- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
- Spanish Phrases
The area around Belmopan, with its karst limestone topography, is a paradise for cavers. St. Herman's Blue Hole National Park. At St. Herman's Blue Hole National Park, at Mile 42 of the Hummingbird Highway, there are two large caves, St. Herman's and the Crystal Cave. Both require a guide to explore (guides are available at the national park visitor center), though you can go without a guide into the first 300 yards of St. Herman's.
PACZ Tours. The best ATM tour operator, PACZ is operated by Emilo Awe and Jamal Crawford, with help by Bob Jones, formerly of Eva's. The tour costs around BZ$180—including lunch, if you book directly with PACZ. Your hotel or lodge can arrange an ATM or other caving trip but may add an additional fee. 30 Burns Ave., San Ignacio. 824/0536. www.pacztours.net.
Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch Archeological Reserve. Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch is the most-visited archeological site in Belize, mainly because of the number of cruiseship daytrippers who come here. However, that doesn't diminish the grandeur—and just plain fun—you'll experience when you float on inner tubes in the Caves Branch River through caves that the ancient Maya held sacred. Many Belize City, Belmopan, and San Ignacio tour companies offer cave tubing tours that include transportation, equipment, and a guide, typically for a charge of BZ$100 to BZ$130 per person, although you can drive to the park and do cave tubing on your own with a guide for lower cost. The site, now fairly commercial with a large paved parking lot, changing rooms, concession stands, bar, and shops, is at the end of a paved road off Mile 37 of the Western Highway, near Jaguar Paw (which is no longer operating as a hotel). Tour operators at the site including Caves Branch Outpost (www.cavesbranchoutpost.com; 671-0987) provide guides and equipment, and independent guides wait to offer tours. With an independent guide you'll pay around BZ$50 to BZ$70, depending on how many caves you want to go float through. Tours start with a 30-minute hike to the cave entrance, and then you float back to a point near the parking lot. There is also a zip line at this site, operated by Jaguar Paw/Chukka Caribbean. Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch, off Mile 37, Western Hwy., Frank's Eddy Village. From Belize City, follow the Western Hwy. to Mile 37. Turn south (left) on a paved road and follow about 6 mi (10 km) to Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch Archeological Reserve parking lot. 226/2882. BZ$20.
Actun Tunichil Muknal. The Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave system runs some 3 mi (5 km) through the limestone of Cayo, just a few miles from Belmopan. ATM is the resting place of the Crystal Maiden, a Maya girl who was sacrificed here, along with at least 13 others, including seven children, hundreds of years ago. If you visit Actun Tunichil Muknal ("Cave of the Stone Sepulcher" in the Mayan language), you will experience what many say are the most awesome sights in all of Central America. You'll see amazing limestone formations, thousand-year-old human calcified skulls and skeletons, and many Mayan artifacts including well-preserved pottery. As long as you are in adequate physical condition—you have to hike almost an hour, swim in neck-deep water, and clamber through dark, claustrophobic underground chambers—this is sure to be the most memorable tour you'll take in Belize. Although you can drive on your own to the staging area for ATM, you must have a licensed and specially trained guide to visit it, as you'll be up close and personal with priceless Maya artifacts. It's easiest to do an all-day tour from San Ignacio or Belmopan. These tours run around BZ$160-$200, including lunch and the BZ$50 admission fee. Mile 52.5, Western Hwy., Belmopan. 822/3302 National Institute of Culture & History (NICH). BZ$50, plus required guide fee. Daily 8-4:30.
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- Belize City Savings! Book 3 Nts in May Fr $176+/Nt Expedia
- Visit Belize City for Less: Hotels Fr $149+/Nt Travelocity
- Super Savings on Belize City 5 Nts Htl + Air Fr $820 Travelocity
- Save Big This May! Book 3 Nts in Belize City Fr $109+/Nt — $109 Expedia
- Top Vacation Sale! 7 Nts + Air as Low as $984 — $984 Travelocity