The Belizean jungle offers exotic indulgence for body and soul
As you enter the grounds, through a tunnel of palms, pulsating rhythms of music and wafts of incense pique your senses. Belize may seem like an unusual place to go for rejuvenation of body and spirit, but Maruba offers a distinctive alternative to your local health club.
Here, the adventurous nature of the jungle provides the backdrop for the African theme of Maruba Resort; dense vegetation surrounding the cabañas, pool, and walkways, and omnipresent hibiscus flowers, accentuate its provocative nature. Honeymooners, the overworked, and neglected bodies everywhere, will enjoy this exotic, hedonistic atmosphere.
Maruba is located about 40 miles north of Belize City on the Old Northern Highway, seemingly in “the middle of nowhere,” and is very close to the Maya ruins of Altun Ha. Built about 16 years ago, it is now managed by Nicky Nicholson, the owners’ son. The quietly congenial staff of friendly locals, contributes to the hushed, personal nature of this resort. As you sip your welcome cocktail of rum punch, you can pore over the tempting list of health and rejuvenation treatments available.
Consider a full body massage, with wonderfully scented aromatherapy oils, a facial, or maybe a Mood Mud Pack (your entire body painted with different colors of special mud blends), each with its own invigorating qualities. Refreshing dips in the swimming pool, and soaking in the warm, Japanese mineral bath will be in order, as well. The treatment rooms are located about a hundred yards down the garden path, isolated from the activity hub of the resort. Your “treatment” begins the moment you enter the large, candlelit room, a warm breeze flowing through the softly draped windows. Quiet mood music plays serenely, accompanied by the songbirds in the trees outdoors.
The reception area and dining room are situated under a large, round, thatched palapa, decorated in dark jungle-y colors and tropical flowers. The dining tables are covered with palmetto leaves and hibiscus, which provide an attractive backdrop to the well-prepared, delicious jungle cuisine. Dinner this night consists of lobster paté in a phyllo basket, spinach salad with warm vinaigrette, and a choice of chicken, snapper or lamb for the main course, accompanied by potatoes and squash. The chocolate cake with chocolate-rum sauce dessert was not such a healthy choice, but we enjoyed it just the same. The breakfast menu offers fresh fruit, and fresh juices, delicious omelettes, French toast, pancakes, and more. At lunchtime, the open menu features a variety of exotic specialities, along with choices such as grilled fish, kabobs, soups, salads and sandwiches.
The lodging offered ranges from regular rooms to junior suites, and a penthouse suite; a large, third floor, room with a nice living area and a great view over the surrounding jungle wilderness. Most of the buildings are single-storey, thatched structures, with multiple units under one roof. All the bedrooms have air-conditioners. Cabaña 12, (pictured, left) a single unit structure, is often used for honeymooners, as well as the “Chapel/Honeymoon Suite;” all suitably romantic and seductive.
As we entered our suite, we were tantalized by strains of Enya echoing from the CD player, and the lushness of the rooms, heavily adorned with primitive African curios, animal print fabrics, and a multitude of pillows on the bed. The theme carries into the private bathrooms, each uniquely designed, with tile “mosaics” on the walls and floors, thick towels, and Turkish cotton robes.
Maruba has a very small chapel in the gardens, with an unusual “stained-glass” wall made of colored bottles, which provides a distinctive setting for weddings. There is also a thatch-covered boat, often used for ceremonies. Nicky says that weddings done here tend to be very small, private affairs. The staff will make as many, or as few, arrangements as you’d like; flowers, preacher, reception, and more.
At the resort itself, you can take horseback riding trips, and guided jungle walks…Perfect for working up a good sweat, after which you can treat yourself to the cooling Mood Mud Pack. Altun Ha ruins are easily accessible as a half-day tour, and a nearby jungle river provides for a boat or canoe adventure. The remainder of the tours offered, such as diving and fishing are farther from the resort and take up most of a day. While everything I’ve ever read about Maruba mentions the mosquitoes, indeed the resort “mascot” is the mosquito, I have to say that I did not suffer a single insect bite during my stay, and that is a rarity for me; and I have mosquito “groupies” that find me anywhere I go. The staff does take measures to control them around the buildings.I would recommend at least two to three days here, focusing primarily on the luxurious treatments and total relaxation. Trying to use this as a base for exploring outlying locations would require a lot of travel time, which wouldn’t allow for much rest. In fact, a visit to Maruba would be the ultimate way to finish off your Belizean adventure tour, making you perfectly refreshed and ready to go back to the real world.