“If the world had any ends, British Honduras [Belize] would certainly be one of them” (Jacques Cousteau) – and what better place to witness its end than atop a centuries-old Maya City in what was once the center of the Maya Empire?
The piece, written by Jamie Moore – author and freelance writer, describes the experience as an amazing “bucket-list trip to see the last page of the Maya calendar” and highlights features of the experience including the Caana Temple climb, Ka’ana room replica, Maya gourmet dinner, and private-guided, torch-lit tour.
Formerly British Honduras, Belize lies on the Caribbean Coast of Central America and is bounded by Mexico to the North, and Guatemala to the West and South. It is the second smallest country in Central America, roughly the size of Massachusetts, and the only English-speaking of the seven. With its population a little over 350,000, Belize is a true melting pot of cultures, rivaling that of its neighbors with an influence of Creole, Garinagu, Maya and Mestizo to name a few.
Its westernmost region, the Cayo District, is the largest and most populated of the six, and the epicenter of inland touring. Swathed in almost untouched jungles, it is dotted with ancient cities, riddled with underground passages and supports diverse ecosystems ideal for adventure as well as nature lovers. Its most popular archaeological sites include Actun Tunichil Muknal, Barton Creek, Cahal Pech, Caracol, Che Chem Ha and Xunantunich.
Cave Tube & Zip Line
Feel the adrenaline pumping through your body as you zip-line above the jungle canopy from treetop to treetop and relax while floating along cool waters on inner tubes, gently pushed by a current through a series of caves.
Visit The Region’s Popular Maya Cities
Cahal Pech, small as it may seem, is a 3,200 year-old Maya City where the architecture of these ancients is visible to the fullest.
Caracol, located in the heart of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, is Belize’s largest Maya Ruin and home to Caana – the tallest structure in the country!
Only a 10-minute drive from Ka’ana, Xunantunich – one of the most popular sites in the region – is accessed by a hand-cranked chain ferry, providing panoramic views of Guatemala and the surrounding valleys from atop El Castillo.
Explore Portals To The Maya Underworld
You’ll be amazed by the many artifacts, including human remains, strewn about and experience the chills of sloshing in ice-cold river water – all inside Actun Tunichil Muknal, sure to be the highlight of your vacation!
Hidden within a Mennonite community, canoe into the Maya Underworld while listening to the history of Barton Creek Cave unfold.
Unlike ATM and Barton Creek, Che Chem Ha is a dry cave that offers a nine-layered journey into the Maya Underworld using ladders and ropes, as well as a refreshing dip in a 214-feet waterfall located only a few minutes away.
With numerous spectacular attractions, there are plenty of adventures to discover and explore the ultimate destination that is Belize!
The Mopan River, once used to transport chicle and logwood, originates in Guatemala, flowing into Belize to meet with the Macal River and form the Belize River – Belize’s major fresh water source.
Float along cool waters on inflatable inner tubes, pushed by light currents or rapids from the Benque Viejo Del Carmen Town – only a 10-minute drive west of Ka’ana. As you continue floating along the jungle-lined river, your guide will point out various native flora and fauna, including Green Iguanas lounging on Succotz tree branches. Villagers of San Jose Succotz still fish, swim and wash their clothing using flat granite rocks as scrubbing boards in the shallow pools of the river, giving you a glimpse of the local culture in Belize’s westernmost region.
Perhaps the only thing better than visiting a waterfall on a hot summer day, is visiting and having the entire place to yourselves. We think Big Rock Falls is one of the treasures of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve because if you don’t know where you’re going you could literally drive past it. Set at the bottom of a semi-steep hill, you’ll know you’re close when the rush of water becomes a roar. Today, we’re sharing images from past guests Whitney and William whose recent private tour to the Big Rock Falls has us falling in love with this site all over again.
Renowned for its plethora of bellowing waterfalls and natural pools, the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is home to one of the region’s most sought after cascades – Big Rock Falls.
After a scenic drive along the Cristo Rey Road en route to the Five Sisters Falls, a feeder road to the left leads you to a small clearing. Followed by a path downhill, the journey becomes steeper as the trail descends into the ridge, hinting at the view that awaits you. Fifteen minutes of carefree hiking later, the Privassion River comes into sight and the roaring sound of the fall resonates across the valley. An easy climb over the granite boulders along the banks of the river brings you to the base of the waterfall. The pristine water rushing over the forty-five-meter rocks and plummeting into the emerald green pool below is a breathtaking scene which provides a rush of excitement and caters to a refreshing swim.
Experience a departure from the traditional horseback riding tour when you visit the private ranch of the Santiago Juan family. Ride across an open pasture towards the bank of the Mopan River and be led by Luis, your personal guide and ranch hand. An exciting river crossing takes you off the beaten path and on an eye-opening ride that reveals a different, slower way of life.
Included in the tour is a stop at a yet-unexcavated Mayan site on the ranch. Luis will provide the history of the area while you dismount your horses and hike to the top of a Maya mound. From that vantage point, you will have a 360 degree view of the valleys and mountains as well as peek at the excavated Maya city of Xunantunich. This tour can be done in a half day or extended for a full day to include a private picnic and a first-hand view of the ranch-hands at work.
Considered to be the heartland of a civilization that once was, Belize boasts a rich heritage of archaeological sites. Its Cayo District, one of the last unspoiled places on earth and once the epicenter of the Maya, is dotted with ancient cities and ruins.
Travel across one of the last hand-cranked chain ferries which leads to Xunantunich, “Maiden of the Rock” – one of the region’s most legendary and popular archaeological sites frequented by a multitude of adventure travelers. Perch atop “El Castillo” which rises above the jungle canopy and witness panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, valleys as well as villages. Stop on the way back at a traditional market in the village of San Jose Succotz on the Mopan River, offering local crafts made from cloth, fabrics, slate, wood and other natural products.
With a myriad of spectacular natural attractions, there are plenty of adventures – archaeological sites being only one of them – to discover and explore Belize as a diverse destination!
An early morning departure from Belize’s Twin Town of San Ignacio to Flores, El Petén’s Capital City, will have you at Tikal where you can explore one of the most impressive Maya Pyramids. The Temple Of The Jaguar is sure to be the highlight of your trip as its stone walls, standing at forty-seven metres, rise above the rainforest canopy and allow you a panoramic view of the surrounding expanse of growth. The haunting sounds of Howler Monkeys and sightings of other exotic wildlife will only add to this unparalleled experience. Contact us to customize your tour of Guatemala’s City of Echoes!
With summer around the corner, it’s easy to dream of distant destinations with sunnier climes. Escape to the tropical paradise that is Belize – Central America’s second smallest country and only English-speaking of the seven.
Featured in AquaViews Online Scuba Magazine’s article, Top 10 Summer Scuba Diving Destinations, Belize’s famous natural attractions – the Barrier Reef and the Blue Hole – lure people to its Cayes year after year. With azure warm waters lapping at its white-sand coastlines set on a backdrop of lush foliage, visitors are treated to stunning views as well as countless land and water activities.
As a country with great ecological diversity and a famous destination for travelers, visitors are advised to venture beyond its beaches or islands to explore its natural heritage as Belize has a magical interior that shouldn’t be overlooked. With so much to do and see, a good start to your vacation planning is to get ideas of activities and destinations that appeal to you.
A true melting pot, Belize’s cultures and traditions compel you to travel inland to witness the many ethnicities which make up its population. Moreover, Belizean people are diverse, friendly and welcoming by nature; interact with them to experience aspects of their customs such as cuisine, dance and music.
As an ideal tropical paradise, experience both sides to the “Belizean Coin” – a splash of the Caribbean Sea and a taste of the Central American heat! A “Sand & Stone” vacation, offered by partner resorts, allows you to spend half your days on an island with the remainder inland.
Belize’s highlands mean lots of phenomenal cascades. In fact, the 1000 Foot Falls is the tallest in Central America. Refresh yourself in other impressive waterfalls such as Big Rock Falls, Five Sisters Falls and Rio On Pools – all in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
Belize’s High Season begins with Winter in North America. Most of the time it’s challenging to find hotel accommodations so book your travel in advance. You can also book your vacation during the Low Season when prices are much lower and hotel accommodations are easy to find.
With one of the most extensive and fantastic cave systems, Belize’s Cayo District is riddled with underground passages. Be sure to set aside a day for the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave – sure to be the highlight of your vacation!
Dotted with ancient cities and ruins, visit Xunantunich – one of the most popular archaeological sites in the region; the panoramic view from “El Castillo”, the main structure, is definitely worth the trip!
Filled with national parks to explore and wildlife sanctuaries to peruse, you’re guaranteed to see exotic as well as native creatures.
Follow the annual La Ruta Maya River Challenge if you’re visiting during the first weekend in the month of March. It’s an exciting four-day cross-country canoe race which starts on the Macal River in the Twin Town of San Ignacio and ends on the Belize River in Belize’s Old Capital.
Many Belize hotels offer all-inclusive packages, often customizing them to suit your needs and enhance your stay! An inland luxury hotel or jungle resort for example, may have quiet, natural surroundings, nearby attractions as well as personal spas which offer seclusion from too many people.
Wander off the Beaten Path! However, be sure to tread carefully through natural sites to ensure Belize remains a jewel for locals and visitors alike.
Ka'ana was created for those who appreciate the elegant luxuries of a world class resort, yet yearn to experience new frontiers. Perfectly located in the midst of everything a Central American vacation could possibly offer, Ka'ana is a haven of understated luxury with a considered design style, distinguished culinary experiences and an extensive wine cellar, adjacent to pristine jungle. Experience a true luxury vacation, just steps from the many ancient Mayan ruins of Belize's jungle.