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5 Awesome Days in Cayo District, Belize

By 9/1/2022 5 minutes


Summer has officially started and if you haven’t planned your summer vacation as yet, then you have come to the right place! We have the perfect trip for you; and, and the best part is, you can complete this trip in just one week! We call this the ultimate adventure and relaxation experience of a lifetime. Yeah, it’s a long name for it, but that just summarizes this unique week-long vacation.

Here are some of the top things to do in Cayo:
  • Kayaking, horseback riding, Xunantunich
  • Bird watching, barbeque and swimming at Big Rock Falls, Mountain Pine Ridge
  • St. Herman's Blue Hole National Park and Nohoch Che'en Caves
  • Green Iguana Conservation Project and cultural tours
  • Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave (ATM Cave)

Day 1: Kayaking, Horseback Riding, Xunantunich

To start things off exciting, we’re going on a triple combo trip in the Village of San Jose Succotz. In this village you will go farming for potatoes and sit in a dory to go fishing. Just joking! Although that sounds interesting, you won’t be working in a farm or catching fish. Instead, you’ll be kayaking or canoeing down the Mopan River from the western border in Benque Viejo del Carmen to the banks near the ferry to the Xunantunich Archaeological Site. After being washed down the rapids of the river, it is the perfect time to take off those wet clothes, hang them up on a nearby tree to dry and go explore the ancient Maya city of Xunantunich. But don’t just hike or walk up to the site – go on horseback! Yes! You can go horseback riding up to Xunantunich. Not only will this save you some energy from the uphill hike, but you can feel the adrenaline of riding a friendly, tamed horse up to the historical archaeological site, Xunantunich! Here, you can take a tour of the once-thriving Maya city and climb up the highest temple on the site, El Castillo.

Places to eat:

Day 2: Bird Watching, Barbeque and Swimming at Mountain Pine Ridge

After the first day of adventure, day 2 is more relaxed as you set off to the areas of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve where you can set out camp and start a makeshift fire for the barbecue. You can choose between several locations where the river flows. Two of most popular locations would be Big Rock Falls and Rio On Pools. This forest reserve is the perfect place to unwind, relax and enjoy nature. The best part about this is getting to swim in the flowing river and waterfalls and getting to eat some delicious barbecue. While the meat is cooking on the grill, you can occupy yourself by going on a hike, scout for birds in the area, or sun tan near the riverbanks. If you would like to include a little more adventure, you can explore the Barton Creek Caves System on canoes. After all the exploring in the lush pine forests in Mountain Pine Ridge, the barbecue will be waiting for you to devour it.

Places to eat:
  • Pine Ridge Lodge
  • Blancaneaux Lodge
  • Gaia River Lodge



Virtual Audio Experience
Jorge De Leon from Lion Adventure Tours gives us a brief history on Caracol and takes us on a virtual tour of the site. Put this tour on your Belize bucket list.
with Video
Take an adventure with us through caves, rivers, waterfalls and mountain. This is Part-1 of our three-day Adventure in Belize with Belize Caving Expeditions.

Day 3: St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park and Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch

After a day of relaxation at Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, it is time for some serious adventure – we call it, extreme Belizing! Within the limits of Belmopan City, there is St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park. Here resides the stunning inland Blue Hole, officially known as the St. Herman’s Blue Hole, and impressive cave systems – Crystal Cave and St. Herman’s Cave. This is a full day trip that would include exploring one of the caves then take a dip into the refreshing waters at the Blue Hole. The Crystal Cave and St. Herman’s Cave are both unique and impressive. At the Crystal Cave, you will get to witness a spectacular cave system filled cavern that is adorned with mesmerizing crystalline formations. The journey through the cave is rigorous and requires a lot of energy and upper body strength. You will also be required to crouch down or squat to get through the entire trail in the cave. You’ll spend at least three to four hours in the cave before you get to see sunlight again. In the other cave, St. Herman’s Cave, you can walk through the cave and see the artifacts that were left by Maya shamans and priests and beautiful speleothems. This cave is also connected by an underground stream that will take you to the Blue Hole where you can go cave tubing and swimming. If you would also like- you could pencil in some time to go ziplining at Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch. You can ride through lush forests or enjoy the cool water of the river while cave tubing.

Places to eat:

Day 4: Iguana Conservatory Tour, Cultural Tours

While you may be sore from all the exploring in some of Belize’s impressive cave systems and swimming at the Inland Blue Hole, you may want to take it easy the next day. That is why the fourth day is perfect for a moderate trip to the Green Iguana Conservation Project at the San Ignacio Resort and Hotel in the morning and a cultural tour in the afternoon. At the Green Iguana Conservation Project, you will be guided through the exhibit where the conservation of endangered Green Iguanas are being protected. This is a highly interpretive and education exhibit that has been designed to allow for a closer look at this amazing reptile specie. In the afternoon, you can go on a chocolate foodie tour  a Mayan Village/ Mennonite Community tour that is offered by Purple Mayan Tours. This day is great for learning about the importance of Green Iguanas to the ecological balance of the river habitat and a little about the cultures that exists in this melting pot we call Belize.

Places to eat:

Day 5: Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave

For the final day of the greatest summer vacation, you can go visit the infamous ATM Cave (Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave). This cave is a popular archaeological site for both locals and tourists as you get to travel to the gateway of the Maya underworld. This is one of the most impressive Maya ceremonial caves where Maya priests and shamans conducted their sacrifices. You will be able to see the rare bloodletting altars that were used in sacrifices, calcified skeletons, remains of ceramics and stoneware. This is a full day trip that is great for ending your vacation with a bang. Although it doesn’t require a lot of energy and adrenaline – other than the hike to the cave – this cave will knock the socks off your feet when you see these ancient artifacts and remains by the Mayas. It an extraordinary archaeological site that must be on any traveler’s bucket list – so why not close off your ultimate vacation in Cayo, Belize with the ATM Cave? Trust me, it is worth the visit!

Places to eat:

And that concludes your 5-day adventure vacation in Cayo, Belize! These activities and tours can be shifted around according to your liking. It recommended that you book these tours with trusted providers, such as those listed on Belizing.com. You can also check out Belizing’s “Where to Eat” page to find restaurants, cafes or bars. If you are planning on staying in the Cayo District and would like some accommodation recommendations, here are a few that are most popular:

What are you waiting for, these adventurous trips are waiting for you! Get off that chair and start Belizing today in Cayo, Belize!
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Xunantunich: Getting There: The adventure begins at 8:00 AM on a mere 10 – 15 minutes’ drive onto the village of San Jose Succotz. Here you will cross the Mopan River via an old-fashioned ... morehand-cranked ferry and onto the site's parking lot.

At Xunantunich: Upon arrival at the site, you’ll be amazed at how impressive the Temple of El Castillo (the main temple) actually is at a remarkable 120 feet in height. Pay close attention to the history of this once-royal center of ancient civilization as your guide walks you through the site. Feel free to climb to the top of El Castillo if you’re not afraid of heights. There you’ll have a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the surroundings which encompasses part of Guatemala, Benque Viejo Town, and San Jose Succotz among other areas.

Be careful coming down from the pyramid as you make your way over to the ancient ball court. Imagine the excitement happening in real-time as your guide paints a vivid picture of how the popular Mayan game of Pokatok was played. On-site you may get to see spider monkeys and, depending on the time of the year, even howler monkeys. An on-site museum will give you an overall idea of this ancient city’s actual size.

Big Rock Falls:

Starts: 1:00 PM Ends: 5:00 PM 

Getting There: After Xunantunich, you'll make your way onto the Mountain Pine Ridge road en route to Big Rock Falls. The drive is about 45 minutes on a partially paved road, the farther section of which is dirt.

Along the way, you’ll pass the villages of Cristo Rey and San Antonio. These are small settlements of mostly farmers along the Macal River. Along the way, your guide would normally point out local flora and fauna such as Toucans, Roadside Hawks, Iguanas, and Medicinal Plants and trees.

At the site: The parking lot is approximately 5 to 8 minutes’ walk from the waterfall so you'll want to take everything you’ll need with you for an enjoyable time at the waterfall. From the parking lot, you’ll be walking through a little trail that leads to quite a steep climb down to the river valley. Flip-flops are not advisable for this part of the trek. Once you’ve made your way carefully down that cliff, the delightful view of water rushing over the huge 150-ft rock formations and plummeting into the deep rounded pool at its base provides a rush of excitement. 

You won’t regret visiting this site for a nice cold swim amidst the scorching Belizean heat. You may choose to swim all the way up to the waterfall but try to contain the temptation to climb up any of the wet rocks or do so at your own risk, they tend to get very slippery. Your guide will allow you ample time to swim or bask at your own leisure until you're ready to head back to San Ignacio Town.
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Make use of the expansive restroom complex to change into your swimwear. Your guide then walks you over to the tube racks where you’ll pick a tube of your choice. You will be provided with life jackets, helmets, and headlamps.

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After a briefing on the proper safety techniques, you'll be set afloat through a series of caverns that periodically open up to the sunshine & jungle. Your guide will occasionally point out various Maya artifacts within the crevices of the caves. Depending on time availability, he may allow you to disembark your tube & walk up for a closer look into the hidden chambers of the cave which are normally not explored by many other companies or cruise ship passengers due to time constraints. 

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This Classic Period site provides an impressive view of the entire river valley. The site core occupies only 300 square meters but the periphery covers several square kilometers. El Castillo, the partially excavated and largest pyramid rises 130 feet above the main plaza and offers an impressive view of the Cayo District and nearby Guatemala.
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A screened and landscaped 42’x60’x21’ butterfly house, spotlighting a wide variety of free-flying butterflies native to Belize.

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A medicinal plant garden featuring natural remedies used by the villagers. Nature trails for leisurely hikes. Videos about butterflies and other insects, birds, the Maya, and Belize.

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Ecologically – sound lodging — The Trek Stop — with budget-priced cabins, tent rentals, and tent sites for camping.

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The Sak-Tunich Maya site was constructed by a family of Yucatec descent. It includes Plaza A & B, a ceremonial room, a collection of artifacts, and an underground entrance. ... more

At the site, you will also learn about the Safe the Royal Project.

This is a breeding program for the "Royal Rat" or Gibnut. The name "Royal Rat" was given to it after Queen Elizabeth II was served Gibnut meat during her 1985 visit. Gibnut meat is a local delicacy in Belize. 

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This is a waterfall lover's dream! There are 3 waterfalls on this trip: The unnamed waterfalls, the Rio Frio Waterfall, and the Twin Waterfalls. These beautiful waterfalls are located ... moreup in the Vaca Reserve which is about 8.5 miles on the Hydro Road which is about one hour drive from downtown San Ignacio. This is my favorite place in Belize!!

From the time you get on the pontoon boat on your way to the waterfalls, you will be engulfed by the beautiful scenery of the river gorge. While enjoying the scenery we travel slowly on the river bank trying to find some wildlife. Some days we see a lot, and some days we don’t see anything. Hence the reason I do not guarantee wildlife but the great adventure, scenery, and waterfalls will always be there. However, you will see images of the wildlife we encounter on the trip many times, however, the wildlife is not guaranteed as it is not a zoo.

You can get to the location where the pontoon boat is waiting for us in two ways. One, you drive all the way down to the river bank. Two, you can hike the recently built trails that pass through the jungle while learning about some of the traditional edible and healing plants that were used and are still used by the Mayas.
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Angela Wu

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