Belize’s Caribbean Sea-facing East Coast and 200 cayes (islands) mean this Central American country has white- and gold-sand beaches in spades. But head west and you’ll encounter a whole different world of lush jungles, elaborate cave systems, waterfalls, rivers and ruins from the ancient Maya civilization. One resort wants to take you to explore this other side of Belize.
The San Ignacio Resort Hotel, a luxury resort in Western Belize in the Cayo District near the Macal River, can take you beyond the beach with tubing, caving, water, cultural and jungle experiences. The 26-room property is located on a 17-acre private estate within walking distance of the Cahal Pech Maya Site and quaint San Ignacio. As part of its 40th anniversary, the hotel also recently underwent a major renovation that includes a marble Mediterranean-style lobby with a hardwood staircase, air-conditioned Baroque-themed Lobby Bar, formal dining room, extended outdoor seating and two premium suites: the Master Suite and Royal Suite.
Top experiences for various levels of fitness and ages include:
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve (six–seven hours, easy to moderate)
Explore part of the 300-square-mile area where you’ll discover a cool shaded pine forest, waterfalls, river valleys and cave formations. Visit Rio Frio Cave, Rio on Pools, Big Rock Falls and Hidden Valley Falls — a narrow chute of water falling more than 1,000 feet.
Waterfall Caves Expedition at Caves Branch (six hours, strenuous)
Start with a 45-minute hike through the jungle that takes you to Caves Branch, where you’ll need to navigate tight spaces before getting to the foot of the waterfalls. Use a rappel rope to climb them, then dive in before heading back through the jungle.
Barton Creek Cave (1.5 hours, easy)
This cave flows from a giant crack in the mountain and gives visitors a glimpse into Maya history. Take a boat ride in darkness through clear waters and marvel at natural formations, burial grounds, ceremonial pottery and bones of ancient natives.
Jaguar Paw Cave Tubing (four hours, moderate)
Learn a little more about native flora and fauna during a 30–40-minute hike along a nature trail before arriving at the Underworld, called “Xibalba” by the Maya people. Don a headlamp, grab an inner tube and float down this cave system where you’ll come across stalactites and stalagmites.
Xunantunich (two–three hours, easy to moderate)
This site is where you’ll find the 130-foot-tall temple El Castillo, which offers views of surrounding temples and the Belizean and Guatemalan landscapes. In ancient times Xunantunich was a ceremonial center and residential and recreational area for the Maya. Look for the stucco frieze on the temple’s East side, which has carved elements representing astrological symbols.
Calico Jack’s Ziplining (3.5–4 hours, moderate)
See the rainforest from a whole new vantage point! Select from one of three different runs, or do all of them: 9 runs, 15 platforms, a jungle life and 2,700 feet of ziplining.
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By Hainan Airlines
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