I don’t know what it is about caves, but they have always fascinated me. Maybe it stems from Jules Verne’s story about descending to the center of the earth through volcanic tubes in Iceland, or maybe it is just the idea of exploring the last bit of unknown in this world, but I’ve always been drawn to them. When we went to Belize, I had one of the best cave experiences of my life. It was hot, and humid, and I probably lost about half my body weight in sweat that day, but I would do it again in a heart beat. Crystal Caves are the real deal.
Most of Central America lies on a large bed of limestone, which is very susceptible to corrosion from water. When rivers and rainfall run across this limestone base over the course of hundreds and thousands of years, intricate cave structures are formed. Even though Belize is one of the smallest countries in Central America, it has one of the largest cave infrastructures. The Crystal Cave tour begins with a very long, hot, humid hike with a lot of incline through the rain forest to get to the entrance to the caves. It takes about an hour, but don’t let this scare you. Even though the hike is hard, stick with it because all of the hard work pays off. As we hiked, our guide taught us a lot about the nature around us. He pointed out birds, plants, and other wildlife along the way which helped distract us from the hike itself. We even stopped so he could coax some tarantulas out of their homes.
Once you finally get to the entrance of the cave, you’ll begin your descent. More than likely, you’ll already be sweating, but don’t expect the cave to cool you down. When we went, the cave was as hot and humid as the outside temperatures and we all sweated a lot. At this point, you’ll need to put on your helmet and your headlamps because it gets dark fast. As you begin your descent, you’ll see some of the Mayan remains such as fire pits, pottery, and even some bones and skulls. To the Mayans, caves represented the underworld and a ceremonial space. They would would use parts of the cave for human sacrifices, burials, and other types of ceremonies. Our guide taught us a lot about the culture and the history behind these wonderful caves and also let us experience true darkness.
As you continue your descent, you’ll go much farther than the Mayans ever did. There is a lot of climbing and maneuvering your body in awkward positions and there are also a few very tight squeezes. You’ll start wondering where the name “Crystal Caves” came from and why you are doing all of this work, but as you continue on your journey, it will all begin to make sense. You’ll start to see twinkling as you head into different sections of the cave. The crystals come in different shades of blue, white, and red, depending on what the particular rocks in that area were made of. Just when you think it couldn’t get more beautiful, you turn a corner and it does. If you are lucky, you’ll make it all the way to Wonderland. Our guide kept telling us about Wonderland and asked if we wanted to keep pushing forwards or if we wanted to turn back and go swim. We all agreed that we could swim anywhere, but this was our one shot to see Wonderland. I wish I could find the words to accurately portray this incredible place, but it is something you have to experience for yourself. It is truly indescribable and pictures will never do it justice. Everywhere you turn, there are crystals covering every inch of the cave and they have mostly been undisturbed by human contact. Our guide had us take off our shoes so we didn’t break any of them and we hiked around Wonderland barefoot. Some of the crystals are small and delicate, so it was important that we had complete control of our feet and didn’t crush them. It sounds crazy, but it was an experience I’ll never forget.
Unlike some caves, the cave does not loop in a circle or come out the other end. At the end of the descent, you’ll have to retrace your steps and head out the same way you came in. You’d hope the hike out would be easier, but it is equally as hard. Just focus on how good Rum Punch will taste once you get back to the van. Once we made it back to the entrance of the cave, we took off the hot helmets and hiked to another nearby cave that was on our way back to the van. It had a big lake inside and we all jumped in and washed the mud and sweat off our bodies. It was so refreshing that none of us even bothered to change clothes and just jumped in with our hiking clothes. Once we made it back to the van, we changed into dry clothes and ate homemade chips and salsa and drank rum punch together feeling proud of what we had all accomplished.
What to Bring
Exploring Crystal Caves is an all day excursion, so you will need to come somewhat prepared. Unlike most of my cave experiences, these caves are very hot and humid, so whatever you you bring with you will probably get wet and/or muddy. Here is my list of recommendations for what to bring and wear.
- lightweight water wicking clothing
- closed toed shoes or hiking boots
Be prepared to sweat A LOT. You will want to wear comfortable clothes that are water wicking. Cotton is not a good idea because it will hold water and you will feel even hotter during your excursion. Closed toed shoes are also highly recommended because certain areas in the caves will not be good on your feet if they aren’t protected. I wore hiking boots and they felt a little clunky in some of the more delicate areas, but if you have some closed toed hiking sandals those will be good. Most importantly, whatever you wear in these caves WILL get muddy, so make sure it isn’t something you want to keep nice.
- Light snacks
- Change of Clothes (can leave in the car)
- Waterproof Camera
- Bug Spray
- Bathing suit
Most of the food and water should be provided by your tour guide, but depending on your own personal needs, you will want to bring more water and possibly snacks. I drank about 2 liters of water while I was in the cave and drank more when I got back to the van. You will definitely want to bring a change of clothes to change into once you get back to the van. You will be soaked through and through, so it was very refreshing to be able to change into something dry before the long drive back. Bug spray is also a good idea, even if you leave it in the van. You will have a long hike through the rain forest to the entrance of the caves, so protect yourself from bug bites. Depending on your tour, you may have the option to go swimming after the caves, so you will probably want to bring a bathing suit with you. We went for a quick swim after, but we all just jumped in with our hiking clothes because we didn’t have the energy to change.
Your tour guide should provide some essentials, but you may want to check before you start the tour. Here are some things you will need that should be provided:
Don’t stress too much about packing, but coming prepared will make your day go much more smoothly.
Out of all of my travels, this was one of my favorite excursions. It is a very physically demanding experience, but the reward was worth it. In a way, it is like I have my own little secret because no one can look at pictures and see the true beauty of these caves. Pictures will never be able to capture the twinkle and intricacy of the crystals, but instead they just look like cool rocks. You really have to get out and do the hike for yourself to really understand.
Have you ever had an adventure that left you feeling this way? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Happy travels!