WATERFALLS OF SOUTHERN BELIZE
6 miles south of San Antonio, just past the village of Santa Cruz, is the Rio Blanco Waterfall Park, a popular stop for locals and visitors. A small octagonal sign on the roadside points the direction to the entrance of the Park. The jungle-surrounded trail is only a mile long from the road. Vehicles are able to drive down the trail, though it may be a bit difficult for large vehicles to turn around. At the end of the trail, two short flights of stone steps descend to a wide, flat platform.
Declared a protected area in 1992, this 500-acre preserve has been designated an Indigenous Peoples Park as it is controlled by the nearby villages of Santa Elena and Santa Cruz for their own use as well as foreign tourist.
Here the Rio Blanco flows through wide, shallow pools and gentle cascades formed of smooth slabs of mudstone and sandstone, before pouring over a 15 foot ledge into a deep pool. A smooth stone ledge at the end of the trail from the parking lot, covered with a layer of scattered snail shells, rises steeply about 20 feet above the pool. This is a favorite jumping spot for local thrill seekers. Beware that the climb back up is not as easy as the drop down.
Surrounding limestone boulders allow easy exploration above the pool. Further upstream, a small waterfall and wading pool feed the main waterfall. Trees and flowering vegetation encircle the cliffs providing cool shade. Blue Morpho butterflies flutter in and out of the surrounding trees. It is usually easy to have this peaceful place all to yourself. No facilities are available, but it is a great spot for swimming and picnicking. Maya children sometimes go there to sell trinkets to tourists.
Just a mile from San Antonio Village flows the tranquil San Antonio waterfall and pool, just a couple yards off the roadside. The waterfall gently cascades 8 feet over a smooth pear shaped limestone rock covered with bright green moss. Riverine vegetation surrounds the entire pool. Large boulders allow easy access to the pool below and the falls above.
Above the waterfall, thick vegetation surrounds an upper cove with a smooth limestone floor. The water in the cove is only a half foot deep making it easy to explore.
The shade trees provide a cool spot for picnicking on flat, dry boulders near the pool. A cool dip in the pool is refreshing on a hot day. Watch fo multicolored dragonflies feeding among the stream-side vegetation, and hummingbirds bathing in the spray of the falls.
The Golden Stream waterfall and pool is situated near Golden Stream Village along the Southern Highway. The road leading to the falls is on the west side of the highway, just after the Golden Stream Gift Shop (a thatch roofed hut painted blue). This road ends at a small field where the pool is hidden by a single line of trees. A narrow slippery path leads down to the main pool.
Tall trees and thick vegetation grow along both sides of the crystal clear stream. Small waterfalls tumble from a two foot ledge into a big pool varying in depth from 2 to 6 feet deep. Further up the river, gentle cascades tumble over a short ledge of limestone boulders into a smaller pool.
The pools are separated by an upper level of flat limestone covered with shallow grooves which create small puddles. Two flat stones near the edge of the river reveal patches of threadbare material-evidence that the Maya villagers frequently use the area to wash their clothes and bathe.
The Pueblo Viejo Upper and Lower Falls are located at the base of limestone hills below Pueblo Viejo Village. The river flows through multiple layers of giant limestone steps with waterfalls spilling from ledge to ledge. Thick riverine vegetation covers the length of this huge limestone formation.
Small waterfalls flow over each ledge, rushing through narrow cuts on each level toward the next fall. Each level is flat and extends about 10 feet long and 20 feet wide. They are covered with shallow puddles where tadpoles thrive. At the bottom of this giant limestone step, the highest waterfall is about 15 feet above a wide swimming pool. The huge pool below flows downstream where Maya villagers frequently bathe and wash their clothes. With the help of a guide from the village, you can hike past the falls on a trail leading to the nearby forested mountains.
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