Caracol Mayan Ruins – MayaWalk Tours Review

Caracol Mayan Ruins - MayaWalk Tours Review

Located in the Cayo District. San Ignacio, Belize, has a lot to offer and one of the best things to do there is to discover some of the many Maya ruins located in the area.

I decided to visit the Caracol archaeological site, an ancient Maya city lost in the jungle. Due to its remote location and the terrible state of the road, to get there, you’ll either need a 4-wheeler and good driving skills or to go via a tour. I choose the latest as it’s easier, more comfortable, and you get a guide.

Keep on reading to learn more about the Caracol Mayan Ruins and my MayaWalk Tours review!

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Maya Walk. As always, all opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

About MayaWalk Tours

For my Caracol tour from San Ignacio, I went with MayaWalk Tours, one of the oldest tour operators in San Ignacio. Founded in 1997, the company offers lots of different tours, from exploring Mayan ruins to river tubing and jungle trekking. MayaWalk also tries to implement eco-friendly measures, I loved the fact that they don’t give out water bottles, you have to bring your own, and you refill it along the trip.

Summary of the Caracol Tour

The excursion is a full-day trip that will take you to the Caracol Mayan Ruins, then on the way back, you’ll stop by the Rio Frio Cave, and finish the day with a swim at the Rio Frio Pool. The tour is recommended for children aged 12 and up – there’s quite a lot of walking involved and you need to be able to go up to the top of some of the pyramids through steep stairs.

The tour costs $125 per person, everything included.

You follow the group during the tour of Caracol but you get a decent amount of time to explore the ruins on your own at each of the main places.

What to Expect

The excursion to Caracol starts at 7 AM; it takes around 3 hours to reach Caracol via a bad dirt road. You’ll drive through the jungle, passing small creeks and villages.

Caracol is not a huge site, but there is a lot to be said about it. The visit lasts around 3 hours. You’ll have plenty of time to take pictures, explore the city in and out, and take small breaks (a lot of stairs!).

Caracol is located in the heart of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, which is home to a variety of wildlife. While exploring the ruins, keep an eye out for toucans, howler monkeys, and other wildlife that inhabit the surrounding jungle.

Ceiba tree Belize

The Caracol area was inhabited as early as 1200 BC. The city reached its pinnacle during the Classic Period. In 562 AD, the city defeated Tikal and ruled over the Peten region for more than a century. Archaeologists believed around 150 000 people lived there at this time and 30 000 structures have been identified.

Caracol, Maya ruins, San Ignacio, Belize

The city was re-discovered in 1930 by logging workers, you can see one of the stelae in the middle of the main plaza destroyed, a truck drove on it. It was called Caracol (snail in Spanish) because of the numerous shells found there. There are still a lot of structures to excavate. When you see a hill, it’s actually a building.

Caracol, Maya ruins, San Ignacio, Belize

After the Caracol tour, we had a tasty lunch (with Rum Punch!) at the site. Maya Walk offers vegetarian options if needed. Then, we headed to Rio Frio Cave.

Rio Frio Cave is a river cave, it’s around 100 meters deep, and openings on both sides are huge. You can enter it, and there’s plenty of light coming in. It’s a really beautiful place, with lots of stalactites and stalagmites, the river passing through, and even a small beach.

Rio Frio Cave, San Ignacio, Belize

The next stop was Rio On Pools, it took us about ten more minutes to reach it. The river is easily accessible, just be careful when stepping on the stones near, and in, the river, as they’re super slippery.

The surroundings are breathtaking, the place is so peaceful, you might never want to live. The water is cool and refreshing, perfect after a day of exploring ruins. There’s a small waterfall, you can go under it and get a nice back massage. Some parts are shallow and can just sit there and relax, or if you want to swim, there are deeper parts as well.

Rio Frio Pools, San Ignacio, Belize

The guide was super knowledgeable and friendly. He knew so much about the site, the Maya in general, and nature as well. I loved how he explained the use for each tree, their name, their properties, how Mayas used them, how they are used today… He is passionate about his work, and you feel it throughout the tour. He also gives you plenty of time to visit, eat, swim, I didn’t feel rushed at any time.

My Opinion

The tour and the guide were great, everything went smoothly, and the company seems to be well-organized. Visiting the Caracol ruins when you’re in San Ignacio is a must, it’s one of the best Maya ruins to visit there as there’s much to see and the site has been well excavated and restored, and it’s probably one of the most beautiful Maya ruins I’ve seen in Central America.

What’s also great about this tour is that it’s a full-day tour and you get to explore part of Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve as well. This area is just beautiful and also worth visiting, so having both combined in one tour is perfect to discover more of the region in a short time.

What to bring for your Caracol tour

  • Snacks
  • A water bottle (you can refill it during the tour)
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellent
  • A swimsuit, and towel (they have a changing room in Rio on Pools, but they didn’t put a door, so not much privacy)
  • Comfortable shoes

Don’t hesitate to check out MayaWalk Tours if you come to San Ignacio; you can go on this tour or on one (or more) of the other tours they offer. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

If you’re coming from Belize City and don’t want to spend the night in San Ignacio, you’ll find several other tour operators offering tours to Caracol from Belize City.

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Caracol FAQ

What is Caracol famous for?

Caracol is famous for being one of the most important and largest Mayan archaeological sites in Belize. It was once a major center of Mayan civilization and is known for its impressive and well-preserved architecture.

The site features many large buildings and temples, including the towering Caana (Sky Palace), which is the tallest man-made structure in Belize.

The site also contains a number of stelae (stone monuments) that are covered in intricate carvings and hieroglyphics, providing important insights into the history and culture of the ancient Mayan people.

Caracol was once a major player in the political and economic affairs of the Maya world, and its rich history continues to fascinate visitors from around the world.

What are some facts about Caracol Mayan ruins?

Here are some interesting facts about the Caracol Mayan ruins in Belize:

Caracol was once a powerful Mayan city-state: At its peak, Caracol was home to an estimated population of 120,000 people and was a major political, economic, and military center in the Maya world.

Caracol is one of the largest Mayan sites in Belize: The site covers over 30 square miles and contains more than 35,000 buildings, including large plazas, pyramids, and palaces.

The largest structure at Caracol is the Caana: The Caana is a massive pyramid that stands over 140 feet tall and was once the tallest structure in Belize. It is believed to have been the residence of the city’s ruler.

Caracol was a major rival to Tikal: The city was engaged in a long-standing rivalry with the nearby Mayan city-state of Tikal in present-day Guatemala, and the two cities fought a number of wars throughout their history.

Caracol was abandoned by the end of the 10th century: The reasons for Caracol’s decline and abandonment are not entirely clear, but it is believed to have been related to a combination of environmental factors, warfare, and political instability.

The site was rediscovered in the 1930s: Although local people were likely aware of the ruins, the site was not fully explored and documented until the 1930s, when archaeologists began to systematically study the area.

Caracol contains many important examples of Mayan art and architecture: The site features a number of well-preserved buildings and stelae that are decorated with intricate carvings and hieroglyphic inscriptions, providing important insights into the history and culture of the ancient Maya people.

How do you get to Caracol Ruins Belize?

The Caracol ruins are located in the Cayo District of Belize, about 25 miles south of San Ignacio. There are several ways to get to the site:

Rental car: You can rent a car in San Ignacio and drive to the site. The trip takes about 2-3 hours and involves driving on unpaved, bumpy roads through the jungle. It is recommended that you rent a 4×4 vehicle for the trip.

Guided tour: There are many guided tours available that will take you to the Caracol ruins. These tours typically include transportation from San Ignacio, a tour of the ruins with a knowledgeable guide, and sometimes lunch or other activities. You can book a tour through a local tour company or your hotel.

Private transfer: If you prefer not to drive yourself, you can arrange for a private transfer from San Ignacio to the Caracol ruins. This option provides the convenience of transportation without the need to navigate the roads yourself.

It is important to note that the roads to Caracol can be rough and unpaved, so it is recommended that you use a sturdy vehicle with good clearance.