In this overwhelmingly rural area of Western Belize, La Casa del Caballo Blanco offered comfortable modern accommodations with easy access to the area’s high concentration of natural and archeological riches, and provided a unique opportunity to experience the authentic atmosphere of a small Belizean community.

Overall Impression Casa del Caballo Blanco was an intimate retreat on the outskirts of San Ignacio, in the Cayo District of western Belize. Perched on a scenic hilltop, it offered a panoramic view of the rolling hills on the northern bank of the Mopan River valley and the mountains of Guatemala to the west. The property was a birdwatcher’s delight. Flocks of red-lored parrots frequently flew overhead and hummingbirds hovered by the blooming shrubs around the grounds. The air echoed with bird calls from dawn until late in the night. The entrance to the recently completed Tz’unuun birding trail was a five-minute walk from the guest cabanas down a gently sloping meadow. This private 1.7 mile (2.5 kilometers) hiking trail meandered through a recently reforested area that was part of the 15 acre (60,000 square meters) habitat restoration project in progress on the property during my visit.

The lodge was located within a few miles of several noted Maya archeological sites, including Xunantunich and El Pilar. In addition to its convenient location and casually comfortable accommodations, what made Casa del Caballo Blanco a memorable destination was its exceptional hospitality. The staff were so genuinely welcoming that I immediately felt like a long time friend rather than a guest. They offered me the opportunity to participate in the everyday life of the lodge. As soon as I expressed my interest in local cuisine to Gracie Obando, the cheerful and knowledgeable head cook, she invited me to tag along to the large open air food market in nearby San Ignacio, where she carefully handpicked the provisions for our meals. I subsequently spent a most enjoyable afternoon in her kitchen, while she patiently initiated me to making bolos (a local version of tamales ).

I was also able to accompany a member of the staff as he delivered palm fronds trimmed off the property’s trees to a neighbor, Rennatto Fruitas, for fuel to cure the banana leaves used in traditional Mayan cooking. Although only a few miles away, the partially off-road trip took us deep into the forest to the remote clearing where Rennatto lived and worked. I was warmly welcomed by this remarkable elderly Mestizo gentleman, who demonstrated the curing process for me before taking me on a tour of his rainforest domain. He introduced me to a wide variety of local trees, from the original Maya cocoa, pomegranate and star fruit to several unusual citrus trees, explaining their many properties and uses; and invited me to sample their fruits. Meanwhile, the abundance of fruit attracted a variety of birds and butterflies, making the visit an expecially rewarding bird-watching experience.

In this overwhelmingly rural area of Western Belize, La Casa del Caballo Blanco offered comfortable modern accommodations with easy access to the area’s high concentration of natural and archeological riches, and provided a unique opportunity to experience the authentic atmosphere of a small Belizean community.

Class Of Accommodation Eco-friendly lodge

Communications Satellite internet connection was available in La Sala from early morning until late evening. Cellular phone service was fully operational in the area.

Handicapped Access No 

Length Of Stay Five nights

Location Casa del Caballo Blanco was located one mile west of San Ignacio, the capital of the Cayo District of western Belize, near the Guatemalan border.

Manager Jodi E. Benté

Owners Vance, Jodi and Paige Benté

Power The entire lodge was on the electrical power grid and ran on 120 volts with U.S. plugs.

Size The lodge consisted of six guest rooms that could accommodate a maximum of 18 guests. The complex was situated on a 23 acre (93,000 square meters) private property. It employed a permanent staff of seven.

Transportation The lodge could be reached by air through Belize City. From there it was a 65 mile (105 kilometers) drive on the Western Highway. Pick-up at the airport and transportation could be arranged by the lodge.

Year Open-Renovated Casa del Caballo Blanco was a newly built facility that began receiving guests in early 2006.

Common Areas The common areas included two separate structures: the hacienda-style main building housed the reception office and La Sala,the main common room of the lodge; and the kitchen and dining room, a short paved walkway away across the lawn. Both buildings featured meticulously crafted woodwork and tiled floors reminiscent of the classic hacienda style, and handsome mahogany furniture produced by local artisans. Bright Guatemalan textile wall-hangings completed the décor.

La Sala consisted of two distinct areas separated by a wooden railing. The 12 x 18 foot (3.5 x 5.5 meters) lower level formed a foyer. A large armoire occupied the back wall, while a credenza table was centered against the end wall. A lamp table and four wooden armchairs completed the arrangement. One step above the foyer, the room was furnished library style, with six rectangular tables each surrounded by four wooden chairs. It was a convenient place to read or write, or connect a laptop to the wireless internet service available from early morning to late evening. La Sala opened onto a tiled terrace overlooking the Tz’unuun trail and the hills north of the Mopan River. The dining room could comfortably accommodate up to thirty guests at tables for four or six that could also be joined together for a long, family-style setting.

Bathroom A large shower stall tiled in dark green ceramic occupied the back of the 48 square foot (4.5 square meters) private bath. Two wooden wall-hung racks held an ample supply of white cotton bath towels. Bathroom fixtures included a flush toilet, a sink set in a tiled counter topped with a wooden shelf and a mirror. Hot and cold running water was available.

Room A row of three stucco and thatched cabanas housed the six, semi-detached guest casitas, all named after local birds. My casita , the forked-tailed fly-catcher room, was an easy two minute walk from the common areas. It was a spacious 280 square foot (26 square meters) sleeping and sitting room with large screened and shuttered windows on three sides for excellent ventilation. The steep palm-thatched roof also featured a ceiling fan. The walls were of warm yellow plaster that enhanced the mahogany furniture, shutters and the brown ceramic tile floor. The queen-size bed was covered with a bright purple spread made of Guatemalan textile. It was surrounded by immaculate mosquito netting and flanked by two bedside tables with reading lights. A writing table with a high back chair faced the front window and the sweeping view of the hills. A lamp table and two wooden armchairs were tucked into the far corner of the room. The bathroom and a large storage shelving unit occupied the wall that separated the casita from the remaining half of the building. 

Food The food was as delicious as it was varied. Each day started with pitchers of fresh local fruit juices; melon and star fruit were my personal favorites. Breakfast always included freshly made flour tortillas, fry-jacks (a Belizean version of sopapillas ), or Johnny-cakes (“melt in your mouth” biscuits). Dinner was an opportunity to experience the many ethnic specialties of this small and diverse country. Gracie Obando ensured that none were forgotten. In addition to her many Mayan specialties, I sampled chicken sopa de escabeche (with a nod to the Hispanic influence), a Creole pork stew, bright with recado rojo , a seasoning paste made from red achiote, and an astonishing red snapper poached in fresh coconut milk (a Garifuna delicacy).

Amenities Services and amenities included meals. The room was equipped with a small refrigerator stocked with bottles of drinking water. The bathroom was supplied with pump bottles of eco-friendly gel soap.

Facilities There was a reception office, sitting room and library, kitchen and dinning room, and the bird rehabilitation and intake and release buildings.

Wildlife viewing The area offered constant bird viewing opportunities. Birds sighted during my stay included: osprey, belted kingfisher, green kingfisher, aplomado falcon, social flycatcher, rose-breasted grosbeak, blue-black grosbeak, roadside hawk, great black hawk, red-lored parrot, cattle egret, slaty-breasted tinamou, grey-necked wood-rail, hook-billed kite, rufous-tailed hummingbird, pale-billed woodpecker, ivory-billed woodcreeper, collared aracari, keel-billed toucan, emerald toucanet, blue gray tanager, tropical kingbird, blue bunting, white-collared seedeater.

Activities A number of tours and activities could be arranged through the lodge. Archeological excursions were available to nearby Cahal Pech, Xunantunich and El Pilar, as well as to Caracol a little further a field and Tikal over the Guatemalan border. Spelunking expeditions could also be planned to several of the limestone underground caves that dotted the western flank of the Maya Mountains, from the popular and easily accessible Rio Frio cave, to more challenging Mayan cave sites such as Che Chem Ha and Actun Tunichal Muknal. Horse ridding under the forest canopy and rafting or tubing on the Mopan River were popular activities.

Other Casa del Caballo Blanco was home to Casa Avian Support Alliance, LLC, , a nonprofit facility for the rehabilitation and release of injured or captive birds. The new permanent intake and rehabilitation facility was in the final ramp-up stages at the time of my visit.

Cleanliness Excellent

Date Of Last Visit November 2007

Reviewers Article and photographs by Josette King

Service There was daily room service. Service was friendly and attentive. The staff’s exceptionally welcoming attitude was an outstanding asset of the lodge.

Would You Stay There Again? Yes

Contact Information

  • Address:
    • Bullet Tree Road
    • San Ignacio, Cayo
    • Belize
  • Phone:
    • +(501) 824 2098
    • +(1) 707 974 4942
  • Website:
  • Email: