An Off-the-Beaten Path Perfect Picnic in Belize

rio on pools

While there are so many spectacular things to do in Belize, it’s often the easy day trips that really make a lasting impression. Even the humble picnic can take on a whole new aspect – if you know where to go. For example, there’s the:

Rio On Pools – Mountain Pine Ridge

This has always been one of my favourite picnics spots in all of Belize. Even on the warmest days Mountain Pine Ridge is always refreshing and is one of those places that may seem like a bit of a drive, but once there you think, “That wasn’t far. Why don’t we come here more often?” About fifteen miles from San Ignacio, it’s on the sort of road you take your time driving on, but the views are so pretty you don’t mind.

And it’s truly a “something for everyone” sort of place. For the elderly, those with mobility issues or just feeling lazy that day, you can simply drive up to the picnic area, park, secure a spot at one of the tables or spread a blanket and just take in the view.

And what a view it is. Surrounded by 300 square miles of forest reserve featuring those beautiful pines that give the Mountain Pine Ridge its name are a series of ponds formed by cascading waterfalls.  With so many different sizes, depth and levels of accessibility, you can take an entire day just getting to know the pools and deciding which are your favourite. Bigger ones with laughing and splashing people for when you feel sociable, and more remote, intimate ones for when you want a bit more seclusion.

Stretch out and sunbathe on the rocks worn smooth by years of water polishing, go pool hopping up and down the watercourse, hang out under the waterfalls and get a lovely aqua-massage, take advantage of some of the best photo ops in Belize, or just kick back and soak in nature’s own Jacuzzi, you won’t run out of things to do, even after dozens of visits.

Here’s a recipe for a perfect picnic day in Belize:

Have a hearty breakfast.

Pack: Plenty of cold drinks, lunch, hats, towel, swimsuit, sunscreen, your favourite hiking shoes or sneakers and of course, the camera. Insect repellant and raingear are always a good “just in case” idea. We enjoy spending entire days there, so if you’re reading a good book, bring that along too.

Get an early start and make your way up. You can take a tour, or hiring a vehicle is easy in Belize, and this way you’ll have all of the Mountain Pine Ridge to explore at your leisure.

The road is rudimentary, so do take your time. You’ll find lots of places to stop and snap pictures or just relax and take in the views. The Mountain Pine Ridge is home to jaguars, tapirs and other exotic fauna, and there’s every chance you’ll see some beautiful birds such as the orange-breasted falcon, keel-billed toucan or the impressive king vulture.

Pull up to the main car park at the “Welcome to Rio On Pools” sign, and there you are. Stake out your spot, have a drink and a snack, and climb the stairs on down to the pools or hike the path in.

And then enjoy one of the best days ever.

Your appetite will start kicking, so head back up and relish that picnic. Eat with guilt-free gusto – you were having too much fun to notice how many calories you burnt off.

After relaxing and just taking all that beauty in, decide if you want to go back down to the pools, but make sure you have enough time to drive the short distance to visit the Rio Frio Cave, which isn’t so much a cave as a huge naturally formed tunnel with a stream flowing through with its own sandy beach and more spectacular views.

You’ll be so relaxed and happily weary you’ll barely notice the ride home, but I guarantee you will remember that picnic for a very long time.

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