Southern Belize: The Luxurious Toledo District
In recent years, The Toledo District, Belize’s most southerly region, began its emergence as an upscale alternative to the Cayo District.
Visitors to this region can now enjoy luxury accommodations on a private 12,000-acre rainforest preserve; home to ocelots, kinkajous, and tapirs.
Wildlife aside, this district is distinguished by accessible Maya sites, scenic caves and waterfalls, and pristine reefs.
Located 25 miles northwest of the coastal port of Punta Gorda, in Lubaantun rests the largest ceremonial center in southern Belize.
This settlement’s eleven major structures are clustered around five plazas.
Unlike most Maya cities, Lubaantun was constructed without the extensive use of mortar.
Accordingly, the masonry here is of very high quality. The site is also famous for a controversial crystal skull, reportedly found here in 1926.
Nim Li Punit
Five miles northeast of Lubaantun sits a Maya ceremonial center, known as Nim Li Punit.
This site dates to the Classic Period, likely seeing occupation between the 5th and 8th centuries.
Several stelae have been unearthed here, including one depicting a local ruler wearing a large headdress (Nim Li Punit means “big hat” in Kekchi Maya).
Visitors can also tour a small on-site museum. Nearby, Kekchi Maya villages produce organic cacao—the raw ingredient for chocolate.
Blue Creek Cave
Most outings to these Maya sites end with a refreshing visit to Blue Creek Cave, locally known as Hokeb Ha.
Translating to “Where Water Enters the Earth”, this limestone river tunnel begins near the village of Santa Cruz and ends five miles away outside the town of Blue Creek.
Outfitted with life jackets and headlamps, visitors can hike or swim to underground waterfalls and float beneath shimmering stalactites.
The Rio Grande River and Mangrove Lagoons
Near the coast, the Rio Grande River and its neighboring mangrove lagoons are home to endangered manatees and the rare hicatee turtles.
Guided river trips also allow you to observe howler monkeys, iguanas and dozens of bird species.
SCUBA & Snorkeling at the Barrier Reef
Offshore, divers and snorkelers can explore the Belize Barrier Reef—the second largest barrier reef in the world.
One excellent location is the Port of Honduras Marine Reserve on Snake Caye, approximately 40 minutes by boat from Punta Gorda.
The reserve is home to sea fans, coral, colorful reef fish, seahorses, rays, eels and sea turtles.
Daily flights connect Punta Gorda to Belize City, with flight times of just over an hour.
Charter Flights and Private Transportation
Charter flights are also available to Ambergris Caye (75 minutes).
Placencia, roughly 100 miles to the northeast, can be reached by road (two hours) or air (20 minutes).
The drive from Belize City to Punta Gorda takes about 4.5 hours. The best time to visit Southern Belize is from December to May.
Rainy season extends from June to November, with hurricane potential from July to mid-November.
Temperatures are fairly constant year-round, with highs in the mid-80s and lows in the 70s.
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Not a single thing on the itinerary that we would change. The guides were knowledgeable, friendly, and prompt. The hotels were beautiful, the food delicious and the pace of the activities was perfect for us.
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