Belize Getaways: The Chaleanor Hotel in Dangriga
by Maia Muttoo Nov 18, 2019
In the heart of Belize’s cultural capital, you’ll find the Chaleanor hotel, a vibrant six-story lodge with a roof-top terrace, a beautiful garden and warm, welcoming staff.
A stay at the Chaleanor hotel is a true cultural experience. Its owners, Chad and Eleanor Usher, were both born and raised in Dangriga and know the area inside-out. Always wanting to give guests the full Dangriga experience, they’ve been known to organise cultural performances and special Belizean dinners that express all the unique flavours of the country.
In their charming garden, you’ll find a variety of local plants including moringa, plantain, lilies and starfruit. Proponents of organic farming, they also operate a farm that produces coconut, mango and a range of other fresh fruits.
We spoke to Chad and Eleanor about how they got into the hotel business, what they enjoy most about it, and their plans for future expansion.
How did you get into the hotel business?
Chad: I was a trucker; my father had two stores, so I was trucking goods throughout the whole country and to the United States also. But I got into two accidents and I couldn’t do that anymore. I was also a farmer, but I decided that we needed something else to help us in life.
It just so happened that the local high school’s sixth form was just starting up here in Dangriga. I told the architect that I wanted a six-story building. I was saving at the time, so I had some funds. We started out with the second floor as our own dwelling area and decided that we’d open some rooms on the first floor and rent them out for students.
Around the 15th of November, an ambassador from Guatemala came to Dangriga and there weren’t any rooms available; he found out that I had some rooms here. He said, “Chad, I already invited these other ambassadors to Belize for the 19th of November [Garifuna Settlement Day] and I need a place, could you kindly help me out?” I said okay.
While they were here, the ambassador from Spain said, “Chad, I would advise you to just do a hotel; don’t do a dorm for students, because you’d have to be parents for them. The best thing would be to start a hotel as a service for money. You have everything here already.”
So, we started out with four rooms on the first floor. After about four and a half to five years, we opened more rooms upstairs and we continue growing to this day.
What keeps you passionate about the hotel?
Chad: It’s a family run business. I started out cleaning the rooms and all that, and meeting people. We are helping the country at the same time; that’s one of the things that we like most about it.
I’m working on the farm right now so that we can eventually open a restaurant and bar to enhance the business even more. Right now, we only do catering when we have groups in, but we’re working on that.
What do you think makes the Chaleanor hotel unique?
Chad: The main thing is that it’s a family run business, so that makes the difference.
Eleanor: Our motto is “your home away from home”.
Our guests are usually amazed and love the surroundings, the view and everything. Usually when they go back home, they give us a review on TripAdvisor and that makes more people want to come and have this wonderful experience for themselves. So, that gives us the encouragement to want to do even more.
Can you tell us more about the food you cater for groups?
Eleanor: I usually cook Belizean food. Since Dangriga is Belize’s cultural capital, I try to mix the food so there’s some Garifuna food, some Creole, some Mestizo.
I have a special menu that I tried out with the last group I had; I called that “Mestizo Night”. We had garnaches, panades, black dinner, enchiladas. I had everything set out and I had guests making their own garnaches. They loved that.
I understand that you also work with the cultural groups in Dangriga to put on shows for guests?
Eleanor: Yes, I work with most of them. I have them come to perform, and they teach the guests the dances and explain what all the different moves mean. It’s special, and the guests love that experience.
Chad and Eleanor hope to continue growing the Chaleanor hotel to include a rooftop restaurant and bar, serviced by their organic farm. They also plan to start an eco-tour to the nearby jungle, with pre-prepared, home-cooked picnics and birding opportunities.
To learn more about the Chaleanor hotel or to book your stay, visit their website.