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In addition to the places listed here, near the village of Blue Creek, International Zoological Expeditions (tel. 800/548-5843 in the U.S.; www.ize2belize.com) has a research station and rustic lodge where they offer educational and adventure travel tours and packages.

Expensive -- Located on a bend in the Moho River, about a 20-minute drive outside P.G., the Cotton Tree Lodge (tel. 670-0557; www.cottontreelodge.com) offers up almost a dozen large, individual wood and thatch bungalows.

Moderate -- In addition to the places listed here, Blue Belize (tel. 722-2678; www.bluebelize.com) offers up a few fully equipped apartments facing the sea towards the southern end of town, while Beya Suites (tel. 722-2956; www.beyasuites.com) is a small hotel with well-equipped, tidy rooms; an on-site restaurant; and a rooftop patio, located just across from the bay, just north of town.

Inexpensive -- Punta Gorda has a host of budget lodgings. In addition to the place listed here, you could check out Charlton's Inn, 9 Main St. (tel. 722-2197), or Tate's Guesthouse, 34 José María Núñez St. (tel. 722-2196).

And, for an ecolodge experience at pretty budget prices, check out Sun Creek Lodge (tel. 614-2080; www.suncreeklodge.com), a delightful collection of individual cabins, at Mile 14 on the Southern Highway.

Staying in a Mayan Village

Many people who make it as far as Punta Gorda are interested in learning more about Mayan village life. Though the ruins were abandoned centuries ago, Maya Indians still live in this region. The villages of the Toledo District are populated by two main groups of Maya Indians, the Kekchi and the Mopan, who have different languages and agricultural practices. The Mopan are upland farmers, while the Kekchi farm the lowlands. Both groups are thought to have migrated into southern Belize from Guatemala less than 100 years ago. Four decades of political violence and genocide in neighboring Guatemala has bolstered this migration.

San Antonio, the largest Mopan Maya village, is in a beautiful setting on top of a hill, with an old stone church in the center of the village. Steep streets wind through the village, dotted with both clapboard houses and traditional Mayan thatched huts. In addition to the Deer Dance, the nearby village of San Pedro is also known for its annual festival on June 13th in honor of that village's patron saint. This festival includes masked dances and other Mayan rites mixed with more traditional Catholic themes and celebrations. Beyond San Antonio and San Pedro, there is a host of even smaller and more remote traditional Mayan villages.

The Maya Village Homestay Network (tel. 722-2470; demdatsdoin@btl.net), provides accommodations directly with families in the Mayan villages. There's a BZ$10 (US$5/£2.65) registration fee for any stay, and then accommodations cost BZ$16 (US$8/£4.25) per person per night, and meals are BZ$7 (US$3.50/£1.85) per person per meal. These fees are paid directly to your host family. Accommodations during a homestay can range from a hammock to a simple bed, and almost all families have some sort of bathroom or latrine. Currently, the villages involved in the homestay program include Aguacate, Na Luum Ca, and San José.

If you opt for this program, you can expect plenty of close contact with the local villagers. You will also to be eating what the locals eat, which in most cases means plenty of beans and tortillas, as well as the occasional chicken soup, or meat dish. One of the highlights of many guests is participating in the cooking chores, and learning the simple art of tortilla making.

Staying with a Garifuna Family

Those seeking a unique Caribbean cultural experience can also look into staying with a local Garífuna family. Just 18km (11 miles) south of Punta Gorda lies the small Garífuna village of Barranco. With a little over 100 residents, Barranco is a quintessential quiet Garífuna village. Although the road to Barranco is usually passable during the dry season, it's best to get there by boat. Ask around at the Punta Gorda pier if there's any regular ferry service. If not, you should be able to hire a ride for about BZ$80-BZ$120 (US$40-US$60/£21-£32) per boat.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.