Explore the Belizean Jungle: Top 12 Tours & Experiences

Belizean rainforest
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Although most people visit Belize for its islands, atolls and reefs, jungle adventure tours quickly become part of everyone’s list of must-have experiences in Belize.

Related: Top Eco Adventures in Belize & The Best Belize Rainforest Resorts

The reason why is simple. With over 60% of Belize under forest cover, the country is filled with national parks, nature reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries. As a result, visitors are presented with many perfect opportunities to get up close and personal with nature.

Top ways to experience the Belizean rainforest

Tapir sign at the Belize Zoo

Whether you choose to stay at jungle lodges or beach resorts, I suggest you seek out the 12 destinations listed below. There, you will be able to explore the Belizean rainforest through activities such as hiking, nature walks, wildlife spotting, horseback riding, canoeing, spelunking, river tubing, zip-lining, and exploring Maya temples.

1. Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

Rio on Pools in Mountain Pine Ridge, Belize

Located 2 hours south of San Ignacio, Mountain Pine Ridge is dedicated to preserving Belize’s native pine forest. It is a must-visit nature reserve since it has several of western Belize’s best outdoor activities, including sites that have scenic waterfalls, rushing pools, and mysterious caves. Visit for a day of hiking, swimming, and wildlife spotting.

2. Actun Tunichil Muknal

Family at ATM Cave

Listed by National Geographic as one of the top Sacred Places of a Lifetime, Actun Tunichil Muknal is an impressive Maya ceremonial cave located within the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve. The tour involves a 2-hour hike traversing dense rainforest near San Ignacio (and rivers) before arriving at the cave containing rare bloodletting altars, sacrificial human remains, and over 1400 catalogued Maya artifacts.

3. Xunantunich Archaeological Reserve

El Castillo is the tallest temple at Xunantunich

Located 15 minutes west of San Ignacio, Xunantunich is one of my favourite Maya sites. After crossing a hand-cranked ferry, lush jungle surrounds the temples. It’s a great spot for relaxing and spotting some wildlife: for example, a troupe of 8-12 howler monkeys can be regularly seen there. The main temple, El Castillo, rises 130 ft (40 m) from the ground offering spectacular views of nearby villages and Guatemalan mountains.

4. The Belize Zoo

Spider Monkeys at the Belize Zoo

Located 1 hour west of Belize City, the Belize Zoo is an animal sanctuary situated within 29 acres of tropical savanna. The zoo is unique in that it serves as a wildlife refuge for orphaned or rescued native animals of Belize and it is primarily used as an educational facility to promote wildlife conservation. Up to 45 native species can be seen here.

5. Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

Hiking views at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve

Located 15 miles (25 km) southwest of Hopkins, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is known as the world’s only Jaguar Preserve and a top jungle destination in Belize for hiking. Although visitors rarely see jaguars, the wildlife sanctuary is great for waterfall chasing and it is home to numerous plants and animals, including margays, deer, ocelots, pumas, howler monkeys, tapirs, and many birds.

6. Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve

Cave tubing in Belize

Located 30 minutes southeast of Belmopan City, Nohoch Cheʼen is an archaeological reserve consisting of an extensive network of limestone caves surrounded by the dense rainforest of Cayo. With the Caves Branch River flowing through some of the caves, it is a popular destination for cave-tubing, kayaking, and spelunking. A zip-line canopy tour can also be done on-site, which is often added as a 2-in-1 adventure.

7. Mayflower Bocawina National Park

Waterfall Repelling at Mayflower Bocawina National Park

Just 12 miles (20 km) northwest of Hopkins is Mayflower Bocawina, a national park with over 7000 acres of pristine lowland and highland rainforest. Along with having the longest canopy zipline in Belize, the park is a great location for exploring mountains, waterfalls, walking trails, swimming holes, and Maya archeological remains. Bocawina is also known as a great spot for birding.

8. Chaa Creek Nature Reserve

horseback riding in belize

Set along the banks of the Macal River, the Chaa Creek Nature Reserve is a 400-acre privately protected area near San Ignacio that offers extensive ecotourism facilities to resort guests and day visitors. On-site highlights include a butterfly farm, natural history museum, medicinal plants trail, Maya organic farm, guided birding, horseback riding, and rainforest ATV tours.

9. Lamanai Archaeological Reserve

Lamanai's mask temple

On the banks of the New River in Orange Walk is Lamanai. It is particularly popular for its Mask Temple, an ancient Mayan ruin that fashions a 13-foot stone mask of a Maya king. But another major highlight of visiting Lamanai is its scenic 26-mile boat safari ride there, where visitors can witness countless wildlife encounters including seeing crocodiles, river otters, monkeys, and various exotic birds.

10. St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park

northern emerald toucanet in Belize

Located 12 miles (20 km) south of Belmopan City, along the Hummingbird Highway, St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park hosts 575 acres of jungle waiting to be explored. Often referred to as the inland Belize Blue Hole, the park is primarily known for its sapphire-coloured cenote, however, less explored are its Maya caves and well-maintained hiking trails that make jungle exploration very accessible.

11. Caracol Archaeological Reserve

2012 Winter Solstice in Belize

A little further south of Mountain Pine Ridge lies Caracol. Once rivalling Guatemala’s Tikal, it is the largest archaeological reserve in Belize. The biggest temple at Caracol is “Caana” or “Sky Palace”, a massive pyramid that rises over 140 feet above the jungle floor and is the tallest manmade structure in Belize. Lush rainforest surrounds the temples, allowing for wildlife adventures such as advanced birding.

12. Gallon Jug Estate

Safari-drive Wildlife Spotting Night Tour at Chan Chich, Gallon Jug

A bit north of Cayo in Orange Walk sits the Galon Jug Estate, a secluded 30,000-acre private nature reserve that is primarily only accessed by Chan Chich Lodge guests. Surrounded by thousands of acres of conservation lands, the reserve allows for numerous wildlife-viewing opportunities. The elusive jaguar, for example, is spotted about once a week there.

Map of top Belize jungle adventures

The Belize jungle adventures listed here are ranked based on popularity and accessibility. Most tours can be done on your own but it’s best to hire a Belizean guide if you want to have a better chance at spotting wildlife and gaining a deeper understanding of a local area.

Rainforest infinity pool and Manicured Grounds at Chaa Creek Eco Resort

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Reader Interactions


  1. Lawrence Mascarenhas says

    We would like a short three day tour of Cockscomb Bassin to try and see a Jaguar

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