Flashback: Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve (Belize 2012)

Close to San Ignacio is the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve that was established in 1944 to help protect the Belizean pine forest. The majority of the region was destroyed in a devastating fire in 1949, so most of the pine trees today are around the same age from after that date. There are a variety of sights to see within the protected area and if driving yourself you will need an all wheel drive or 4×4 car as the road is a bit rough. The whole area is in stark contrast to anywhere else we went while in Belize and is well worth the time to visit.

Our first stop in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve was Rio on Pools, which is located just off the main road after entering the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve. There are two sections to Rio on Pools. You can walk down a bunch of steps for good views of waterfalls and a pool that you can swim in or you can a little upstream for lots of smaller pools with mini rapids connecting them. We didn’t do any swimming while there and spent most of our time walking around the upper pools. We were incredibly fortunate and got lucky that we were the only people at Rio on Pools at the time!

Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve Rio on Pools Rio on Pools Rio on Pools Rio on Pools Rio on Pools Rio on Pools

Our next stop invovled a drive down an incredibly rocky and slippery road to the Rio Frio Cave. The cave has an impressive 65 foot arched opening. The cave is only around a half mile in length making it easy to visit on your own without a caving guide. There is a small river running through the cave and of course to really explore it, a flashlight or headlamp would be highly recommended. We didn’t venture into the cave too far as when we were there (by ourselves again), just inside the cave entrance we saw multiple HUGE wasps. We came back just after noticing them swirling around as we didn’t fancy getting stung by a bunch of wasps.

Rio Frio Cave Rio Frio Cave Rio Frio Cave Rio Frio Cave

Our next stop in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve was the Five Sister’s Fall located at the Five Sister’s Lodge. Non-lodge guests are allowed to visit. You can either walk down a long flight of stairs or pay a small fee to take the funicular to the bottom. When we were there, the funicular was not open, so we ventured down the stairs both directions. It was really peaceful and relaxing at the bottom. You are allowed to swim in the pool beneath the waterfall so named because of the five streams cascading over the boulder.

Five Sister's Falls Five Sister's Falls Five Sister's Falls Five Sister's Falls Five Sister's Falls Five Sister's Falls

Our final stop was at Big Rock Falls. Big Rock Falls is a 150 foot high waterfall along the Privassion River within the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve. To visit this waterfall, you will have to hike down a slightly steep path over boulders. It had just poured down rain right before we stopped, so it was incredibly slippery and muddy. So be careful! The waterfall is impressive and you can swim right up to it! The rocks and cliffs surrounding the waterfall are made for cliff jumping.

Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve Big Rock Falls Big Rock Falls Big Rock Falls

Big Rock Falls

Travel Tip: While not exactly located in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, Caracol is another popular site to visit that’s a bit off the beaten path from San Ignacio. To reach the Mayan Ruins, you do drive through the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve region and at least in 2012 required a convoy at a checkpoint to the ruins. Many people travel to Caracol with a tour guide but if you have your own set of wheels, it is possible to visit on your own as long as you make the convoy time. If you drive yourself, you could stop at one of the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve sights on your way back to San Ignacio if time. 

 

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