although we didn’t find it necessary to use it. The attractive, sparkling clean rooms have hardwood floors, and the locally crafted furnishings are basic, but adequate.
Five Sisters has a unique, wood-burning boiler system to heat its water. Our showers were not necessarily hot, but warm enough to be comfortable. A group of economy rooms, with shared baths, is located on the ground floor beneath the central building which houses the bar, restaurant and lounge area. The deck around this building permits you to enjoy your drinks and meals while taking in the pristine beauty of your surroundings. Guests may dine indoors or out. The kitchen serves plenty of tasty, local cuisine, and homemade bread.
The natural vegetation has been supplemented nicely with a wide variety of colorful, tropical plants, and this, combined with neat pathways, makes for an attractive setting under the pines. The treetops are alive with bird activity, and bird watchers will enjoy adding species unique to this habitat, such as the Acorn Woodpecker, to their sightings list. You’ll also see some of the Belizean regulars; orioles, oropendolas, and kites. Guests will likely encounter wildlife in the forest, as well. As we walked to our cabana after dinner, we saw two gray foxes cavorting in the glow of a lamppost along the path, leaping high in the air, to catch bugs that swooped through the light.
William can arrange any of a wide variety of tours available here, including: Caracol, Rio Frio Cave, Rio On Pools, Pacbitun ruins, 1000 Foot Falls, and a butterfly farm. One of the most popular full-day trips is a Mountain Pine Ridge tour on horseback; guests are driven to a nearby ranch where they saddle up, and proceed to visit Pacbitun, Big Rock Falls, have lunch and a swim, and ride back to the lodge. Guests will also enjoy swimming in the small pools at the base of the falls, where there is a sandy beach, and a couple of thatched palapas providing shade. Everyone should go down to the falls at least once, but be prepared for the steep return trip up the steps! There is a nature trail on the property with numerous medicinal plants and trees identified. Mountain bikes are available, too.
Trips to the other, well-known Cayo District sights, such as Barton Creek Cave, Xunantunich and Cahal Pech ruins, San Ignacio Town and the Herbal Medicine Trail are also available, as is a trip to Tikal, Guatemala. One should bear in mind, however, that these excursions require retracing the one hour, bumpy drive back to the Western Highway.
The overall effect of Five Sisters Lodge is that of a mountain cabin retreat, and most guests (many of them return customers) stay for four to seven nights. It offers a true Belizean experience with genuine local hospitality. An assortment of packages are also offered, for three to five nights; prices include everything except bar charges. However, a large percentage of Five Sisters’ guests are self-drivers, and the area is easy to explore on one’s own. Don’t forget to schedule time to relax and enjoy the beauty. The peaceful sound of the falls will lull you to sleep, and stay with you after you leave.