Top 5 Things To Do in Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

Belize's Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
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Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve — known as “Pine Ridge” to locals — was established in 1944 to protect and manage the native Belizean pine forest since the area is different from the other forests in Belize. The landscape features rolling pine forest spread over smooth, granite hillsides.

Related: Top 12 Rainforest Tours in Belize & The Best Hotels in San Ignacio

Unfortunately, about two decades ago, Pine Ridge suffered a pine beetle infestation and it is still in the process of fully recovering to its once majestic splendour. The nature reserve, however, is still pretty spectacular and it is one of the top spots to visit when in Western Belize.

So if you’re looking for a fun day trip, go to Pine Ridge! It’s only 2 hours away by car from San Ignacio/ Santa Elena and it offers a variety of things to do such as birdwatching, swimming, caving, and trekking Maya ruins.

Top Things To Do in Mountain Pine Ridge:

1. Swim the pools

Rio on Pools in Mountain Pine Ridge

Just off the main road in Mountain Pine Ridge, before reaching Augustine Village, you’ll find the popular Rio on Pools. Through the expanse of pine forest, the river spills over large granite ledges and rocks, making small waterfalls and cool round pools. On the bank of the river is a picnic area to relax and watch swimmers enjoying the troughs, pools and natural waterslides made smooth by the rushing water.

2. Explore Caves

Rio Frio Cave
Entrance of Rio Frio Cave – Photo by Dave Hernandez

Visit the Rio Frio Cave to witness one of Belize’s best caves. The cave has an impressive 65-foot arch opening and from afar, visitors have a striking view of the entire cave and the stream that runs through it. At just about a half a mile in length, this cave is a great choice for first-time cave explorers.

3. Go Birding

Yellow-headed Parrot

Bird watching is a popular activity within the reserve; species include the rufous-capped warbler, crossbill, pine siskin, stygian owl and eastern bluebird. If you visit between autumn and spring, you may also see the hepatic tanager and chipping sparrow. Raptors cruise the valleys of Pine Ridge, and it’s the most likely place in Belize to see orange-breasted falcons.

4. Trek Mayan Ruins

2012 Winter Solstice in Belize

Deep into the forest reserve lies Caracol, one of the largest Maya temples in Belize. Caracol is Belize’s premier Mayan site with a rich and exciting history that rivals the power of Tikal. It was the most important political center of the lowland Maya during the Classic Period. The largest temple at Caracol is “Caana” or “Sky Place.” This massive pyramid rises over 140 feet above the jungle floor and is the tallest manmade structure in Belize.

5. See Waterfalls

Big Rock Falls in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Cayo, Belize

Mountain Pine Ridge has some of Belize’s best waterfalls. In fact, Thousand Foot Falls, the highest waterfall in Central America is located inside the reserve. Other popular waterfalls in Pine Ridge include Five Sisters Falls and Big Rock Falls. Big Rock is the most visited since it’s ideal for picnics and swimming.

Getting to Mountain Pine Ridge

The best way to get to Mountain Pine Ridge will depend on your location. The most popular option is staying in or near San Ignacio and taking a guided tour of the reserve. The drive from San Ignacio to Mountain Pine Ridge is about 2 hours and must be done in the early morning. However, for more adventurous guests that enjoy remote lodges, there is the option of staying there.

Staying at Mountain Pine Ridge

Within the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Blancaneaux Lodge and GAIA Riverlodge are upscale resorts that provide luxury accommodations while Pine Ridge Lodge offers affordable rustic cottages in a laidback natural setting. See hotel bios here.

As you can see, there are many amazing things to see and do in Mountain Pine Ridge. Now the question is whether I have enticed you enough to visit?



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