Lamanai Travel Guide

  • Lamanai
    by toonsarah
  • Young crocodile
    Young crocodile
    by toonsarah
  • Mask Temple, Lamanai
    Mask Temple, Lamanai
    by toonsarah

Lamanai Things to Do

  • Lamanai ruins – High Temple

    As the name suggests, this is the tallest structure at Lamanai. It was built over two phases, an initial pre-classic one around 100 BC and a major reshaping of the front in the late classic period, around 600 AD. In its earlier form it would have had masks on the front, traces of which have been uncovered and can just be made out (look where the...

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  • Other activities we could have done

    There are eight free activities in total, and you can do two for each night of your stay, so a four night stay would allow you to do all of them. They are scheduled to run every day – two at dawn, two in the morning, two late afternoon and two in the evening. As well as these, there are a number of “special adventures” for which additional payment...

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  • Medicine walk and village life

    This activity is another of those included in your stay at Lamanai Outpost. It takes place every morning, and when we signed up we were asked whether we would like to have lunch in the village or back at the lodge after our walk. We decided on the village, which proved to be a good decision even if it did mean missing one of the lodge’s delicious...

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  • Crocodile Encounter

    On our last evening at Lamanai we did the other of our paid-for activities, the Crocodile Encounter. This started after dinner, at 8.00 PM, so we made our way down to the dock where we met up with Raul and another guide, and one other couple. We were asked to wear small life-jackets as the ride was to be on one of the lodge’s airboats. Once we were...

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  • Howler Monkey Trek

    Although there are plenty of free activities on offer at Lamanai (certainly enough to have kept us occupied for the three days that we were there), some of the additional paid-for options sounded too interesting for us to ignore. The first of these that we opted for was the early morning Howler Monkey Trek.And when I say early, I mean early! We...

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  • Spotlight safari

    This is one of two free evening activities available as part of your package at Lamanai (the other is the Night Walk which unfortunately we didn’t manage to make time to do), and like the others is highly recommended.We set out after dinner one evening in one of the lodge’s boats, along with a few other guests. Our guide was Ruben, and he was...

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  • Sunset cocktail cruise

    This is one of the “standard” activities included in your all-inclusive package, and was the first that we did, signing up for a trip just an hour or so after our arrival at the lodge. The activities at the lodge aren’t exclusive so you could find yourself sharing with others (a group of six is said to be typical); however on this occasion we were...

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  • Lamanai ruins – the museum

    Older websites may show images of a small and rather jumbled museum, but a newer one has been constructed in recent years and now shows off the archaeological finds from the site to good advantage. These include the original Stela 9, various vessels, a great little display of ceramic faces from various periods (see photo 2), and in one corner, the...

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  • Lamanai ruins – Jaguar Temple

    The southernmost of the excavated temples is the Jaguar Temple. It takes its name from the sculptures on the facade which are said to represent jaguars, an animal of great significance to the Maya. This temple was built in three phases, from 500 to 1200 AD. A significant portion remains under grassy earth or is covered in dense jungle growth –...

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  • Lamanai ruins – Stela Temple

    This temple lies quite near the High Temple and is the only one we were told we may not climb. It takes its name from the stela, Stela 9, which was discovered, face-down and buried in soil, on its front lower stairs (the only stela to have been found at Lamanai). This stela now stands in the small museum at the site, with a replica placed here...

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  • Lamanai ruins – Mask Temple

    The Mask Temple is at the northern end of the complex and is an excellent example of the Lamanai “habit” of building in layers, each on top of an earlier structure. In the case of the Mask Temple, five construction phases have been identified, lasting from 100 BC to 900 AD. Our guide Raul showed us illustrations of each phase (illustrations I have...

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  • Lamanai ruins – an overview

    The Lamanai Maya ruins may be less extensive than those at sites elsewhere in Central America, but they are well worth a visit, whether or not you’ve been to some of the other sites. We’d already had a chance to explore Tikal, but a trip to the ruins is another activity included in the package at the Outpost Lodge and it seemed crazy to pass up the...

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Lamanai Restaurants

  • Traditional Belizean food

    As part of the “Maya Medicine Trail” activity we visited the local village, Indian Church. We were asked in advance if we would like to have lunch there or return to the lodge to eat, and opted for the former. The restaurant, one of a couple in the village, was very much a local place, with just a few tables covered with plastic table-cloths, but...

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  • Meals at the lodge

    Meals here are good Belizean / international food, served in the open air with spectacular views over the lagoon, but they aren’t fancy and you won’t be offered an elaborate menu. Instead a set menu is posted on the previous evening, and unless you alert staff to any ingredients in it that you can’t eat, that is what you will be served. I was wary...

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  • Lamanai Hotels

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Lamanai Nightlife

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    by toonsarah Written Jan 23, 2011

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    If you’re looking for bright city lights and all-night dancing, then Lamanai is not the place for you. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be bored in the evenings. Quite a few of the activities take place after dark (see my various tips for more on these) but if you prefer to relax at the lodge there’s a comfortable bar with reasonably priced drinks including good local rum and beer. Alternatively you could wander down to the dock and see the moon reflected in the waters of the lagoon, relax in a hammock on your deck or by the water’s edge, or take a stroll around the grounds to look for bats and other night creatures.

    Whatever you choose to do, you’ll probably find yourself tucked up in bed in your cabin at a fairly early hour, especially if you’re planning a dawn start to see the sunrise on the lagoon or to go looking for howler monkeys deep in the forest.

    From Lamanai dock at night In the bar, Lamanai Outpost

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Lamanai Transportation

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    by toonsarah Updated Jan 23, 2011

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    We came to Lamanai by boat, as nearly everyone does. It is possible to get to here by road, but that wouldn’t be half as much fun as the boat transfer provided by the lodge. Our journey started though at Belize City Airport, where we were picked up, along with another couple who had just flown in from England (we had come via our transfer from Chaa Creek). The first 45 minutes of the journey were by road – a long, straight road leading north from the city and not especially scenic, although the journey was enlivened by the conversation of our driver who lived in one of the villages we passed through and was able to tell us something of the local gossip as well as introducing us briefly to his mother who was at the side of the road to pass him his lunch!

    After a while we turned off the main road and arrived at the boat landing near Orange Walk. If you need them there are clean toilets here and a small stand selling cold drinks. The boat was small – just big enough for the four of us and the guide, Raul, but with a storage area large enough to take all our bags. There was no shade and after a few days rain the sun had returned, so we were glad that we’d got hats and suntan lotion with us.

    As soon as we were all settled we set off, travelling at a fair speed along the New River. And this is one lovely river! Lined with forests for the most part, it twists and turns, with each bend revealing another beautiful view. In a few places the trees are cleared, most notably at the small Menonite community of Shipyard, where men working on boats at the jetty paused to wave to us.

    After about an hour the river widened and we emerged into the New River Lagoon. Raul stopped the boat to tell us a little bit about our surroundings, and to point out the top of the High Temple of the nearby Maya ruins, before heading for the dock at the Outpost Lodge where we were to spend the next three nights. A fantastic way to arrive at what was to prove to be a fantastic place to stay!

    Dock at Orange Walk New River near Orange Walk Anhinga by the New River
    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism

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Lamanai Local Customs

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    by toonsarah Written Jan 23, 2011

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    On our visit to Indian Church we visited the local restaurant, not only to eat but also to learn something about local recipes and cooking techniques. A couple of village women showed us and another English couple how to make tamales and tortillas, our lesson accompanied by much tolerant amusement on their part and a little sheepishness on our own. What they did so easily seemed much more challenging for us!

    The first task was to grind the corn. This is done on a volcanic stone, with a little water to moisten it. I was surprised to learn that nothing else is added – once finely ground the corn and water form a firm dough that can be shaped by hand into the flat circles needed for tamales. The women nodded and smiled when we had each finished grinding, but I noticed that they gave our clumsy efforts a discreet but effective further rubbing with the stone to ensure that our lumps were all removed!

    Once the circles of dough have been flattened, they have to be lain on banana leaves and wrapped around the pieces of chicken and spicy sauce (itself also made with a ground corn base) to form neat parcels. Well, neat when the locals make them – some of ours were a little ragged. These are then baked and served, sometimes with more of the spicy sauce poured over them. The tortillas were a little easier, although shaping them by hand is a definite skill. They are then cooked over the hot coals and again served with the spicy sauce.

    We were served some of our own tortillas as part of our lunch, but I have a feeling the tamales were never deemed worthy of serving to any customer, even those who had made them!

    Grinding the corn Chris has a go while the locals watch anxiously Close-up of the grindstone Making the tamales My turn to try

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Lamanai What to Pack

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    by toonsarah Written Jan 23, 2011

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    Luggage and bags: The boats that transport you to the Lodge have enough room for a reasonable amount of luggage. We travelled quite lightly but nevertheless had a mid-sized bag each and this wasn’t a problem.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Leave your fancy clothes at home, you won’t need them here! Take long sleeve shirts and long trousers for trips to the Mayan ruins, as mosquitoes can be a problem there, a hat for sunny days and waterproofs for wet ones (we had one downpour!), and comfortable walking shoes as you’re likely to be out and about a lot.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: You’ll probably want to use insect repellent for trips to the ruins and walks in the forest, and for evening boat trips on the lagoon, though we didn’t find mosquitoes to be a problem anywhere other than at the ruins. Remember to take plenty of sun protection as you could be out on the water a lot which intensifies the effect of the sun. You can buy basic toiletries and non-prescription drugs in the small shop at the lodge, but take everything else with you as there are no other shops nearby.

    Photo Equipment: A zoom lens is useful for capturing the wildlife, and ideally you should have a camera that’s capable of adjusting the ISO so that you can take pictures without flash after dark, as the night-time safari is a must!

    Cotton shirts are ideal Exploring the lagoon
    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism

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Lamanai Off The Beaten Path

  • Sugar mill

    Tucked away in an area of the reserve between the lodge and the ruins are the remains of an old sugar mill. This was constructed by British colonists in around 1860, and the surrounding land planted with sugar cane. It was steam operated and rather out of date even for that time, and was only operational for 15 years. It is puzzling that they...

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  • Spanish churches

    Two 16th century churches were built at Lamanai during the Spanish conquest of this region. The first was built around 1540, only to be burned to the ground during a Maya revolt. Raul told us that the Spanish had made the mistake of leaving a local Maya man in charge, believing him to have been converted to their faith, only for him to be swayed...

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Top 10 Less-Crowded Mayan Ruins: Lamanai

Rated 5 out of 5 stars

Lamanai, the Mayan word for "submerged crocodile," was aptly named. Not only do crocodiles appear in the site's effigies and decorations, but you are likely to see crocodiles while trying to get there. In order to reach the site, you must take a small boat up the winding New River through the tropical rainforest of central Belize. Lamanai was one of the longest continuously occupied cities, starting in 500 B.C. to 1675 A.D. or even later, probably due to its strategic location on the trade route of the New River. The most notable among this site's ruins is the Mask Temple at the northern end of the complex. A VirtualTourist member mentioned that this temple was actually built in five construction phases, lasting from 100 B.C. to 900 A.D. It is also interesting to note that the facial features of the masks are clearly related to the Olmec, the first major civilization in Mexico, particularly in the upper lip and wider nose.

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