Belize is blessed with boatloads of cool a$$ caves. I forget where I recently read that there’s an estimated 300 caves in the country and almost 200 of them show evidence of having been used by the ancient Maya. Literally hundreds of caves to explore and I’ve only just scratched the surface (unintended pun) with the dozen or so that I’ve toured. Barton Creek Cave has been on my Belize Bucket List for awhile and we’ve finally just explored it! If you’re in the Mountain Pine Ridge area of the Cayo District here is why you should make a tour of Barton Creek Cave a priority.
A Cave You Can Canoe In
Barton Creek is what we refer to as a “wet cave” which means precisely what you’d think it does: there’s water running through it. We have several top tours in the country that feature wet caves: cave tubing at Nohoch Che’en, kayaking the miles of caverns at Caves Branch Outpost, and slogging through the notorious ATM cave are all incredible and unique experiences. But Barton Creek Cave is special for its trove of well preserved artifacts and that you can explore the cave by canoe. The entrance is almost ethereal in its beauty with a vine-draped opening full of eerily luminous aquamarine water. Inside the cave you’ll see all the typical subterranean features- the stalagmites, the stalactites, the flowstones, and so forth. You will also see amazingly intact pottery from the Classic Period (250-900AD) as well as some human sacrifice remains.
We drove ourselves, and while I was doing my pre-planning and Google Mapping I realized that looking at aerial images, Barton Creek Cave is super close/ part of the ATM Cave system. As the crow flies, these two caves appear to be a stones throw from one another, but if you do both of their tours you will realize you have to drive out to them at completely different angles. Because of the road access, you would think these two were nowhere near one another, but that’s the funny thing about Belize! (Another odd example of this is Caracol- you have to drive all the way up to MPR then hours down a logging road to reach Caracol; it’s like a 5-hour drive from Placencia. But if you look at a map you realize that Caracol is basically parallel to Hopkins! If there was a road through the Cockscomb Mountain range it would be remarkably close- so weird!)
The Chiquibul road is very nicely paved now (out to just past Blancaneaux Lodge) but the road in to the cave at Mike’s Place is not. We drove it in a small SUV which I was grateful for because my minivan would have struggled a bit. There’s a shallow river crossing that during dry season shouldn’t be of much concern but after any rain you’d want a vehicle with plenty of clearance. I didn’t look at the longer route that doesn’t involve the river crossing but we were told its much rougher and has significant (nearly impossible) hills to climb.
If you have your own transportation you don’t need to book ahead of time, you can simply show up and hire your guide and equipment on-site, but its a good idea to at least give them some warning of your arrival time because they may suggest coming earlier or later to avoid any other groups they’re expecting. When we went we lucked out and had the cave to ourselves!
You canoe approximately 1 kilometer inside the cave on the standard tour which we took but I’d love to go back for the extended version of the tour that requires some wading and scrambling deeper in to the cavern. Click here for more info and pricing.