Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve
The Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve in Belize – not your typical tropical destination in Central America!
Who would expect a pine forest in a tropical Central American country like Belize? Not me…
I was surprised when I first read about the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve on google and was excited to check it out. I fell in love with it when I visited, especially with the colder climate after traveling through Central America for a few months in SUPER HOT temperatures.
In this blog post I will tell you everything you need to know before visiting the beautiful Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, which is also one of my favorite hidden gems in Belize.
1. What is the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve?
Nestled in the Cayo district, close to the border to Guatemala, the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve is a 1000 square mile large pine forest with non-tropical climate.
Visitors will experience a sharp contrast to the usual rainforest & tropical climate in the rest of Belize.
This reserve not only offers cooler temperatures and a change of landscapes, but also many points of interests and attractions.
Nature lovers will definitely love this reserve. Some of the most famous activities here are: hiking, chasing waterfalls, swimming in natural pools, exploring caves and bird viewing!
Even though I visited Mountain Pine Ridge on a weekend, I saw hardly any other persons and most of the hiking trails and attractions to myself.
2. How to get there?
The entrance of Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve is located about 30 minutes drive from San Ignacio.
The best option to explore the reserve is to rent a car and drive through the reserve.
Roads within in the reserve are mainly dirt roads that are partly in a pretty bad shape (especially during rainy season). There is a project going on to improve the roads within the reserve and all the way to the Caracol ruins, however it will still take a while until the road is paved and easily accessible all the way.
I personally did not drive to Caracol, due to the bad road conditions within the reserve already, I had to engage my 4×4 multiple times and almost got stuck.
Unfortunately, I also did not make it to the 1000 feet falls (the tallest in Central America) for the same reason. I was told to better not taking the long dirt road there during the rainy season.
I guess in dry season, you should be able to visit all the points of interest within the reserve with a 4×4 though.
Another option would be to go on a tour that visits the reserve and some of it´s attractions.
3. Where to stay?
I stayed at San Miguel campground, just next to Big Rock Falls.
This campground is quite expensive (20 USD per night) but has great, large campsites with firepits and palapas between hundreds of pine trees, as well as really cool showers and bathrooms with forest views!
Definitely seems like the best camping option in the area, highly recommend.
If you are not into camping, there are also a few hotel and airbnb options in the reserve. Most popular option would probably be the Pine Ridge Lodge. Prices start at around 130 USD per night.
In case you cannot find a suitable option to stay within the reserve or only want to visit during the day, you can also stay somewhere around San Ignacio, which is about half an hour drive from the reserve.
I do however recommend staying in the reserve, to be able to enjoy the different climate and landscapes to the fullest.
4. What to do and see in the reserve?
Mountain Pine Ridge is a paradise for nature lovers like me and there are many activities and points of interest.
Activities within the reserve:
- Bird watching
- Chasing waterfalls
- Swimming in natural pools
- Exploring caves
- Big Rock Falls
- 1000 feet falls (tallest in all of Central America)
- Rio on Pools
- ATM cave
- Rio Frio Cave
- Caracol ruins (located further South from the reserve and only accessible through a long dirt road leading through Mountain Pine Ridge)