One of the sights in Southern Belize that’s easiest to reach without a car is Rio Blanco National Park. Rio Blanco is located in the far southwest of Belize, about an hour bus ride away from Punta Gorda. I had been hearing about the park and its beautiful waterfalls for months, so I finally got a group together to go one weekend in January.
We caught a bus from PG on Saturday morning and were at the park by noon. The visitor’s center was modest but welcoming. I was excited to see that the same dull forest green that characterizes the U.S. National Parks was in use in Belize as well.
Travel tip: The buses to Rio Blanco don’t run on Sunday! (Nor can you really do anything in Belize on a Sunday)
We bypassed the waterfalls at first to take a short hike that the park ranger had shown us on a map. The hike was lovely; it was unexpectedly hilarious because the path was so thoroughly Belizean.
First there was this charming rope bridge. It was beautiful and fun, but we could feel some of the boards rotting out beneath our feet. Can you imagine the lawsuit in the States if a rope bridge so much as creaked beneath a hiker?
Next we came across this lovely medicinal plants path. Every ten feet or so, a plant was tagged with its Mayan name and its medicinal uses. Most of them had predictable uses – treat bug bites, cure headaches, ease an upset stomach, etc. This one, though, had a very specific purpose:
When we had worked up a nice sweat, we trekked back to the main attraction. As I’ve mentioned before, I have an unholy love of jumping off waterfalls. There’s just something about it. I love walking up to the edge, watching the distance to the water expand beneath me, and feeling the battle start to rage between my brain and my basic instinct for self-preservation:
Brain: “Hey, this is fun, we should jump from here.”
Instinct: “No, run, run away! High places, long fall, broken body, bad idea.”
Brain: “Calm down Instinct, we just watched three other people make this jump. It’s completely fine.”
Instinct: “BRAIN. Don’t be a fool. If everybody else jumped off a cliff, would you do it?”
Brain: “Yes! That’s exactly what I’m suggesting.”
I love the burst of adrenaline that finally pushes me to side with my brain and leap from the edge. I love the half second when my stomach flips and a yelp inevitably escapes from my throat, and the next instant where I’m flying. And I LOVE the moment my body hits the water and I’m enveloped by clean, cool, blissfully fresh water. I like the peace of being underwater in that moment, hearing the roar of the waterfall above me and knowing that friends and strangers alike are waiting to see my head pop up with a big grin on it.
I just love it.
Rio Blanco National Park has several awesome places to jump, including one that is at least 20 feet tall. We spent a solid two hours jumping from the cliffs, swimming in the refreshing river, and lazing in the sun. We even got some awesome mid-air pics, which is just icing on the waterfall-jumping cake.
It was an excellent half day outing from PG for a budget-friendly total of $7 U.S.!
Looking for things to do in Southern Belize? Check out my other posts about Punta Gorda!