Every year, hundreds of thousands of travelers visit Belize by cruise. Despite its size, the country is a highly sought-after destination for popular cruise lines’ Caribbean cruises. But when you only have one day to explore the marvels a country has to offer, choosing carefully how to spend your time makes all the difference. Some travelers may opt to hit the beach as soon as they dock, others might want to take it easy and explore on foot. There’s no wrong choice (except maybe staying on the boat), but there’s one specific activity booked by Belize visitors far more than other tours: cave tubing.
According to the Belize Tourism Board, out of the thousands of visitors that came to Belize in April 2022, a whopping 31% chose to go cave tubing. This made it the most popular tour with more than 3,600 people going “butts up” in the Nohoch Che’en Caves of Belize. The area, also commonly known as Caves Branch or Jaguar Paw, is an archaeological reserve made out of a network of limestone caves. It sits about an hour’s drive away from Belize City, where the ship docks for the day. Visitors board an air-conditioned bus and are whisked away to the south of the City of Belmopan for a day of adrenaline-pumping adventure.
Once you’ve arrived at the private location, you’ll be equipped with a helmet, headlamp, life jacket, and river tube. It’s a 20-minute jungle hike to the cave entrance, but it’s mostly flat so there is no huffing and puffing needed to get there. There will come the point where you need to cross the Caves Branch River to get to the cave entrance, but the water is usually shallow and doesn’t go past your knees. The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive at the entrance is the stunningly blue-green river flowing gently into the cave.
You’ll immediately want to throw your tube down and plop right on it, which is exactly what your guide will instruct you to do. Listen carefully to his briefing and safety protocols before he straps you all together and leads you into the cave. During excursions like these, it’s best to leave all electronics in danger of getting wet on the bus or at the tour site’s front desk. However, if you can swing it, bring a waterproof camera to capture the amazing stalactite formations within the caves.
Once you’ve experienced the spooky yet exhilarating rush of the dark caves, you’ll rejoin civilization and grab lunch on site. The entire excursion takes about 5.5 hours and is a stellar introduction to the unique gems Belize has up its sleeve.
What you need to know
What makes cave tubing such an appealing activity is that it caters to all ages. Kids 6 years and older and adults alike will find fun by floating gently down the Caves Branch River. Cave tubing is most popularly booked by families since the close encounters allow for bonding time. The tour itself costs around $80-$90USD and requires a moderate activity level. You don’t need to bring your equipment, but you do need to wear light and comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting wet and a pair of water shoes to make things easier. However, you can usually rent water shoes at the tour sites if you forgot to bring some.
While cave tubing is Belize’s most popular land tour for cruise-goers, visiting an archeological reserve is a close second. If you decide to go that route, we recommend either Altun Ha or Lamanai for a morning of exploring and climbing ancient Maya sites.