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“We LOVED the ATM Cave!” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Actun Tunichil Muknal

Actun Tunichil Muknal
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Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Caves from San Ignacio
Ranked #1 of 70 things to do in Cayo
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: This remote cave is filled with relics left over from the Mayans.
Phoenix, Arizona
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“We LOVED the ATM Cave!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 10, 2011

ATM cave with Pacz tours and Renan 

My husband and I went on the ATM cave tour with Pacz tours and had an amazing experience!  We absolutely were blown away by the entire day.

First of all, hats off to Renan, our fantastic guide. He more than exceeded our expectations.  Renan was one of the first guides to go into the ATM cave and has been working for Pacz tours since it opened. His knowledge of the cave and the artifacts is superb.

We were staying at Lower Dover in Unitedville which made us the last to get picked up on the way to the ATM.  We were picked up by a very nicely  air conditioned van. We shortly turned onto a rough road to begin our first leg of the journey.  The van stopped at a snack shop so we could get water and snacks for the ride. We should have grabbed some extra plantains because we were starving by the end of the trip.

It was about a 45 min drive to the parking lot once you turn off the western highway. Once we parked, Renan advised us to bring very little with us.  We left our dry clothes in the van and only brought with us our lunch, a pair of socks, and camera.  beware.... The clothes you are wearing are going to get completely soaked.  I advise guys to wear swim trunks and girls to wear their lightest clothing.

After packing our backpacks with the bare essentials and grabbing our helmets we were off.  We had to hike about 45min to 1 hour, passing through 3 small creeks to get to the beginning of the cave.  Thanks to Renan's knowledge and experience we made frequent stops to take photos and to listen to his stories.  There were many groups ahead of us so Renan knew to have us take our time so we would not be stuck waiting behind another group.  

Finally we reached the picnic area and Renan showed us the cave entrance!  WOW!   He told us we would eat lunch first so we could let the other groups clear out.  Great idea because we were already starting to get hungry!  

When finished we all began to put on our socks and helmets to get ready to enter the cave.  I wore Keen sandals which were perfect for me.  Others wore hiking boots and I think they may have been too big for this trip. The socks are for later in the cave but it is a good idea to put them on at the picnic area.

The cave adventure begins with a quick, refreshing swim across a small pool. Once on the other side its time to turn on the headlamps because it gets dark very quickly. Renan led us safely through the many twists and turns, stopping often to admire the various stalactites and stalagmites.  You're often wading through ankle and knee deep water, but occasionally it's armpit deep requiring a short swim.  There is a fun part in which you must squeeze your helmeted head through a crack before allowing your neck and body to follow.  As the water begins to shallow, you suddenly find yourself climbing a large boulder to get to an upper shelf.  It is here where you take off your hiking shoes and have on just your socks.  At this part of the journey you are introduced to many of the ancient Mayan artifacts.  Various sizes of clay bowls are scattered throughout the enormous cave and human remains are also visible.  You continue just a bit further and must climb a ladder to a final shelf.  It is here that you see the remains of a young Mayan female and another young Mayan boy.

The experience is quite breathtaking, albeit more strenuous than originally expected.  Be sure to have your helmet snugly fastened because there were plenty of strikes on the low rocks. The trek out is much quicker although just as fun.  Be sure to ask your guide to have everyone in your group turn out their headlamps at the same time.  It is unbelievably dark.  

Once out of the cave, you collect your belongings at the camp and start the hike out.  Your clean and dry clothes await you at the van, and two changing rooms are available for your privacy.  Our van stopped for a cold beer on the way back and it was a perfect conclusion to an amazing adventure.  Hats off to Renan and Pacz tours!

Visited May 2011
3 Thank roxtar01
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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702 reviews from our community

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English first
Lorette, Manitoba
Level Contributor
50 reviews
15 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 47 helpful votes
“Booked with K'atun Ahaw Tours from Casa Blanca Hotel....excellent highly recommended.”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 9, 2011

My husband and I booked ATM - our tour guide was Elias and he was excellent. The tour was semi-private with another couple joining us. Elias had a jeep type vehicle needed for the bumpy dirt road ride to ATM. He spoke excellent English and is well educated with a great personality to match. Cost for each was $75.00 US and included lunch and pick up at our hotel . ATM is well worth your time and is a must do in Belize. We recommend that you stay in San Ignacio and tour the area from there. San Ignacio gives you a true flavor of Belize. While there are certainly tourists in town the city does not solely rely on tourism.

Very pleased with K'Atun Ahaw Tours - we also booked Tikal with Elias and we highly recommend using their service. Clean, comfortable vehicles with an educated and trained tour guide that speaks good English is exactly what you need for a great adventure.

Visited January 2011
Thank SeineLady
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Great!! A must do in belize”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 1, 2011

we booked the tour at maya walking tours! This company is the best! Good english speaking guide who nows a lot of the cave and maya historie! Other booking company s in town san ignacio that also provide the tour are much shorter and dont take time for you to give ag good experiance! Go for maya walking tours for the real tour we loved it.


1 Thank Holland20
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago, IL
Level Contributor
173 reviews
114 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 185 helpful votes
“San Ignacio 'Must-Do' Activity”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 24, 2011

ATM is an absolute must-do if you're in Belize. I did my tour through Pacz and thought that their guides did an excellent job. Just understand that this is an active tour and not for the faint-of-heart. It takes about 45-minutes just to drive to the site (the ride gets EXTREMELY dusty), 45-minutes to hike to the entrance of the cave and you will be inside the cave for several hours.

Here are a few of my recommendations: #1 Do NOT apply insect repellant or sunscreen before your trip to ATM. For starters, you really won't need it but most importantly you should know that the farmers and people who live in the area rely on the water flowing through ATM for their drinking/cooking, showering and for use on their crops. Insect repellant and sunscreen contain chemicals which will contaminate the water. #2 I personally would discourage you from taking your backpack with you on the hike. Once you get to the entrance of the cave you have to completely empty your pockets and leave everything behind. The only thing you need is your food. You're much better off leaving your bag with one of the guides who stays with the van. #3 Be careful when crossing all three creeks. The water level isn't high but the river rocks can be extremely slippery. There were several times when I almost slipped and fell. #4 If you can afford it, I would highly recommend a waterproof case for your camera. I use C camera company which makes hard cases for its entire model line. It's about as expensive as the camera itself but worth every penny. I was able to take pictures along the hike that no one else could because their cameras had to be sealed in a waterproof bag carried by the guides. #5 I highly recommend water shoes. I had purchased a $20 pair of scuba shoes several years ago to go canyoneering in Costa Rica and it turned out to be a perfect investment. The scuba shoes have a rubber sole so I could both walk and hike between the cave and outdoors, not to mention the fact that they were closed toe. #6 You have to swim several yards into the entrance of the cave. Not a big deal if you know how to swim, but if you can't there are no life vests provided. #7 You are instructed when not to touch certain formations because the oils from your hand will kill its growth. #8 Someone recommended I put my dry socks in my helmet and it was perfect. Once my group got to the chamber and were instructed to remove our shoes, my socks were dry and kept my feet warm while everyone else had to squish around in their wet socks. #9 One of the coolest experiences came when we were leaving the cave. At a certain point we were instructed to form a human chain and turn off all of our headlamps. One of our guides then led us through the dark until we arrived at the lone area of the cave where you saw natural sunlight. My heart was beating in my chest but it made for a memorable moment. #10 Don't be afraid of ATM because it's truly a remarkable experience. You will get wet, be in the dark and have to climb up and down extremely tight spaces but it's all part of the adventure. There are reviews from people old and young with different skill levels. If they raved about how magnificent it was, you can do it too.

Visited May 2011
7 Thank appetite4trvl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
17 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“ATM tips”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 23, 2011

The other reviews say it all. I just want to add that my husband and I are 65 years old and in good shape. We went with our 30 something children and all of us had an amazing experience. Some reviewers mentioned being cold. We were not, in March, but then our guide had us put our t-shirts under our hard hats to put on in the dry part of the cave. Our guide held our cameras in his dry pack which he gave to us to use in the dry cave. I would have LOVED to have had a camera to document the rest of the cave. There is one rickety 14 ft. aluminum ladder that you have to climb, which was a lot scarier than any of the rocks. The guides,however,are so familiar with the path through the cave that they can tell you exactly where to put your hands and feet to get through difficult areas. The first time I cracked my head on a rock, I was so grateful for the hard hat. Favorite part of the journey for me was swimming through the underground pools. There is some discussion on limiting visitor access to the cave and artifacts, so don't wait to go on this trip.

Visited March 2011
1 Thank rpowell
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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