Southern Belize is virtually undeveloped and untouched. Seven major parks and reserves in Toledo protect pristine rainforests and estuarine environments which abound with incredible biodiversity. A variety of caves, sinkholes and waterfalls lie scattered beneath the forest canopy throughout the district. Many Maya archaeological sites are unexcavated and largely undiscovered. Nim Li Punit and Lubantuun are the only Maya sites in Toledo that have tourist facilities.
Several rivers run east from the uplands of the Maya Mountains to the coastline, draining into the Port Honduras Marine Reserve - home to the endangered West Indian Manatee. The southern most stretch of the Belize Barrier Reef in Belize - The Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve - lies 40 miles offshore from the mainland.
Please keep in mind that while the accommodations of Toledo tend to be adequate to modest to rustic, the natural surroundings tend toward wilderness to untouched to pristine. If you are bothered by unanticipated changes or accommodations considerably less than you are use to, you may wish to visit other areas of Belize. For Southern Belize, you need to bring a sensitivity to the customs of the local people as well as a willingness to accept tour arrangements as provided. Tourism is new to this region, and you will be seeing sites and experiencing nature and cultures as few have.
You will need expert guides to visit any of these protected areas.
You can visit all of these on your own if you have transportation.
- Paynes Creek National Park - five different natural habitats provide an environment which supports an incredible amount of biodiversity.
- Bladen Nature Reserve - massive limestone outcrops, sinkholes, caves,and waterfalls - you will need a permit from the Forestry Department to visit.
- Aguacaliente - wildlife from miles around, especially birds, are attracted to this remote lagoon.
Wood Storks on Aquacaliente Lagoon
- Columbia Forest Reserve - one of the largest tracts of undisturbed rainforest in Central America.
- Golden Stream - forms a valuable biological corridor for many endangered species.
- Temash/Sarstoon National Park - the only comfrey palm forest in Belize is situated at the mouth of the Sarstoon River.
- Port Honduras Marine Reserve - four major rivers drain into this bight, making it a prime feeding ground for marine fish, manatee, and dolphin.
- Nim Li Punit - twenty six stellas were uncovered at the site, eight of which are carved.
- Lubaantun - its structures were constructed entirely without the aid of mortar.
Lubaantun Maya Site
- Uxbenka - exhibits the Maya custom of sculpting and terracing natural hillsides to accommodate ceremonial centers - spectacular view from top of mound.
You will need local guides to visit any of these caves.
- Rio Blanco Waterfall Park - pleasant cascades tumble 20 feet from a cliff into a large, deep, blue-green pool below.
- San Antonio Falls - the waterfall flows 10 feet down a smooth pear shaped limestone rock covered with bright green moss.
- Golden Stream Pools - the pools are separated by an upper level of flat limestone covered with shallow grooves which create small pools excellent for swimming.
Golden Stream Pools
- Pueblo Viejo Falls - the river flows through multiple layers of giant limestone steps with waterfalls spilling from ledge to ledge.
You will need to charter a boat to visit these areas.
- Tiger Cave - the dark entrance of the cave squeezes through narrow elevated corridors leading to a wide interior chamber.
- Hokeb Ha Cave - the huge cave entrance is carved from the summit of a hill where the Blue Creek gurgles up from underground.
Hokeb Ha Cave
- Laguna Cave - a 12-foot-high ladder leads to the interior of the cave where numerous bats are hidden among stalagmites and stalactites.
Fallen Stones and the TBA can be visited by car, Punta Negra Lake and the Monkey River will require hiring a boat.
- Snake Cayes - lies on an isolated coral ridge growing on a limestone ledge that extends several miles into the inner lagoon of the Belize Coastal Zone
- Sapodilla Cayes - covers an area of approximately 125 square kilometers and includes fourteen sand and mangrove cayes
- Fallen Stones Butterfly Farm - produces over six hundred butterfly pupae a week for export to Europe and the United States.
Fallen Stones Butterfly Farm
- Toledo Botanical Arboretum - operation of the farm is almost completely food and energy independent.
- Punta Negra Lake - an enclosed coastal lagoon supporting large populations of tarpon and snook.
- Monkey River - excellent for tarpon fishing and jungle walk adventures