Before our jungle adventures (and the resulting heat exhaustion) we had planned to do the ATM caves, where you hiked through the jungle and then walked and swam through caves for hours to finally get to a cave full of Mayan skeletons and pottery. The Mayan believed caves are the entrance to the watery underworld, and would leave sacrifices for the Gods in the caves. We heard from many people this tour was a highlight of their trip to Belize. After two days of jungle hikes and cave exploration we just did not have it in us to do the ATM cave (I literally could not handle one more bug bite, we were both covered). Also, it was over 100 degrees the entire time we were in Belize and very humid, the heat was more than we were used to. So instead of the ATM tour we decided we wanted to slowly float down a cool river on inner tubes so we headed to Nohoch Che’en for some tubing.
Caves Branch Outpost can be very touristy, especially if you go Tuesday-Thursday when the cruise ships are docked. We went on a Friday and there were not many people and we hired a private guide (you will see them flagging you down at the entrance) so we got to tube and explore at our own slow pace. The river flows through caves and tropical jungle and is a beautiful aqua blue, very cool and crystal clear. It felt wonderful in the heat! Also, I was impressed by how well this area was kept up, considering the volume of people that visit, I did not see one piece of trash the entire time we were there.
Spanish Lookout is a Mennonite community in the Cayo district of Belize. I thought they were speaking German while we were there, but in fact they were speaking Plautdietsch and are from Nova Scotia. They drive in buggies and reminded us of the Amish in the US. There is not much to do in this area, but for travelers driving it is a great place to stop and stock up on local cheese, dairy and meat at the Farmers Trading Center, it is probably one of the nicer grocery stores we saw in Belize. They also have a ton of auto parts stores here.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
From Spanish Lookout we headed into Pine Ridge Forest. There is a lot to do in this area if you have a vehicle and we enjoyed free camping alone in the forest at night and swimming in the cool rivers and waterfalls during the day. The roads here were not great and I think a car with low clearance would have some difficulties in some areas. Also, we drove out to Thousand Foot Falls and the road was in bad condition at the end and we were not really sure it was worth the drive. It was about 40 minutes each way on rough dirt road and when you get there all there is to do is snap a picture. After about five minutes we were ready to leave. However, we really enjoyed Rio on Pools and had the place to ourselves for most of two days, it was really great and this is easy to explore and free!
Overall, we only spent eight days in Belize, not much, but it is a very small country compared to Mexico and easy to drive. We did not go out to the islands because Sam had already been and we are planning to dive on the Bay Islands of Honduras. We liked the sites of Belize, but loved the people. When I think back on Belize I will think of all the people with huge smiles welcoming me to their country. Their genuine warmth and positive attitude made everyday in Belize so much fun. I am sure we will be back to Belize again one day!