Going South - Hummingbird Highway
Waterfall, Lake, Blue Hole (inland), Caves, Cheese Tour, Botanical Gardens,
Billy Barquedier Falls (17 Miles)
The Billy Barquedier National Park entrances are at miles 19 and 16.5of the Hummingbird Highway. The short trip to the Billy Barquedier Falls begins at mile 17 (second entrance going toward Dangriga). There are so many trails through the forest you could hike all day. The falls are a 20 minute hike and the pool is inviting for a swim. The birdwatching is fabulous here, and you can hire a knowledgeable local guide at the park entrance for surprisingly little money.
Five Blues Lake (25 miles)
10-acre park surrounded by 4000 acres of limestone hills and tropical forests. ‘Five Blues is due to the varying water depth and ambient light filtering through the trees. A shallow ledge on the eastern edge of the lake will allow you to wade to a small, forested spot of land that grows a profusion of wild orchids, aptly named Orchid Island. 217 species of birds and amazing wildlife and flora. There are Forest trails crisscross the park and will lead you to the many caves and sinkholes that occupy the surrounding landscape. You can swim the lake and dive the deeper areas, or take a tour of the park with one of the knowledgeable local guides.
The Blue Hole and St Herman’s Caves (12 Miles)
Audubon Society manage the parks here. They are approx. 20 minutes (12 miles) out of Belmopan, just after the village of Armenia. It’s a 575 acre wildlife reserve with trails. The caves and Blue Hole are connected by a stream. Visitors can walk 200 yards into the cave entrance unguided or can hire a guide to traverse the cave completely, seeing beautiful speleothems and Mayan artifacts, then float peacefully back to the entrance of the cave on an inner tube. The Blue Hole is a cool and refreshing place for an afternoon swim. It was formed by the collapse of an underground limestone cave. In this case, the river running through the original cavern still flows through the cave system, and forms a sapphire-colored pool at the bottom of the cenote. The depression measures about 100 feet deep and 300 feet in diameter, with the actual Blue Hole at the depression’s base having a depth of about 25 feet.
For a more extreme adventure, visit Mountain Cow Cave (also known as Crystal Cave). A guided exploration into this spectacular cave system will take you through huge caverns adorned with crystalline formations. Mayan shamans and priests once journeyed into this underworld known as Xibalba, to perform sacred rituals
Caves Branch (12 Miles) Botanical Gardens, Lunch and Cheese Tour
(booked through Rock Farm - advanced notice essential)
A high-end private eco-resort which has an amazing botanical garden and orchid house. They offer a 2 hour guided tour for $30US per person which helps fund the free tours for local children.
Package Tour: Botanical Gardens, Cheese tasting and lunch at the lodge: $96US pp This includes the above Botanical Gardens tour, one and a half hours of cheese-tasting with loads of information about the cheese making process at the Caves Branch Cheese House and then lunch at the beautiful Caves Branch riverside lodge.
We can’t suggest an itinerary as each trip can be as long or short as you make it. Here are the distances and potential timings:
Billy Barquedier 40 minutes from Belmopan. 30 minute hike (one way) to waterfall. Potential to spend the day hiking the trails
5 Blues lake, 30 minutes from Belmopan, 20 minutes drive off the highway to the lake. Potential one to three hours spent at the park
St Herman’s/Blue Hole 20 minutes from Belmopan. Both are right on the highway, but time spent depends on whether you swim in the blue hole, explore deep into the caves or take the tube float through the caves to the Blue Hole.
Caves Branch 20 minutes from Belmopan. You can just do the botanical gardens (two hours) or the whole tour with lunch (four and half hours total)
The Hummingbird Highway is very scenic and even if you don’t explore any of these trips, if you like driving this is well worth the journey.