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Hike and Snorkel to Find the Mystery of the Maya in Guatemala and Belize

Program Number: 20813RJ
Start and End Dates:
11/3/2015 - 11/12/2015; 1/21/2016 - 1/30/2016; 2/4/2016 - 2/13/2016; 2/18/2016 - 2/27/2016; 3/3/2016 - 3/12/2016; 10/20/2016 - 10/29/2016; 11/3/2016 - 11/12/2016; 12/8/2016 - 12/17/2016;
Duration: 9 nights
Location: Belize/Guatemala
Price starting at: $2,949.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Multi-Sport Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 25; 9 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, 8 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Low Salt; Low Fat; Gluten Free    

For outdoor enthusiasts and pre-Columbian history buffs the Central American neighbors of Belize and Guatemala offer the best of both worlds. Swim to a jungle cave to find Mayan ceremonial artifacts. Discover the jewel of Mayan civilization at Tikal. Rappel down a 300-foot sink hole and snorkel in Belize’s South Water Caye Marine Reserve. Virgin rain forests with orchids, howler monkeys and toucans and hundreds of species of exotic birds make getting to these magical and mysterious Mayan sites half the fun.


• Swim, hike, and climb your way to Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave to view the ceremonial pottery, burial chambers and petrified remains of ancient Maya.
• Discover the beautiful underwater world of Belize's barrier reef while snorkeling in the South Water Caye Marine Reserve.
• Hike to the edge of the Black Hole, a large sinkhole used for Maya religious ceremonies, and rappel into its 300-foot crater.

Activity Particulars

Very active program, includes walking on forest trails and suspension bridges, rappelling into a large sinkhole, snorkeling and swimming. Less strenuous activities are available on most challenging days.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Belize City (Belize), 2 nights; coach to Tikal/Peten Region (Guatemala), 2 nights; Cayo District/Pook's Hill Reserve, 2 nights; coach to False Sittee Point, 3 nights; coach to Dangriga and flight to Belize City; departure.

Arrival Belize City (Belize)
2 nights
Coach to Tikal Region (Guatemala)
2 nights

Journey up the New River to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai, past mangroves and orchid-laden forests, and view a vast Mayan complex that is 3,200 years old. Learn about the unique layered formations of this site during an expert-led walk among the ruins. Cross into Guatemala and discover phenomenal Tikal — with its massive temples rising above the rainforest canopy. Once swallowed by the rainforest, Tikal is one of the largest excavated Mayan sites, with more than 4,000 structures and an impressive network of causeways, aqueducts and canals. Learn about the wild side of Guatemala at Ixpanpajul Natural Park, with its suspended bridges through the trees and 150-plus species of birds.

Coach to Cayo District (Belize)
2 nights
Coach to False Sittee Point
3 nights
Coach / flight to Belize City

Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime! After a short hike through the jungle, swim through the opening of Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave and journey inside to find Mayan ceremonial artifacts and burial chambers. The next day, the adventure continues as you rappel down 300 feet into Black Hole, a large sinkhole used for Maya religious ceremonies. For those less intrepid, there is an optional moderately strenuous river cave expedition, where you can investigate the underground rooms used by the Maya for ceremonial rituals. Then journey to the spectacular Belizean coast and snorkel the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere — South Water Caye Marine Reserve, part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Learn about the amazing ecosystem with local naturalists.

Belize City: Waterfront hotel. Tikal: Lakeside hotel. Cayo District: Charming tropical lodge. False Sittee Point: Beachside resort lodge.
Meals and Lodgings
   Radisson Ft. George
  Belize City, Belize 2 nights
   Hotel Peten Esplendido
  Tikal/Peten Region, Guatemala 2 nights
   Pook's Hill Lodge
  Cayo District/Pook's Hill Reserve, Belize 2 nights
   Jaguar Reef Lodge
  False Sittee Point, Belize 3 nights
 Radisson Ft. George
Type: Hotel
  Description: Waterfront hotel located in the historic Ft. George area of Belize City.
  Contact info: 2 Marine Parade
Belize City,  00000 Belize
phone: +501-223-3333
  Room amenities: Rooms have air conditioning, private bathroom, cable TV, hair dryer, direct dial telephone, coffe maker, and WiFi. Some rooms have a small refrigerator and/or safety deposit box.
  Facility amenities: Pools, restaurants, bars, laundry services, fitness center, business center, complimentary WiFi in common areas, full-service marina, and conference rooms. A Concierge Desk is available to assist guests with booking tours and airport transportation. Airport transfers can be booked directly with the hotel for an additional cost. To make arrangements or inquire about costs, please call the hotel directly or email
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Prices subject to availability Additional nights are subject to hotel availability. Please contact your program provider, Holbrook Travel, at 1-800-866-7111 or for assistance in booking additional nights.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM

 Hotel Peten Esplendido
Type: Hotel
  Description: Attractive lakefront property located 45 minutes away from the Tikal National Park.
  Contact info: 1 calle, 5-01, Zona 1
Santa Elena Flores,  00000 Guatemala
phone: +502-9260880
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, ceiling fan, cable TV, direct dial telephone, and hair dryer.
  Facility amenities: Laundry services, pool, conference room, and restaurant.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Pook's Hill Lodge
Type: Lodge
  Description: Pook’s Hill Lodge is a charming tropical lodge located at the base of the Maya Mountains of the Cayo District. One of the lodge’s most notable features is its private reserve, comprised of 300 acres of semi-deciduous broadleaf tropical rainforest. Guests are able to enjoy close-up views of the protected primary forest's rich plant and animal life through a network of trails. Remnants of a Maya residential plaza, built around 830-950 AD, can be seen scattered among the property buildings.
  Contact info: 5.5 miles south of Teakettle Village
off the main road to Actun Tunichil Mucnal
Cayo District,   Belize
phone: +501-8322017
  Room amenities: Accommodations are provided in attractive thatched-roof cabanas. Each is fully screened with a private bathroom, hot water shower, and ceiling fan.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant serving Belizean and international cuisine, open air bar, private reserve with trails, naturalist guides available for rainforest hikes, and access to the Roaring River for swimming and inner tubing activities.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Jaguar Reef Lodge
Type: Resort
  Description: Jaguar Reef Lodge sits on a small peninsula just south of Hopkins Village, on Belize’s central coast. Coconut palm trees and golden sand surround the thatched-roofed casitas and lead the way to the sparkling, aquamarine waters of the Caribbean. Miles of secluded beach stretch in either direction, inviting guests to take a walk or swim in the gently lapping sea. Those wishing to give themselves a break from physical activities can relax in one of the many hammocks and lounge chairs spread along the beach among shady palms.
  Contact info: 1 mile south of Hopkins Village on the Caribbean Coast
Stann Creek District,   Belize
phone: +501-5337040
  Room amenities: Coffee maker, small fridge, purified water dispenser, beach towels, WiFi, air conditioning, hair dryers, and personal safe.
  Facility amenities: Swimming pools, whirl pool, spa, laundry services, and daily housekeeping services. Complimentary bicycles, sea kayaks, sail boat, snorkeling and fishing gear are available for guest use.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Additional nights after: Subject to availability. 

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Hotel check-in starts at 3 p.m. Dinner and orientation start at 7 p.m. You will be staying at Radisson Ft. George that night.
  End of Program:
Afternoon departures from Belize City's Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE). Flights to U.S. as of 1 p.m. You will be staying at Jaguar Reef Lodge the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Not applicable.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Belize City
  Nearest airport:  Belize City has both an international airport & a domestic airport.
  Transportation to site: Taxi services are available for hire outside the arrivals hall of the international airport in Belize City. If you choose to hire a taxi to the hotel, please agree on the price beforehand.
  From End of Program
  Location:  False Sittee Point
  Nearest city or town:  Hopkins
  Nearest airport:  Dangriga
  Transportation from site: This program will conclude with a morning flight from Dangriga to Belize City's international airport, followed by afternoon connecting flights to the U.S.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrive Belize City, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
(Tuesday, November 3)
 Arrive To: Arrivals in Belize City, Belize. Proceed through Immigrations, Baggage Claim and Customs before exiting the secured area of the airport. The Road Scholar representative will be waiting outside the exit door with a Road Scholar sign (only applies to Road Scholar group flights). Transfer to hotel.

Program Registration: After getting your room assignment, please go to the Road Scholar desk in the lobby to register.
 Dinner: Welcome Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: Orientation: Enjoy a warm welcome and introductions to staff and your fellow participants. You will receive your Arrival Packet and we will review the schedule and discuss responsibilities, schedule changes, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, contact numbers for key staff and answer all your questions.
Accommodations: Radisson Ft. George
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Boat Ride on the New River, Exploring the Lamanai Ruins
(Wednesday, November 4)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: Transfer to the New River dock and embark on a scenic boat ride of about 31 miles upstream to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai. While navigating the calm waters of the New River, try to find and identify some of the many bird species found in the area, including: Black-collared Hawks, Northern Jacanas, Mangrove Swallows, Olive-throated Parakeets, American Pygmy Kingfishers, and Purple Gallinules, to name just a few. If lucky, we may even catch a glimpse of the rarely seen Jabiru Stork! Get close-up views of mangroves and virgin forests flanking the narrow waterway and try to spot the colorful orchids that grow along the river banks.

Disembark at Lamanai for a walking exploration of the more than 50 impressive structures found at the archaeological reserve.

This large Mayan ceremonial center is set in a tropical forest on the banks of the New River Lagoon in the north central region of Belize. Unlike most Mayan sites, the ruins found at Lamanai were built in layers; each generation adding on to the existing structures. Some of the site's highlights include the Jaguar Temple, the High Temple, and the Mask Temple. A beautiful panoramic view of the lagoon and surrounding jungle can be seen from the top of the High Temple. It is believed that the ancient center was occupied during more than 3,200 years, and as recently as in the 18th century.
 Lunch: At the ruins.
 Afternoon: Continue exploring the archaeological complex.

In addition to protecting many fascinating Maya buildings, the reserve at Lamanai provides shelter to a large number of animals. Visitors are sometimes caught off-guard as the rainforest comes alive with the loud, guttural calls of howler monkeys perched high in the forest. Other animals occasionally spotted at the site include agoutis, jaguarundis, woodpeckers, toucans, aracari, trogons, and armadillos.

Boat ride and bus transfer back to Belize City. Return to the hotel.
 Dinner: At the hotel restaurant.
 Evening: Free time to enjoy the hotel grounds and pool.
Accommodations: Radisson Ft. George
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Belize Zoo, Transfer to Guatemala, Ixpanpajul Nature Park
(Thursday, November 5)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: Experience the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center, which was founded in 1983. The organization was born from an effort to provide a safe haven for a number of wild animals that, ironically, had been used in the making of documentaries about tropical forests. The zoo and its education center encompass 29 acres of tropical savanna and house more than 125 animals native to Belize.

Begin transfer to the Peten region in Guatemala. Brief stop at the Belize/Guatemala border for an examination of group documentation.
 Lunch: En route at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Continue transfer to Flores, in the Peten region of Guatemala.

En route stop at Ixpanpajul Nature Park for an expert-led forest walk on trails and hanging bridges.

The Ixpanpajul Natural Park covers an area of nine square kilometers/450 hectares and has more than 200 species of trees, 150 plus species of birds and about 40 species of mammals. A walking trail with six hanging bridges provides multiple angles from which to observe and admire the park's abundant flora and fauna. Learn about the layers of a tropical forest while walking on trails and hanging bridges that eventually lead to the summit of Miramás Hill and its rewarding views of Lake Peten Itza.

Transfer to the hotel.
 Dinner: At the hotel restaurant.
 Evening: Enjoy free time to experience local culture, perhaps taking a ride into the historic town of Flores.
Accommodations: Hotel Peten Esplendido
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Tikal Ruins / Views of Lake Peten Itza
(Friday, November 6)

Note: Tikal activities include climbing steep stone and wooden staircases, and walking on irregular forest trails. Participants must walk about 20 minutes on an unpaved path to get from the park entrance/visitor center to the first ruins. Suggested items to bring: binoculars, camera, hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, lightweight rain poncho, good walking shoes, and water bottle. Average daytime temperatures are 88-90F and average humidity from 75-82 percent. Higher precipitation from June-November.

 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: After breakfast transfer to the spectacular ruins at Tikal.

This site, with its massive temples rising above the rainforest canopy, conjures images of an Indiana Jones adventure. Once swallowed by the rainforest, Tikal is one of the largest excavated Mayan sites, with more than 4,000 structures. It also features some of the tallest temples in the Mayan world. An impressive network of causeways, aqueducts and canals, which not only served as an irrigation system but also provided drinking water for the city, are displays of some masterful engineering. Underground tunnels and new structures are still being discovered and excavated.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Learn more about Tikal and its’ mysteries as you continue your visit after lunch.

Late afternoon arrival to the hotel.
 Dinner: At the hotel restaurant.
 Evening: Enjoy a free evening to experience local culture or entertainment.
Accommodations: Hotel Peten Esplendido
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Yaxha National Park and Ruins
(Saturday, November 7)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: Field trip to Yaxha National Park, located approximately 45 miles from Flores.

The Yaxha ruins are part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve along with the sites of Nakum and El Naranjo. Findings indicate that the city was occupied throughout the pre-classic and post-classic periods and that it was allied to Tikal. Yaxha has more than 500 buildings, including a twin pyramid complex not seen anywhere else save in Tikal.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Begin transfer to the Cayo District in Belize. Stop at the Guatemala/Belize border for inspection of travel documentation.

Late-afternoon arrival at the lodge. Check into rooms and freshen up before dinner.
 Dinner: At the lodge restaurant.
 Evening: Enjoy the open-air lounge and observe the night-feeding fruit bats at the hummingbird feeders.
Accommodations: Pook's Hill Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave Adventure
(Sunday, November 8)

Note: Wear a bathing suit under comfortable, older clothing and closed-toe shoes that can get wet and dirty. Also bring a pair of old socks. Arrive at cave entrance after a 45-minute jungle hike, swim a short distance through the mouth of the cave to enter site. Cave floor is mostly wet and rocky. Some wading in ankle-deep to shoulder-deep water is required at times. In fragile sections, participants will need to remove shoes and walk in their socks so as not to damage the cave floor and/or artifacts.

 Breakfast: At the lodge restaurant.
 Morning: After breakfast, take a 30-minute drive to the starting point for our exploration of Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave. This rewarding activity is not for the faint-hearted and will begin with 45 minutes of hiking that includes river crossings and wading in knee-high water. Once at the cave entrance, participants will swim through the opening and start a 3 1/2-hour journey in the cave.

The ATM Cave, Actun Tunichil Muknal, is an important archaeological wonder of the Mayan world. This living museum full of important artifacts is a fragile system which requires strict instruction for the preservation of this site and for the safety of all participants. Please give the guides your full attention during the ATM Cave orientation and instruction. The guides are fully conscious of their responsibility to preserve the integrity of both the natural caves and their archaeological contents.
 Lunch: Boxed lunch on-site.
 Afternoon: Return to the lodge. Enjoy free time to rest or take a short birding walk around the ruins, where you may spot many species, including Hummingbirds, Blue-Crowned Motmots and the Spectacled Owl.
 Dinner: At the lodge restaurant.
 Evening: Enjoy free time. Night walks on the lodge trails offer good opportunities to spot wildlife or listen for howler monkeys.
Accommodations: Pook's Hill Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Black Hole Hiking & Rappelling Adventure
(Monday, November 9)

Note: Black Hole activities require a high level of physical fitness. This adventure includes uphill hikes on dirt trails (about two hours), repelling 300 feet into a sink hole, rock climbing and ladder climbing. Weather is usually hot, sunny and humid and trails can become muddy when there is rain. Participants should wear sturdy walking shoes with good rubber tread, lightweight pants and t-shirt that are comfortable and allow freedom of movement. Also bring insect repellent and sunscreen.

 Breakfast: At the lodge restaurant.
 Morning: Transfer to Cave Branch (one-hour drive) for a full day of hiking and rappelling activities at Black Hole. Upon arrival at Cave Branch, take part in an instructional session before driving 15 minutes to the base camp and starting our 1 1/2-hour uphill hike. The hike comes to an end at the hilltop at the edge of an enormous sink hole. After donning harnesses and receiving the necessary instructions, begin rappelling into the 300-foot sink hole. Once at the forested bottom, reward your efforts with a well-deserved break for lunch.

NOTE: Participants who do not wish to take part in the Black Hole hike/rappelling will have the option to participate in a moderately strenuous river cave expedition.

The cave activity begins with a 15 minute drive to a drop off point at the river's edge. Sit in a rubber inner tube and float through the entrance to the cave. Continue floating through the dark chambers, enjoying views of the sparkling mineral formations overhead with the aid of headlamps. Once the water becomes too shallow, put aside the inner tubes and set off on foot. The cave floor is rocky and wet and at times it will be necessary to climb over rocky formations.
 Lunch: Boxed lunch in the sink hole or inside the cave system (lunch site dependent on the choice of activity).
 Afternoon: Explore the sink-hole floor as you make your way back to the camp site. The hike takes approximately 45 minutes. Once at the camp site, you will have the opportunity to clean up before we begin our transfer (approximately 1 hour, 20 minutes) drive to the Caribbean coast.

Late-afternoon arrival at the lodge.
 Dinner: At the lodge restaurant.
 Evening: During a free evening, you may enjoy the solitude of the Jaguar Beach in a hammock.
Accommodations: Jaguar Reef Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Free Time
(Tuesday, November 10)

Note: Snorkeling equipment will be provided on-site.

 Breakfast: At the lodge.
 Morning: Board a boat from the lodge's docks and enjoy a 45-minute ride out to South Water Caye Marine Reserve. The morning will be spent snorkelling around reef patches. As you snorkel within this beautiful and unique underwater environment and delight in its many colorful inhabitants, please consider the following tips on reef etiquette provided by the marine reserve. • Be careful when entering and exiting the water since your fins may stir up sand or scrape corals. • Avoid standing on corals or walking on the reef. • Take nothing living or dead out of the water except recent garbage. • Refuse purchasing souvenirs made from coral, turtles or other marine life. • Don't touch, chase or feed any marine life. • Do not throw garbage in the water.

Return to the lodge.
 Lunch: At the lodge.
 Afternoon: Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to enjoy the lodge's facilities or explore local sites. The coastal fishing village of Hopkins is located about one mile from the lodge. It is mostly populated by Garifunas and has a few interesting shops and restaurants where one can experience the local culture.
 Dinner: At the lodge.
 Evening: Enjoy free time, exploring the hotel grounds or perhaps going for a swim.
Accommodations: Jaguar Reef Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Free Time
(Wednesday, November 11)

Note: Snorkeling equipment will be provided on-site.

 Breakfast: At the lodge.
 Morning: Board a boat from the lodge's docks and enjoy a 45-minute ride out to South Water Caye Marine Reserve. The morning will be spent snorkeling around reef patches not explored the day before.

Boat ride back to the lodge.
 Lunch: At the lodge.
 Afternoon: Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to enjoy the lodge's facilities or explore local sites.
 Dinner: Enjoy the opportunity to talk about your week with new friends during a Farewell Dinner at the lodge.
Accommodations: Jaguar Reef Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 10: Transfer to Belize City, Program Concludes
(Thursday, November 12)

Note: On flight from Dangriga to Belize City, each participant will be allowed to bring up to two checked bags weighing no more than 35 pounds each and measuring no more than 62 linear inches (with maximum 30 inches in width and 15 inches in height). Participants will also be able to bring one carry-on item (purse or backpack) weighing no more than 15 pounds.

 Breakfast: At the lodge restaurant.
 Morning: After an early breakfast, drive to the Dangriga airstrip (45 minutes) and catch a 30-minute flight to Belize City's City's Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport.
The proposed internal flight arrives to the international airport at approximately 10:30 am and is included in the program cost. Participants making their own flight arrangements need not book any flights before 1:00 pm to ensure good connection times.
Connect with afternoon flights to the U.S.

We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please be in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network, where you can share memories, pictures and comments. Best wishes for all your journeys!
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

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