Top Ten Toledo Activities, Belize

There are countless “Top Ten” lists of what to do in Belize, but we will focus on what we think are the Top Ten Toledo activities!  So here is our Top Ten Things to Do in Punta Gorda and the Toledo district.

We’ve focussed on those activities which are in some way unique to Toledo.  We will never have the tallest Maya temples, the highest waterfalls or the most glorious beaches, but we make up for this in so many other ways.

We’ve put those activities which we think Toledo excels at at the top, but of course everyone will have their own opinion.

  1. Immerse yourself in the Garifuna culture!

Top Ten Toledo

Visit us right here at Warasa and learn about the unique UNESCO recognized Garifuna culture of Belize!  Of course this is shameless self-promotion, but we are a 5* rated TripAdvisor attraction for a reason!

If you want to explore further afield in Toledo, the small coastal Garifuna village of Barranco has a beautiful temple, a small cultural museum and other Garifuna cultural activities.

2.        Explore the Maya, Kriol and East Indian cultures

There are a variety of Maya cultural activities in Toledo.  In Big Falls village you have the Living Maya Experience and Chiac’s Craft Experience.  In Indian Creek and other villages there are women’s cooperatives which also offer cooking, craft-making and other cultural experiences.

If you simply can’t get enough drumming, then you can also hop over to the Maroon Creole Drum School to learn about Belizean Kriol drumming, fire hearth cooking and crafts.  You can learn more about the Creole culture at the Leela Vernon Creole Museum on Front Street, near the Cotton Tree Chocolate Factory.

Toledo also has a rich East Indian culture, which is being invigorated by the recent interest in turmeric, or “yellow ginger” as it is called here, as a health supplement.  TIDE tours offer a full cultural tour which includes a stop in the East Indian village of Forest Home to learn the history of the East Indians in Belize.

3.         Cacao and Chocolate Tours

Cacao trees, the source of the beans that are dried, roasted and then ground to make delicious chocolate, are mostly found right here in Toledo.   The trees and pods themselves are beautiful, and of course the chocolate is delicious.   Toledo cacao is very high quality, and is used by chocolatiers across the world.

Learn the back-story to how chocolate is made.Two of the most well-known cacao experiences in Toledo are Ixcacao Maya Belizean Chocolate, in San Felipe village, and Eladio Pop’s Agouti Cacao Farm, in San Pedro Columbia village.In town, you can also enjoy a free tour in the small but delightful Cotton Tree Chocolate Factory on Front Street near the gas station.

4.         Explore Blue Creek Cave – Toledo’s “ATM”

ATM – “Achtun Tunichil Muknal” cave in Cayo is quite rightly one of Belize’s most popular tourist destinations, and it is undoubtedly unique.  But here in Toledo, we have our very own cave in Blue Creek Maya village.  A trip to Blue Creek “Hokeb Ha” cave offers beautiful jungle hikes, cooling river dips, and exciting cave explorations.  There are waterfalls and ancient Maya pottery fragments deep inside the cave.

One word of caution – make sure you do this trip with a local Tour Operator who hires experienced guides….the river and cave can be dangerous to those who haven’t checked the weather and flooding forecasts and you want to be sure you are properly prepared, guided insured and more.

5.         Fishing in pristine waters

Toledo enjoys some of the best fly-fishing opportunities in the world!  Permit, Tarpon, Snook, Bonefish, Jacks, Barracuda and more.  Toledo has a number of pristine and protected fishing areas, including the stunning Port Honduras Marine Reserve.  There are a number of local tour operators and experienced guides offering fantastic fishing opportunities, including TIDE Tours Belize, PG ToursGarbutt’s Marine, Kaimani Marine and more.

6.         Birding Multi-Habitat Preserves

The Toledo district offers fantastic multi-habitat birding opportunities for birders of all abilities.  If you are here in December you can join The Belize Audobon Society  annual national Christmas Bird Count – Toledo almost always counts the most species!

 

 

7.        Enjoying Toledo’s small but serene ancient Maya sites

Toledo’s Maya sites don’t offer the towering pyramics of Xunantunich and Caracol, but they do offer something unique.

Visit Lubaantun, the origin of the (fake?) Crystal Skull, hundred of (real) ancient Maya whistles and figuerines, and a true sense of serenity.  This site, located near San Miguel and San Pedro Columbia villages, is serenely quiet – you will often be the only visitors!  As an extra bonus, right next door is the Chaos Oasis – Toledo’s very own Earthship!

Nim Lim Punit is our most accessible Maya site, less than half a mile from the southern Highway in Indian Creek village.  Check with your local accommodation or tour operator which days the cruise ship buses will be there….you will want to enjoy its stunning ancient Maya stelae and amazing views without being overcrowded with cruisers.

8.      Snorkelling and Kayaking the Reef and River

Many local tour operators offer tours to local uninhabited, unspoilt cayes such as the Snake Cayes, for beach barbeque and snorkelling opportunities.  You can also rent kayaks from TIDE Tours or Garbutt’s Marine and kayak the coast or the local rivers.

 

 

9.      Refreshing Waterfalls and Turquoise Waters

Even if you don’t want to go swimming in a cave, on a hot day many Belizeans head to one of the local rivers to cool off.

On the newly paved road from Punta Gorda to Jalacte, there are two family friendly waterfalls and swimming spots.  San Antonio Falls, just passed San Antonio village, are a small set of falls with swimming spot and picnic tables.  Ideal for families with small children, there are plenty of places to sit and shallow pools for paddling.

Slightly further inland, Rio Blanco National Park, between Santa Cruz and Santa Elena villages, has an approximately 20ft fall that the brave jump from into the beautiful blue pool below.  The river above the fall has jungle hikes including one that goes over a rope, or hammock bridge.  A beautiful spot for birding too!

10.       Exploring by Bicycle or Bus

For those on a budget, as well as the cultural activities in and near to town, you can do some DIY exploring by bicycle and/or local bus.  The bicycle ride to Boom Creek village, about 4 miles away past Hickatee Cottages is a safe and scenic route, with a decent amount of shade, to a very small Maya village.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can ask the locals to show you the path up Cerro hill, the twin hill about 1.5 miles outside Punta Gorda town.

Many of the activities listed above, including Nim Lim Punit, cultural activities in Big Falls village, and the waterfalls, are easily accessible by bus.

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Better step back cos I might pee on you!

So concludes the sign in front of one of the tapirs at Belize Zoo…

 

Scotty the Tapir

I recommend everyone that comes to Belize visits the Zoo, because it’s great fun, the animals are all in their natural habitat, there is no cement or perspex (so your paws are your own responsibility!), and it’s the only guaranteed way to see a jaguar, toucan, and all the other animals of Belize.

My first physical encounter with animals in Belize was even less pleasant than being peed on by a tapir.  Six days after arrival, two pit bull dogs took objection to me walking down the street, broke off their chains and feasted on my ankles.  I could hardly walk for two weeks, and the scars will never disappear, but while I am now far more wary of unknown dogs, my friendship with the animal kingdom was soon repaired.

Not too long after the dog incident, a fellow volunteer, Jess, came across some children about to throw a kitten down a slide, while a hungry dog waited at the bottom.  Jess yelled at them to stop, scooped up the kitten and brought it home.  Orchid, as we named her, was less than a month old, had a stripe of blue spray paint down her back, and looked generally dishevelled.

Orchid shortly after being saved

But after a few weeks she was a healthy, affectionate fur-ball who liked to sleep on top of my mosquito net.  Most Belizeans do not like cats, and don’t know what a pet cat is like.  One day, a Belizean friend came to the house, and Orchid promptly jumped on his lap and made herself comfortable.  She was tolerated at first, that is, until she started to purr.  Never having heard a cat purr before, the poor guy freaked out, said the cat was going to explode, and threw Orchid off his knee in a mad panic to everyone else’s laughter.

In Punta Gorda, howler monkeys and toucans live just minutes away from our rented house in town.  Once at 4pm, I was leaving work, and I heard howler monkeys nearby.  I took a 30 second walk across the cemetery, and found three howler monkeys at the top of a tree looking down suspiciously at the white girl being eaten by mosquitoes.

The land where we are building our new house has a fig tree in the garden where a group of over 20 parrots like to gossip over an all-you-can-eat fig buffet.  A toucan perches on a nearby tree every day; iguanas chill out on various tree limbs and lizards dance around the grass.  All only a 15 minute walk from the middle of town.  As my father-in-law says, “you got your own zoo back deh for free”.  I just need to work on some Kriol rhymes for it now.

www.warasadrumschool.com

 

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