Cayo District, Belize
Cayo District Travel Guide
On the western side of Belize, you will find the Cayo District spreading over 2,000 square miles of luscious landscape. This area shows an incredible wealth of interest and activities for tourists and is also the gateway to Guatemala and the incredible ruins of Tikal. The Mountain Pine Ridge is often named the main attraction of the area, but the Cayo District also includes many great Mayan ruins, the towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena, the border town of Benque Viejo and the lush valley between the scenic Mopan and Macal rivers.
Attractions and Activities
Discovering Cayo District
There are numerous waterfalls in Cayo District. The highest waterfall, and in fact in all of Central America, is the Hidden Valley Falls (also called Thousand Foot Falls), a spectacular cascade that plunges over 1,500 ft. down the mountain. Other waterfalls include: Butterfly Falls, situated on the property of Hidden Valley Inn; Five Sisters Falls; and Big Rock Falls.
The Cayo District district offers many great lodges, catering for all tastes and interests, each with its own personality, and most in attractive locations. Although you can rely on transfers and transport provided by the lodge, for greatest mobility and flexibility we recommend a rental car. This should be a 4WD as all the roads in the Mountain Pine Reserve are dirt. All lodges offer guided tours to the different sites including nature trails, jungle tours, and cave explorations.
A 90-minute drive from Belize City (70 miles) will bring you to San Ignacio, the principal town of the Cayo District and the second largest metropolitan area in the country of Belize. San Ignacio, which is built on seven hills, has a population of over 4000 people and includes Mestizo, Creole, Maya, Guatemalan, Lebanese, Mennonite, and other cultures. Both English and Spanish are spoken in this part of the country.
Mountain Paine Ridge
The Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve consists of beautiful, unspoiled mountain country complemented by rivers, waterfalls and caves and hosting the most beautiful flora and fauna. This Reserve is the only pine forest in all of Central America and the largest and oldest of Belize's parklands.
Belize is one of the cradle countries of the Mayan civilization, among the sites that can be visited are, Lamanai, Xunantunich and Caracol, famous for having the largest Mayan temple in Belize. Another site worth mentioning is Actun Tunichil Muknal, a popular cave system where you can find a variety of Mayan artifacts, including complete pots and skeletons, evidence of its ancient ritual use. Other smaller archeological sites are Cahal Pech, Bakin Pot, Lower Dover and El Pilar
Tikal, in Guatemala, is among the world's travel wonders, many calling Tikal one of the most spiritually powerful spots on earth. The monumental site with its towering pyramids looms out of the thick jungle canopy like stoic sentinels of ancient mysteries. Tikal is one of the main attractions because it is possible to do a one-day tour from San Ignacio since it is just at 2 hours driving from San Ignacio.
Location and Map
Cayo District is located 115 km (72 miles) from Belize City. The nearest international airport is Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport. Either from the airport or from Belize City, the ground transfer will take approximately 2 hours.