Rio On Pools
Found in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Rio On Pools is a network of waterfalls and pools flowing off of only a small creek, Privassion Creek, which you'll have to drive across on the way up into the Pine Ridge. From San Ignacio Town only two roads lead into the reserve, one through the village of Georgeville, and one that travels through Cristo Rey and San Antonio. Both roads require a bit of maneuvering, so take your time and allow about 2 hours to drive the 20 miles or so to get there. Besides, the scenery in the Mountain Pine Ridge is so beautiful! It reminded me of Northern Michigan...in the middle of the jungles of Belize.
Upon arrival, the trail down is well-marked and is an easy 2 minute walk to the spectacular Rio On Pools. Wander the pools where the trailhead drops you off, or get a little more adventuress and work your way down the falls to more and more views of this natural wonder. My first time at Rio on Pools I went by myself, so I could spend the day shooting. I'd take frequent breaks from behind the lens so I could cool off and flow with the current, along the slippery rock formations leading from pool to refreshing pool.
Just a 5-10 minute drive from San Ignacio Town, Shower Falls, or "The Showers" as known by locals is only about a mile off of Cristo Rey Road in Cristo Rey Village. It's a shady little spot to relax, take a dip in the cenote, or have a picnic amongst the waterfalls. It's fairly small, but we never ran into anybody else there. There's an Ashram next to the falls if you want to set up a retreat or try some homemade wine.
Big Rock Falls
Travel back into the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest to discover Big Rock Falls. Mountain Pine Ridge Road, the main road that goes to Rio on Pools, will also get you to Big Rock. It will be on the right with signs pointing to Blancaneaux Lodge and Gaia Lodge. There's a small dirt turnaround to park at, then walk the trail until you get to the descent, which is quite steep! Newer steps are in place that zig zag back and forth to the bottom, where it opens up to a flowing river and the majestic Big Rock Falls to the left. Find a good spot to climb up and jump off into one of the two natural pools this waterfall has created over time. The swimming holes are very deep and I've never heard of anyone hitting the bottom! You can also swim all the way up to the waterfall and put your body into it to feel the power of Big Rock. Great time!
Five Sister's Falls
Five Sister's Falls, or Gaia Falls, is a short drive past the entrance to Big Rock Falls in the Mountain Pine Ridge. Gaia Lodge claims they "own" the waterfalls, which seems to be a problem in Belize. How can anyone own a river? It was going to be an issue but we were with another couple that lives in Cristo Rey and explained it to the hotel manager, so he let us walk down. Gaia Lodge actually has a beautiful setup on the falls with hammocks, palapas, and other seating areas.
I journeyed to Butterfly Falls, which is along Roaring Creek in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, and I was in awe. It is exactly what I pictured in my mind when I thought of hidden rainforest waterfalls. A steep trail down wasn't too treacherous until the end when I had to navigate very slippery rocks while clinging to a rope leading down to the creek bed and the brilliant Butterfly Falls, cascading 80 feet down into a green pool among the lush jungle. A spiritual moment alone in the jungle!!