Luxury living in Tikal National Park, what a dream. I have always wanted to visit the mighty ruins of Tikal even more than I did the sites of Chichen-Itza or Tulum. The ruins of Tikal are one of the largest archaeological sites in the Americas as well as the first UNESCO site that includes both natural and archaeological areas within the same site! The site spans 576 km2, and is truly in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle. I think this is part of what makes it so awesome. The fact that it is more than just a little inconvenient to get to Tikal makes the people who visit these ruins, truthfully, want to be here. This is in contrast to the overcrowded Chichen-Itza ruins which for many is simply the ‘go-to’ resort excursion.
Due to the fact that this site is, as I said, a little inconvenient to get to, finding the perfect place to stay can truly enhance the experience. While you can stay in Flores and take the bus into and out of the ruins, the bus schedule is limited, and the latest public bus leaves the ruins around 3:00pm. This is not nearly enough time to cover ruins of this stature. So…instead…I decided to spend a few days at the Jungle Lodge Hotel. The Jungle Lodge Hotel is situated inside the national park, right next to the ruins. This made my 4:00am sunrise tour so much better. I only had to wake up at 3:30am instead of 2:00 am.
The Jungle Lodge Hotel lays just a few meters from the entrance gate to Tikal National Park. Many years ago the Guatemalan government provided land to Antonio Ortiz enabling him to build a hostel right in the heart of what would be Tikal National Park. The purpose of this Hostel was to house the University of Pennsylvania archeologists who were working on the Tikal Project. These archeologists needed room and board near to the site they were working on, so the hostel was built. Initially it was a very simple thatched roof group hut with a dining area, but as time moved forward, the Jungle Lodge evolved.
The hostel where the archeologists stayed does still exist today. If you are traveling on a budget and are looking to chill in the Jungle Lodge Hostel, it is definitely available to book.
If you are less budget conscious, and are looking to enjoy some luxury living deep in the Guatemalan jungle, then the Jungle Lodge Hotel will provide you with all the luxurious comforts you are looking for! While the thatched roofs are still present, the hotel side of the lodge certainly has developed into a well-established space.
How is one supposed to get to the middle of the jungle to check into their hotel? It sounds more difficult than it is. The Jungle Lodge Hotel offers a transportation service from the airport to the hotel and vice versa. The shuttle costs $30USD for a return ticket, and $20USD one way. The shuttles run with the flight schedules from Guatemala City, so if you are coming in at night it should not be a concern. Alternatively, you could also take a chicken bus from the city of Flores which should drop you off at the entrance to the park. Here you could walk a few meters into the Jungle Lodge Hotel reception. Lastly, you have the option of taking a private taxi, which is the most expensive option, around $80USD. If I were you, and I was, I would use the hotel shuttle. Plus I found them to be rather flexible with my plans which was nice.
The rooms in the hotel do not fall short of expectations, I promise. They are modern, sleek, newly updated, and absolutely comfortable! The standard rooms contain 2 double beds with wonderful white linens, a modern bathroom, hot water and a private patio from which to enjoy the jungle sounds.
The suites are unbelievable! Our suite had a wonderful sitting area with a couch and 2 chairs, and was decorated with the perfect touch of ‘Indiana Jones gone luxury’. There were 2 double beds with soft white linens, mosquito nets, and a charging station for phones and cameras that worked all night long. The Jungle Lodge Hotel runs on a generator so power is only available at certain times of the day. The bathroom had both a shower as well as a Jacuzzi tub, but my favourite part was the amazing outdoor shower. The outdoor shower was walled in by rustic wooden sticks, and was surrounded by jungle. There are few things more enjoyable than a private outdoor, hot water, shower experience. We loved our very own private patio, complete with 2 chairs looking toward the jungle. Last but not least, our very own hot tub which we used, every night, despite the jungle heat.
Well, as you might guess, restaurants in the jungle are limited, so you are forced to rely on your hotel…and it’s not a bad thing. The restaurant in the main house serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks throughout the day. The breakfast is fresh, serving both Guatemalan and American/European style foods, but don’t worry…the coffee is Guatemalan. The lunch and dinner are definitely more international serving pastas, soups, and delicious salads. After an afternoon at the ruins in the hot sun, I was always pleased to come home to a fresh bowl of Guacamole and drinks from the lodge restaurant. They do a great Caipirinha.
It was, without a doubt, enjoyable. To wake up early, grab a delicious breakfast, and casually walk our way to the ruins proved inspiring. It’s the jungle. It is hot. It is humid. Once again I cannot stress the pleasure of strolling back to the hotel for an afternoon swim, to cool off and relax while the public crowd approaches the ruins. The pool was beautiful. It was surrounded by lounge chairs and had a deck over-looking the jungle. There was even what I like to call a ‘croc spot’ a sweet shallow area in the pool were you can sit down and have a drink to relax…or if you’re me, to lay like a crocodile while working on your tan. There were monkeys always playing around the resort, especially by the pool, which would provide entertainment all day.
The paths, from the pool, to the rooms, to the restaurant were cobble stone and covered in jungle greenery. It seriously looks like it was taken from a movie or from one of the super luxury instagram accounts. The service was exceptional with the staff ably assisting us with every request. Whether it be when we screwed up our park tickets (apparently they are purchased at the bank in town), or when we needed some late night drinks.
Finally the location can simply not be beaten. It can make your trip. To be so close to the ruins, as to be able to re-visit certain areas of interest throughout the day, or days if you choose to spend more time there (I recommend at least 2 nights) is priceless. After coming so far to visit these ruins, they should be enjoyed. It was exactly what I was looking for. I did not need to carry everything with me into the ruins. I could escape the heat. Even better, I was able to take advantage of both the morning and the evening hours in Tikal National Park. How special!