Deep in the Cayo District of Belize sits Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, a stretch of approximately 106,300 acres of forest land. It’s a 60-minute drive away from downtown San Ignacio, but the drive is well worth it. There are many tourist attractions in this reserve including Caracol Mayan ruins, Río Frío Cave, swimming holes, and waterfalls. Below, we’ll talk more about the history of Mountain Pine Ridge and recommend activities in the area.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve was established in 1944 as an area where native Belizean pine forests could be managed and protected. Not much is known about the area’s early history, other than the fact that the Maya city of Caracol thrived on the borders of the reserve in 1200 BC.
Nature in Mountain Pine Ridge
The reserve is comprised mostly of Honduras pine trees, which made up about 58% of the forest. The remaining area consists of broadleaf forest (36%), grasslands (3.4%), wetlands (0.6%), and roads and rivers (10.9%). Man mammals also call Mountain Pine Ridge home including cougars, jaguars, ocelots, coatis, tapirs, and crocodiles. The reserve is also a bird watcher’s paradise with tons of native Belizean bird species flocking to the area including Rufous-capped Warbler, Common Crossbill, Pine Siskin, Eastern Bluebird, Stygian Owl, King Vulture, Acorn Woodpecker, and more.
In addition to trees and plants, Mountain Pine Ridge contains many sinkholes and caves. As a subtropical reserve, the climate is subject to a rainy season that lasts from July to February, and a dry season lasting from February to May. The area is also rather humid with humidity levels reaching as high as 70%.
Despite the size of Mountain Pine Ridge, many visitors flock to the area in guided tours to visit Caracol and the Río Frío Swimming Holes and Cave. The guided tours are family friendly, but they do last almost a full day due to the long drive into the forest from San Ignacio.