With the end of summer comes the much-awaited favorite fall festivity of Halloween. Belize may not celebrate the pagan holiday in the exact ways our North Americans friends do, but there are still ways Belizeans commemorate the spooky season. For instance, the long-established tradition of “Los Finados” spans across many Latin countries in Central America, Belize being one of them. Otherwise known as “All Souls Day” in English, Los Finados is observed by Latin Catholics on November 2. A similar, more popular celebration is the Day of the Dead that is also observed in Mexico. While many different cultures memorialize this day differently, in Belize families honor the lives of their passed loved ones by decorating altars with food, sweets and anything the loved one used to like while they were alive.
While honoring All Souls Day is a more solemn way to commemorate the season, there are more lighthearted ways to get into the spooky spirit while in Belize. Here are some hair-raising – in a good way – adventures to keep in mind when visiting Belize in October.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave
If you’re seeking a truly chilling adventure – pun intended – the ATM Cave near San Ignacio Town is unmissable. The Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave is one shrouded in so much mystery and history that National Geographic named it one of the most sacred caves in the world in 2019. The reason why this cave is perfect to visit during Halloween season is its sprinkling of ancient Mayan artefacts found within. In fact, inside the cave itself lies the skeleton of a Maya sacrificial victim coated in sparkling crystal carbonate. Nicknamed the Crystal Maiden, this relic is for sure a highlight when traversing through the wet cave. ATM is not for the faint of heart, but with it only being an hour and a half drive from Chaa Creek it’d be a mistake not to experience the thrill in the flesh.
Night Hiking Tour
We all know everything gets a little more interesting – and eerie – at night. So instead of a regular hiking tour, which on its own is worth checking out, opt for a night tour instead. For instance, Chaa Creek’s “Creatures of the Night” tours explore the dark side of Belize’s jungles. In the literal sense, of course! The rainforest is on a different wavelength at night, with its own array of night critters earning the creepy & crawly title. Accompany Chaa Creek’s experienced naturalist guides as you try to spot ocelots, howler monkeys, tarantulas and more.
While it is a night tour, you needn’t be afraid of the dark since you’ll be equipped with a headlamp, though we recommended shutting off the light at least once to fully appreciate the dark jungle come to life through fireflies, hooting owls and phosphorescent insects.
Say hello to bats while canoeing the Macal River
Speaking of creepy critters, you can meet the mascots of Halloween by simply canoeing on the Macal River in San Ignacio. Use Chaa Creek as a base where you can rent a canoe and paddle downstream for approximately two hours until you arrive at San Ignacio.
On the way, you’ll come across giant green iguanas, tropical birds and more. And if you’ve got a guide with you, he’ll take you to a secret spot just on the banks of the river, where a small, open cave is carved into the wall. Here, you’ll greet small bats taking a nap upside down hanging from the ceiling of the cave. After carefully not rousing them, continue paddling downstream until you arrive at the bustling town, where Chaa Creek will be able to pick you up and take you back to the lodge for some lunch. Or you can also have the guides pick up the canoes while you explore the town on foot.
Into the depths of the Blue Hole
Perhaps the least scary activity on the list, yet the Blue Hole is deserving of the list due to much of its history being cloaked in mystery. Not only does the origin story of the Great Blue Hole seem to vary, its contents are also undiscovered for the most part. While Richard Branson and a team from Aquatica Submarines plunged into the 407-foot deep underwater cavern in 2019, the data extracted scratched only the surface of what lies beneath. But the experience of diving it is still worth documenting. While it may be dark, diving deep into the Blue Hole will grant you first-hand access to seeing Hammerhead and reef sharks swim by, schools of barracuda and even colorful tropical fish. Having such creatures sharing a space with you may seem spine-chilling to some, but as the saying goes, the only difference between fear and excitement is attitude, right?
Maya Shaman healing
With this unique experience, you really rub elbows with the supernatural. Known also as a Cleansing ritual, the Maya Shaman Healing experience is an underrated activity found in the village of San Antonio near San Ignacio. Using special herbs and the incense of copal (tree resin), the traditional Maya shaman will target areas needing healing. This smoke ceremony should leave you feeling rejuvenated with your aura cleansed of any negative energy. Imagine: a sacred ceremony transcendent of this world, catered to you and only you, while a trusted shaman leads you to a purified soul. If that’s not a great way to bookend the Halloween season, we don’t know what is.