You’ve come to the right place to read a list of the six best things to do in Mountain Pine Ridge, Belize.
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Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is a protected area in the Cayo District in Belize and stretches up to an area of 430 km². It is the oldest natural park in Belize.
Originally, the reserve was much larger but around 1952 it was made smaller, due to re-classification as a production forest. The forest consists predominantly of Caribbean Pine trees which are distinctive from trees in other parts of Belize, with pine cones instead of palm leaves.
Most of these Pine trees were burnt down in the 1940s despite efforts put in place to mitigate fires. Very few of the original Pine trees are left in the reserve and those that are still there are under assault from the native Southern Pine Bark Beetle since the early 2000s. This results in fewer, if any, trees that can actually go on to create seedlings for new Pine trees to grow from.
During the dry season from February to May, temperatures can soar up to 39°C. The humidity levels can reach 70% which can make you feel hot and sticky.
The wet season is from June to November if you want to avoid heavy rainfalls and slippery slopes, but this is when more animals and birds can be spotted around the reserve.
We went in January so it was hot and sticky, but when nightfall came, temperature reduced and cooled down.
We stayed at an Airbnb rental that made us feel like we were in middle of the jungle. The Cave was just a quick stroll down some paths near the restaurant. We arrived in the middle of the night, as there were no paved roads or asphalt laid for some 2 hours of driving or so. It took us that long because of the rugged landscapes of maneuvering over dips and bumps throughout the route.
If you have a keen eye and you spend some time quietly observing, you might have a chance to spot some wildlife. Ocellated turkey, Harpy Eagle, Eastern Bluebird, Acord Woodpecker, Red-lored Parrot, Scarlet Macaw and Belize’s national bird, Keel-billed Toucan, among others are a few of the unique species that could be sighted in the forest.
Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve is home to cougars, ocelots and crocodiles and also Belize’s national animal, Baird’s Tapirs.
Rio Frio Caves
Rio Frio Caves, spanish for Cold River, was a sacred burial grounds used by the Mayans. It has Cathedral ceilings with Stalactites, with a stream passing through and huge boulders. This is a suitable activity for the young and elderly, although some careful navigation maybe required at the other end of the cave to get across to the waterfalls.
Rio On Pools
Rio On Pools is a short hike away from Rio Frio Caves and consists of water gushing on to a series of boulders creating a waterfall. It is one of the best spots in Belize to cool off on a hot day. There are a number of connecting pools to choose from to swim in, along with areas to sunbathe on. Standing directly under the waterfall may assist in loosening up some tense muscles.
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Big Rock Falls
Big Rock Falls is a 45 meter high waterfall found in Privassion River. It is a popular destination with crystal clear water used for swimming and cliff-diving. A climb over some granite stones will lead to the base of the waterfall.
Entrance fee for Rio Frio Cave, Rio On Pools and Big Rock Falls is $7.50 USD. Drive time is approximately 2 hours.
1000 Foot Falls
Mountain Pine Ridge is where the Thousand Foot Falls is located and it is over 450m, the highest waterfall in Central America. It is a breathtaking sight to say the least and the sounds will be sure to soothe and calm you. There is a picnic area and restrooms so you can take the time you need to take it all in near the viewing area.
Barton Creek Cave
Barton Creek Cave is the biggest river cave in Belize, over 6km long accessed by taking a two person canoe. This canoe can be taken from start to finish without having to get into the water to swim or for tubing and is a great mode of transport for cave exploration. Barton Creek Cave is also the longest subterranean site in Belize.
The cave has been utilised by the Mayans around 200AD – 900AD for ritualistic purposes. Human remains, along with ceramics from this period have also been discovered in the cave raised on the platforms.
What’s great about this place is that the kids can enjoy it too. They can dip their feet in the water, take a dip or go canoeing along with mum and dad. Its also the perfect backdrop for photographs you’d like to capture, with lush greenery in the background.
It can take about 3 hours for a tour and about $97 with transfers to some locations included, entry fees and equipment such as headlamps, etc. It is highly recommended to wear comfortable attire and insect repellent. However, a couple of requirements for this tour are that you do not have a fear of the dark or be claustrophobic.
Things to Bring
Camera – Waterproof if possible
Rio Frio Cave & Rio On Pools: $$7.50 USD
Barton Creek Cave Tour: $97 Belize dollars
Rio Frio Caves, Rio On Pools & Big Rock Falls
Mountain Pine Ridge
Barton Creek Cave Reserve
Upper Barton Creek Road
40 Park Street