Guatemala Itinerary // 10 Days in Guatemala

Guatemala is one of my favorite countries in the world. I visited as a solo traveler in college and had been dying to go back ever since. So when my boyfriend and I decided to take a trip last January I knew I had to take him to this incredible country. All it took were a few weeks of begging (and maybe a powerpoint presentation for a little extra convincing) and we had our tickets booked!

Since this was a romantic trip with just the two of us, our priorities were relaxation, beautiful scenery, good food, and hidden gems. I knew I wanted to visit a few places that I had been to before but also explore some new sights. If you want to read about what I did in Guatemala as a solo traveler, you can find all of my Guatemala blog posts here.

Read on for my perfect two week itinerary for Guatemala!


GUATEMALA ITINERARY

10+ DAYS

LAKE ATILAN — 3 DAYS

ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LAKES IN THE WORLD, SURROUNDED BY VOLCANOES AND MOUNTAINS ON ALL SIDES.

LANQUÍN — 3 DAYS

HOME TO SEMUC CHAMPEY — A BEAUTIFUL NATURAL AREA WITH WATERFALLS, LIMESTONE RIDGES, AND LUSH SCENERY.

ANTIGUA — 4 DAYS

COLORFUL LITTLE TOWN WITH CUTE CAFES, MOUNTAIN VIEWS, NEARBY HIKES, AND A CHOCOLATE MUSEUM (WITH FREE SAMPLES!).


LAKE ATITLAN

If you are traveling from outside of Guatemala, you will fly into Guatemala City airport. For us, we arrived later in the day so it made sense to head to Antigua for the night before heading to Lake Atitlan in the morning. However, if you have an earlier flight you can arrange transportation directly from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan. The best way to travel around Guatemala is to take the tourist buses. These are typically more spacious and comfortable than the local chicken buses — although less fun and definitely less chickens!

From Antigua, take a tourist bus to Panajachel. The bus will take about 2.5 hours and should cost somewhere around $5USD. From Panajachel, you can take a boat to your final destination.

Where we stayed: Because we were celebrating Jake’s birthday, we treated ourselves to a night at the luxury eco-resort, Laguna Lodge. The resort was amazing — fresh, healthy food, a lakefront infinity pool, sustainable amenities. After our night of luxury, we took a boat over to the little town of Santa Cruz to stay at my favorite hostel — La Iguana Perdida. I stayed here when I first visited Guatemala and I highly recommend it, even if you’re not normally the hostel type. They place a huge emphasis on community at La Iguana Perdida. From the family dinners to the happy hour deals to the lack of wifi, everything about this resort makes it easy to connect with fellow travelers. Every time I stay there, I meet some of the most amazing like-minded people. They also offer beautiful private rooms if you’re not a dorm bed type of traveler!

Towns to visit:

  • PANAJACHEL: Or “Pana” as the locals call it, is one of the larger towns along the lake. You’ll find plenty of restaurant, coffee, and shopping options on the main drag, called Calle Santander, in Pana. You also have the opportunity to visit the Atitlan Nature Preserve, which is home to waterfalls, suspension bridges, and even a butterfly garden. There are also spectacular views of the lake from the nature preserve.

  • SANTA CRUZ: This town is pretty much vertical. La Iguana Perdida hostel is located at the bottom close to the docks but if you want to visit the actual town, prepare for a steep hike up the hill. Santa Cruz is a traditional Mayan town and there are very few tourists in the town itself.

  • JAIBALITO: While I have never visited the town itself, we did take a hike to Club Ven Aca. Club Ven Aca is a day club with a beautiful infinity pool and hot tub. Relax here with a cocktail and enjoy incredible views of the lake. You can take an easy hike from Santa Cruz to Jaibalito for a little pre-cocktail exercise.

  • SAN MARCOS: AKA hippie heaven. San Marcos has attracted a very active community of hippie expats, which is very obvious from the amount of vegan cafes, yoga studios, and mystics. Get your chakras aligned, do some meditation, or just people watch. We chose to do the latter.

  • SAN PEDRO: This is the backpacker party town. Cheap accommodation, good food, and lots of partying. This was my least favorite town on the lake but they did have some yummy food options!

  • OTHER TOWNS: There are plenty of other little towns dotted along the lake. I’ve only included the ones that I have visited in my two trips to Lake Atitlan. Do a little research and find the town that fits your vibe!

My top tip for Lake Atitlan: Pick one town to base yourself in and then take day trips to the other towns. The boats run very frequently between the towns and are cheap, fast, and efficient. Each town has something different to offer so make sure you visit as many as you have time for!


LANQUIN

Lanquin is the jumping off point for Semuc Champey — a series of limestone pools filled with crystal-clear turquoise waters that look like something out of a fairytale. Semuc Champey was one of those places I had wanted to visit so badly the first time I was in Guatemala, but didn’t have time for. So I was SO excited that we were able to carve out a few days on this trip to visit.

Lanquin is not an easy place to get to. It’s an isolated town about 8 hours away from either commercial airports in Guatemala. The best way to get there is a tourist shuttle from either Antigua or Flores. We took the shuttle from Antigua and let me tell you, it was LOOOONG day but it was so so worth it!

Where to stay: We chose to stay in Lanquin at a hostel called Zephyr Lodge. The hostel had incredible views of the surrounding landscape, decent food, and a huge infinity pool overlooking the lush valley. Not bad for a hostel. Our private room was spacious, clean, and had a huge window with amazing river views. There are a few other options for accommodation in Lanquin and closer to Semuc Champey.

Getting to Semuc Champey from Lanquin: From Lanquin town, take a 40-minute ride on any of the pickup trucks heading that direction. Spoiler alert — it will be bumpy and you will be standing. But it’s all part of the fun! Ask the front desk at your accommodation if you’re not sure which one to take. The entrance fee to Semuc Champey is about $7USD per person.

Things to do:

  • Hike to the viewpoint. If you want to take in Semuc Champey in its full glory, you need to see it from above! There’s a short but difficult hike up to the viewing platform right at the entrance to the park. If it has been raining, which it probably has, the trail will be slippery so be careful!

  • Swim in the river. After that hike, you’re going to want to take a dip ASAP! Climb and jump from pool to pool and take in all the natural beauty that surrounds you!

  • Explore the caves. If you’re on a group tour, this will be included in your excursion. We opted to visit Semuc Champey by ourselves because neither of us were really into the cave exploration thing. I’ve heard this is a really fun and thrilling tour though!


ANTIGUA

Antigua is one of those charming little towns that you just immediately fall in love with. The colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, amazing eateries, and bustling nightlife are a big reason why this town is home to so many expats. There are also plenty of things to do in the areas surrounding Antigua, so we decided to spend four full days here.

Where to stay: There are options for just about every budget in Antigua. In my two trips to Antigua, I’ve split my time between local home-stays and boutique hostels. I highly recommend Barbara’s Boutique Hostel. The staff was incredibly accommodating, the breakfast was awesome, and the rooms were super clean.

Things to do:

  • Visit the chocolate museum and try all the free samples.

  • Hike up to Cerro de la Cruz for amazing views of the city and surrounding volcanoes.

  • Take a day trip to hike Pacaya Volcano. This is the easiest of the volcano hikes in the area, but it’s still pretty challenging due to altitude! You’ll get to see amazing views of the other volcanoes and even roast marshmallows on the lava fields! We were lucky and got to hike it while the lava was flowing — it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life.

  • Visit Hobbitenango. This is a crazy and fun hobbit-themed hotel near Antigua. Even if you’re not a guest, you can pay a small fee to walk around the facilities and take in the amazing views! You can also grab food and drinks at the onsite restaurant.

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Where to eat and drink: You may notice that most of the food on the list here isn’t traditional Guatemalan food. Before the travel police come after me, I’ll admit it — Guatemalan food is not my favorite. It’s not the most flavorful cuisine and it gets pretty boring after a few days.

  • My favorite coffee shop in Antigua is Bella Vista Coffee. Make sure you take your coffee and breakfast up to the rooftop for amazing views of Antigua and the surrounding landscape.

  • For yummy vegan food, mushroom lattes, and probiotic bowls, make sure you visit Wachuma. Definitely American prices but the quality and portion size is great! I got a few different mushroom lattes during my time in Antigua and they were all delicious!

  • I’m obsessed with ramen so I was so excited to find incredible vegan ramen in Antigua. Kombu Ramen Shop serves up seriously delicious ramen. We ended up eating here twice!

  • Cafe No Se was our favorite spot to grab a few drinks. Jake loves mezcal so he was a big fan of their house-made mezcal. This is a fun dive-bar type of vibe full of expats and some locals.

  • We love breweries so it Antigua Brewing Company was a really fun find. With a rooftop patio, big beer list, and yummy bar food, this was a great spot to to eat and drink at!

Are you traveling to Guatemala soon? Put a pin in this itinerary so you can refer back to it!

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*Disclaimer: some links on this page are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase anything using these links, I will get a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Win win! Thank you for supporting The WanderLeaf.

The Best B&B in Caye Caulker: A Review of Yocamatsu

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As someone who stays mainly in hostels, I tend to feel out of place in the types of places where they provide you with towels and soap. I love a little luxury but it can be awkward walking in to a fancy resort with my bright green Osprey backpack. That’s why I was overjoyed to find this adorable little b&b on Caye Caulker.

Yocamatsu is the perfect mix of luxury and laid-back island vibes.

I stayed at Yocamatsu for all four nights that I was on the island but I’m secretly plotting ways I can move in and stay forever. The rooms are beautiful and clean and the exteriors are bright and colorful. It’s the kind of place where you feel pampered but don’t feel like you need to wear an evening gown to grab a drink at the bar.

There are only three rooms on the whole property: Sea, Sand, and Sunshine rooms. The rooms are actually individual cabañas so you really get a sense of privacy. I stayed in the Sea room and I seriously never wanted to leave.

The cabañas are straight out of my childhood island treehouse fantasies. The beds are ‘stretch out every limb of your body and still have extra space’ big. Comforters are typically laughable in Belize but the air conditioning is so good here that you’ll actually make use of it. Each room also has a TV, mini fridge, and coffee maker. Everything in the room is decked out in fresh jungle foliage when you first arrive. The bathrooms are the best I encountered on the island. They’re spotless and come with plush towels, unnecessary hot showers, and high-end toiletries.

Here’s everything you get when you book a room at Yocamatsu:

  • Air Conditioning

  • Plush Towels

  • Luxury Linens

  • High End Bath Amenities

  • Coffee Maker

  • Private Rooftop Bar with Ocean Views

  • WiFi

  • 24-hour On-site Management

  • Flat Screen TV

  • Full Breakfast

  • Housekeeping

  • Mini Refrigerator

  • Welcome Drink

Make sure you eat breakfast at the property. It’s seriously 5-star quality. I was the first vegan guest they ever had so I wasn’t expecting much. I’ve just got to say — they could open up a vegan restaurant with the quality of food I was served. Seriously think the most successful Pinterest recipe you’ve ever made and multiply that by 100 and that’s what was on my plate every morning.

Fresh fruit, oatmeal, and black bean sausages

Fresh fruit, oatmeal, and black bean sausages

Pancakes, fresh fruit, and a vegan protein smoothie

Pancakes, fresh fruit, and a vegan protein smoothie


The location of the property is perfect: convenient to all the main action, yet private.

It’s right in the middle of the action, just a couple blocks from the water taxi dock. Just a short walk down the main road and you’re at famous split and all the best restaurants on the island. But don’t worry — you can burn off that 5 pounds you just gained from breakfast with any one of the adventure activities nearby. I highly recommend a full-day snorkeling trip to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

Yocamatsu is also secluded enough that you can hide away in your cabaña all day. The only entrance is from the soccer field so not much foot traffic goes by. The whole property is covered in trees so the rooms feel very private.

To get there you just walk down Front Street and turn left on to Chapoose Street. Walk until you reach the soccer field. Once you enter the field, Yocamatsu is about halfway down on the right.

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The staff were what made my stay really special.

Seriously, the only way they could have gone more above and beyond is if they gave me a piggy-back ride around the island and fanned me with leaves. The owner, Greg, is a top-knotch host. He arranged for a driver to pick me up from the Belize City airport and was waiting for me at the water taxi dock when I arrived on the island. He lives onsite so he is literally available 24/7. If all that isn’t enough, he cooks the best breakfast on Caye Caulker.

The manager, Ellis, also lives on the property. This guy is like a hospitality machine. He’s always got a fresh pot of coffee ready to go the second you wake up in the morning. As soon as you get back from a day of snorkeling or laying on the beach, he’s on his porch asking if everything is going okay with your stay.

I can honestly say I have never stayed anywhere with a more helpful and attentive staff.

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Final Thoughts

I really have nothing negative to say about my time at Yocamatsu. The staff is incredible, the location is perfect, and the rooms are clean and well-maintained. It’s the perfect property for couples or solo travelers looking to treat themselves a bit. The rooms start at a reasonable $109 a night. Check out their website here and their reviews and current rates here.

For high-end luxuries in a laid-back island setting, you can’t find a better property than Yocamatsu

*Note: Some of the above are affiliate links and I will earn a tiny percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. I received a complimentary 4-night stay from Yocamatsu. All opinions are 100% my own regardless of who is footing the bill. 

Hol Chan Marine Reserve: Unbelizeable Snorkeling in Caye Caulker

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Caye Caulker is not the type of place you go to with a long list of things to do. You’ll more than likely just end up spending your days sipping Belikins and floating in the turquoise Caribbean waters anyways. And trust me, you’ll be fine with it. But there’s one activity that you have to do on Caye Caulker — a snorkeling trip to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

Belize is actually home to the second largest barrier reef in the world. This means Belize offers some pretty incredible diving and snorkeling. Think colorful coral, huge schools of fish, sea turtles, graceful rays, and friendly nurse sharks.

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Shark-Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reserve are two of Belize’s most popular tourist attractions. You’ll see brightly colored signs all over Caye Caulker offering full and half day snorkeling trips out to these hot spots. It can be overwhelming to choose who to go with.

I decided on Raggamuffin for a few reasons:

  1. Their commitment to sustainability. Unlike other tour groups, they don’t participate in the harmful practice of handling or feeding the sharks and rays. We saw other groups grabbing at marine life and trying to ride the sharks (seriously). They also don’t use any single-use plastic or styrofoam to serve up their delicious food (and rum punch) on board.

  2. They are the only tour company that goes out in sailboats. If you’re especially lucky, you’ll get to go out on their huge catamaran. Pull out your soft smile and condescending wave when other tour groups zip by you on their cramped speedboats.

  3. The crew is incredible. Raggamuffin has been operating tours around Caye Caulker since 2002 and they are the most trusted and reputable tour operator on the island.

The Stops

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We took a short walk to a small dock on the other side of the island and our guide bought a bag of sardines from a local woman. We watched in delight and horror as he waved the frozen fish above the water and giant tarpons splashed through the surface to grab a bite. Out of nowhere he was passing the bag around letting us practice our predator-feeding skills. I’m proud to say I left the scene with all of my fingers.

After that we boarded the beautiful catamaran and hit the open road (sea).

After a little while our driver stopped the boat and told us they had spotted a manatee. Our guides handed out the snorkel gear and gave us the okay to get in the water. I couldn’t believe I was actually seeing a manatee out in its natural habitat. Manatees need space to come up for air so we couldn’t get too close but holy sea cow it was amazing watching it swim around.

Holy sea cows!

Holy sea cows!

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A short while later the boat made another unexpected stop when a friendly sea turtle was spotted. Once again, we all got out and observed the beautiful creature swimming around in his ocean home. I swam with sea turtles in Mexico so I took this as an opportunity to practice my free diving and ask my guide for some tips. He sat patiently in the water as I flopped around and tried to get deeper than a few feet under the surface and then gave me pointers when I came up for air. Talk about a guide who goes above and beyond.

Our third stop was another unexpected one — exploring a shipwreck covered in corals. This was a barge that sank some 20+ years ago. Throughout the years its become an artificial reef and some friendly sea life now calls it home. I had never seen a shipwreck before so this was definitely a treat.

Next up we visited the star of the show — Shark and Ray Alley. Here, wild nurse sharks, stingrays, and schools of fish swarm the boats in hopes of being fed. This attraction is essentially manmade. For years, local fisherman cleaned their catch of the day in this area located just inside the reef. Nurse sharks and southern stingrays began congregating in the area on the lookout for scraps.

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It was a thrill being face to face with wild sharks and rays. Despite knowing full well neither were interested in snacking on me, I still lost my breath a few times when one passed right by my head.

I couldn’t believe how much marine life we had already witnessed — sharks, stingrays, turtles and manatees, oh my! But our day wasn’t over yet. Our last stop of the day was the famous Hol Chan Marine Reserve. 

‘Hol Chan’ is Mayan for “little channel”. The channel is about 75 feet wide and 30 feet deep. On either side of the channel are huge formations of coral that are home to more than 500 species of fish. The reef isn’t spectacularly colorful but it is much healthier than most of the coral I saw in Thailand. At one point our guide pointed out a little opening in the coral. Before we knew it he was diving into it and a couple seconds later he came out the other end. Several of my braver co-tourists took their turn but I wasn’t confident enough in my breath-holding abilities to attempt it.

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After awhile, we boarded the boat again and began our hour-long journey back to Caye Caulker. The guides broke out the bottomless rum punch and ceviche (vegan for me) and cranked up the reggae.

spoiler: vegan ceviche is pretty much just salsa

spoiler: vegan ceviche is pretty much just salsa

Queen of the rum punch

Queen of the rum punch

They dropped us off on the other end of the Split, at their beach club called Koko King. This may be an inconvenience for some, as you have to take a boat back to the main part of the island, but I didn’t mind at all. Koko King has an awesome beach bar, inner tubes to float in, a pool (for a fee) and a water trampoline. The perfect place to sit back and watch the sun go down. Plus we got wristbands that allowed us to use their water taxi service for free, which came in handy for the Full Moon Party they were hosting at Koko King later that night.

The Good

This was by far one of the best days I spent in Belize. The boat was amazing, the snorkeling was unbelizeable, and the free-flowing rum punch was icing on the cake. I had an incredible crew — if you ever take a Raggamuffin tour say hi to Carlos, Chris, Shaq, and Jerry from me. The crew is a lot of fun but extremely professional at the same time. Shaq took some incredible pictures and videos for me while I was snorkeling and pointed out all the different kinds of coral and marine life.

I also really appreciate their commitment to sustainability. Although their website says they participate in feeding the sharks and rays, they did not do this on my particular tour.

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The Bad

Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley were also extremely crowded. I got bumped into quite a bit and took a few flippers to the face. This is not a reflection of Raggamuffin, or any one tour company, but don’t go on this tour expecting to have intimate one-on-one time with the animals.

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Would I recommend this tour?

The crew

The crew

100%. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime type experience. Raggamuffin goes above and beyond to ensure that all of their guests have an incredible tour.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary tour from Raggamuffin. As always, all opinions are my own. I would never promote a company that I don’t wholeheartedly believe in. 

What to Expect — Touring the ATM Cave in Belize

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I’ve done a lot of cool sh** in my 22 years of life. I motorbiked in Thailand, roasted marshmallows on a volcano in Guatemala, and learned to surf in Taiwan. But I’ve never really been an adventurous traveler — until Belize that is.

My first stop in Belize had me snorkeling with sharks, turtles, manatees, and manta rays. I honestly thought I couldn’t get much cooler than I was in that moment. Then I met the ATM Cave — one of the coolest things I did in Belize and probably my entire life.

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The ATM Cave in Belize

I’ve never been the type of person to get excited about exploring a cave. I’ve visited a few caves in my life and they’ve all been pretty much the same thing — you walk in, you see a few stalagmites and stalactites, your guide turns off the lights,  you contemplate the meaning of life as you sit in complete darkness with 30 strangers. In the gift shop you beg your mom to buy you a cool geode.

The ATM Cave in Belize is NOT THAT KIND OF CAVE TOUR. This is the “swim through jungle rivers and climb up boulders to see sparkly human remains” type cave tour.

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The ATM Cave in Belize is about an hours drive from San Ignacio in the Cayo District. Along the way your tour guides will identify various flora and fauna that are unique to that area. You’ll play ice breakers with your tour-mates and laugh and sing and you’ll think, “wow, what a leisurely and not at all dangerous afternoon I’m about to have.” NO. The ATM Cave in Belize is NOT THAT KIND OF CAVE TOUR. (Although the guides will point out all the different trees in the area. Did you know that Belize is home to teak, mahogany, oranges, coconuts, mangoes, cashews, and ceiba trees?? Me either.)

ATM is short for Actun Tunichil Muknal which means “Cave of the Stone Sepulcher”, although one guide told his tour group that it stood for Another Tourist Missing which is funny — but also kind of believable.

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The ATM Cave in Belize is a famous site containing Mayan artifacts, pottery, and skeletal remains of human sacrifices. It has been named National Geographic’s #1 Most Sacred Cave in the World. I haven’t visited all thecaves but I can vouch for it compared to Cave of the Mounds in BlueMound, Wisconsin which is severely lacking human sacrifices.

What to Expect

Expect a serious Challenge

Everything I read online made this tour sound like it was a casual walk in the park. “You’ll hike a little bit, see some cool rocks, and maybe get a little wet”. NO. Nothing you see online will prepare you for how much work the ATM tour will be.

My tour-mates and I all had the same reaction — there is no way they would let you do any of this in the United States. 

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Five minutes into the tour you’ll do your first river crossing. Apparently this river used to be about knee high but due to some severe weather a couple years ago you will be straight up swimming across a rushing river. You’ll climb wet ladders inside a dark cave in just your socks and swim through cave openings only as wide as your neck. At some points during the trip your guide may say to you “follow my footsteps exactly” and PLEASE DO follow his footsteps exactly because caves contain sharp rocks.

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All of that being said, I am not in incredible shape and I was able to do this tour with no serious problems. I saw people of all ages and sizes doing the ATM tour. It is a challenge but it is not by any means impossible.

Expect to face your fears

Afraid of swimming? Afraid of spiders? Small spaces? Heights? Human sacrifices? Whatever your irrational fear is, the ATM tour is sure to have you facing it.

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I am terrified of heights so having to climb a slippery boulder in the middle of a pitch black cave was not the highlight of my trip. But I am so glad I didn’t let my fears get in the way because I would have missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity. Which brings me to my next point…

Expect to be blown away

The ATM cave is almost sensory overload. The immense size of it, the giant stalactites and stalagmites, and the way it sparkles in the light of your headlamp.

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The main attraction of the ATM Cave in Belize is the skeletal remains of a sacrificed teenage boy called the “Crystal Maiden.” The fully-intact skeleton now sparkles due to over 1000 years of calcification. You’ll also find several other skulls, bones, and pottery left behind by the Mayans.

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You’ll also be blown away at just how far you can push your physical limits. From wading across rushing rivers, to swimming through narrow cave crevices, to climbing wet ladders in only your socks. There are times when you think, “there’s no way I can do that.” But you can and you will and you’ll be amazed with yourself for doing it.

How to Prepare

First off — there is no way to be 100% prepared for a tour like the ATM Cave in Belize. Will you fall off that 6 foot boulder you have to climb? Is your headlight going to burn out and you get lost in the cave forever until one day a group of tourists are trekking to look at your skeletal remains? Will you step on a 1,000 year old skull and end up in Belizean prison? Luckily, you will have to go with a guide and your guides have been training and working with archaeologists and geologists to make sure you don’t eff anything up too badly.

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What to Wear

You’ll be hiking, swimming, climbing, and sweating. I wore athletic shorts and a regular tank top and I was fine. The only clothing regulations are that you can’t wear just a bikini. Which is a bummer because of all the sun-tanning you could be getting inside a pitch black cave under a mountain.

The real question is, what kind of shoes do you wear for something like this? First off, don’t wear anything with an open toe. You (and your toes) will sorely regret this decision. A lot of people will recommend these hideous but super functional keen sandals. Yes, they will protect your feet, dry quickly, and are suitable for all adventures. BUT AT WHAT COST. ($100).

Honestly if you have the money and you take a lot of semi-aquatic adventures, go for it. I just brought along some ugly tennis shoes I had in my closet for 8 years and threw them away when I got out of the cave. Badabingbadaboom. I looked just as stupid but I was $100 richer for it.

So what do you for sure need?

  • Closed-toed shoes for scrambling over rocks and running away from evil spirits.

  • Socks. At one point you will be required to take off your shoes to protect the fragile part of the cave. You will want socks.

  • Clothes. Something more modest than a swimsuit. You’re in the #1 most sacred cave in the world so you’re expected to cover up a little bit.

That’s about it. It’s not that serious. Don’t buy a bunch of equipment unless you’re planning on doing this on a regular basis.

What to Bring

  • Water. The whole tour lasts around 8 hours — please stay hydrated.

  • A set of clean, dry clothes to change into afterwards. There are bathrooms and changing areas onsite.

  • A plastic bag to hold your wet cave-y clothes. Please don’t hang your dirty underwear on the back of your car seat. Bring a bag to put everything in.

NOTE

You’ll be crossing a river several times. The residents living of a village downstream from the cave drink this water. Please don’t wear lotions, perfumes, bug spray, or sunscreen. It will wash off within 5 minutes of the tour starting when you have to do your first river crossing anyways.

What not to bring

If you’ve read anything about the ATM Cave in Belize you probably know about the tourist who dropped his camera on the 1,100-year-old skull. In order to prevent any more boneheads (pun intended) from ruining sacred artifacts, the government banned cameras from the cave.

As a travel blogger and photography-lover, it was really hard for me to sign up for a tour that I wouldn’t be able to document. Thankfully, MayaWalk tours emails their stock photos to all tour participants. Yes, everyone ends up with the same pictures. But at least there won’t be any photo evidence of you peeing your pants when a bat flies next to your head.

I am actually so thankful that I didn’t have my camera with me. I would have been so worried about getting the perfect shot that I would have missed out on immersing myself in the experience. Besides, this tour requires all of your mental and physical strength so there’s really no opportunity for a good photo-op.

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MayaWalk

I booked my ATM Cave tour with MayaWalk Tours. They’re the top-rated tour company in San Ignacio and their main office is on the main road in town.

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The good

The guides were all friendly, fun, and informative. My guide for the cave tour was Hugh and he was incredible. He was so knowledgeable about the cave features and Mayan history. Hugh went out of his way to make sure that every member of our group was safe.

The MayaWalk staff was also incredibly helpful. Due to some weather problems, I had to shift everything on my Belize itinerary back one day. MayaWalk was so flexible in letting me reschedule even though it was such short notice.

The bad

The only complaint I have about Mayawalk Tours is that they didn’t have the vegan lunch I ordered. I’m sure there was just a mixup because I had to reschedule my tour a few times. Luckily, the non-veg option had a large serving of rice and beans included so I didn’t go hungry.

Want to book a tour of the ATM Cave in Belize? Check out Mayawalk Tours

Heading to Belize? Check out my other Belize posts.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary tour with Mayawalk. As always, all opinions are my own.

 

Beaches, Jungles, and Caves // The Ultimate Itinerary for One Week in Belize

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Belize has it all — beaches, caves, jungle, islands, and a fascinating culture and history. Because of it’s small size, one week in Belize is the perfect amount of time to get a good taste for what the country has to offer — and to decide if you want to come back! If you have just one week in Belize, find out what to do and see in this pocket-sized paradise.

Day 1: Arrive in Belize and take a boat to Caye Caulker

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The Belize International airport is located about 30 minutes outside of Belize City. There’s not much to do in Belize City and it’s a little sketchy so I would recommend heading straight to Caye Caulker when you arrive. You’ll need to take a taxi ride to the ferry dock which goes for around $25 USD.  The ferry to Caye Caulker also costs $25 but includes the return ticket.

Once you arrive on the island check in to your hotel and grab some dinner. Take the night to relax and decompress from your long day of travel.

Day 2: Explore the island

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Caye Caulker is a small and extremely walkable island. Explore on foot or rent a golf cart and check out everything the island has to offer. Wake up early and watch the sunrise and then head back to your hotel and sip on some coffee while the rest of the island wakes up.

I recommend starting your day with the 10am donation-based yoga class at RandOM. The instructor, Jess, is incredible. I felt so comfortable even though I hadn’t taken a regular yoga class in a couple years. After class, check out her unique gift shop downstairs. She sells natural lip balms and skincare, Belizean spices, handicrafts, and plenty more.

After yoga, grab some coffee at Ice and Beans on the front road. They serve up a delicious almond milk latte for a reasonable price (about $4.5USD). Sit outside on the swings next door and enjoy the warm ocean breeze.

Spend the rest of your day doing what Caye Caulker does best – going slow. The Split is a slice of paradise. It’s a sandy area on the northern tip of the island with a bar, a swimming area, and even a deck to jump off of. The two halves of the island were once connected but separated when a hurricane tore through several years ago. The Split is also where everyone gathers in the evening to grab a Belikin – the famous Belizean beer – and watch the sun set.

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If you’re looking for night life there are two main bars that are sure to have something going on – the Sports Bar and the reggae bar I&I’s. Usually people spend sunset at the Split, head to the Sports bar, and then stumble over to I&I’s to end the night.

Day 3: Get your snorkel on

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My favorite activity on the island was the Hol Chan marine reserve snorkeling tour. The tour leaves around 10am so you have time to grab breakfast and stretch your legs before getting on the boat. If you want to read more about this incredible tour make sure to check out this post.

After a full day of sharks, coral, and rum punch it’s time to head back to the island. I recommend making your way over to Koko King. This is a beach club on the North side of Caye Caulker. There are free boats running there every half hour or so. They have a full bar, pool, restaurant, beach chairs, and inner tubes for their paying customers to enjoy. Watch the sun go down from the coolest spot on the island.

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Day 4: Caye Caulker to San Ignacio

Get up early, grab some Belizean fry jacks for breakfast, and hop on the boat back to Belize City. Make sure you get on the right boat otherwise your return ticket may not be valid.

Take a short taxi ride or a 10-minute walk over to the Belize City bus station and find the bus headed to San Ignacio. The bus takes 2-3 hours and makes for some good people-watching.

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San Ignacio is the adventure-travel destination of Belize. If you have more than one week in Belize I would recommend spending a few days here. If not, don’t worry, there is still plenty you can see with two nights. When you arrive take a quick walk over to Cahal Pech, some incredible Mayan ruins right in San Ignacio. On your way back, beat the heat with some vegan ice cream at Cayo Twist.

Day 5: ATM Tour

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The ATM cave tour is the top-rated adventure activity in Belize. I visited San Ignacio just to go on this tour. I highly recommend adding it to your Belize Itinerary. If you want to know more about my experiences on this tour check out this post.

Day 6: San Ignacio to Placencia

Today is another travel day. If you want to get to the beach ASAP, you can arrange a transfer service. This will get you there comfortably in under 3 hours but can be really expensive — especially for solo travelers. If you’re cheap like me you’ll take the bus.

Get on the bus in the center of San Ignacio that has a “Belize City” sign in the front window. These buses will make a stop in Belmopan which is where you will change buses. San Ignacio to Belmopan takes 30 to 45 minutes. In Belmopan, you will take a 45 to 60 minute bus ride to Dangriga. Get off in Dangriga and grab a bus heading to Placencia. This bus ride will take about 2 hours but will be really scenic and pleasant.

*Disclaimer: I did not visit Placencia on my trip to Belize. I opted for Hopkins instead and I really would not recommend it for a solo traveler. There is not much to do and the streets are very dark at night, which makes it a little unnerving to walk around alone.

Day 7: Placencia

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This was taken from my hotel in Hopkins but the beaches in Placencia are really similar

RELAX. You’ve had a busy couple of days and you’re surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in Central America.

If you’ve had enough R&R, head to the Cockscomb Wildlife Reserve. It’s a huge jaguar reserve and also home to waterfalls, mountain views, nature trails, and plenty of other animals.

If you can’t get enough marine life, grab a snorkel and head back to the barrier reef. During the months of March, April, May and June around the full moon, whale sharks can be spotted near the Placencia Peninsula.

Day 8: Placencia to Belize City

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Yes, you CAN save some cash and take a bus back to Belize City. But I recommend taking the quick 30-minute plane ride back from Dangriga. You will be sitting in a tiny 4-passenger airplane and you’ll get some incredible views of Belize’s landscape. If you’re lucky you’ll get to sit in the copilot seat but be aware your pilot may be storing his personal belongings there and tell you you can’t sit with him and crush all your dreams. You can take this plane directly to the international airport which is really convenient for flying home. 

So there you have it folks, one week in Belize and I’m exhausted just from typing this. There’s so much to do and see in one week in Belize that you will never get bored. Because Belize is a pint-sized country, this itinerary is super adjustable, however, I highly recommend ending your time on the beach especially if you live in Wisconsin like me and have to go back to frigid temperatures.

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Can’t get enough Belize info? Check out my other posts about this little paradise: