Visit Northern Belize’s Spectacularly Scenic New River Lagoon

by Larry Waight
BTB River Cruise Lamanai

The New River Lagoon is Belize’s largest lake. Stretching over 25 miles, it’s home to a vast array of wildlife and birds. If you want to see one of Belize’s most beautiful, untouched natural areas, visit this scenic lagoon.

Visiting Orange Walk

The New River Lagoon is in the Orange Walk District of Belize. Belizeans sometimes call Orange Walk “Sugar City” because of its history as the home of sugar cane plantations. The district is just 30 miles from the Mexican border. Most of its 40,000 residents primarily speak Spanish, and the food has a distinctly Mexican influence. Like much of Belize, Orange Walk is rural and unspoiled. There are several Mennonite villages in Orange Walk. It’s worth visiting them to see how these traditional farmers live and work. Orange Walk Town is the capital of the district, ranking as the fourth largest city in Belize.

How to Get to the New River Lagoon

lamanai boat tour new river lagoon

Photo by Lamanai Eco Tours Ltd.

The lagoon is in the center of the district. It’s surrounded by rivers and creeks. The best way to see it is to take a boat ride from Orange Walk Town. The river and the lagoon are alive with colorful wildlife. After all, the Belize Audubon Society has listed the New River Lagoon as one of Belize’s best spots for birders. You’ll see cormorants, Jabiru storks, roseate spoonbills, northern jacanas, great black hawks, blue crowned motmots, night herons, squirrel cuckoos, toucans, macaws and dozens of parrot species. You can see the famous jacana bird, which is known as the Jesus bird because it looks like it’s walking on water. As you cruise into the lagoon, you’ll see even more animals. Freshwater crocodiles, sea turtles and rays populate the water. Deer, foxes, tapirs, ocelots, iguanas and howler monkeys walk along the banks.

Lamanai Maya Site


Lamanai Maya Site. Photo courtesy of BTB

The Lamanai Maya ruins are on the banks of the New River Lagoon. Lamanai is one of Belize’s most important archeological sites. It was a ceremonial center where you can still see the remnants of a great Maya city. Lamanai’s ruins include temples, ball courts, a plaza, homes and commercial buildings. The name is Maya for “submerged crocodile.”

Getting to Orange Walk

If you’re in Placencia, Orange Walk is a four-hour drive or a two-hour domestic airline flight. From Belize City, it’s a one-hour drive or 20-minute flight. If you want to stay overnight, there are several jungle resorts in the district. 

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