Enjoy a day well spent in this amazingly lush rain forest known as the Cockscomb Basin, known for its’ Jaguars and vast forest. The reserve is well protected and here wildlife thrives, and you can safely hike one or more of the paths if you stay on the trail. End your sweaty hike with a refreshing river tubing experience! You can enjoy it all on a one day trip, but an overnight stay is also possible if you book well in advance (we didn’t!).
Why you should go
You have probably already seen a forest or two on your travels in Central America.. But every forest is different! Look out for the natural wonders as you spent hours hiking through the shaded trails, listening to the sounds of the forest.
You should expect to spend your whole day here, but it is possible to do it along the way if you are on the road and have few days to spend in Belize.
How to get there
My friend and I came from Placencia where we had stayed for two nights, and the next morning we took the bus from Independence towards Dangriga. Following the advice from my Lonely Planet book, we got off the bus in front of the Maya Center (from here you can get good souvenirs after your hike!).
After your visit you can catch the bus going either north (Dangriga, Belmopan, San Ignacio) or south (Placencia, Punta Gorda).
Entrance fees and budget
The entrance fee to the sanctuary is 10 BZD, and you buy the entrance ticket at the Maya Center by the main road. From here we booked a taxi to drive us into the sanctuary, which was 80 BZD there and back (40 pr. person for two people, a bit pricey but worth it for us!). You can leave this expense out, but there’s a few kilometers walk to get to the start of the trails and the visitors center.
If you do not have any accommodation booked beforehand (for us it was not possible to book it on short notice, this was even in the off-season!), you need to make an appointment with the taxi driver to pick you up for your return to the main road. It is however still possible to walk back to the main road.
There was no cellphone reception inside the reserve except perhaps on the hilltops, so make sure you have an approximate estimate of how long your hike will last.
The jungle hike with waterfalls – The Tiger Fern Trail
We went with the Tiger Fern Trail, which was 6.7 km long and had two waterfalls along the trail. You can get inspiration from the map below (it is situated by the visitors center), but a good idea is to choose the trail beforehand and study it.
We did the hike on a sunny day and it took us around 3.5 hours. There was about 800 m elevation up, down to the waterfall and then back up again, be prepared for this especially if you have knee issues or not used to hiking.
I brought 3 liters of water, lightweight hiking boots and a hat to protect me from heat exhaustion (I got it anyway! At this point I was happy about our 40 BZD return lift to the main road). See my full packing list at the end of this post!
The hike was wonderful with lots of wildlife such as snakes, tarantulas (yikes!), manakins and more. For wildlife photos from this trip, please browse my Wildlife Gallery here.
The waterfalls are worth the hike so be sure to bring or wear swimwear, since you can swim in the small pond under the falls. We sure did!
As you can see from my photo I wore a long sleeved sports top to protect me from evil bloodsucking insects!
Float through the forest while river tubing
After the strenuous hike, we went river tubing. I had never tried this before, and I was a bit nervous at first.
I wore flip flops and a bikini and of course the vest. The hike to the river is about 1 km, and I don’t recommend wearing flip flops! They fell off my feet a couple of times during the river tubing, which made some parts a bit stressful. But it doesn’t have to be! Danika wore Crocs, they were quite handy!
Other than that, treat yourself with this experience. When you float under trees with green lianas and colorful birds flying over you a sense of tranquility sets in. The speed of the river is quite fast at some sections, but mostly it was relaxing to float down the river.
If you are a good swimmer, this can be done solo, but I’d recommend going with someone. It makes everything more safe if something happens along the way.
A personal bird favorite for me was the Ringed Kingfishers flying repeatedly above us while floating in the river, it is the biggest Kingfisher species in the World!
Packing list for a one-day trip
Sunscreen, hat, bug spray, plenty of water, sturdy shoes and hiking socks, bikini, towel, waterproof shoes, long sleeved pants and shirt, camera, binoculars, lunch, lock for your bag while you river tube, enough cash for the taxi, entrance ticket and tubing.
Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts on this post, information missing or suggestions on better trails to do!
DISCLAIMER: I visited the sanctuary in Autumn 2018, and prices, trails, access and more may have changed!