You want jungle? We have lots of jungle!
The majority of the District is under some sort of environmental protection - whether a national park, community managed park, forest reserve status, or one of the many private protected areas. Because of the protection levels, many of these areas don't have trail networks or public footpaths, but there are more than enough accessible spots for you to truly experience the jungle!
> RIO BLANCO
Rio Blanco National Park is a little gem – a series of wide, shallow rock pools and miniature cascades in the upper stretches of the Rio Blanco river, before it pours over a 20 foot ledge into a deep swimming hole below. Limestone boulders provide useful stepping stones along the river, which is edged by trees and flowering plants.
An Indigenous People’s Park, Rio Blanco was declared a protected area in 1992, and is managed by the neighbouring Santa Cruz and Santa Elena villages. There is a small trail network, accessed by a hammock bridge spanning the river, for jungle hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife spotting opportunities.
> BLUE CREEK
The Blue Creek 200-acre rainforest preserve and wildlife sanctuary is a short 15-minute hike along a beautifully planted trail leading to the Research Center and a deep pool of clear water perfect for swimming.
It’s a lovely spot to wonder at the rainforest canopy, and laugh at the antics of the iguanas dropping in the river only to clamber ashore and laboriously climb the trees only to repeat the process all over again! The crystal clear waters of the creek are perfect for a refreshing swim, and you will instantly make friends with the small fishes which come to investigate.
The Preserve's lush rainforest is home to enormous bromeliads, orchids, cohune palms, and heliconias, with vines a-plenty weaving their way through the jungle and a guided hike will reveal numerous medicinal plants. There are hundreds of birds here - including the keel-billed toucan - and the roar of the howler monkeys can be heard nearby.
Blue Creek is also home to a superb canopy tour - 9 ziplines high up in the canopy and 15 platforms, including the newly reconstructed 'skywalk' of Jason Project fame.
> SAN ANTONIO FALLS (NOH SUS)
Around a mile west of San Antonio Village, the the San Antonio Falls gently cascade 8 feet over a smooth pear shaped limestone rock covered with bright green moss. Watch for the multicoloured dragonflies, and hummingbirds bathing in the spray of the Falls.
It's a perfect spot for a refreshing dip on a hot day, to enjoy a picnic lunch, or as a gentler alternative if heavy rains mean that Rio Blanco water levels are too high for swimming. There is also a small, if somewhat overgrown, trail network heading upstream.
You’ll see a large parking area on the right-hand side of the paved road, and cement steps leading down to the Falls. There is no entrance fee, but the area is voluntarily, and beautifully maintained by San Antonio village.
> BIG FALLS
Despite its name, there isn't a waterfall at Big Falls village, but it's a great place to enjoy some gentle river tubing and introductory ziplining back and forth across the Rio Grande.
The river tubing entry point is about a mile north of Big Falls village, and you can opt to stop about half-way at the small hot springs area. Most of your time will be spent gently floating with the current, but there is the occasional area where you may have to paddle, and a swift section towards the end of your route. The zip‐line has six runs of around 400 feet between landing platforms, crossing the Rio Grande river four times for some lovely scenery and an adrenaline-rush.
> hidden beauties
Too difficut to find on your own, tour operators offer a variety of tours to special jungle places from hidden waterfalls to crystal rivers
> RANGER FOR A DAY
The Golden Stream Corridor Preserve is a strategic biological corridor connecting the Maya Mountains to the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. Managed by Ya’axche Conservation Trust (pronounced “yah-shay”), the Preserve has 17 different major ecosystems containing hundreds of plants species, as well as numerous bird, mammal, reptile, fish, and amphibians.
You can visit the Corridor through Ya’axche’s ‘Ranger for a Day’ program. Don’t expect a gentle ‘canned tourism experience’ – this is an opportunity to see conservation in action and to participate, helping to monitor key species, and noting animal tracks. For more information visit the Ya’axche website.