Exploring the Lamanai Ruins in Belize

Lamanai, Belize

Temple of the Masks

When we visited Belize a few years ago, we really wanted to explore some ruins, and some friends had recommended an area called Lamanai. It was close to our lodgings in Crooked Tree, so we decided to visit with a company called Lamanai Eco Tours in Orange Walk.

We left Crooked Tree Lodge at 6 a.m. and walked 0.75 mile (1.2 km) to catch the local bus from Crooked Tree to the highway. (Bus fare to the highway was 1 USD each.) There were summer school students and several people on their way to work waiting with us at the bus stop. We were the second to last stop, and there was standing room only by the time we were all loaded. There isn’t much work in Crooked Tree, so many people have to ride the bus to Belize City or somewhere else for work. A short ride to the highway led to a long wait for the next bus which was standing room only again. 2 USD each for the longer ride this time! When we boarded, we asked the driver and conductor to point out our stop for Lamanai Eco Tours, and they called us to come forward just before our stop!

Lamanai, Belize


We arrived at Lamanai Eco Tours at 8 a.m., and they seemed surprised that we were there so early, but they were happy to let us hang out down by the river until it was time to go (at 9:30 a.m.). The birdnerds in us were in heaven — lots of early morning bird activity on the water!

We reached Lamanai by boat, and on the way to the ruins, our captain stopped to show us some wildlife — baby Black-crowned Night Herons, some highly camouflaged bats sleeping on a tree (they looked like the bark!), and some howler monkeys. In the Maya language lamanai literally means submerged crocodile, but we didn’t see any of those.

Lamanai features a small museum near the ruins with exhibits of recovered items, some of the larger stones, and many informational placards. After spending a little time at the museum, our guide, Colin, led us around the ruins and told us about the trees and plants in addition to the history. The ruins are known for their long-lasting architecture and beautiful jungle setting on the New River. We were able to walk around the grounds and look at several structures and we even got to climb the High Temple. It was a steep set of stairs (Jeff is not a fan of heights and was nervous but he did great), but the view from the top was fabulous! The Mayans were pretty amazing with their construction projects, that’s for sure! Not many condos being built today that will be standing in 2000 years.

The tour was reasonably priced and included the 50 mile (80 km) round-trip boat ride; tour guide at the ruins; and a typical Belizean lunch of rice and beans, stewed chicken, papaya, salads, and fried plantains. We felt that this tour was almost like two trips in one — the boat ride and the exploration of the ruins — and we’re really glad we visited Lamanai. Enjoy your next historical adventure, whether it’s during a week or a weekend!

Lamanai, Belize

Boat ride!


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