Warning: this is going to be a very long review. But the whole experience with the Orchid Garden cannot be summarized in a few lines only. Hope you share my enthusiasm and my love for the Orchid Garden and Belize!
From the moment we first contacted the Orchid Garden to book to the moment we left, we had a wonderful experience with everything. Jason was extremely helpful and did everything to meet our needs and desires when we planned and booked our trip. We sent numerous emails with questions, and every time, he responded very promptly. From that moment, we knew we would have a wonderful time with them.
When we arrived at the airport, Alvaro was there waiting for us. He is such a lovely man. While he drove us to the Orchid Garden, he talked about the country, answered all our questions and offered us to stop at a grocery store in case we needed anything. When we got to the Orchid Garden, we were warmly welcomed by Lucretia, who gave us a cold glass of water and gave us a quick tour of the site. Our room was really modest and simple, but really big and clean. The site is well maintained, in a very environmentally-friendly fashion, which make this place even better. No pesticides and no fake and artificial landscaping. Everything is natural and intact. Bug spray is definitely a must and pants and long sleeves are recommended for the night jungle walk. We did feel really safe there as well. No worries about steeling or anything.
The meals were really good. I am vegetarian and picky but I always liked what I ate. Christine is also vegetarian - so she was really attentive to my needs, likes and dislikes. Be prepared to eat: the portions are huge!! They always serve soup, main course with vegetables and/or rice and dessert. Every morning, they would tell us what they were serving for dinner and asked us if it was ok. How often are you treated this way when you travel? All the lunch boxes provided during the tours were great as well. I have to add that I always get really sick when I travel in Central America, but this time, I did not even have one tiny little cramp. Christine explained to us what they do to clean fruits and vegetables and I don't think it can be any safer and well done! The orange juice served for breakfast was always fresh and delicious and oh my God, what can I say about the homemade ice tea they prepare for dinner? Wow, the best I have ever had. Especially the one made with hibiscus flowers from their garden. Wow. The hotel may not be a typical 5 stars luxury resort in the typical Caribbean destinations (which are typically boring, all look alike and are invaded by hundreds of tourists), but trust me, this is it. This is 5 stars service AND a 5 stars experience, which you will never get in the big resorts. We felt like we were coming back home when we came back to the Orchid Garden after going to Tikal! Leaving at the end of the trip was sad as we felt like we were leaving good friends, if not family.
We did most of the tours they offer: ATM, cave tubing, zip lining, Lamanai, Tikal, Flores, Hanging bridges and San Pedro. ATM was the experience of a lifetime. Martin, our tour guide there, was exceptional. There are no words to describe this experience. You just have to live it to understand. We also enjoyed Lamanai, with Alfredo from the Orchid Garden who accompanied us in the tour. He is really knowledgeable and always had answers to all our questions about Mayans. We really liked Tikal and the hotel they booked for us. Great service and food there as well. Flores is beautiful and well worth the visit. We did not enjoy as much the hanging bridges though. We would have rather spent more time in Flores. San Pedro was just as wonderful, and snorkelling at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the Shark Alley was a wonderful experience. The hotel they booked for us (Banana Beach) was totally fine- but be prepared to walk as it's at least a 20 minutes walk to heart of San Pedro. However, a pleasant walk on the beach, where everybody is nice and friendly. Again, you will feel like home there. We rented a bike for a day to visit as much of the island as we could. You can rent them at the hotel and it’s really worth the price. When we came back to the mainland from the taxi boat, Pedro was there waiting for us to take us to the airport.
All in all, this was definitely our best travel experience in Central America (and we did visit most of the countries in C.A.). We met very nice couples when we were there, we enjoyed going on tours and eating our meals with. Every Belizeans we talked to were the friendliest and warmest people we have ever met while travelling. We never felt like we were a money opportunity for them, but we always felt like human beings. Everyone working at the hotel was wonderful: Christine, Alvaro and his daughters, Alfredo and Pedro. We typically don’t go back to the same destination or hotel twice, as there are so many places to discover in the world. However, we know for a fact that we will go back to Belize and to the Orchid Garden. This says it all. Thank you Christine/Jason and to all the Orchid Garden employees for an amazing stay. For those of you going there shortly, you are very lucky and you will have a wonderful time there. No need to worry about anything. Enjoy!