Kayaking Locations in Belize

Kayaking Locations in Belize

New River

The New River is located in the Orange Walk District of northern Belize, the New River gently weaves its way through a rich haven of flora, fauna and wildlife. The river will bring out the bird lover in you as Roseate Spoonbill, Great Black Hawk, and Social Flycatcher casually fly by. Upon reaching the spectacular New River lagoon, visitors can catch a glimpse of an ancient temple top just above the rainforest canopy. The grand Maya archaeological site of Lamanai (submerged crocodile) lies nestled in the forest just beyond the banks of this idyllic river.

Macal River

Quenching the perpetual thirst of one of Central America's most biologically diverse habitats, the Macal River of the Cayo district in western Belize races through Belize's Chiquibul rainforest. Recently threatened by proposals for a major dam, the Macal floodplain continues to house endangered wildlife including Morelet's crocodiles, tapirs, jaguars, and the last 250 birds remaining in a local subspecies of scarlet macaw. Many portions are considered Class III-V whitewater runs, so guides generally recommend their paddlers to be in good physical shape.

Most kayakers make a pit stop at the famed "rainforest medicine trail" to learn of the medicinal properties of the surrounding flora. Tour operators and guides throughout the San Ignacio area offer canoe rentals and guided daily tours to interested travelers. A number of accommodations along the river and within the surrounding area make overnight excursions readily accessible.

Mopan River

Paddlers traversing the Mopan River often have the impression they are entering an undisturbed, private retreat for the local wildlife. Originating in Guatemala, the Mopan joins the Macal at Branch Mouth to form the Belize Old River in San Ignacio. Perennial populations of parrots, parakeets, flycatchers, cormorants, herons, ducks, iguanas, and kingfishers can be spotted along the banks and in the air.

A vast array of bromeliads (air plants), orchids, and epiphytic cactuses accent the wildlife diversity. Paddlers will encounter Class II, III and IV depending on the season and water level. Canoes, inflatable kayaks, and tubes navigate the light rapids and small waterfalls (Clarissa Falls) of this river extremely well. Trips to and from the ancient Mayan city of Xunantunich are also readily accessible from the river. If you have not already signed on for an all-inclusive trip with one of the major kayaking companies, you can access guided day trips and rentals for this river in San Ignacio.

Old River

Once used by Mayan traders shuttling goods between cities and British loggers transporting precious mahogany, the Belize River has catered to a multitude of travelers and vessels throughout its storied past. Because the river originates in Guatemala and runs straight across to Belize City, it is highly accessible throughout the country.

As you paddle this Class I-II river, Belize’s national symbol, the endangered Baird's Tapir (Mountain Cow), may make a guest appearance. Remote pockets of river offer travelers a glimpse into the natural habitat of other rare, endemic species. Located along a twenty-mile stretch of the Belize River, the Community Baboon Sanctuary makes a perfect stop along the way.

Sibun River

Originating in the fertile Mayan Mountains in the southern portion of the country, the Sibun is one of Belize's major river systems. Small streams powered by underground aquifers and heavy rains join forces to feed this river and form an extensive cave system throughout the hills that you can explore through daily tours. As it bends and twists its way to the Caribbean Sea just south of Belize City, the Sibun flows past 100 miles of mixed terrain. Waterfalls are common sites along the upper Sibun. Most of the river is classified as Class II rapids.

Caves Branch

Along with the Sibun river, Caves Branch River drains a major portion of the northeastern section of the Mayan Mountains. Flowing west of the Sibun, Caves Branch cuts its way through limestone once deposited by ancient reefs to form massive cave systems throughout the area. The river ducks in and out of these caves along its winding route. Inside these caves and along the banks of Caves Branch, paddlers can find some of the most productive Mayan archaeological sites in Belize.

Many caves, such as the legendary Jaguar Paw caves, are open to the public and can be explored in canoes or tubes through guided tours. Caves Branch is rated a Class I-II waterway-perfect for meandering, exploratory travel.

Monkey River

Named after the hordes of black howler monkeys adorning the jungle that line the river's banks, the Monkey River drains the Bladen and Swasey watersheds of southern Belize into the Caribbean Sea. Undisturbed populations of crocodiles, iguanas, gibnuts, hawksbill turtles, brocket and white-tailed deer and armadillos also reside along the river corridor and observe you as you glide by.

Paddlers generally kayak down the Swazey Branch of the Monkey River, just south of the Placencia Peninsula in the Toledo District of southern Belize. Good physical fitness is definitely an asset in these waterways.

Cockscomb River Basin

Cockscomb River Basin is now the hideout of the Americas' largest and most elusive cat, the jaguar. Encounters with this nocturnal animal usually only come in the form of sightings of its large signature footprint. Meetings with other exotic wildlife such as the endangered red-eyed tree frog, the howler monkey, ocelot, puma, tapir, armadillo, and over 290 bird species, are more likely.

Heavy rainfall feeds the many creeks and tributaries of the region thereby making the basin's attractions better viewed via boat than on foot. Treks into the forest to access the waterways will allow ample time to familiarize with the jungle flora and fauna. Paddlers can then glide through towering limestone gorges on waters that rumble with Class IV-V intensity and breathe fresh mountain air while lounging in pools fed by waterfalls.

Moho River

Farther south, you'll encounter the Moho River as it drains the southernmost tributaries of Belize into the Gulf of Honduras. Primarily accessed from Placencia and Punta Gorda, this river combines flat-water, underground excursions and exhilarating whitewater challenges. With superb scenery and wildlife viewing, including howler monkeys, iguanas, and turtles lounging along the banks, the Moho is a prime paddling waterway

Other Kayaking Areas

Although the rivers end once reaching the Caribbean Sea, your paddling experience does not have to. If slicing through turquoise waters en route to distant islands on the horizon interests you, sea kayaking in Belize may be your ideal vacation. Many lodges stationed on the cayes or mainland offer equipment to guests wishing to explore the surrounding waters.

However, much like the main river routes inland, certain areas have established themselves as premier sea kayaking destinations. Originating from the mainland or the island of your choice, you can expect close encounters with colorful marine life and vibrant coral along your route:

Lighthouse Reef

Lighthouse Reef Atoll has just recently gained a reputation as a sea kayaker's paradise. On the furthest boundary of the Belize reef system fifty miles offshore, the world-renowned Lighthouse Reef offers tremendous sea kayaking, snorkeling and diving expeditions. Besides sheltering numerous premier snorkeling sites, the coral-rimmed atoll also encircles the underwater phenomenon, the 400-foot deep "Blue Hole" site not to be missed by divers.