Xibalba is the name for the underworld in Maya mythology. It is described in the Popol Vuh as a court below the surface of the earth associated with death …. and caves were the entrance to this world.
Millions of years ago seeping rainwater and underground rivers began etching through soft bedrock and outcrops. Today caves are to Belize like Swiss is to cheese. The lime rock matrix that makes up much of the country’s landmass is riddled with caves and beneath the surface can be found some of the most extensive cave systems on the planet.
Begin your journey back through time as you enter the realm of Xibalba and learn about a mysterious ancient Maya civilization and the geological processes that shaped the region.
Popular Cayo Area Caves
- Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave) – This water cave contains a diverse collection of Maya artifacts. Good physical fitness is required.
- Cave Tubing – Float on rubber tubes within the Caves Branch River system.
- Black Hole Drop – Stretch your comfort zone as you rappel down into a jungle sink hole. Good physical fitness is required.
- Flour Camp Cave – Arrive on horseback; then explore this impressive cave; float home on inner-tube or canoe.
- Barton Creek Cave – Canoeing is the way to experience this cave. Featuring natural bridges and impressive formations.
- Rio Frio Cave – Located within the Mountain Pine Ridge, its easy to get to and a 65 ft opening makes for the largest cave opening in Belize.
- St. Herman’s Cave – Part of Blue Hole National Park. 15 minute walk to reach.
- Chechem Hah – aka “the Pottery Cave”. This cave is impressive for it’s mother lode of intact storage jars called “ollas”.
Caves and the Maya
Caves are inextricably bound up with the history of Belize, having been fundamental to the religion of the Maya. Vapor clouds forming at the mouth of caves suggested to the Maya that these were the places where wind and clouds were born. Here dwelled the gods of nature and caves were the portal between the tangible human world and the invisible world of gods. It was here at the mouth of caves as well as deep within the recesses that the Maya performed their most sacred rituals.
Most caves have some visible sign of past visitation and evidence of activities can often be found for substantial distances inside these caves. Relics in the form of shards of pottery, are very common.
If you were expecting dank and claustrophobic passageways, you would be more likely to find enormous chambers in a subterranean world that has become one of Belize’s most popular attractions.