Finca Ixobel Hotel Ecologico today is a beautiful oasis in the Guatemala jungle. Its charm and uniqueness is now famous around the world. The well tended grounds and structures were all built from scratch.
How did this all come about?
The year 1971 found four American adventurers, Carole DeVine, Michael DeVine, Luisa Wheeler and Dennis Wheeler setting out from California and Wisconsin traveling through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala looking to buy land so that they could realize their dream of a farm. Carole was a city girl born in California and Mike was a farm boy from Iowa. Luisa was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Dennis was from Palmyra, Wisconsin. After months of looking at land in these countries they settled for a piece of land in Petén, Guatemala, measuring 400acres/162 hectares.
With their savings they bought the land and started a little farm. The farm had several natural springs which gave them water. They are in continued use today. There was no electricity so in the evenings the light was by candle light and kerosene lamps. Michael and Dennis, who studied animal husbandry, were happy tending chickens, livestock, horses, rabbits and other small animals. In those days, the forest surrounding the farm was alive with plenty of animals which was a beautiful thing to see.
Carole, who was once a medical secretary, and Luisa who graduated in home economics busied themselves in the kitchen baking bread, making jellies and pickles and tried to figure out how to cook beans 100 different ways. They also took care of the garden while looking after their children. Carole and Mike adopted Maria and Conrad and Luisa gave birth to Andrew. The happy couples took care of the farm and raised their children. The idea of having a hotel, restaurant and campground had not crossed their minds.
In the early 1970’s, northern Guatemala was the least developed region of Guatemala. The main attraction was the ruins of Tikal and the capital town of Flores. You had to fly into Flores or Tikal or take a chicken bus over the very bad narrow and mountainous gravel road from Guatemala City. The uncomfortable trip could easily take 20 hours. Sometimes trucks and buses could be stuck for a day or two, so it was not an easy trip.
It was rare to see any tourists, but there were some adventure loving people who dared the Guatemalan jungles. Because of the long trip to Flores and Tikal tourists always were looking for places to stay along the nearly deserted route. Word got out that there were two American couples that owned a farm so people began to stop by to see if there was a place to stay and food to eat.
The tourists who visited the farm noticed that we had rabbits and chickens for meat and eggs and a vegetable garden and they could smell the breads that the girls were baking. They started asking if they could buy these goods. Some people tired of their trip asked if they could spend the night in their camper or tent. Soon people would ask if they could join in and pay for their meals. Word got out and more and more people started coming. One day they decided to put a sign out on the road and start charging.
This was in 1972. In 1976 Luisa and Dennis left the farm to help in the earthquake reconstruction. As tourism grew so did the demand for better accommodations. What started as just a campground grew into private rooms with shared baths, then private rooms with private baths. Unfortunately Michael DeVine passed away in 1990. His wife, Carole DeVine, and the two children continue to run the business. Finca Ixobel has grown and changed very much since it’s humble beginnings all thanks to the many people from all over the world who have visited us and those who continue to do so. Michael’s passions for the animals, the jungle and the environment have always remained constant on our minds. Carole is involved in many reforestation, environmental and community projects.
Dennis and Luisa settled in Antigua, Guatemala and opened up the Pasteleria Doña Luisa Xicotencatl. The two couples remain very good friends to this day.
What does Ixobel mean?
From the Mayan Mopan language Ix (Eesh) means place of… and Obel is a wild plant that grows everywhere in the area, recognized by its heart shaped leaves. This plant has medicinal uses by the locals and we use it to make a delicious herbal tea. Ask our staff to show you the plant. So, Ixobel means PLACE OF THE OBEL.
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