Among all the Maya caves in Belize, Barton Creek Cave is unique: a tall river cave that was once used for sacrificial purposes and can be explored only by canoe. The most striking feature is a stalactite so low, you occasionally will have to duck into the canoe to avoid getting struck. But the ride to the end is well worth it.
During guided tours of the cave, you will navigate using a headlight to illuminate the crystal formations and dangling stalactites, while learning about its ceremonial history. Tours typically end with a refreshing dip in the creek. Inside the cave, Maya ceramics are found high up on ledges, along with human bones, including a child’s skull. Though much of the cave remains unexplored, many artifacts, including pottery and jewelry, have been discovered there.
Things to Know Before You Go
- This is not recommended for those who suffer from claustrophobia or fear of the dark.
- Wear swimwear and bring a change of clothes and a towel.
- Some tours combine a visit to the cave with ziplining, or a stop at the butterfly farm and botanical garden or Big Rock Falls.
How to Get There
All visitors to Barton Creek Cave are required to be accompanied by a guide. Tours are available from San Ignacio and usually include round-trip transportation. Equipment and guides are also available at the cave entrance without pre-booking. The cave is located east of San Ignacio on the Western Highway, off Chiquibul Road. It is difficult to reach in a standard rental car; 4WD vehicles are recommended.
When to Get There
Depending on the conditions, a cave tour can cover 1 or 2 miles (1.6 to 3.2 kilometers) in the rainy season or as much as 4.5 miles (7.25 kilometers) when water levels are lower. Belize’s dry season takes place from late November to mid-April. Some half-day tours offer a choice between a morning or afternoon departure time.
Actun Tunichil Muknal
For a more intense cave experience, Actun Tunichil Muknal offers an adventure that requires a rain forest hike, three river crossings, swimming, and clambering over rocks as you wade through tunnels and passageways lined with stalactites and stalagmites. Although ATM is basically next to Barton Creek Cave, it’s a 45-minute drive to go there due to the lack of highways in Belize.