12 Unique Belize Jungle Adventures

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  • Post last modified:07/05/2024
Belize Jungle Adventures waterfall flowing into swimming spot surrounded by Jungle

When you think of Belize, you won’t be blamed if the first image that comes to mind is that of a tropical island, with vibrant blue waters and palm trees. 

Belize is best known for its stunning coastline and countless cayes in the Caribbean Sea, as well as the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world. 

What most visitors don’t know, is that Belize’s interior is just as special! 

The lush tropical jungle hides ancient Mayan cities, secret swimming holes, thundering waterfalls and a rich biodiversity of wildlife from macaws to monkeys, and tapirs to toucans.  

So once you’ve covered the more touristy destinations in Belize, like Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, we recommend heading inland for some Belize jungle adventures! 

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Unique Adventures in the Belize Jungle

Belize Jungle Adventures, waterfall and swimming spot surrounded by green jungle.

In this post, we’ll share 12 unique Belize jungle adventures you can add to your itinerary to experience the country’s exciting interior.

1. Hike to the Waterfall in Billy Barquedier National Park

Nestled on the aptly named Hummingbird Highway in central Belize, the Billy Barquedier National Park is one of the most underrated national parks in the country. Chances are, you’ll have this place to yourself! 

The main attraction in the park is a small waterfall. It takes around 15 – 20 minutes to walk from the car park, and the trail is steep and slippery in parts. Once you reach the river, you can jump into the pool below the waterfall and swim right up to the base of the falls. 

It’s small but very scenic. The real magic is the sound of the jungle and the peace and tranquillity of enjoying such a beautiful place with very few crowds. 

If you’re up for a challenge, you can hike the ‘Jaguar Trail’ to an observation tower. This is an incredibly steep and strenuous hike, and should not be attempted without proper footwear and plenty of water. 

How to Visit Billy Barquedier National Park

The easiest way to visit Billy Barquedier National Park is with a rental car. There is a bus that runs along the Hummingbird Highway, but it is infrequent.

You can visit as a day trip from San Ignacio, or spend a few days staying somewhere along the highway. 

2. See the Inland Blue Hole at St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park

Inland Blue Hole at St. Hermans Blue Hole National Park

The Great Blue Hole on the Belize Barrier Reef has become the country’s unofficial icon; that Blue Hole you can fly over or dive. However, very few visitors know about the inland blue hole, inside St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park. 

Also located on the Hummingbird Highway, this national park hosts a few different sites, but the inland blue hole is the main attraction. It’s a jungle swimming hole fed from an underground cave, and the water really is blue! It’s cold but refreshing after the short hike through the steamy rainforest. 

The second attraction in the national park is St. Herman’s Cave. This is one of the only caves in Belize that you can visit without a guide. 

You’ll need a torch (available for rent at the park office if you don’t have one) as it’s very dark inside. Solo visitors are only allowed to walk around 200 metres unaccompanied, but it’s still a very impressive sight, especially looking back out at the Belize jungle from the mouth of the cave. 

How to Visit St. Hermans National Park

Again, a rental car is the easiest way to visit, as there isn’t frequent transport along the Hummingbird Highway.

You can easily come from San Ignacio for the day, or stay a couple of nights on the highway. There are also organised day tours from San Ignacio if you’d prefer not to drive.

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3. Hike in Mayflower Bocawina National Park

Home to miles of jungle trails, hidden swimming holes, waterfalls and wildlife, the Mayflower Bocawina National Park is a fantastic place to experience the Belize jungle without the crowds. 

Whilst it is possible to visit for the day from nearby Hopkins or Placencia, the best way to experience this park is to stay in it! 

The Bocawina Rainforest Resort & Adventures is the only resort inside a national park in Belize. An off-grid jungle experience, staying at the resort gives you the perfect base to explore the park. 

You’re free to roam solo on the trails, to waterfalls and unexcavated Mayan ruins. But you’ll have expert local guides on hand if required, to take you further, point out birds and wildlife and for more thrilling activities like ziplining and rappeling! 


How to Visit Mayflower Bocawina National Park

If you’ve got a rental vehicle, you can drive to the park visitor centre for a day trip. If you want to stay a few days, the resort offers pick-up from Dangriga, Placencia or Hopkins, all of which are accessible by bus. 

4. Spot Jaguars in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

Jaguar in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize

If you want the best chance of spotting the elusive and enigmatic jaguar, you need to visit the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in southern Belize. 

This large swathe of protected jungle is thought to house up to 50 of these big cats, but it’s important to remember, that sightings are rare and difficult in the dense forest. 

Regardless, the reserve is worth visiting. There are a variety of trails to choose from, leading to waterfalls, swimming holes and lookouts. 

Jaguars aren’t the only cats that live in the sanctuary. You can also chance a sighting of a puma, ocelot, margay or jaguarundi. 

Sightings of Belize’s national animal, the Baird’s tapir have been documented, and be sure to look out for howler monkeys, and many species of bird, including toucans and macaws.

How to Visit Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

With a rental car, you can drive to the visitor centre for a day trip from Placencia or Hopkins. Taking a tour from Placencia or Hopkins is recommended though, as wildlife is very difficult to spot without the help of a guide. 


5. Cruise the New River to the Ancient City of Lamanai

Ancient City of Lamanai. Belize Jungle Adventures

Located in the Orange Walk District in Northern Belize, Lamanai is an impressive set of Mayan ruins. But what’s most unique about this ancient city, is the river cruise along the New River to get there. 

It takes around one and a half hours to cruise down the New River from the town of Orange Walk. You’ll pass some of the most pristine jungles in this part of the country, with monkeys swinging on the banks, colourful birds flying overhead and crocodiles basking in the sun. 

The ruins themselves are well preserved, with usually very few visitors (unless there is a cruise excursion happening). The setting on the banks of the river is striking and helps to imagine what this thriving metropolis would have been like at its peak.

How to Visit Lamanai

While it is possible to drive to the ruins, the road is in poor condition, and you’ll miss the river cruise, which is the best part! The best place to take a tour is from Orange Walk where lots of local operators offer the cruise and guided tour. Although tours also depart from Belize City (with the option to join from the cayes too). 

6. Explore San Ignacio

Macal River in San Ignaciao Belize. Banks lined with green jungle

Many visitors use San Ignacio as a jump-off point for adventures in the Belize jungle but don’t take the time to explore the town itself. There are plenty of great things to do in San Ignacio that give you a taste of Belize’s rainforest and wildlife.

One must-do activity is a visit to the Green Iguana Conservation Project. Located inside the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, you can learn more about this unique species on a guided tour.

The Macal River runs through the heart of San Ignacio, and a great activity to do is kayaking or tubing on the river. It’s a cheap and easy way to spot some wildlife.

To get into the rainforest near San Ignacio without a costly tour, the Belize Botanic Gardens are just 20 minutes from town. You can opt for a guided or self-guided walk through the 45-acre property, filled with local flora and fauna.

How to explore San Ignacio: once you’re in town, many of these activities can be visited on foot, or with a taxi. Affordable car rentals are available too as a more convenient option.

How to Explore San Ignacio

Once you’re in San Ignacio town, many of these activities can be visited on foot, or by taxi. Affordable car rentals are available too as a more convenient option. 

7. Admire the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich

Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich in Belize. Stone pyramid surrounded by green grass, with blue sky and white clouds in the background.

Experiencing Belize’s rich Mayan history and culture is a must-do. This powerful civilisation built complex and ornate cities thousands of years ago, and many of them are still standing today. 

The Mayan ruin of Xunantunich is one of the easiest cities to access, located just 40 minutes from San Ignacio near the Guatemalan border. 

The city is set around two plazas with many different temples and structures. The highlight is climbing El Castillo, a 40-metre temple offering incredible views over the Belize jungle and across the border into Guatemala.

How to Visit Xunantunich

Xunantunich ruins are most easily accessed from San Ignacio. You can take a bus headed to Benque Viejo del Carmen and be dropped at the entrance.

If you’ve got a rental car it’s an easy 40-minute drive. However, tours from San Ignacio or Belize City are popular as you’ll get the benefit of a local guide sharing the history of the city. 


8. Venture Inside the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave

The most popular, unique and mind-boggling Belize jungle experience is venturing deep inside the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave. 

Considered one of the most sacred caves in the world, inside are important Mayan artefacts and remains. In fact, you’re not permitted to take cameras inside the cave as an artefact was once ruined by a camera being dropped on it.

In Mayan times, caves were considered to be portals to the underworld, which they called Xibalba. The Mayans performed sacrifices to the gods in these sacred areas, and there are the remains of multiple human sacrifices deep inside the cave. 

Only possible on a tour with a specially licensed guide, this experience is not for the faint of heart. You will walk, swim and climb deep inside the cave for over three hours. It’s dark, wet and eerie but everyone who does it says it’s life-changing.

How to Visit the ATM Cave

You must take a guided tour to visit the ATM cave. Tours most commonly depart from San Ignacio, but given that it is the most popular activity in the country, you can join a tour to the cave from other locations like Belize City, San Pedro and Caye Caulker too.


9. Go Cave Tubing

Cave tubing in the Belize Jungle

A popular Belizean activity, cave tubing involves floating on an inflatable tube through an underground river. 

The best place to go cave tubing is the Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve. 

After a walk through the Belize jungle to the mouth of the cave, your guide will rope together your inflatable tubes and get ready to navigate you through the cave. The light fades as you pass through the mouth of the cave, and your guide will point out unique stalagmites and stalactites.

The river is calm in places but turns to fast rapids in other areas. Most tours will stop in the middle of the cave and do a side exploration to swim through some narrow caverns and jump into the river. 

How to Go Cave Tubing

Cave tubing is another activity that can only be done on a guided tour. Joining a tour from San Ignacio or Belize City is the most popular option.

If you’ve got a rental vehicle you can drive yourself to Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve and pick up a guide there. 


10. Visit Caves and Waterfalls in Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in Belize. Green pine forest covered mountain ridge

While the majority of Belize’s interior is covered in lush rainforest, the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve showcases a completely different type of forest. 

Located under an hour from San Ignacio, this natural reserve protects the last swathe of Belizean pine forest. With red dirt, dry pine trees and rocky granite outcrops, it is a stark contrast from the rest of the Belize jungle. 

But hidden away inside the reserve are countless waterfalls, caves and lookouts to explore. 

Some of the top sights to see are: 

  • Big Rock Waterfalls
  • Rio Frio Cave
  • Rio On Pools

How to Visit Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

The best way to explore Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is on a self-guided day trip from San Ignacio with a rental vehicle. The roads are unpaved and rough in places, so a 4×4 can be handy, but the government are currently doing major road upgrades.

If you don’t want to drive, join a guided tour from San Ignacio. 


11. Find the Hidden City of Caracol

Hidden deep inside the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is the Mayan city of Caracol. 

This was one of the largest and most important Mayan cities in the region at its peak. Today, it’s still Belize’s largest ruin and the complex even holds the tallest building man-made building in Belize to this day. 

Caana, meaning Sky Palace, is 43 metres tall, and you’re allowed to climb to the top for some epic views over the surrounding jungle!

How to Visit Caracol

It might seem obvious to combine Caracol with other attractions in Mountain Pine Ridge, but the ancient city is much further away (2.5+ hours from San Ignacio). This means it would be impossible to see everything in one day.

If you’ve got a 4×4 rental vehicle, you can drive yourself to Caracol. But taking a guided tour from San Ignacio is recommended, and the city will come to life with the explanation of a guide. Tours do include brief stops at some of the other natural attractions in the reserve. 


12. Cross the Border to Discover Tikal

The Mayan Ruins of Tikal in Guatemala near Belize

Although there are so many unique adventures in the Belize jungle, if you’re already in San Ignacio, you should consider crossing the border to Guatemala for the day to visit the grandest of all Mayan cities. 

You might think if you’ve seen one Mayan ruin, you’ve seen them all, but you’ll soon realise the Mayan Ruins of Tikal are something special.

Enshrouded in the jungle, Tikal is one of the most spectacular examples of Mayan architecture and ingenuity. Temples soar metres above the treeline, howler monkeys roar from deep in the jungle and vast plazas connect ornate structures. 

Even if you’re not a history buff, Tikal will take your breath away. Both with its physical structures and jungle environment. Be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife like monkeys, iguanas, coatis and agoutis. 

How to Visit Tikal

If you are continuing your travels in Guatemala, you can take public transport across the border to visit Tikal.

However, if you would just like to visit for the day, from Belize, then a tour from San Ignacio is strongly recommended.

Navigating the border crossing and public transport there and back would be tricky in a day, so if you want to do it independently, it’s best to plan a stopover in Flores, near Tikal.


Best Places to Stay in the Belize Jungle

As you can see, the Belize jungle is easily accessible from many popular destinations around the country, like San Ignacio, Belize City, Hopkins and Placencia. 

To make your time in the jungle even more memorable, you should consider staying at a jungle lodge. 

These types of accommodation generally include all meals and activities, due to their remote location. 

What is normally just a bed to sleep in becomes part of your jungle experience. Most lodges have trails for visitors to explore on their property, and often you will see wildlife right from your window! 

Some of the best jungle lodges in Belize are: 

Are you sold on the Belize jungle yet?! 

Although the islands and coastal areas of Belize are incredible, it would be a shame to not experience the other side of this beautiful country. 

Visiting both the cayes and the jungle will give you a broader perspective of Belize, having seen its varied landscapes, gained a deeper insight into its Mayan history, and encountered its unique wildlife. 

Which Belize jungle adventure would be a must on your itinerary? Are you interested in the Mayan culture, the thrilling cave adventures, or spotting wildlife?

Planning Your Trip to Belize?

Planning your trip to Placencia? Here are some of our recommended useful resources to help you have the best time possible:

TRAVEL INSURANCE IS AN IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION! World Nomads offers cover for travellers in over 100 countries and True Traveller is a great option if you’re from the UK or EU.

SafetyWing is another solution, particularly for digital nomads and long-term travellers.

● Use Wise (formerly Transferwise) for sending or receiving money internationally. It’s cheap, easy and transparent.

● Find amazing flight deals on Skyscanner and Kayak.

● Compare rental car prices on Rentalcars.com.

Book other ground transportation with 12Go and  Bookaway.

● Booking.com usually have the best hotel prices.

● Our go-to for self-catering accommodation is Vrbo.

● Discover fantastic trips and activities with Viator and GetYourGuide.

● Check out Bookmundi, G Adventures, and  Intrepid Travel for group holidays and tours.

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Tanya Korteling

Tanya is the founder and head content creator for Can Travel Will Travel. She combines freelance SEO, CRO, Data and Marketing consultancy with exploring the world. Passionate about adventure, nature, wildlife and food, she incorporates these in her travels as much as possible. She also loves immersing herself in new cultures. She's visited hundreds of destinations in 50+ countries and lived in 4 countries. Tanya worked as a Data Planning Manager and Digital Marketing Strategist before leaving the UK in 2016 with her husband Andy, to travel, live and work abroad indefinitely. Together they share their experiences and useful information to inspire and encourage others to do the same.

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