Imagine yourself in a world where time seems to stand still, and you will hold your breath at the otherworldly landscapes that make up the network of caves in Belize. As your eyes adjust to the absence of sunlight you will be amazed at the wild shapes of the porous rock, the sounds that seem to echo from the past, the smells and the cool air on your warm skin.
How It Formed
Belize’s geological structure is mostly porous karst limestone, which is ideal for the formation of underground caves and rivers. We have known for years of the existence of mythic caves, but everyday spelunkers are still discovering new ones. Expert cave divers sponsored by the National Geographic Society have found Central America’s longest cave system on the Chiquibul River in the Maya Mountains. There is also evidence that these underground worlds were used for religious ceremonies.
Six Major Accessible Caves:
Rio Frio Cave
Located in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and reveals an impressive 65-foot arch at its opening. It’s only about a half-mile in length, making it ideal for first-time cavers. From the cave’s opening, visitors have a striking view of the entire cave and the stream running through it.
Barton Creek Cave
Hidden in the small Mennonite community of Barton Creek, along the Chiquibul Road in the Cayo District. These cool dark caverns were used by the ancient Maya for rituals such as human sacrifices, bloodletting, and fertility rites.
Che Chem Ha Cave
Located 16 miles from San Ignacio and offers an extraordinary experience. The entrance is decorated with Maya motifs and is guarded to prevent looting of hundreds of fully intact ancient Maya pots. Beginning with a 45-minute uphill hike through farmland and beautiful forest, guests will be escorted by an experienced guide.
Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave
Deep within the forest lies a wonder of both ancient and natural Belize. Following a 45-minute drive from San Ignacio and a 5-minute hike through the beautiful Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve with several jungle stream crossings, visitors find a crystal-clear stream flowing from its opening. Take a short swim into the cave and a guided and a guided hike through the passage to one of the most impressive sites in Belize. Also known locally as “Xibalba,” you’ll find evidence of ceramics, stoneware, and skeletons. One artifact, known as “Monkey Pot,” is one of just four found in Central America. One skeleton, known as “The Crystal Maiden,” is the calcified bones of a teenage girl, giving the skeleton a sparkling, iridescent appearance.
St. Herman’s Cave
One of the most accessible caves in the country, it lies among the dense tropical forest on the Hummingbird Highway, just 12 miles southeast of the capital city of Belmopan.
As part of the Blue Hole National Park, established in 1986, this holds important cultural and archaeological significance evidenced by its use by the Maya during the Classic Period.
Also referred to as the San Miguel Cave, given its proximity to the Maya village of San Miguel in the Toledo District, the nature hike to this cave offers an opportunity to learn about the diversity of the Toledo rain forest and a firsthand view of Maya farming practices.
What are you waiting for? If adventure, history, and exploring is for you, come and see the wondrous caves of Belize.
Written by Nelita Castillo