Jungles & Jaguars

This incredible trip takes you on a journey through remote Mayan ruins to azure Caribbean waters. Spot storks and kingfishers in the depths of the beautiful Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary before heading deep into the jungle to Lamanai, an ancient ruin that looks like it came straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Journey overland to the Cayo District to hike, swim and spelunk your way into the heart of the caving system or explore rainforest-draped Mayan ruins such as Caracol or Xunantunich.

Next, head down the lush, green Hummingbird Highway, to the sparkling turquoise waters of Placencia before dipping back into the jungle at Mayflower Bocawina National Park to enjoy spectacular waterfalls or visit the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve.

Finally, head by water taxi, to the laid-back, ramshackle charms of Caye Caulker island. Scuba or snorkel your days away in the company of stingrays, nurse sharks and technicolour tropical fish, with the best action around the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the iconic, UNESCO-listed Great Blue Hole.

Kick off your shoes, grab a hammock and watch the sun set on another perfect Belizean day.

Family Adventure Holidays - Trip Duration

Family Adventure Holidays - Departure Dates
Belize - Jungles & Jaguars - Trip Map
Family Adventure Holidays - Minimum Age

Family Adventure Holidays - Activity Level

What's included

  • Flights: International return flights from UK airports to Belize City (BZE) - there are no direct flights to Belize so flights are usually via Canada or the U.S
  • Transport: Private guided transfers
  • Accommodation: 14 nights in characterful rainforest lodges, cabanas, hotels & eco-lodges
  • Meals: All breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners
  • Activities: Maya medicine trail, spotlight nature safari, sunrise canoe expedition, Lamanai Maya ruins, Blue Hole National Park
  • Trip Pack: Key family-friendly information about the country you are visiting with recommended activity links, places to eat, travel blogs and fun facts

Trip highlights

  • Spot fascinating birdlife at the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Journey by boat through deep jungle to the ancient temples of Lamanai
  • Explore caves once used for secret rituals by the ancient Mayas
  • Search for an endangered jaguar, howler monkey or manatee at one of Belize’s wildlife refuges
  • Discover ancient Mayan ruins, far away from the crowds
  • Enjoy the beaches, reefs and rich waters of Caye Caulker
  • Choose from an incredible array of included and optional activities such as kayaking, ziplining, spear fishing, cookery classes, snorkelling, cave tubing and drum classes

Key facts

  • When can we go? All year round
  • What type of tour is it? Private family tour with guided transfers & activities
  • Who is it suitable for? For avid wildlife watchers, rainforest ravers, temple seekers and active families with a penchant for tropical reefs and sandy cayes
  • What is the minimum age? We would recommend a minimum age of 6 years for this trip but this is just a guide; our itineraries can be adapted, no problem, for families with younger children

Guide price

We publish ‘guideline prices’ for both the high and low season to give a reasonable estimate of what you might expect to pay per person based on a family of four (two adults, two children) - to get an accurate price based on your estimated departure date and party size please contact us directly

Guide Price: Jan to Dec - £2,748 pp

Belize Adventure Holiday - Trip itinerary

DAY 1: Arrival in Belize City

Belize City’s chaotic streets are alive with colourful locals who represent every aspect of Belize's ethnic makeup. And while the urban landscape may involve the occasional malodorous canal or decrepit alleyway, it also features handsome colonial houses, a vibrant arts community, excellent restaurants, bustling shopping areas and, last but not least, a hand cranked colonial swing bridge that spans the Haulover creek.

After your flight from the UK, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your nearby accommodation. Spend the rest of the day catching up on some sleep – your intrepid adventure starts in earnest tomorrow.

Fun Facts: Thumb locking is actually a sign of greeting in Belize.

DAY 2: Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary – Baboons & Lagoons

Today, travel inland to the eponymous Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, one of Belize's best birding areas. This important wetland habitat is peppered with creeks, thickets, marshlands, lagoons and savannas amid a hardwood forest. The variety of animals and birds hanging out in this forest is truly astonishing. These include other-worldly looking Jabiru Storks as well as everything that crawls, prowls, slithers and roams in Belize, including black howler monkeys, turtles, iguanas, kingfisher, heron and crocodiles.

Settle down for two nights on the shores of the Crooked Tree Lagoon. In the evening, if the weather is fine, we would suggest joining a sunset cruise on the lagoon.

Fun Facts: “Baboon” is the local Creole word for the black howler monkey, an endangered species that lives only in select parts of Belize, Guatemala and Mexico.

Optional Activities: Sunset boat cruise

DAY 3: Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary – Storks & Kingfishers

We would suggest an early alarm this morning, as dawn is the most active time for local birdlife. Bare-throated tiger herons, black-bellied whistling ducks, snail kites, ospreys, black-collared hawks and all of Belize's five species of kingfisher are among some 300 species found here. Peak wildlife viewing is between December and May when the lagoons shrink to a string of pools, producing hours of ornithological bliss for any budding birdwatchers. You can choose to view independently or join a guided tour.

There are also a variety of activities on offer by your accommodation within the wildlife sanctuary; rent a canoe, ride a bike, take a guided boat tour, go ziplining or horse-riding. The Belize Audubon Society manages the preserve, and the visitor centre has free trail maps and access to knowledgeable guides. If you are visiting during May then the Crooked Tree Village Cashew Festival is a must visit – a whole carnival devoted to nuts!

Fun Facts: Crooked Tree got its name from early logwood cutters who boated up Belize River to a giant lagoon marked by a tree that seemingly grew in every direction. These “crooked trees” (logwood trees, in fact) still grow in abundance around the lagoon.

Optional Activities: Kayaking, horse-riding, cycling, zip-lining, guided wildlife cruise

DAY 4: Lamanai – Bromeliads & Potions

On Day 4, travel to Lamanai for your two-night adventure staying in a thatched eco-lodge nestled deep in the Orange Walk rainforest district. The journey to the jungle lodge takes you past Mennonite villages before travelling upstream to the banks of the New River Lagoon. On arrival, you will be greeted with remote tropical bliss where tangled bromeliads hang from swaying palm trees.

This afternoon, visit an indigenous Mayan village and learn about Mayan rainforest medicine. Unlock the secrets and learn first-hand how basic potions and salves are prepared. After dinner, head out on a nocturnal animal spotting boat safari with the opportunity to encounter the Morelet’s crocodile or the elusive and endangered jaguar. There are also a host of optional activities offered by your lodge ranging from night spear fishing to howler monkey treks.

Fun Facts: The Maya were masters at utilizing the jungle's natural resources for their practical and medicinal needs. Learn about vines that store drinking water, plants that helps abate malaria, aid diabetics and cleanse the blood.

Included Activities: Maya medicine trail, spotlight nature safari

Optional Activities: Native fishing, Howler Monkey trek, sunset airboat safari, crocodile encounter, night spear fishing, birding expeditions

DAY 5: Lamanai – Canoes & Crocodiles

A dawn start this morning as you join a guided canoe expedition into the flooded savannahs. As the morning mist rises from the canopy, spot wildlife as it awakens in the forest. Enjoy the remainder of your morning relaxing at the lodge.

In the afternoon, in the company of an expert guide, visit the sprawling 960-acre Lamanai Mayan estate, masked in crocodile art. The site was continually occupied from around 1500 BC up until the 16th century, when Spanish missionaries erected a church alongside to lure the Indians from their “heathen” ways. Only 5% of the site is excavated meaning many of the ruins are still shrouded by thick jungle vines.

Within the site itself, the most remarkable structure is the 37m tall “High Temple” with spectacular views across the surrounding forest. North from here is the “Mask Temple”, an exceptionally well-preserved 4m high stucco mask of a ruler represented as a deity and at the southern end of the site, the “Jaguar Temple” named after the two large, stylized jaguar masks adorning its lowest level.

Evening back at the lodge.

Fun Facts: Lamanai means "submerged crocodile" in Yucatec Mayan, giving you a pretty good indication of the local residents of this jungle setting.

Included Activities: Sunrise canoe expedition, Lamanai Maya ruins

Optional Activities: Native fishing, Howler Monkey trek, sunset airboat safari, crocodile encounter, night spear fishing, birding expeditions

DAY 6: San Ignacio – Cacao & Cinnamon

Near Belize’s western border with Guatemala lies the sleepy town of San Ignacio. Surrounded by fast-flowing rivers and forested hills, it is the heart and soul of the Cayo District with Mestizos, Maya and Garifuna residents interweaved with a bunch of free-spirited expats creating an infectious local vibe. Grab the best cinnamon buns you’ll ever eat from bakeries lining the main plaza or hawk local produce from the Saturday farmers market.

You have a choice of optional excursions to keep your family occupied for the remainder of the day. We would suggest visiting AJAW to join a hands-on workshop learning how to turn raw cacao beans into silky-smooth drinking chocolate or visiting the nearby iguana conservation project. The easiest and most accessible Mayan Ruins close to San Ignacio is Cahal Pech, around a 20-minute walk from town. It features a museum, several dozen surviving structures and is perfect for younger children.

Further afield, we would suggest visiting the impressive Xunantunich ruins, creatively accessed by a hand-cranked ferry. Occupied until around 850 AD, the main plaza is dominated by the monumental pyramid El Castillo which in turn is topped by a partially restored stucco frieze representing the mighty Sun God. It is also possible to tour the ruins on horseback or enjoy cave tubing afterwards. For a post-ruin meal, be sure to visit Benny’s Belizean restaurant, a local institution followed by a refreshing swim at either Calla Creek or Clarissa Falls.

San Ignacio will be your base for the next three nights.

Fun Facts: San Ignacio Town was originally named El Cayo by the Spanish. San Ignacio and its sister town Santa Elena make up Belize’s second largest urban area.

Optional Activities: AJAW chocolate workshop, Iguana conservation project, Cahal Pech tour, Xunantunich tour

DAY 7: San Ignacio – Waterfalls & Caves

Today, we would suggest packing a picnic and swimsuit and heading to Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. This national park is crammed full of rolling hills, jagged peaks, gorges, waterfalls and caves and provides a welcome respite from lower elevation heat and mosquitoes. Check out Rio on Pools, Big Rock Waterfalls, and Rio Frio Cave.

Deep in the forest reserve lies Caracol, an ancient site with an enticing history that rivals the power of Tikal. Discovered in 1938, excavations revealed the “Sky Palace” pyramid, elevated 140 feet above the jungle floor and the largest manmade structure in Belize. Once home to more than 100,000 people, Caracol now lies in spectacular mountain solitude, host to just a handful of hardy visitors every day. Wallow in the solitude with only a kaleidoscope of swallowtail butterflies to keep you company.

Alternatively, for today, older families might like to visit the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, commonly referred to as ATM and the underground lodestone for every visitor. This spelunking excursion is nothing short of a real-life audition for Ninja Warrior, wading through stunning lagoons and discovering spectacular underground forests. By way of reward, at the furthest end of the upper chamber lies the “crystal maiden”, an ancient sacrificial skeleton of a young Mayan girl. *This cave tour requires a good level of physical fitness with the ability to swim a must*

For those looking for a more relaxing family activity, we would suggest joining a tubing excursion on the Macal River. Enjoy the beauty of the region as you float through cascades and deep pools with a few small rapids thrown in for good measure.

Fun Facts: There are actually less people in Belize today than there were in the Pre-Columbian Maya days.

Optional Activities: Caracol tour, ATM cave tour, tubing tour

DAY 8: Free Day with optional tours including Tikal, Guatemala

Today is a free day to choose from one of the optional tours in the surrounding area. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tikal just over the border in Guatemala is one option that comes highly recommended. You will truly feel like you've been cast in a remake of Indiana Jones.

Deep in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle, shrouded in thick rainforest and centuries of mystery lies one of the most spectacular ancient ruins on Earth - the Mayan city of Tikal. The scale and preservation of the site, where some 3,000 classical structures rise from the rainforest floor, dwarfs even the famed Incan ruins in Peru. The Central Acropolis is a labyrinthian mix of residences, palaces and temples complete with roaring howler monkeys, buzzing insects and raucous macaws. The site is like an outsized time capsule, closer to its original vitality than perhaps any other deserted city of the past.

For families looking for a little more action there are also zip-line tours of the jungle canopy, with nine zips in total covering a distance of 1.3km. Alternatively, you may wish to visit the Belize botanical gardens where you can tour the gardens and enjoy lunch before paddling back to San Ignacio along the Macal River.

Fun Facts: Tikal was the beating heart of the Mayan empire and ruled most of Mesoamerica. By 600 AD it had a sports stadium, a school and a hospital. It also had a library packed with thousands of books. Today only four Mayan books still exist.

Optional Activities: Tikal day tour, ziplining, Belize botanic gardens

DAY 9: Placencia – Cenotes & Drums

From San Ignacio, head south along the scenic Hummingbird Highway, passing through local villages as well as orange and cacao groves. Along the way, stop at the Blue Hole National Park for a refreshing dip in the cenote; the Mayans believed these swimming holes were portals to the underworld.

Your next stop is the relaxed coastal village of Placencia where life hasn't changed much in decades. Children walk the town's lone street selling their mothers' freshly baked coconut pies, local men fish in dugout dories and Garífuna drumming echoes throughout the town. There are lively local cafes, colourful art galleries, fabulous snorkelling opportunities and banana farm tours. Cookery classes are also available specializing in Garifuna dishes such as hudut, a fish stew made with plantains and coconuts.

Placencia will be your base for the next two nights.

Fun Facts: The Garifuna people’s language, dance and music were declared Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO

Included Activities: Blue Hole National Park

Optional Activities: Drum lesson, cookery lesson

DAY 10: Placencia – Turtles & Rays

Placencia is a straggle of beaches, mangroves, and lagoons caught between the coastal plain and the Caribbean Sea. It is a riot of colour with an abundance of painted wood, stilted houses, azure waters and unbelievable seafood.

Today is a free day for you to relax and enjoying the stunning coastline. The longest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere is just a 45-minute boat ride off the coast with Laughing Bird Caye, a National Park and World Heritage Site even closer. Optional tours include diving and snorkelling, fishing, sailing, kayaking and manatee watching. On a typical dive you may see turtles, rays, moray eels, barracudas, lobsters and if you are lucky a nurse shark, hammerhead shark, or Caribbean Reef Shark. Alternatively, you could simply unwind in a hammock overlooking the ocean.

Fun Facts: In the 17th Century, Placencia was settled by the English Puritans who were originally from Nova Scotia and latterly from the island of Providencia.

Optional Activities: Diving, snorkelling, sea fishing, sailing, kayaking, farm tour, manatee watching

DAY 11: Mayflower Bocawina National Park/Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary – Pumas & Jaguars

Just 1 hour north of Placencia lies Mayflower Bocawina National Park, a beautiful 11-sq-mile reserve of lush jungle, refreshing waterfalls and ancient Mayan sites. Your home for the next 24 hours will be an eco-resort nestled deep within the park. There are a host of onsite activities available such as ziplining, waterfall rappelling, birdwatching and jungle hikes as well as offsite tours such as horse-riding, Mayan living experiences and tours to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.

The mighty jaguar, once the undisputed king of the Central and South American jungles, has a designated haven in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. The park covers 128,000 acres of lush rainforest in the Cockscomb Range of the Maya Mountains where more than 200 jaguars roam the vastness. Spotting the elusive, nocturnal creature is extremely difficult but the reserve is also home to howler monkeys, ocelots, pumas, peccaries, tapirs, king vultures, armadillos and otters, along with hundreds of native birds. The reserve is also known for its spectacular waterfalls and nature trails, most notably the trail leading to Victoria Peak.

Fun Facts: Jaguars are fearsome predators and will hunt anything from frogs, fish and reptiles to livestock, cows and deer.

Optional Activities: Ziplining, waterfall rappelling, birdwatching, jungle hikes, horse-riding, Mayan living experience, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary tour

DAY 12: Caye Caulker – Musicians & Artists

Today, leave the national park behind and head towards Belize City where you will hop on a water taxi to Caye Caulker. The water taxi transfer takes about an hour and is a highlight in itself, speeding through the shimmering turquoise waters.

On this tiny island, where cars, too, are blissfully absent, dogs nap in the middle of the dirt road, pastel stilted houses line the seashore and resident artists and musicians create a colourful vibe. People of every background call this island home, from Rastafarians pushing fruit carts to blond-haired cafe owners and Chinese shopkeepers.

The “Go Slow” motto of Caye Caulker is a good indicator of the laid-back vibe and Caribbean-like spirit that pervades Belize. For anyone that goes to Caye Caulker expecting prompt service and on-time schedules, this is your warning that island time is alive and well. It is time to relax and chill!

Fun Facts: Caye Caulker is only 4 miles long and 0.15 to 1.2 miles wide.

DAYS 13 & 14: Caye Caulker - Manatees & Lobsters

There is no shortage of activities to keep you busy for your final few days. Just about every dive shop in town can take you out to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve for snorkelling and many companies offer excursions to Swallow Caye to observe the manatees in their natural mangrove habitat. You’ll also find one of the greatest dive sites on Earth, the Blue Hole, just off the coast with the opportunity to dive this massive and beautiful ocean cavern. If you don’t fancy diving you could also book a flight to see the Blue Hole from an aerial view.

The island is a great place to rent bikes to get around as everything is just a short distance away. You could also rent canoes and kayaks from various waterfront outfits, or go swimming with the locals at the Split, a channel that divides the two halves of the island.

In the evening, wander along Front Street to browse the local craft shops before settling down in one of the friendly local cafes for fabulous seafood. The West side of Caye Caulker has some amazing sunset restaurants with tables and chairs right on the water front.

Fun Facts: Most islands may have remained uninhabited for years, but each Caye has a watchman which is appointed by the government. This has to be the mother of all jobs!

Optional Activities: Snorkelling, diving, Blue Hole scenic flight, bike rental, kayaking

DAY 15: The Journey Home

It is time to jump on a water taxi back to the mainland for your return flight to the UK. Travel home with a bagful of stories to share around the dinner table.

Wandering Tribe has travelled to all of the destinations that we feature and we like nothing better than talking about them. If you would like further information about these tours or a tailor-made quote then please contact us on 07392 742333. Alternatively you can fill in the contact form and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.