Exploring the biggest Maya ruins in Caracol, Belize

The ancient Maya ruins in Caracol was probably the most spectacular place I visited during my stay in Belize. From atop the Mayan temples you can scout far and wide from one of the largest Mayan cities in the World. Caracol is a bit of a drive from San Ignacio, but worth the wait as you get this ‘hidden gem’ almost to yourself. Take a guided tour to get all the tales from the past.

Are the Maya ruins in Belize worth visiting?

Most people who find their way to Belize or Central America tend to visit other Mayan ruins (such as Xunantunich in Belize, Tikal in Guatemala or Chichen Itza in Mexico), some people even say they have seen enough of them! This was my first Mayan Temple visit and it was amazing. As of my visit in 2018 it was possible to climb up the ancient ruins and enjoy the view of the rainforest.

Caracol Maya ruins is situated in the Maya Forest, the largest rainforest in Mesoamerica.

Even though the old Maya culture of Belize is long gone, it is still estimated that 600,000 people live in the Maya forest. Belize is known to hold some of the most multicultural population.

Woman overlooking the rainforest from atop an ancient temple
Here I am soaking in the fresh air atop the highest man-made structure in Belize to date, called ‘Caana’

Is the forest in Belize rainforest or jungle?

The forest in Belize is tropical rainforest and it is part of the Maya forest (Selva Maya) stretching across northern Guatemala, Belize and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and it is part of the largest forest (38 million acres!) north of the Amazon forest. You can also call the forest in Belize a jungle.

What animals can I see in Belize?

The rainforest of Belize is home to many animals and plant species, up to 300 bird species are resident there and an additional 100 species arrive during the migration season of the North American birds! This means, you may see birds known from your own backyard, but in the rainforest of Belize!

Why you shouldn’t skip the biggest Maya ruin in Belize

You can easily spend at least half a day trotting around the ruins, hiking atop the temples and gazing into the horizon. Climb down the tombs, walk the Mayan Highway from temple to temple and listen to the stories of the past. This is one of the times where I really valued having a guide!

Not only did we have a guide to show us around Caracol, he was even a naturalist and knew a lot about the local wildlife such as birds, besides Mayan history and botany. We booked our the tour with MayaWalk, which was based in San Ignacio. Included in the tour was also a visit to Rio On Pools and the Rio Frio Cave.

Incredibly tall tree
Upon entering the site, you are greeted by two of these giants. Lookout for the cool leaf-cutter ants, they might use the tree trunk as their highway!
Leaf cutter ants on a tree trunk
Leaf cutter ants on a food hunt!

Caracol grew into one of the largest Ancient Mayan cities, covering 177 km² and with an estimated population of over 100,000. Even the structures are taller than in Tikal in Guatemala! (Read about the most spectacular sunsets in Tikal).

Bird-wise you can be lucky and see the rare Harpy Eagle. We didn’t look for it but gosh, now I wish we had tried! Our guide Giovanni was an eager bird watcher and pointed out new species to me, which I was thankful for. Later I saw the Harpy eagle in the Belize zoo, and look what a majestic creature it is!

Harpy eagle from the Belize zoo
Harpy eagle from the Belize zoo
Two temples and a green grass lawn in front
Lush forest surrounding the ruins at Caracol
Views of the rainforest stretching as far as the eye can see from atop Caana, the sky palace.
Breathtaking views from atop ‘Caana’, the sky palace

The company provided refreshments and a nice, local lunch after exploring the huge archaeological site for a couple of hours.

Visiting Rio On Pools and the Rio Frio Cave

On the way back we visited some natural springs and potholes (called Rio On Pools) for a swim followed by the Rio Frio cave. The pools or potholes is actually a place where locals go swimming. It was a quite big place and it was an enjoyable swim!

After the swim we went to the Rio Frio Cave. It was quite a large and open cave, but when you ventured inside all the light vanished and all you could hear was the water. That was a fun experience!

Pools of water with rocks in the background
Rio On Pools, perfect for a swim to end your day!

A guided tour to Caracol Maya ruins and nice to know

The tour with MayaWalk was a full day spent in Caracol, including visiting the potholes (Rio On Pools) and the Rio Frio Cave (I didn’t get any good photos from there, that’s why you don’t get to see it here!). If you decide to drive there yourself in a rented car there is a waterfall in the area too.

It was a great day for outdoor adventures and I highly recommend it to outdoor people who enjoy ancient history and natural history. If you are interested in reading more about the history, the buildings, wars and more, Wikipedia has quite an extensive article about mighty Caracol.

Bring a large hat, water, good, lightweight hiking shoes or boots, camera and binoculars if you have!

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Rie investigating and admiring the temples at Caracol
Just me pretending I am Indiana Jones 🙂

© All photos are my own and may not be used without permission.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s