One of my bucket list items for Belize was to get to Caracol to see Belize’s largest man-made structure: Caana. Although smaller than its big brother Tikal in neighboring Guatemala, its charm is in the peace you can find away from the massive Tikal tourists.
Being out in the boonies near the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve (MPR), Caracol takes a bit of planning and information gathering to get to, all of which I did – but then couldn’t get up early enough to make it there! (I know, I know. Slap me silly.) So although we couldn’t get out there, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use this information to get yourself there so you can rub it in my face.
There seems to be a lot of confusion around getting to Caracol, what with talk of there being a military escort (and why the hell does one need a military escort anyway?). So here’s the breakdown:
Yes, there is a military escort that will take a caravan of cars to the temple and back. Is it mandatory? No, but it is recommended.
The meeting point/time is around 9am at the Douglas Da Silva Station, which is located in MPR and is roughly a 1.5 hour drive to get to from San Ignacio. At the station, personnel will gather the cars together, and a military vehicle will escort the caravan the rest of the way to Caracol (about another hour, depending on road conditions). If you want the military escort back to the station, you will be leaving Caracol at 2pm. A side note on the road conditions: they will be rutted and bumpy, but if you go during rainy season, you’ll be slip sliding as well, so good to invest in a 4WD SUV/truck.
Many have mentioned doing the drive on their own, which just requires that you sign in/out at the station. While the risk seems quite minimal, I suppose there’s always a chance that something can happen, so it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to be a daredevil.
Scratching your head about all this military convoy nonsense? Long story short: Guatemala and Belize have had turf wars for years, and with Caracol being very close to the border, there have been several violent incidences in the area during the last decade or so, one of which also included tourists; hence, the military escort. You can read Belize news articles here for more detail: 2006, 2014, and 2016.
If you don’t have a car, there are many tour companies in the area happy to get you to Caracol. If you have access to a car, don’t waste your money on a tour. Go on your own and have a fun 4-wheel experience to boot.
And don’t forget to bring your own water and food. There are no food vendors or restaurants in the MPR area. You have been warned!
So that’s it! Have a wonderful time getting to and enjoying Caracol. Don’t forget to send me a postcard! (What? No one does that anymore?…)