Monkey River and Manatee Watch Tour

Monkey River boat tour
Reading Time: 6 mins

Belize has the reputation of being a well-preserved jewel and its beauty can be experienced through the many nature and wildlife tours. One of these experiences is the Monkey River Tour and Manatee Watch that can be done from Placencia in Southern Belize.

This nature and wildlife tour involves exploring the Monkey River ecosystem, including the surrounding broadleaf forest, allowing visitors to be up close to nature and spot countless wildlife such as birds, iguanas, crocodiles, howler monkeys, and sometimes even tapirs. Additionally, the tour involves learning about the history of Monkey River Village, including a discussion of the devastation caused by Hurricane Iris in 2001.

And after cruising through the length of the Monkey River, visitors are treated to an exhilarating tour of Manatee watching near Harvest Caye.

Our Monkey River Experience

shuttle to placencia

The day’s adventure started at 4:30 AM for Pablo, Luis and I, since we had to travel from San Ignacio to Southern Belize.  Fortunately, we had a comfortable, air-conditioned van ride courtesy of Belize Ground Shuttle. And thanks to our amazing driver, Avram, we were able to meet our Monkey River guide on time for the early morning tour.

The drive from San Ignacio to the Hopkins junction, where we were picked up by Get To Know Belize Adventures, took us about 2 hours. From there, it took us another hour to get to the dock of the MnM Hardware & Service Station in Placencia. We arrived in a timely manner, ready to board the speed boat at 8:00 AM.

boat trip to monkey river

Accompanying us on the tour were an elderly couple from France and our guide, Jeremy. Jeremy wasted no time in introducing himself and discussing the tour that we were about to experience. He mentioned that we would be traveling along narrow mangrove paths on the coast of the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts to get to Monkey River Village.

On this particular day the sea was rather choppy, but Jeremy managed to skillfully maneuver the boat through the waves as smoothly as possible. On the way, we saw many cayes of varying sizes as well as mangrove patches and seabirds. After a 40-minute boat ride from Placencia, we made it to Monkey River Village.

Monkey River Village (also referred to Moneky River Town) is a small fishing community in the Toledo District. According to our guide, the population is around 200 residents and many of them are expert free divers and fishermen. Many make a livelihood out of fishing for barracuda, snook and tarpons, and free diving for lobsters. The village has little to no phone service or WIFI.

Monkey River Village

Arriving at the village, we were instructed by Jeremy to place our lunch orders, grab some bottles of water and use the restroom before continuing our tour. The lunch item for the day was baked chicken with rice and beans and coleslaw.

We collected our bottles of water and then headed back to the boat. From there, we sailed smoothly into the Monkey River. Both sides of the river were dense tropical broadleaf forest that had revived after the massive destruction caused by Hurricane Iris in 2001.

According to Jeremy, Hurricane Iris wiped out all vegetation along the Monkey River, and since then, the forest has been restored naturally. The many trunks of the fallen trees, for example, were eaten away by termites.

Howler Monkey at Monkey River

On our boat ride, we heard the loud howls of black howler monkeys in nearby treetops and saw many birds such as egrets, herons and flycatchers. Our boat sailed down the Monkey River for about 20 minutes before docking at a shallow opening that led to a small hiking trail into the forest.

The hike was interesting since it included Jeremy pointing out the variety of flora of the area. There were breadfruit trees, many different types of mushrooms and fungi, and a large patch of giant bamboo shoots. As we hiked, a troop of howler monkeys were right above our heads. Dangling and swinging through the low tree branches.

The hike wasn’t as excruciating as I had thought it would be. The trail was rather flat and the humidity was bearable. We hiked the trail for about 30 minutes before returning to our boat and heading back to Monkey River Village for lunch.

Monkey River hike

On our ride back, we saw an American crocodile relaxing near a shallow bank. It took me a second to spot it since it was camouflaged well by the low-lying tree branches. Jeremy got us as close as he could to the crocodile and as the boat drew closer to it, the crocodile leaped into the water.

On the way back we also saw daytime bats that attached themselves to the trunk of the trees. And we saw a nest of a bird called the Montezuma Oropendola. Their nests were large, woven sacks hanging from the branches of a young ceiba tree.

Jeremy mentioned that the male Montezuma Oropendolas would take about 2 weeks to construct the perfect nest for his partner. If the female bird does not like the nest, she will destroy it and male has to reconstruct it better – finding love is rough for these birds.

Making our way back to the village, we enjoyed a wonderful plate of rice and beans with baked chicken and coleslaw. It was super delicious – take my word for it. Being a Belizean and eating rice and beans for the entire life, I know what’s a good plate of rice and beans…and this was it! We washed our lunch down with a cold bottle of pineapple fanta.

Manatees in Placencia, Belize

After lunch, we boarded our boat and headed in the direction of Placencia. Near Harvest Caye, we started our manatee watching portion of the tour. Bear in mind, it’s more of a manatee spotting than watching. Getting to spot a manatee takes a good eye and patience. The only way we would see the manatees was when they would poke their nose out of the water to breathe. We saw about 3 manatees including a little baby and its mother.

We took photos of the manatees then headed back to Placencia. By this time, it was around 1:30 PM and we had enough time to explore Placencia before heading back to San Ignacio. Overall, it was a fun and fascinating trip that I’d do again.

Where is Monkey River located?

Monkey River is located in Southern Belize. It lies along a stretch of tropical broadleaf forest attached to the Monkey River Village. Monkey River Village is the northernmost village in Toledo.

How to get to Monkey River?

To get to Monkey River, you must take a 30-40 minute boat ride from Placencia going south to Toledo. The boat will traverse through mangrove channels and the coastal areas of Stann Creek and Toledo to get to Monkey River Village where the river resides. If you are not staying in Placencia, you would be required to travel from your location to Placencia. offers many shuttle transfers that will take you to Placencia for this tour.

What is the cost of the Monkey River tour?

The cost of the Monkey River tour with Get To Know Belize Adventure can range from $90 to $140 USD depending on your group size. If you’re traveling with a group of 7 or more, the cost of the tour is lowered to $90 USD per person.

What clothing/gear to bring along?

Some items that I would definitely recommend that you to bring along this tour are sunblock, bug spray, plenty of water, comfortable clothing and shoes, camera, and extra cash for tipping and souvenir shopping in Placencia.

When is the best time to go on a Monkey River tour?

The Monkey River tour can be done all year round as long as the weather permits. Keep in mind that you will be on a boat sailing through the Caribbean Sea and downstream a river and hiking through the forest, so optimally, you should book this tour during a sunny day.



Reader Interactions


  1. Faye Owens says

    We went to Placencia for several reasons in 2000. Stayed in a wonderful studio apt that was located over a very small cafe owned and operated by a sweet lady, Bernice. She was the best hostess we have ever had. We went on several tours up Monkey River into the Rainforest and our guide, Percy, mothers village for lunch. Percy was an excellent guide, very informative and entertaining. We went off shore fishing with a skilled guide and I caught 2 barracuda and husband scored a very large sunfish. Went snorkeling off Laughing Bird Cay, even though I could not swim. The underwater sea life was amazing. Our guide made lunch for all of us on the boat. He was the same guide that took us off shore fishing. He was fantastic. Our hostess always had fresh flowers in our room. Upon our arrival there was a wonderful meal of lobster tails, potatoes and salad. A bottle of champagne chilling and a chocolate heart shape cake on the table. She packed lunches for us when we went on a Mayan Ruins site(something my husband had always wanted to do). It was a very sad day for us when we had to leave. Had met so many nice people from all around the world. I know that the beautiful lady that took such great care of us has since passed way and the hurricane destroyed so much that we got to see and we were so thankful to have been there first.

  2. John Bergman says

    do you take customers that arrive via cruise ships
    we have a group of possible 10 people

  3. Kim says

    Good morning, We are returning to Belize (first visit: February 2020) in February 2022. Do you have any more information about the speed boat boat service from Placencia to The Monkey River/Manatee tour?

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