Nabitunich stone cottages have been popular tourist accommodations in San Ignacio, Belize for many years. The family-run private cottages offer a unique farm stay experience for guests seeking overnight accommodations, or visitors on short horseback riding tours. Learn more about the history of Nabitunich below.
History of Nabitunich
Nabitunich is one mile away from the ancient Mayan Temple of Xunantunich Mayan ruins. The name Nabitunich is Mayan for “Little stone house.” There is a long history of the land and the people who have long inhabited it. Around 100 years ago, a man by the name of Glavez came from Lebanon and acquired the property known today as San Lorenzo Farm. Three generations later, Rudy Juan and his wife Margaret oversaw the construction of the first cottage at Nabitunich in early 1985. The first cottage was constructed of stones quarried at San Lorenzo Farm, and a roof was thatched using local palm leaf. This first cottage was called ‘The Stone Cottage,’ and is the oldest, most iconic Nabitunich accommodation.
Several more cottages were constructed until there were 10 in total. Eventually, a larger dining room and kitchen were also constructed. At the time, all of these facilities were used exclusively by doctors and nurses who came to work at the Good Shepherd Clinic in the nearby town of San Jose, Succotz.
Nabitunich Opens as an Eco Lodge for Guests
Eventually, the Juan family decided to open the cottages to the general public. We welcomed our first guests on December 23, 1987. These guests were professors and students from the Milwaukee Zoo and Botanical Gardens. This first stay also coincided with one of the Juan family’s children’s birthdays. As a result, all guests joined in on the celebration. From then on, guests flocked to Nabitunich, enchanted by its biodiversity and “home away from home” vibe.
Eventually, the Juan family began conducting horseback rides to help guests experience Belize in a unique way. Now in its 27th year of operation, Nabitunich has hosted a wide variety of guests since it first opened its doors in 1987. Our guests are from all walks of life and include newlywed couples on their honeymoon, archaeologists studying local Mayan ruins, Peace Corps volunteers, students, families, retirees, and adventurers.
Archaeological History of Nabitunich
The following has been written by:
Dr. Jason Yaeger
UTSA Dept. of Anthropology
Nabitunich is located in a place that people have called home for thousands of years. The region’s early inhabitant’s hunted wild game, caught fish in the river, and harvested wild fruits, nuts, and tubers beginning by at least 12,000 years ago. By 1000 BC, people in the valley were growing crops like corn and beans, living a settled lifestyle in small villages at Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, and other sites. The rich soils and the bounty of the river likely attracted these early people to Nabitunich and San Lorenzo Farm, and archaeological investigations in the 1990s found buildings dating back to at least 500 BC.
Mayan Ruins at Nabitunich
Nabitunich and the fields just beyond its gates are carpeted with ancient Maya mounds, some less than a foot high, others 10 feet high. These are the remains of a Maya farming village that was occupied from roughly AD 600 to 900, contemporary with the fluorescence of the major site of Xunantunich, which overlooks Nabitunich from the other side of the Mopan River. The mounds are the crumbled and decayed remains of raised platforms, on top of which the Maya built buildings of pole-and-thatch and, in a few cases, cut stone blocks.
Archaeological Excavations at Nabitunich
Excavations in the 1990s showed that the larger mounds were the homes of the village’s leaders, who were wealthier and better connected to the region’s rulers at Xunantunich. Their houses were larger, more elaborate, and required more labor to build; they used more fancy and imported objects including pottery dishes and vases, and jewelry made of marine shell and semi-precious stones. The smaller mounds were topped by simpler pole-and-thatch houses, and their inhabitants were not as wealthy. A few were occupied by craftspeople that made stone knives and tools from chert (flint) found in a local deposit on the farm. The village was abandoned as Xunantunich declined during the Classic Maya collapse.