There are plenty of activities for all interests and budgets around Cayo. Here are a few more things that we checked out, and some that we didn’t, just to give you some idea of what more there is to do.
There are plenty of guided adventure tours that were very tempting but beyond our budget. Here is a sample list of trips and prices from a company called David’s Adventure Tours. Other companies offer the same or similar trips at essentially the same prices:
6 Mile up river canoeing US$15.00pp
14 Mile down river canoeing US$27.50pp
3 Mile Canoe Caving & Barton Creek US$32.50pp
Bird Watching US$20pp
Overnight Camping US$22.50pp
Mountain Pine Ridge US$37.50pp
Overnight Jungle Tours US$75pp
Caracol Archeological Site US$75pp
Blue Hole National Park US$35pp
Also, a number of companies offer caving trips to Actun Tunichil Muknal – a more physical trip with archeological findings featured in National Geographic magazine. This trip is approximately US$80 per person.
Another archeological cave tour is to Chechem Ha cave. This cave is privately owned, and tours are given by the owner for a reasonable fee. Transportation to the site might be the challenge.
Green Iguana Exhibit:
There is a small, somewhat seat-of-the-pants exhibit at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel dedicated to green iguanas and their preservation. My feeling is that it started as a tourist gimmick to make money (and is still that) but it has some possible ecological value as well. This is a small operation, run primarily by one young woman name Martina and her brother. She admitted to me that they are not scientists or experts on green iguanas. They are learning by trial and error, and they have one thick textbook which is their iguana "bible" which had a well-worn binding. Occasional knowledgeable visitors give them iguana information as well. They are pretty much "winging it." That said, I think that there is some value to the operation. They really do want to increase the dwindling green iguana population. Iguana numbers have fallen dramatically due to hunting (tastes like chicken, they say) and habitat loss. Martina and her brother find eggs, incubate them, care for the young after they hatch, and then release them back into the wild. It is done this way to have a larger survival rate for the eggs, they say. They give educational programs to local people and school children about habitat preservation and the effects of overhunting. If you are on a tight budget, and have more interesting things to do, I’m not sure that I’d take the time or pay the US$5.50 per person to see this exhibit. San Ignacio Resort Hotel is located at 18 Buena Vista Street in San Ignacio.
At the end of Branch Mount Road, the Macal and Mopan rivers come together to form the Belize River. The park is small, muddy, and dirty, but the swing bridge was great, and we saw huge iguanas in tree branches above river banks by the park and along Branch Mount Road. You will sometimes hear a huge splash as the iguanas let themselves fall into the river if they are startled.
Latin Dance Classes:
While visiting the Green Iguana Exhibit at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, I saw a flyer in the lobby for Latin Dance Classes. I love to dance, and the price of US$5 per person for a two hour lesson was hard to resist, so with my husband’s blessing (he hates to dance) I gave it a try. The instructor was from New York, originally born in Haiti. I think he offered to do this for the hotel for fun and pocket money. There were 7 students, and we learned the beginner basics of Bachata, Merengue, and Salsa dances. The was a fun evening for me because I was the only tourist in attendance – all the rest were locals, plus one businessman from Guatemala. Also, the class was being filmed, so I think I might be on a commercial somewhere!
Wally, our grouchy but knowledgeable hotel-keeper, had plenty of good ideas for day trips on bicycle. It was the one time I saw him enthusiastic. Anyway, here were his ideas (Note: I did not verify the directions, so I can’t be sure they are correct!):
Bullet Tree/Clarissa Falls Loop: Head west out of San Ignacio on the main highway, turn right following sign to El Pilar and/or Bullet Tree Falls. When you reach the village of Bullet Tree Falls (I saw a river, but no falls), cross the bridge, stay left at the police station. Road should then turn into a trail leading to a suspension bridge. Cross bridge, go right and follow road past Clarissa Falls (not worth US$1 entrance fee to access river, but there is a restaurant for food and drinks). When you reach the main highway, turn left to return to San Ignacio.
Bullet Tree Falls/Spanish Lookout Loop: Head west out of San Ignacio on the main highway, turn right following sign to El Pilar and/or Bullet Tree Falls. Keep going through Bullet Tree Falls and main road should take you through the Mennonite village of Spanish Lookout. The road loops back to the highway, where a right turn will take you back to San Ignacio.
Black Rock: Head west out of San Ignacio on the main highway. Turn left at the sign for Ix Chel and Chaa Creek. I think Black Rock is a resort on the river, so there should be a sign, and will likely have an entrance fee and food available.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve:
I was very disappointed that I didn’t get to see this area. Lonely Planet describes is as a "land of macaws, mahogany, mangoes, and jaguars." There are tours that go to the area, but no public transportation. The tours all seemed so identical, we thought that it might be like going to Yellowstone National Park and only seeing Old Faithful and nothing else, so we decided to skip it. I think this would be a great place to explore if you had a rental car (or a rental 4-wheel drive vehicle) so you could enjoy all the hidden spots that tour groups skip. It would also be the perfect place for a wild and adventurous backpack trip. Some highlights visited by tour groups are the Rio Frio Caves, the Rio On Pools, and Thousand Foot Falls.
The Trek Stop, located west of San Ignacio on the main highway (bus goes past Trek Stop – ask to be left off there), offers innertubing trips for US$7.50 per person for the 3 hour trip. The Trek Stop phone number is 823-2265.