During the famous mood mud massage at Maruba Resort Jungle Spa, clients are daubed with earthy pigments of red, orange, and pink. They emerge looking like leopards as imagined by abstract expressionists. Everywhere you look, the jungle seems to have left its mark. Carved masks line the walls, thatched palms form many of the roofs, and fresh hibiscus blossoms dot the footpaths each morning. Nestled in a 1,000-acre rainforest, the resort draws inspiration from its tropical surroundings and pays homage to Mayan, Creole, and African cultures.
Described as "decadent, sensual, and exotic by Frommer's, the spa is Maruba's signature attraction. A choice of spa treatments might include a seaweed massage or a honey scrub to prepare for a date with a teddy bear. After a bracing massage, guests might be tempted to take a dip in the steaming mineral pool or dive into the main pool fed by a waterfall.
The guest rooms are connected by winding gravel paths through dense palms. In standard rooms, fractured mosaics cover the floors, and junior suites come with vaulted roofs of rustling fronds. Although the jungle never feels far away at the resort, a rainforest safari hike draws visitors even deeper into the surrounding landscape. During jungle hikes, a guide slashes a path through the undergrowth with a machete and demystifies some of the forest's medicinal plants.
Though it's hidden in a rural corner of Belize, the resort lies only a few kilometers from one of the country's most famous attractions: Altun Ha. This archeological site's iconic stepped pyramids appear on Belizean banknotes as well as on the label of Belikin beer, a local brew.
Farther south, Belize City forms a gateway to nearby islands such as Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. These keys are surrounded by the Belize Barrier Reef, part of the second-longest stretch of coral in the world. Popular dive sites include shark-ray alley, where stingrays up to 4 feet wide glide between nurse sharks, which are harmless because they've taken the Hippocratic oath.
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