Adventure Hunting In Western Belize
It had been quite some time since my last adventure, and I was craving something that would get my adrenaline going again. So I decided to team up with a few fellow travelers and go adventure hunting in western Belize.
Our journey began in the small town of San Ignacio about half an hour East of the Guatemalan border. Our ride was a 2006 4X4 Chevy Tracker, and she was a real beauty. I was driving, and my passengers included a couple from Canada, a Colombian, and a South African.
Money Savings: We rented an SUV from these guys for $100 USD including gas. Which split five ways was $20 per person. Much better than the $85 per person minimum tour trip. We were able to go where we wanted when we wanted.
We set off southeast down a rough and tumble road towards the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. This was supposed to be the adventure capital in this part of Belize. Waterfalls, caves and limestone swimming holes in the middle of nowhere were all on the agenda.
The best part was that the reserve was completely free to visit. You just give the man guarding the entrance your name and license plate number, and you’re in.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
Western Belize is crammed full of adventure activities. Millions of years of water erosion have worn away the limestone bedrock creating an uncountable number of caves.
The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is home to most of these natural wonders and more than one lifetime can be spent trying to visit them all.
Rivers, waterfalls, and caves aren’t all that you can find in western Belize. There are also a few very creepy ghost towns out in the middle of nowhere. Like this dreary collection of dilapidated shacks.
Creepy Ghost Town
We walked around the abandoned compound for half an hour. Some of the homes were partly furnished, and a few had some modern trash left behind like a bag of chips and a plate with just ketchup on it.
That’s weird, right?
As it turns out this creepy ghost town was not abandoned at all. It was the Douglas D’Silva forest station, and it is still operational, although none of the buildings that we saw looked in any way operational.
Douglas D’Silva Forest Station
We hopped back in the car, some of us still very creeped out by our current surroundings, and headed off to our first adventure destination. A giant cave in the middle of the jungle with a river running through it.
It had been awhile since I had been caving (minus the cenotes in Mexico of course). I was super excited to get covered in mud and wade through some murky cold cave water.
The entrance to the Rio Frio Cave was quite ominous. On a bright sunny day when looking into the cave, it is pitch black. It was a massive dark hole in the earth, and that got my adrenaline pumping. I was ready to venture into Xibalba (the Mayan underworld).
Into The Abyss
After crossing the barrier of the seventy-foot-high entrance, the cave lit up. Our eyes slowly adjusted to the darker cavern and we could now see the entirety of Rio Frio Cave. This place was incredible.
Rio Frio Cave
There where stalactites and stalagmites everywhere, giving it that quintessential cave feel.
There was even a small beach!
I couldn’t believe how large this cavern was. I had never been in anything underground quite this grandiose.
This Place Is Huge
Just as I was thinking that, a small beam of light caught my eye. I focused in and could see daylight.
Man! I thought this was a cave.
There just so happened to be another opening around the corner, not quite as magnificent as the first entrance but still very impressive. This, unfortunately, turned the Rio Frio Cave into the Rio Frio Tunnel. It was disappointing to have the dark and mysterious cavern end so abruptly, but I was still exploring a massive tunnel none the less.
The Back Door
We each spent the next few hours exploring our own portion of the cave/tunnel.
I got pretty wrapped up in my photos and the overall awesomeness of the cave, and it had been awhile since I’d heard from the others. I called out a few times to no avail. Everyone else had apparently gone, and I didn’t want to be the party pooper, so I packed up my things and hightailed it out of there.
It was now on to our next adventure destination. A Set of open pools along the “On” river in the middle of nowhere, Belize.
Deep in the interior of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve there lies a set of natural pools atop exposed limestone rock. Water cascading down from the hills becomes momentarily trapped creating small crystal clear swimming holes.
Rio On Pools
Working your way downstream from the top, you can hop from pool to pool. There are even a few natural water slides that can be fun but hazardous if not ridden with caution.
Swimming The Day Away
We arrived at midday, and it was the perfect time to be there. The clouds were just beginning to clear making it warm enough to enjoy the very refreshing water.
We took a dip and then sunbathed on the rocks while making some lunch. I, unfortunately, passed on the food because at the time I was still freaking out over how much more expense Belize was than Mexico. My budget was being obliterated daily.
I’ve since come to terms with the fact that most places in the Western Hemisphere are more expensive than Mexico.
A Couple Of Lovebirds
After visiting the largest cave you’ve ever been to it is pretty hard to top it with a swimming hole in the forest. Although we were having plenty of fun enjoying Rio On Pools, what we were really looking forward to was our next adventure destination. A giant waterfall with massive boulders and cliff jumping.
How could we not be excited for that?
After a few more miles of bumpy road and a little detour for some offroad fun, we hit the trail to the Big Rock Waterfalls. Ten minutes downhill and some pretty sketchy steps later we had arrived.
Big Rock Waterfalls
Pretty true to their name, the Big Rock Waterfalls have; you guessed it; big rocks and waterfalls. The highest waterfall being 150-foot in fact.
We stood there with our mouths open in awe of the massive beauty. So much so that we didn’t notice the hoard of travelers making their way towards the falls.
We quickly got undressed and protected our bags from the inevitable rain that was to come from the dark, ominous clouds. One by one we dove in, this time the water was thankfully much warmer.
The next half hour was spent swimming and jumping from the high cliffs near the falls. Almost everyone underestimated just how slippery rocks can be when wet. More than a few of us nearly lost our teeth.
It’s Time To Go!
As clouds started to darken, thunder could be heard in the distance.
It was time to go!
So we grabbed our gear and headed up the long, treacherous staircase back to the car.
Most of our energy was spent by the time we arrived. A condition that was quickly remedied by a few frosty beers from the corner shop on the way home. None for the driver of course.
Looking for some adventures in Belize?
Look no further than the adventure capital of San Ignacio. It has all you would ever need.
Interesting that Mexico is less expensive than Central America. I would have thought it to be the opposite. Thanks for sharing your adventure Grant! Looking forward to your next post!
What a fantastic adventure Grant! Your words and photos created a virtual experience for me!
Hey Grant, this is Pollito from Hostal El Poeta Guatemala. I’ve been checking your adventures and it seems you have something that makes them really interesting and fun, they’re so cool! I’ll definitely keep checking up your stories. I just came back from Colombia man, and as you said once, this is definitely for me, this is what I need and want. Keep in touch! Blessings and take care (:
I knew you would think so. I still remember my first trip like it was yesterday. Thanks for the praise and I will look you up anytime I’m in Guatemala City again.