Toledo at a glance
Southern Belize is a land of contrasts. Emerald rainforests drape across high mountains just an hour from sparkling Caribbean waters. Ancient ruins border contemporary Mayan villages. World-class fly fishing, diving and snorkeling abound at the Belize Barrier Reef, a World Heritage site. A collection of distinct, vibrant cultures still live off the land and sea – people willing and eager to share their traditional lifestyles with you: Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, East Indian Kekchi and Mopan Mayas.Today the Toledo district is home to four Mayan ruin sites, Lubantuun, Num Li Punit, Uxbenka, and Pusilha, as well as over 40 current-day Mayan villages and one Garifuna village.
How to get here?
You can reach Punta Gorda by bus from Belize City or you can fly from Belize City with Tropic Air. Also if you will be coming from Guatemala you can take a water taxi from Puerto Barrios or Livingston. For more information about the times please call us
Toledo has it all…
A remote Garifuna village where local villagers are willing to share their traditional cooking or play the famous Garifuna drums. The “Garinagu” or Garifuna settled in Belize in the early 19th century from the southern coast all the way up to what is now Belize City. The Garifuna fled St. Vincent in the 1600s.
The only hot springs in Belize are located at Big Falls. Just north of PG, on the Southern Highway, Big Falls is easily accessible.
The Hokeb Ha Cave at Blue Creek is one of the greatest natural wonders of the Toledo district. The creek itself bubbles up from underground at the entrance to the cave, atop a hill.
Just a short bike ride or hike from the town of PG, Cerro Hill offers a short yet strenuous hike. The trail was recently refurbished with help from the Rainforest Alliance and is located within the St. Vincents Block Garifuna Reserve. The area contains of high level of biodiversity and zips through fragile forest habitat. Once you reach the top you’ve arrived at an incredible vista to look out over Punta Gorda and the Gulf of Honduras. The objective of the project is to preserve the cultural and natural landscape while providing a sustainable income for local guides. Tours that include plant and bird ID can be arranged as can a traditional Garifuna lunch.
Twisting and turning along the northern boundary of PG, the Joe Taylor offers sea kayakers a 2-3 hour excursion through mangroves, emptying into the Gulf of Honduras. Morning kayak trips to seek out birds, iganans and other wildlife can be arranged, as can full moon kayaks. The most interesting time to kayak the creek is the high season for phospholuminescence; as you kayak the creek the neon glow of this phenomenon will follow along.
Lubaantun, which in modern Mayan means “Place of Fallen Stones” is the closest Mayan ruins to PG, located 13 miles west at the head of the Rio Grande River. It is one of the larger sites in Belize and encompasses 14 structures, including several ball courts. Lubaatun does not, however, contain any stelae. It is unique however because the stone blocks are fitted together “Inca-style” without mortar. Lubaantun is also the site of the crystal skull controversy. Although the crystal skull was found at the site in 1926, many argue that it was simply planted there by one of the archaeologists for his daughter to find and are not a legitimate artifact of the site.
Only eight miles offshore, Moho Caye is the closest caye to PG and is a popular kayaking destination. Guests can relax here for the day, enjoy some snorkeling and/or fishing and bbq their catch. The caye is even close enough to kayak to.
The Moho River, a wildlife and kayaking destination, is located eight miles south of PG. Here visitors can see iguanas, rare birds and more. Kayaking the river is a treat; kayakers can start up at Jordan Village and experience some white water on the way to Boom Creek, just outside PG , or can choose to start in Santa Ana Village and lazily kayak down to town.
Located north of Toledo near Placencia, Monkey River Village is a popular tourist destination. It has an abundance of wildlife, including fish, birds, butterflies, iguanas and howler monkeys, of course. The village is bordered on the west by riverine forests – a good place for experiencing the Belizean jungle.
River tours, led by one of the local experience tour guides, wind upriver through mangrove channels and broadleaf forest. This gives you a chance to see beautiful riverine forests and wildlife in the comfort of a skiff. As you glide by, iguanas dive into the water, troops of howler monkeys race through the trees; birds dart from tree to tree; and crocodiles sun along the banks of the river.
Stop for a hike through the jungle. Your guide will point out herbal medicines, tarantulas, crocodiles, snakes, howler monkeys, and various birds including toucans and oropendulas. If lucky, you may spot a deer, tapir, or even a jaguar.
Only 24 miles from PG and easily accessible from the Southern Highway, Nim Li Punit, which means “Big Hat”, is famous for the intricately carved stelae that have been found at the site. More than 25 stelae have been found at the site. Stela 14, which stands approximately 10 meters high, is the tallest stela in Belize and is considered one of the tallest in the Mayan world.
The Port Honduras Marine Reserve includes 20 miles pristine coastline and 500 square miles of sea, beginning at the Rio Grande and stretching all the way up to Monkey River. From the shore, the reserve boundaries are drawn about five miles from PG and encompass the four Snake Cayes. The Reserve has an abundance of wildlife, including manatees, fish, birds, mangroves and reefs and offers activities such as sport-fishing, bird watching, snorkeling and swimming.
Port Honduras Marine Reserve, though only declared a reserve in 2000, has been under the watchful eye of the Toledo Institute of Development and Environment (TIDE) since its inception six years ago. The management system for PHMR has 5 primary goals: to protect the physical and biological resources of the reserve by creating a zoning plan for preservation, to provide educational and interpretive programs as well as developing appropriate protocols for researching and monitoring the resources, to preserve the value of the area for fisheries and genetic resources by protecting habitat through patrolling and surveillance, to develop recreational and tourism services that are sustainable, and to strive for sustainable financing through user fees and other strategies.
Visit: TIDE for more information
Paynes Creek National Park (PCNP), located just about an hour from PG by skiff, contains approximately 39,000 acres of lush broadleaf forest, thick mangroves and wide stretches of pine savannah. The park is home to jaguar, ocelots and howler monkeys to name just a few. The well known Punta Ycacos Lagoon is an important West Indian Manatee breeding ground; though Manatees are threatened with extinction, the species has continued to thrive in Southern Belize. In addition, just east of the park adjacent to Punta Ycacos lagoon, nesting sites of the White Ibis, and the endangered hawksbill turtle can be found. Over 300 species of birds live or spend their winters in PCNP including endangered species such as the yellow-headed parrot, jabiru storks, muscovy ducks and the aplomado falcon.
Within the park boundaries, archeologists have uncovered 4 ancient Mayan sites, now submerged under water in the Ycacos lagoon. These sites were recently excavated and evidence shows that some sites date back to 1300 B.C. The area is said to have been used by the Mayan’s to manufacture an important food preserve: salt. Tide has been working with Louisiana State University to ensure that the integrity of these sites remains protected.
The most threatened ecosystem within the park is the pine savannah. Due to the degradation of these forests from heavy logging, fires have become a major problem. Yearly fires impede young pine regeneration and destroy nesting sites of yellow headed parrots, sparrows and black throated bobwhites, and in turn destroyed their young hatchlings. Unfortunately, most of these fires are man made, set by hunters hoping to attract grazing deer later; the post-fire habitat provides an abundance of young shoots for the deer to feed on.
Visit: TIDE for more information
About 30 miles northwest of PG, local Mayan villages of Santa Cruz and Santa Elena manage the 500-acre Rio Blanco National Park. The Rio Blanco Waterfall itself is 12 feet high and the pool at the base of the falls is a popular swimming spot. Up on top of the cliffs above the falls, visitors can wade through a set of smaller waterfalls and pools that provide cool relief from the sun. The park is a few minute walk from the visitor center which houses local crafts and park staff.
The largest village in Toledo, San Antonio lies about 20 miles northwest of PG. The town is at the foothills of the Maya Mountains and is the central town for the many Mayan villages in the area. Also in San Antonio is San Antonio Falls, a 10-foot waterfall that feeds into a pool area popular for swimming.
The southernmost islands in Belize are the Sapodilla Cayes. For visitors, the cayes offer beautiful sand beaches: Lime Caye offers prime camping grounds and Hunting Caye is the most developed, including a lighthouse and a Belize Defence Force guard station. Regardless, all six of the Sapodilla Cayes are destinations for snorkeling and fishing. The reserve encompases about 125 square kilometers of beautiful Caribbean Sea and supports a wide variety of fish species. Spawning grounds for Nassau Grouper can be found on the reef as can prime flats for fly fishing.