Belize and the beach. They just go together, like bees and honey, like cheese and wine, like me and Diet Coke. And then there’s Ka’ana Resort.
Ka’ana Resort is located outside San Igancio, a two hour drive from the closest coast — about as far as you can be from the ocean in Belize without backing into Guatemala. If travelers are going to include a jungle stop in their Belize itinerary, it’s most likely to be right in this region. The Cayo District packs an impressive punch of Mayan ruins, winding cave systems, lush jungle, and lodging at all budget levels.
Our first family trip to Belize twelve years ago also included a stay in San Ignacio; my first introduction to a tropical rainforest. I had very special memories of this place, and I was thrilled to return to the spot where my obsession with all things lush and lowland began.
San Ignacio was our second stop in Belize, after Hopkins. Our two home bases had distinctly different feels. Where Hopkins Bay Resort had been approachable and charming, Ka’ana Resort was chic and sophisticated. While we saw families at both properties, Ka’ana definitely had a more grown-up vibe. It’s a resort that would leave any designer swooning! We all agreed we were glad we’d gone to the beach first — Ka’ana would have been an impossible act to follow.
While two-bedroom suites similar to where we stayed in Hopkins Bay are available at Ka’ana, they were previously booked, and so our group of four split into two separate casitas. Considering the intimate size of this boutique property, it was no big deal.
One of the most impressive things I learned about Ka’ana is that every piece of art and furniture on the grounds was produced within a forty mile radius of the hotel. Talk about local pride.
Right down to the bathroom, I loved the focus on regional, all-natural materials and the effort to go plastic-free. Even the shampoo and conditioner were refilled each day into hand-carved little pots.
Whereas in Hopkins we had eaten as many times off property as we did on, we literally ate every single meal at Ka’ana. We couldn’t be bothered to take a cab into town when we loved the onsite La Ceiba restaurant as much as we did! In keeping with the local focus, much of the restaurant’s ingredients are sourced from the hotel’s onsite organic garden.
The hotel serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we found that at lunch we literally had the dining room to ourselves. Most guests spend their days out on private excursions exploring all Belize has to offer, which means you’ll have peace, quiet and privacy if you decide to linger back for a day.
The dining room, like the rest of the property, left me swooning. And hey — so did the company.
Like at Hopkins Bay Resort, our most unique and memorable dining experience was a hands-on one. When we first toured the property on arrival, we noticed a small traditional kitchen set on a second story balcony, like a little treehouse of deliciousness. Immediately I recalled reading raving reviews of the hotel’s onsite Mayan Cooking Class, and was thrilled we’d signed up.
The evening of our class, we strolled over the the treehouse kitchen and met with a Mayan mother and daughter duo from the nearby village. They were delighted to hear we were also a mother daughter (and niece!) group, and we chatted about everything from their kids and grandkids to our day jobs to their favorite dishes to what we thought of Belize. All the while they were cranking out local treat like corn tortillas, tamales, and caldo, pausing often to explain the process and let us get in on the fun. There was a lot of laughter all around.
I may not be much of a cook — I suppose that’s an understatement — but I’m absolutely enamored with this concept. I love that we were so intimately introduced to an important part of the local culture, I love that we had such an authentic and lovely interaction with a local family, and I love that we loved the food. While we were really enthusiastic about our similar experience in Hopkins, we weren’t crazy about the local cuisine. Here, we ate so much we pretty much rolled ourselves out of that kitchen.
iPhone, please up your low-light photo quality game!
Of course, we were never too full for a nightcap in the bar, where there was a menu of regional ingredient-infused cocktails awaiting, along with an array of board games for good ‘ol fashioned evening entertainment.
We were so smitten with Ka’ana that we actually cancelled one of our activities so we could just spend a whole day hanging out there. Three nights meant we only had two full days in the area. One was taken up by an almost dreamlike excursion to the Mayan ruin of Xunantunich (post coming soon!), and for the other we’d planned to take a local ceramics class. But once we arrived, we were weary of being in the car and decided to scrap the ceramics in order to spend a full day soaking up all Ka’ana had to offer.
Like its gorgeous yoga platform. Group classes are offered a few times a week, but we weren’t there for one of them. Not a problem, as we’d brought our own! My cousin Kirsten is a freshly-certified yoga instructor, and we couldn’t wait for her to show us her moves.
After, I snapped a few photos for Kirsten’s future teaching website. What a gorgeous setting to practice in!
The rest of our “day off” was spent enjoying the pool and rotating through the spa for the massages my mom generously and spontaneously treated us to (she knows the way to this girl’s heart!). The spa menu featured intriguing regional treatments like a Mayan Abdominal Massage, though we went for the more traditional hot stone rub down.
The incredibly attentive service at this hotel really highlighted the heart of Belizean hospitality. Ka’ana blends big resort amenities with a small boutique feel, from the hand-written welcome notes that awaited us upon arrival to the adorable hand-made treats left in our rooms each evening.
The service was so fantastic we actually joked that they must have been bugging our room, as a smiling member of the staff always seemed to appear with whatever we needed, just as the thought we’d needed it began to percolate in our minds. Finished our impromptu yoga class? Our favorite bartender was waiting with a fresh juice and a towel. En route to our massage? A receptionist passed and wished us a relaxing treatment. Everyone we encountered was quick with a smile and eager to hear if we were enjoying their country — and they beamed with pride when we reported nothing but love.
Literally our only suggestion upon departure was that the staff wear name tags. The entire team was so quick to greet us by name, we were embarrassed when we couldn’t recall theirs!
Three nights barely scratched the surface of what this region, and what this resort, has to offer. Caving, tubing, ziplining, hiking, ceramic making… we could have stayed a week! Thanks to the lush grounds and the warm staff, Ka’ana Resort really felt like a home away from home. It fit my design aesthetic perfectly and now sits firmly on the list of my favorites around the world.
But once again, the best part of Belize was spending time with this crew of blondes.
Stay tuned for our Mayan ruin adventures!
Missed a post? Read all my Belize coverage here! Many thanks to Ka’ana Resort for hosting us and making our family trip so special. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.