The Maya Underworld
Cave Attractions in Cayo District
Begin your journey back through time as you enter the amazing realm of Belize's cave systems, with a chance to learn more about a mysterious ancient Maya civilization and the geological processes that shaped the region. Millions of years ago, seeping rainwater and underground rivers began etching through soft bedrock and outcrops. Today caves are to Belize like Swiss is to cheese. The lime-rock matrix that makes up much of the country's landmass is riddled with caves and beneath the surface can be found some of the most spectacular and extensive cave systems on the planet. Now you might be expecting dark and claustrophobic passageways, however you are more likely to find enormous chambers and a subterranean world that is fast becoming one of Belize's most popular attractions.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM)
If you wanted to do the most amazing thing we have to offer, it would be Actun Tunichil Muknal, aka The ATM Cave. Amazing Mayan skeletal remains, amazing pottery, amazing cave. Don't think so much amazing-ness comes easy. You will drive on a terrible road, hike about 45 minutes in to the cave, swim into the cave, wade through the cave, climb around the cave, explore and then go through it all again in the opposite order.
Warning: This is not a cave for young children, those not physically fit, with knee, hip or ankle problems or with problems with claustrophobia and or heights.
Departure: 7am - 3pm
Drive time: 50 minutes
Barton Creek Cave Canoeing
Typically getting to a cave requires hiking in, but that's not the case at Barton Creek. You drive right up, hop in a canoe and away you go to explore this cave system. Apart from the drive, this is the easiest cave to do. You're not missing out by not breaking a sweat. Barton Creek a pretty cave where you glide through this underwater cave system in a canoe equipped with a powerful spotlight. Barton Creek Cave lies deep within lands owned by the Amish. It is believed that the Maya once used this cave for ritual ceremonies. While canoeing through the cave see large colorful formations, skeletal remains and other cultural artifacts left behind by the Maya centuries ago. This is a half-day tour, which can be combined with an excursion to the Mountain Pine Ridge.
Departure: 8am to 12pm
Drive time: 45 minutes
Enter a realm where rivers disappear into the underworld as you float on inner tubes with your head lamp leading the way. This is a fun and relaxing day spending 4 hours floating in an inner tube down a river, in and out of caves, with a head lamp on. Some underground hiking and jungle trekking with your inner tube is required. A popular tour with cruise ship visitors, it can get quite crowded at times.
Departure: Before 10am
Drive time: 1 hour
Rio Frio Cave
Rio Frio is the best cave for claustrophobics. Everything is big in this cave! The two 65-foot arched entry ways leave you in awe. Huge stalactites hang from the massive cathedral-like vault, which is part of a cave system the Maya used to bury their dead. Room size boulders are strewn throughout the cave and a stream flows through, forming pools with cascading falls. There is a beach area with a foot bridge for crossing the stream and getting to the other side, which leads to the exit. Its a quarter mile through to the other side, another equally impressive entrance. Openings at both ends make flashlights unnecessary for viewing the cave's formations during daylight hours.
Departures: 8am to 12pm
Drive time: 1 hour 15 minutes