10 Must-See Caves to Visit in Belize

by Carolee Chanona

Hidden below the jungle canopies, navigate Belize’s complex underground cave system on foot, canoe or inner tube to reveal natural splendors of the Maya’s past. Considered pathways to the underworld, or ‘Xibalba’ in Maya, caves are sacred havens where glistening limestone formations and vast chambers are just the beginning.

atm cave
The ATM Cave. © Leonardo Melendez Photography

ACTUN CHAPAT AND ACTUN HALAL

Actun Chapat, or the Centipede Cave, plus Actun Halal, or the Dart Cave, are located 19 miles south of San Ignacio. Inside houses man-made features–including terraces and raised platforms. Human remains and artifacts have been found here.

Located in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve in the Cayo district, this popular cave holds much evidence of Maya sacrifices – from pottery to a fully crystallized skeleton known as the “Crystal Maiden.”

Accessible only by canoe, this wet cave runs over four miles long, and was once used for Maya ceremonies and burials. Even though most of the cave has been excavated, it still holds many visible artifacts

CAVES BRANCH (NOHOCH CHE’EN)

Float on an inner tube along the Caves Branch River as it takes you through this series of caves. There are various pottery shards remaining as evidence of the ancient Maya ceremonies.

fun fact must see caves
barton creek cave
Barton Creek cave. Photo © David Diaz
Che Chem Ha Cave. © Duarte Dellarole Photography

CHE CHEM HA CAVE

Discovered by a farmer just outside of Benque Viejo del Carmen, Che Chem Ha – the Cave of Poisonwood Water – holds numerous Maya artworks and artifacts. The cave’s entrance is decorated with Maya motifs, and its interior walls are lined with large storage jars.

CRYSTAL CAVE

Along the scenic Hummingbird Highway lies the second cave within the St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park, the Crystal Cave or Mountain Cow Cave. Following a hike and rappelling adventure inside, you will find impressive caverns adorned with crystalline formations and artifacts like pottery, beads and obsidian blades.

Found along the forest trail within the St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park near the country’s capital of Belmopan, St. Herman’s Cave holds important cultural and archaeological significance. Pottery vessels used for collecting Zuh Uy Ha (virgin water) from dripping speleothems were found here.

© Karyme Cabrera/Belize Audubon Society
Tiger Cave. © Michael Turtle

TIGER CAVE

This cave, named as such because villagers once saw a dog chase a jaguar cub into the cave, is about an hour-and-a- half hike from the village of San Miguel, in the Toledo District. The hike to Southern Belize’s Tiger Cave passes through modern-day Maya farms and milpas.

Article found on page 57 of the 2020 Belize Gold Book. Feature photo of Barton Creek Cave in Belize, © Duarte Dellarole Photography. Read more articles from the #BelizeGoldBook below:

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