Belize National Parks & Reserves

Cockscomb Basin

The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is the world’s first jaguar preserve. This 128,000-acre protected area is located east of the Maya Mountains, south of the rugged Cockscomb spur range.

The park has an excellent trail system through a tropical forest inhabited by five feline species, howler monkeys, tapirs, and toucans. Privately-guided tours are available with guides who can point out wildlife that’s invisible to the untrained eye.

Crooked Tree

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, 33 miles northwest of Belize City, sits a 16,400-acre wetland and forest habitat. Resident species include Jabiru storks, Northern jacanas, Black howler monkeys and Morelet’s crocodile.

Tours of the sanctuary can be conducted by boat or on foot. Nearby, Community Baboon Sanctuary is home to another population of Black howler monkeys, known locally as baboons.

Rio Bravo

Rio Bravo Conservation Area is a 260,000-acre reserve, 33 miles west of Belize City, widely regarded as one of the county’s best forest reserves. The reserve is adjacent to an additional 250,000 acres of private reserve.

Over 400 species of avifauna have been identified here. This habitat also supports populations of jaguar, jaguarundi, ocelot, and puma.

Guanacaste National Park

Guanacaste National Park, two miles from Belmopan, a broadleaf forest near the confluence of the Belize River and Roaring Creek. This is a transitional habitat between the highlands and the coastal zone.

Park residents include:

  • Jaguarundi
  • Agouti
  • Kinkajous
  • Over 100 avian species.

Mountain Pine Ridge

Just south of San Ignacio, the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve protects nearly 300 square miles of pine forest, rivers and waterfalls. The reserve, in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, is home to toucans, parrots, and motmots.

The handful of lodges inside the Mountain Pine Ridge offer birdwatching tours.

Other excursions include horseback trips to the area’s waterfalls and caves, including turquoise Rio On Pools, the beach-bottomed Rio Frio Cave, and Thousand Foot Falls (Hidden Valley Falls).

St. Herman’s Blue Hole

St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park, twelve miles southeast of Belmopan, encircles 575 acres of forest habitat. The principal attraction here is the Blue Hole, a collapsed limestone cave (cenote) filled with turquoise water.

Visitors can cool off with a swim between hikes through the surrounding forest.

The park is also the site of St. Herman’s Cave, a 0.8-mile-long cavern, known for its delicate speleothems. After a guided tour through the cave, you can float peacefully back to the entrance of the cave on an inner tube.

At the nearby Crystal (Mountain Cow) Cave, guided tours enter wide caverns known for their crystalline formations and abundant Maya artifacts.

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We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.

Wallace Stegner