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Rio On Pools is located in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve in the Cayo District of western Belize. It is just a few miles away from the Rio Frio Cave, which is another popular, albeit secluded place to visit when exploring Belize. The area is known as a swimming spot for locals, but there are some tour groups that stop at Rio On Pools on the way to the Caracol Mayan ruins.
How to get to Rio On Pools
Most people who visit Rio On Pools will stay in the town of San Ignacio, and visit the natural swimming hole as a day trip. Getting to Rio On Pools can be a bit difficult though. The roads in Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve are not paved, and are very rough in spots. If renting a car and driving in Belize, I would recommend getting an SUV if you plan to visit Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve. Street and road signage is also not the best in Belize, especially inside the reserve. However, you will see a few signs pointing you in the direction you should drive, and letting you know where to turn off.
Hiking down to the waterfalls
Once you arrive, there is a small parking area with picnic tables near the top of the staircase that leads down to Rio On Pools. The path down to the cascading pools could use some serious maintenance. The stairway is steep, uneven, and has some larger steps without a railing to assist. For this reason, making your way to Rio On Pools with a baby or toddler can be difficult – and a bit dangerous. Still, it is worth stopping at least for a picture.
Older children who do not have to be carried should be able to access the pools without too much difficulty. I would recommend any children under the age of seven hold the hand of an adult during the decent to the pools. I would also advise jackets as an extra precaution for children who are going to get in the water at Rio On Pools.
As you approach the end of the staircase, you will have to scramble across boulders to access the water. A pair of tennis shoes or at the very least pool shoes would be helpful for the hike down.
Swimming in Rio On Pools
Because the path was somewhat treacherous and it had just poured down rain while we were there, we opted not to get in the water. During the dry season, or on a day when it hadn’t just rained buckets, this would be a nice spot to stop and swim. The water is shallow and the small waterfalls flow into a series of small pools that all vary in intensity. There are some that are flowing faster, and others where the water is calmer. Most are gentle enough to sit and relax in. It would be a refreshing spot to spend an afternoon following a morning spent hiking in the national park.
I would recommend water shoes for anyone visiting as a small slip on the rocks could cause serious injury. While we were there, we had the area all to ourselves. Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve is quite large, so visitors to the park often feel alone with nature.
Tips for visiting Rio On Pools in Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve
- Rent an SUV instead of a car
- Bring pool shoes
- Plan to change clothing in or behind the car.
- Walk down and swim with caution.
- Enjoy the quietness and peacefulness of the cascades!
For more information on visiting Belize with kids and a look at our complete family-friendly itinerary, click here.
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