Mayan Secrets

Explore caves, ruins, rivers, and rainforests of the Cayo region of Belize


This is one of the best tropical nature and culture trips you will find in Latin America. Whether you enjoy hiking in a beautiful rainforest or comfortable lodge accommodations within easy reach of spectacular Mayan ruins, our expert local guide, will help you find it. This trip will provide detailed interpretations of the natural environments and archaeological sites on active and varied outings that best represent the natural and cultural diversity of the country. Belize is beautiful by itself, but with the insight and expertise of a native guide who loves the natural world and his own Mayan traditions, this experience is a revelation beyond anything you could learn on your own.

Continue to detailed itinerary...


  • Day 1: belize city / cayo district
    Enjoy your time in the rainforest

    You will be met at the Belize City Airport and embark on a two-hour drive across the country to a lodge in the Cayo District of Belize. Enjoy the scenery as it changes from coastal low-lying plains to rainforest-covered mountains. Arrive in the late afternoon and enjoy dinner at your rainforest lodge.

    Show on a map
  • Day 2: caracol / mountain pine ridge
    Marvel at mountainside waterfalls

    Enjoy a hearty breakfast at the lodge before heading off on the day's adventure.  Visit the ruins of Caracol, once the largest and most powerful Mayan city in Belize, located just a two-hour drive from San Ignacio. This site is not only famous for its fantastic archaeology, but also for its jungle setting and rich bird life. It is an exciting site encompassing nine square miles, with a number of awe-inspiring temples and numerous stele. Enshrouded by macaw and tapir-filled forests, it is set in the heart of the "Mayan empire."

    After lunch, drive into a completely different climactic zone for different plant and animal life, and exquisite panoramas. Visit the Mountain Pine Ridge National Park area, where an impressive 1,000-foot waterfall cascades from the mountainside -- a breathtaking panoramic view. Also visit the Rio Frio Cave, a giant chamber with a large vine-covered entrance, and of course, stalactites and stalagmites. From the cave, a short drive takes you to the Rio On pools, where you can have a refreshing swim. A series of cascades and pools wend their way down from the rocky summit. The view from above is stunning!

    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Show on a map
  • Day 3: el pilar / trails / traditional healer

    After breakfast, take a 1-1/4 hour drive northwest to the unexcavated ruins of El Pilar, a pre-classic archaeological site and home to ongoing archaeological research projects, passing through an interesting Mestizo Maya community and agriculture farms and fields along the way.  Although El Pilar's structures have not been excavated, the large mounds are quite visible and demonstrative of the overall size of the site and its structures.  You will walk along excellent panoramic nature trails in search of wildlife from howler monkeys to toucans and a wide variety of other birds, both native and migratory. After your morning hike at this spectacular site, drive back to the Mestizo Maya community on the river bank of the Mopan river for lunch.

    After lunch, Don Heriberto Cocom, a well-known traditional healer, will lead a walk on his property, explaining the uses of ancient herbal medicine and contemporary healing methods along the way. We will also sit with him at his healer's hut where he will show us a wide variety of barks, roots, and leaves that have been prepared for medicinal use.

    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Show on a map
  • Day 4: barton creek cave / big rock falls
    Barton Creek Cave

    While based in the Cayo District, enjoy a variety of adventurous outings.  This morning, head into the mountains, set canoes in the cave entrance at Barton Creek, and paddle into the dark cave, which you'll illuminate with battery-powered spotlights.  Your guide skillfully steers your canoe along the creek and through the cave so you can enjoy the beautiful cave formations and see remains from ancient Mayan rituals – all the time being careful not to touch or damage any of the fragile formations. Afterward, you have the option of visiting Big Rock Falls or taking an educational tour of a nearby butterfly farm.

    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Show on a map
  • Day 5: river canoeing / xunantunich
    It takes a good spotter to find me!

    Relax as you coast down the Macal River on a half-day canoe expedition, one of the highlights of the Cayo District.  Listen for the sounds of howler monkeys and watch for hidden iguanas basking in the treetops. If you're lucky, you'll see a river otter, grey-necked woodrail, porcupine, or elusive jaguarundi.


    Afterward, visit Xunantunich, Belize’s most accessible Mayan site of significance that is reached via ferry crossing at San Jose Succotz. The main structure, El Castillo, rises 130 feet above the jungle floor. The views from the top are superb, with forest stretching out all around you and the rest of the ancient city mapped out just beneath you.

    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Show on a map
  • Day 6: actun tunichil muknal cave (atm)
    Crystal Maiden, ATM, photo by Peter Anderson, used with permission

    We've saved the highlight of Cayo District for your final day in the area.  This recently-discovered cave, Actun Tunichil Muknal, or "ATM," is visited by very few tourists, and only with specially-certified guides. In a small group, wearing life jackets, you'll swim into the cave, where you'll be blown away by what you find.  Not only does ATM hold hundreds of ancient Maya artifacts that were used in various ceremonies, but it also contains burial chambers with calcified human remains.  This is a fascinating and rare opportunity to see another aspect of Mayan life and culture.

    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Show on a map
  • Day 7: tikal / zip line tour option
    Visit the Mayan ruins at Tikal

    After an early breakfast, leave on a 2.5 hour drive to the area around Tikal (in Guatamala) to get settled and, should you choose, consider trying your hand at zip lining through the jungle, admiring the dense rainforest canopy and looking for glimpses of wildlife.

    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Show on a map
  • Day 8: tikal tour
    Tikal ruins

    After a tasty breakfast this morning, you will have a guided group tour of the world’s famous Mayan archaeological site, Tikal. Lush rainforest covers most of this complex ancient city, with paths winding among still uncovered temples and pyramids. The most prominent of Tikal’s buildings are the large step pyramids topped by temples, some of which you can climb to the top for spectacular views. Lunch will be in the park. Return to your hotel for the night.

    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Show on a map
  • Day 9: belize city / onward
    Leave with fond memories of Belize's rainforests

    After breakfast, you will be transferred to Belize City Airport for your international flight out.

    Show on a map
Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Land Cost:
2 person cost: $3595
Single Supplement:
The single supplement is applicable if a roommate is not available or if single accommodation is specifically requested. While single accommodation is not available on all trips, we will try and honor this request whenever possible.
Privately on Request
Feb 6-14, 2016
Need to Know

Need to Know

9 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost.
Comfort Level:
(see full descriptions)
Comfortable lodges
Activity Level:
(see full descriptions)
Exploring ancient temples
Group Size:
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Terms & Conditions: 


Included in costs: Meals as noted, each night in double occupancy accommodations, land transfers between components, English speaking guides, park or site entry fees, surface transport, equipment other than personal gear, government tax, airport transfer assistance, in-country ticket reconfirmation and check-in assistance (where permitted), complete pre-departure packet, toll-free pre-departure phone assistance.

Not included in costs: Meals not noted as included, gratuities, beverages (except tea or coffee at meals), international or domestic airfare unless specified, airport departure taxes not included with air tickets, visas, itinerary changes after confirmation, any services not included in itinerary, any costs incurred due to canceled or delayed flights, acts of nature or other happenings beyond our control, or other costs as are more fully described in Journeys Terms & Conditions.

Deposit and payment schedule: $500 per person per trip or the applicable amount based on the trip and the proximity of the departure date. Custom trips and private departures require $800 per person deposit. A second deposit of $800 per person is due four months prior to departure, and final payment for land arrangements is due 60 days prior to departure.  Any applicable permit fees required in advance are non-refundable as well.  Airlines require full payment when tickets are issued. The deposit may be made by Visa, Master Card, Discover, American Express, or check, and the Reservation Form may be submitted via our website, mail or FAX. Full payment schedule and cancellation penalties are described in our Terms and Conditions as noted in our Global Expedition Catalog, on our website, and elsewhere. Please request these if you do not have them before advancing a deposit.

Air fares: Journeys can make complete air arrangements applicable to your trip as noted in this itinerary. If you wish to redeem frequent flyer mileage or arrange flights directly with the airline, you may do so on your own at no penalty. If you do, please consult with us on exact arrival and departure dates and times before having your tickets issued to avoid errors.

Insurance: When you make your application, we strongly recommend the purchase of comprehensive travel insurance in case of emergency situations. Please contact us for a recommended policy.

Itinerary Change Fee: There will be a $40 fee for changes once an itinerary has been confirmed and approved. Additional cancellation penalties or change fees may apply as per our terms and conditions. The passenger is responsible for such fees.

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

There are currently no suggested extensions for this itinerary. Please ask the Destination Specialist if you'd like to customize one.

Download Trip Itinerary

Please tell us specifically the name of the website, publication or friend, or 'other' place where you heard about us.
comfort level
Choose accommodations and amenities that fit your personal style
●○○○○ Simple
Our most natural accommodations. Bath facilities often shared, sometimes rustic.
●●○○○ Delightful
Comfortable and especially personal. Small to mid-sized lodges, typically with private bath.
●●●○○ Superior
Lodges and hotels with additional amenities, refined artistry, or extra-special settings.
●●●●○ Deluxe
Exclusive or luxury lodges, hotels, or safari camps with fine dining options.
●●●●● Uncommon
The most indulgent accommodations arranged specially for private trips.
activity level
Match the trip’s intensity to your ability and motivation.
●○○○○ Gentle
Easy walking, with opportunities for low-key physical activity.
●●○○○ Active
Energetic exploration with optional day hikes, leisurely cycling, or light canoeing.
●●●○○ Vigorous
Day-long active excursions and options for demanding activity in varied environments.
●●●●○ Challenging
Strenuous hiking or other intense activity that may be at high altitude or over rough terrain.
●●●●● Demanding
Multi-day trekking and other activities requiring endurance or strength. Steep trails. No technical expertise necessary.