A launch awaits passengers on Guatemala's Lake Petén Itzá. Photo by Michael Mundt

If you go - La Lancha

Transportation: We flew from Dallas to Belize City (about three hours), then took a 30-minute flight from Belize City-Flores, and finally a La Lancha shuttle to the hotel in less than an hour. If you take a shuttle from Belize City to La Lancha, expect a 4-½-hour drive plus a border crossing, which can always cause delays in any part of the world.

     IMHO:

     I would absolutely return with kids to La Lancha because the resort was beautiful and the rooms comfortable (1 queen bed in our Lakefront Casita, one fold-out bed, perfect for a family of 4). It was also close enough to everything that we didn’t experience more than hour-long drives to any given destination, which is manageable for most children.

     What’s more, I loved that La Lancha’s casitas are decorated primarily with local furniture, textiles and art, giving it an authentic, rustic feel. I also appreciated that the architecture assimilates to its environment instead of the other way around. In short, I felt good about supporting a hotel that cares about the environment and the local economy.

     Finally, we all loved the open-air restaurant, where we enjoyed incredible meals, tasty Coppola wines and warm staff. And the troop of howler monkey that claims the tree by the restaurant were comfortable napping and lazing around while we guests watched.

     CAVEAT for parents:

     Because the hotel rests on a precipitous hillside, the casitas are positioned close to one another and the pool. In other words, if children are fighting or crying, everyone in the general vicinity will hear it. And my kids did both. As well, although we were merely talking and laughing one night on our balcony, we were “shushed” by a nearby guest. (The nerve!)

     Finally, our lake-view casita offered two separate bedrooms that shared a balcony (separated by a curtain) and a bathroom wall. But since we consider Kevin and Lora as family, it wasn’t a big deal for us to be situated so near them. (To be sure, they heard more than their fair share of temper tantrums and squabbles.) But strangers might not have been so gracious.

     Without question this is a place that attracts people on the go, i.e. you will not want to stay there all day with children. The space is limited and there are lots of steep stairs to climb, so there’s not a lot of area for kids to run around. And while there is easy access to the lake and kayaks are available for use, there’s not really any beach area for children to run and play.  

     But for our family, it’s exactly what we wanted. Each night around dinner, one of the staff would ask us what to schedule for our next day’s activity. We were always in our group of 6, and the guides were fantastic.

     Basically, the topography is not toddler-friendly, but the resort itself is very kid-friendly. For parents of children around my kids’ age, I would recommend two days tops. Mine were a bit stir crazy by day three, plus they refused to eat much more than chicken fingers for every lunch and dinner. So with only one on-site restaurant and picky children, they were ready to move on to other fare. Older children, however, would do fine staying three or more days.

PROS:

  • Relatively inexpensive for families
  • Friendly, welcoming staff
  • Delicious food with kids’ options available—pasta and chicken fingers (dedos del pollo)
  • Comfortable rooms
  • Free wi-fi access at restaurant, allowing my husband to download movies to the kids’ Kindles
  • Plentiful opportunity to see squirrel and howler monkeys from our covered balcony
  • Close proximity to lake and surrounding attractions

CONS:

  • Restricted space for kids to run around
  • Topography is steep and may be difficult for young children to negotiate
  • Small pool is also close to casitas
  • Limited food options with only one on-site restaurant
  • Some balconies are shared
  • No TVs (although wi-fi allows movie viewing)