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Mountain Pine Ridge is a roughly 400-km2 forest reserve in Cayo, Belize.



The reserve is predominantly pine forest (58.5%), primarily Honduras pine, Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis, but with a significant broadleaf forest component (36.8%). There are small areas of grassland (3.4%) and wetland (0.6%). Roads, rivers and other features make up the remainder of the area (10.9%).

The majority of the reserve is situated on a granite massif, with some areas of limestone in the west of the reserve (remnants of a limestone plateau laid during the Jurassic). Sinkholes and caves are common in the limestone areas. The underlying soils are predominantly sandy. The elevation of the reserve averages between 400 and 700 m (1,312 to 2,296 ft) with the highest point being Baldy Beacon at 1,017 m (3,336 ft), and dropping to 120 m (394 ft) at the lowest point on the Macal River.

The Macal River forms the boundaries of the reserve to the west and south and is fed by tributaries including Rio Frio, Rio On, Privassion Creek and Pinol Creek. To the north-east some small streams feed into Barton Creek.


Baird's tapir, the national animal of Belize, may be seen in the reserve. The reserve is home to various large mammals, including cougars, jaguars, ocelots, white-nosed coatis, and Baird's tapirs. There is a small population of Morelet's crocodiles.

Native species of bird include the rufous-capped warbler, common crossbill, pine siskin, eastern bluebird, stygian owl, king vulture, ocellated turkey, acorn woodpecker, Lesson's motmot, plumbeous vireo, keel-billed toucan and red-lored parrot. Winter visitors include the hepatic tanager and chipping sparrow. Orange-breasted falcons are more common in the area than elsewhere in Belize. Other fauna present in the reserve are the frog species Rana juliani (which is restricted to the Maya Mountains) and Eleutherodactylus sandersoni, and the fish species Poecilia teresae.


The climate is subtropical with a rainy season from July to February. During the dry season (February to May) temperatures may reach 39 °C (102 °F) with a humidity level of 70%.

Get in[edit]

You can enter by private car, otherwise shell out BZ$80 for a taxi from San Ignacio (45 minutes) or pay up to double that to have your lodge pick you up if you're staying in the reserve. Blancaneaux has a private airstrip with a less than perfect but probably reliable reputation.

Get around[edit]

The parks roads are unpaved, and not served by any real bus service. Unless you have a car, you'll be limited to hiking or paying for expensive full and half day trips from a lodge.


Big Rock Falls
  • Big Rock Falls. This gorgeous waterfall makes for a great hike if you're staying within reasonable distance, and offers a couple of great natural swimming pools at its base. Make sure to head home well before sunset, as the hike out can be steep and you definitely don't want to be stuck out here in the dark.






  • Blancaneaux. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. This luxurious and well-designed lodge is owned by Francis Ford Coppola, and was once his private retreat. You can rent out his own large villa if he's not in town and you have the dough, or settle for one of the other thatch-roofed natural cabanas or villas. Splurge on a river view if you can. The main restaurant serves tasty Italian cuisine (mains BZ$20-30), or the smaller Guatemaltequa serves authentic Guatemalan food and is open for dinner by reservation only. Coppola's wines are available at both, along with others.


There are no real services anywhere within the park, but if you're staying at a lodge, most will have a phone and internet available for guests.

Go next[edit]

  • Caracol – beautiful Mayan ruins nearby

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