Education, adventure at San Ignacio Resort Hotel in Belize
Montreal luxe offerings primed for fete-fueled influx
wildlife clinic, she said. “It’s a really great
relationship to bring their vet students to
do hands-on learning. In turn, they will
come and check on the iguanas.”
The iguana project is just one of the
many available offerings at the luxury
resort, located in Belize’s west, about 70
miles from Belize City. Tours, including
visits to Mayan ruins, caving and tubing
and jungle adventures such as horseback
riding or visits to waterfalls, are also avail-
able through the family-run hotel, which
recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.
“There’s a little something for everybody,” said Cruz Cembrianes, a tour guide
from the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. Western Belize, he said, truly enables people to
get out of their everyday routine and ex-
By Kristi Eaton
The iguanas were clamoring on top of each other, pushing each other aside for the chance to nibble on a handpicked leaf. They surrounded us, but far from being creepy or scary, it was an enjoyable part of our experience
with the Iguana Project, an on-site conservation program for green iguanas at the
San Ignacio Resort Hotel in San Ignacio,
The program started in 1996 out of a
concern for declining numbers due to
overhunting. It currently has 40 iguanas
and 116 eggs.
“They are almost endangered, but no-
perience adventure. “There’s so much to
learn from the ancient Maya, their history
and their architecture,” he said.
During my sponsored trip, I was able
to take part in an adventurous spelunking
tour of St. Herman’s Cave. The strenuous
guided tour allowed me to learn about the
ancient Mayan rituals around the cave and
spot Mayan pottery pieces. Later, a horse-
back ride through the jungle offered me
the chance to learn about survival tech-
niques. It was capped with an escapade at
the Big Rock Falls, a 150-foot waterfall in
the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
We jumped into the open body of water
and splashed under the waterfall.
Returning to the hotel each night, we
were treated to delicious food and beverages at the Running W Steakhouse and
Restaurant. It features meats from the
family’s own ranch along with international and Belizean cuisine all served with
a wondrous view of the property, including the 24-hour outdoor pool.
To cap the evening, the spacious rooms
at the hotel offered a respite from the heat
and humidity. The property features 26
rooms and suites on the 17-acre private
estate. My room, the master suite, was one
of the largest suites on site. Featuring a
king-size canopy bed, a sitting area, large
sliding glass doors to a spacious balcony
and the largest bathroom on site, it was
easy to wake up refreshed after a relaxing
evening in the room.
A honeymoon suite and a family suite
are also available to guests as well as balcony rooms and garden rooms.
Prices range from $216 for a garden
room during low season, which runs May
through November, to $660 for the Royal
Suite during high season. To learn more,
body knows how many are left,” said Nigel
Velasquez, the tour operator for the project.
The nonprofit aims to release the injured iguanas back into the wild, repopulate the species and educate the public.
Velasquez noted that some people in villages eat iguanas, so one tenet of the outreach program is to educate the public
about the issue.
The Iguana Project enables guests to
adopt an iguana prior to its release, which
contributes to the success of the program.
“We’ve done scholarship programs
for the project. We’ve done at least three
scholarships,” said Mariam Roberson,
managing director of the hotel.
The project works closely with Belize’s
lounge called Bar George, a ton
of gorgeous wood paneling and
stained glass and even a clock
carved out of a mahogany tree.
Adjoining the old structure at
the rear is a modern, tasteful 90-
room structure complete with
four two-story Sky Lofts.
Old Montreal’s Hotel William
Gray, which opened last summer,
also goes the old-new route, with
its 127 rooms and 180-seat bistro
being rebuilt by local hospitality
veterans and brothers Tony and
Costa Antonopoulos out of two
18th century buildings.
Last year also marked the
opening of the 142-room Renaissance
Montreal Downtown, which was rebuilt
out of a 1950s-era post office facility and
includes a 12th-floor lounge as well as an
adjoining plunge pool. The hotel plays
up its heritage by featuring hand-painted
graffiti from local artists in its hallways as
well as a 5-foot-high logo of the Canadiens
hockey team in the lobby.
Finally, there’s the Fairmont the Queen
Elizabeth, which reopened most of its 950
rooms this summer and is nearing the
completion of its $140 million renovation.
Noteworthy for hosting John Lennon and
Yoko Ono’s 1969 “bed in” (the suite they
occupied has been updated to give more of
an immersive, virtual-reality-type experi-
ence, with period-piece furnishings and
audio-video documentation of the event),
the property includes a Fairmont Gold
section marketed as its own 100-room
“boutique hotel” complete with a separate
Aside from its festivals and accommoda-
tions, Montreal has evolved into a bit of a
foodie paradise. Aside from the obligatory
trip to Schwartz’s for smoked meat sand-
wiches, the outdoor patio at Old Mon-
treal’s Boris Bistro provided a great, busi-
nessman’s lunch-type experience. Our best
meal may have been at Ma Poule Mouilee,
the unassuming counter-service restaurant
in the Plateau that specializes in Portuguese
roast chicken and outstanding poutine.
Additionally, Montreal’s museums are
well curated. Both the Montreal Science
Centre and Montreal Archaeology and History Complex are a must for anyone with
kids in tow. And the Museum of Contemporary Art had myriad exhibits that offered
everything from a retrospective on the
architectural impact of Expo 67, the 1967
World’s Fair, to thought-provoking installments offering commentary on everything
from prayer to human destruction of the
Still, our visit may have been most typified by our stumble into a weekend parade
called L’Amitie Nuestroamericana, which
included more than 1,000 dancers and
troupes from 65 countries. It’s enough to
make one curious about what Montreal
will do for its 376th anniversary.
The San Ignacio Resort Hotel is a 26-room, family-run
hotel in San Ignacio, Belize. Left, the master suite, featuring a king-size canopy bed, a sitting area and a spacious
balcony. Above, the view from the Running W Steakhouse
and Restaurant, serving meats from the family’s own
ranch along with international and Belizean cuisine.
By Danny King
From an architectural standpoint, the
city of Montreal officially limits building
heights to 233 meters (764 feet) above sea
level so that no structure is higher than the
top of the city’s Mount Royal. From a celebratory standpoint, however, Canada’s second-largest city jumps far higher than that.
With Canada celebrating its 150th anniversary, Montreal is doubling down by
commemorating its own 375th anniversary.
In all, the city will throw more than 700
events this year to fete its history. With such
celebrations in mind, Montreal is expected
to boost its visitor numbers by more than
5% this year, to a record 10. 7 million.
Fortunately, the city’s upper-scale hotel
inventory appears to be sufficiently updated to accommodate the throng. Typifying Montreal’s old-new ethos is Le Mount
Stephen, which opened in the city’s Golden
Square Mile in May and was redeveloped
out of what was originally the 19th century
home of George Stephen, the first president
of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Front and center is the fully restored
public area that includes a restaurant and
The dining area at Bar George, one of the many highlights at the 90-room
Le Mount Stephen in Montreal. The property, which opened in May, was
redeveloped from the 19th century home of a Canadian railroad magnate.