A Trip to Lamanai: It’s Not Just Mayan Ruins

Visiting a Mayan site is at the top of many vacation lists for people visiting Belize.  One of the best is a day trip from Ambergris Caye…a long day trip.  But after seeing birds, monkeys, crocodiles, cool Mayan carvings. and questioning whether you can get back down the STEEP temple that you just climbed, it’s a trip that I think is well worth it.

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My tour company Seaduced by Belize picked me up at my dock at 7am with a full boat.  A quick introduction speech from our guides and we headed across to the mainland, through a large lagoon, up the Northern River to the tiny village of Bomba.  (About an hour)

We stopped at one point to take a closer look at some teeny, tiny bats nestled in an old log.  For a creepy flying rodent with prehistoric looking wings, kinda cute.

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The dock at Bomba.IMG_0678-2

These are my guides, Ricky (on the left) and Leonard with eyes peeled for crocodiles.   You might remember Leonard from a previous post where he helped spear a puffer fish that was lodged in a huge turtles throat.  Now THAT was cool.

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We unloaded in Bomba, took a bathroom break, had some johnny cakes, banana bread, fruit and coffee and loaded onto an old school bus for the next leg of our trip.  Here’s my whole group.

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We took the rather bumpy ride for about 50 minutes.  But our guide Ricky kept everyone happy throwing out all sorts of facts…from where the name Belize comes from to the growing cycle of the papaya tree.

Here is a map of Belize if you are playing along at home.  San Pedro directly west to the mainland, bus to Orange Walk area, boat down the New River to Lamanai.

belize-mapWe unloaded again, met our local guide Eddie and embarked on the New River safari.

IMG_3183-2A very cool trip down a winding jungled river packed with all sorts of wildlife.  One of the first things we passed was John McAfee’s Orange Walk compound that was raided by police in 2012.  Very interesting…

Around the bend, we slowed to meet a spider monkey that seemed to be waiting for us in the trees.

IMG_0618-2As we pulled closer, he (it became clear) lowered himself onto the front of the boat!

IMG_3187-2And he came really close.  HOLY MOLY A MONKEY!

IMG_3186-2We twisted and turned down the river and saw all sorts of cool thing.

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We arrived at the large lagoon and the Lamanai site.  A huge lunch of rice & beans and stew chicken is served before you head over with Eddie to explore.

IMG_3193-2Eddie’s a very knowledgeable guide, a self proclaimed 5′ 5″ block of pure Mestizo muscle and sports some very impressive hair.  During the fast boat trips and the EXTREMELY HOT temperatures at the site, not one strand moved.  I’m going to need to return to find out what sort of products he uses.

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We took the guided tour of the various temples, structures and the ball court.

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.The very cool jaguar mask…

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The walk along the paths from temple to temple is really beautiful…

IMG_0643-2And you come to the big one.  The third largest Mayan structure in Belize.  (#1 is at Caracol and #2 at Xunantunich.)IMG_0649-2Have some water and get ready to climb…carefully.  This temple is STEEP…

IMG_0654-2but you get a really good view of the lagoon and the surrounding area.  Plus, how can you come all the way out here without trying it?  If the average Mayan man at 5′ 2″” could do it, so can I.

And here I am inching to the edge on my butt getting ready to bump on down.  Eeek.

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The next smaller tomb has this iconic mask carving.  Beautiful.

IMG_0662-2We walked back to the boat, sweaty and tired, toasted each other for our bravery with delicious rum punches and headed back from whence we came.  The trip seems to go so much more quickly with a good cocktail in your hand.

IMG_0673-2Super fun day.  But let me leave you with a few tips on what to bring and what not to bring on your day trip to Lamanai.

Wear comfy shoes.  They don’t need to be closed toes but they should be relatively sturdy.  The path is a bit rocky and you don’t want to be messing around with $2 Old Navy flip flops on the steep climb up the temple.

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Dress for warm weather.  It’s HOT on the mainland and though there is ample shade while walking around, the hike up the temple will get your sweat glands pumping.  Bring a bandana or “sweat rag”…I don’t leave home without at least one.

Bring Sunblock and wear a hat.  Or you will have a very red nose.

Don’t worry about which day to go.  We went on a Thursday and there were a few large groups from the cruise ships.  Not a problem.  Our guides were very good at timing our arrival at all the sites so it did not seem crowded at all.

Don’t bring food or beverages.  Plenty are provided by the tour company.  Drink LOTS of water.

IMG_3192-2Bring some bug spray.  Though bugs weren’t a problem AT ALL while I was there, it never hurts to be prepared.

Bring some cash.  The entrance fee to Lamanai is $10BZD for visitors and $5BZD for residents.  Don’t worry, they don’t make you show your passport or ID.  There are also crafts people at Bomba selling wood carvings for up to half the prices that they would on the caye, they definitely prefer cash.  (There is no electricity in the town!)





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  • This is always a great experience!

  • Taryn A

    Looks like a great adventure!

  • ernie

    Great post ! A must see.

  • Scott P

    Hey SPS,
    My wife and I will be in San Pedro this May and have been looking at a trip to Lamanai. My initial thought was to book the air tour instead of going by boat. It is a bit more money but makes the trip quite a bit shorter. I just hate feeling like I am constantly on the move and think it would be nice to be back in SP by mid-afternoon. Any thoughts?

    • It’s a long trip with the boat to the bus to the boat. I think that sounds like a great idea. The last boat trip…the river tour…is the best one. The others? Skip if you can!

    • We did the by air trip and it was great. Well worth it

  • Your pictures and story brought back fond memories of our trip from Ambergris to Lamanai in 2003. Thank you so much.

    • I would be going on trips like this every day if I could…it’s an amazing place.

  • Bill Harter

    You left at 7 AM. What time were you back?

  • Thanks! I’ve never been there. This post makes me want to take this trip.

  • Don

    Thanks

  • Loka

    I took the same trip when we were there a couple of years ago, we had the same guide too. It was a long day, but well worth it. I was scared to death to climb back down, but finally made it. The boat pilot thought it was very funny that they gave us a cup of rum punch, the gun the engines and it ended up all over us.

    • Interesting about the rum punch. Glad that move wasn’t part of our trip!

  • Ken

    We were on this trip and we had a great time! So many nice people and the Mayan ruins were amazing. Ricky was very helpful pointing out the sites and animals. Eddie was very informative on the Mayans and a heck of a boat driver. We made it back in time for dinner after a long, but enjoyable day.
    Enjoy!

    • sanpedroscoop

      Eddie swerving down the river is good good times. Like a roller coaster almost!

  • amy

    Took this trip a month ago. Cut down on travel time by flying from san pedro. The airport in orange walk is literally a 5 minute van ride to the boat on the river. And experience of that tiny plane landing on a dirt runway is part of the fun.

    • Belize Blog

      I believe it. I love the idea of the plane trip…would love to try that out. And sometimes? It’s not even that much more expensive!