We did this trip with a tour company. Most of the big tour companies in San Ignacio are on the main tourist street, Burns Avenue. Maya Walk looks to be the biggest. We asked there and were told $95 US for Barton Creek and $115 US for Barton Creek and Big Rock Falls. It’s always a sign that you will be paying a lot when you get a price in US not Belize dollars. We looked around and ended up at Belize Caving Expeditions in the Plaza Hotel. They were willing do the same trip for $85 US each as there were four of us.
The falls and the cave are in the same general area and quite a long way from town so it’s worth doing them together. A lunch of chicken, fruit and rice was included in the price.
We had watched large groups going off in full vans with Maya Walk so we were pleasantly surprised when it was just the four of us with a guide in a 4 x4. Our guide was excellent.
Our first stop was in his village where he picked up his lunch from his mom and we checked out the butterflies. The road to Mountain Pine Ridge starts out smooth and gets progressively more bumpy. There is some logging in the area but it appears to be carefully controlled. We passed through a checkpoint to get into the reserve.
We passed an air strip in the middle of nowhere on the way to Big Rock Falls. It turns out that there are a few luxury eco lodges around the most famous of which is probably Blananeaux Lodge owned by Francis Ford Coppola who has a villa in the complex that you can rent. The price for a night in November is $1012.67 plus tax. You do get free breakfast included.
Our Guide suggested that we do the tour backwards starting at the falls and ending at the cave to avoid the crowds from the other tour companies we agreed and started our day with a short hike to Big Rock Falls where we swam in the pools under the waterfalls. It was beautiful and we had the whole place to ourselves for the first hour.
From Big Rock Falls we drove down a remarkably steep and narrow road to Barton Creek Caves. I was glad we had a 4×4 and even happier I was not driving. We had our lunch as a picnic at Mikes Place which we found amusing because we watched all of Breaking Bad (Mike gets killed off and everyone is told he moved to Belize).
After lunch we went through Barton Creek Cave in canoes. There was no wait and no crowds because the bigger tours had already been there. The caves were used by the Mayans and there are at least 28 sets of remains and thousands of pieces of pottery. You can’t get out of the canoes in Barton Creek but you can see the artifacts and at least one skeleton from the boats. The cave is a good size and along with the artifacts there are some impressive rock formations. You need a guide to go into the caves but you can arrange a guide and canoe at Mike’s if you are ready for the precarious drive out there. There was a price of $65 US per boat posted, personally I would pay the extra not to have to drive.
The area is full of humming birds and azaleas. They also have zip lining available.
On the way back we drove through the Mennonite communities of upper and lower Barton Creek. The Mennonites in Belize actually originated from the Mennonites in Manitoba. The settlements in this area are quite conservative. There are also small settlements where undocumented refugees from other Central American countries live. For a country of it’s size Belize has taken in many Spanish speaking refugees in the past.