How to Visit Rio On Pools in Belize

Your Friend the Nomad

How to Visit Rio On Pools in Belize

Hoping to swim in Belize’s majestic Rio On Pools?

This Rio On Pool Belize travel guide is for you! Keep reading for everything you need to know before visiting Rio On Pools, including how to get there (and road conditions to be aware of), plus what to bring and other insider tips.

I recently spent a month exploring Belize alongside my family that lives in Belize. Rio On Pools was one of the places that really exceeded my expectations. Tucked away in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in Belize’s Cayo District, these natural swimming holes along the Rio Frio river made me feel like I was in North Carolina, or Washington, not tropical Belize.

The thousands of natural pools that form along this part of the river are perfect for a refreshing swim โ€” and some of the smaller pools even heat up quite a bit in the sun if you fancy a warmer bath.

Woman sitting in small pool at Belize Rio On Pools

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๐ŸŒบ My Belize Favorites ๐Ÿ

๐Ÿคฟ Barrier Reef Snorkeling & Diving: Belize has the best snorkeling I’ve ever experienced! You can book guided snorkel and dive trips from Hopkins, San Pedro, or Caye Caulker. Browse Belize snorkel and dive trip.

๐ŸŒฒ Escape to Mountain Pine Ridge: Climb up in elevation to a cooler (and less visited) area with gorgeous waterfalls, fun swimming holes, Mayan ruins, and so much more! You will need a vehicle with 4WD here, butย this day trip from San Ignacio is also an option.

๐Ÿฅพ Cave Adventures: Cave tubing is an adventure unique to Belize, and many people come all the way here to experience the ATM Cave, where you can witness human remains and Mayan artifacts.

๐Ÿš™ Explore the Hummingbird Highway: This breathtaking lush scenic drive connects the Cayo District and the Caribbean coast. Stop along the way at waterfalls, a cenote, a chocolate workshop, caves, and more! My guide to the Hummingbird Highway.

๐ŸŒด Where to Stay: A sustainable jungle treehouse beside the beach in Hopkins at Hamanasi, a quiet breezy room at Weezie’s on the vibrant small island of Caye Caulker, or a luxury bungalow overlooking waterfalls at Gaia Riverlodge.

Find more of my Belize favorites and Belize travel tips at the bottom of this article!

Visiting Rio On Pools, Belize

The Rio On Pools are located in Belize’s Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, in the Maya Mountains of Belize’s Cayo District, close to the Guatemala border. This mountainous part of Belize is popular for its pristine nature and cooler temperatures.

Historically, many part of Mountain Pine Ridge have been inaccessible because of the terrible quality of the unpaved roads. However, the local government is currently paving roads throughout the nature reserve, so I expect Rio On Pools and the rest of Mountain Pine Ridge to become more popular in the years to come.

Swimming in the natural pools at Rio On Pools is one of the best things to do in Mountain Pine Ridge Belize. Even in the wintertime this area is still warm enough to go for a swim. I visited on a cold February weekend but still enjoyed swimming here!

The pools are part of the Rio On River (also called Pear River), which is a tributary of the Macal River.

Rio On Pools Visitor’s Information

๐Ÿ“ท Features & attractions: Natural pools and small waterfalls along the river, plus beautiful mountain vistas
๐Ÿ’ต Entrance fee: None (free to visit)
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ Onsite facilities: Changing rooms, bathrooms, picnic area, and fire pits
โฐ Opening hours: Open daily, no specific opening hours
๐Ÿ—บ Location: X2PC+QXX, Douglas Da Silva, Belize
๐Ÿฅพ Accessibility notes: 4WD vehicle required, short hike along a decently maintained trail (not wheelchair accessible).


How to Drive to Rio On Pools

If you want to drive to Rio On Pools independently, you’ll need a high clearance 4×4 vehicle. Although the main road in Mountain Pine Ridge was recently paved and is in great shape, the other roads, including the short road to Rio On Pools, are not paved and in poor shape. In addition, the Rio On Pools parking lot is in rough shape.

You can compare rental prices from various local Belize rental companies here. I usually end up renting from Crystal Auto Rental when Iโ€™m in Belize.

To reach Rio On Pools, head to Mountain Pine Ridge. The drive to the pools from the entrance of Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve takes about 20 minutes. Follow the signs and turn off the main road. Then park by the trail to Rio On Pools.

The walk to Rio On Pools is along a short trail and takes about five minutes. Be careful as you walk since the rocks along the trail can get quite slippery. If it has recently rained, expect mud!

Woman standing beside natural pools at the Rio On Pools in Mountain Pine Ridge Belize

Tours to Rio On Pools

If you don’t have access to a 4WD vehicle or you’re traveling solo, I highly recommend going on a Mountain Pine Ridge day trip with this incredible local tour company. I’ve had great experiences with this company on their other tours, and their Mountain Pine Ridge experience has lots of five star reviews. You get to enjoy Rio On Pools and visit a few of my other favorite spots in Mountain Pine Ridge including Rio Frio Cave and Big Rock Falls.

This other Mountain Pine Ridge day trip is also an option, with lovely reviews. This day trip includes a visit to Rio Frio Cave, Big Rock Falls, and Rio On Pools.

Belize Travel Blogs

What to Pack for Rio On Pools

๐Ÿ‘™ Bathing suit: Wear or pack a swim suit! There are changing rooms at the base of the river at Rio On Pools if you need them. You may also want to bring a change of clothes for afterward!

๐Ÿฅค Drinking water and snacks: Mountain Pine Ridge is a nature reserve with very little development, and only a few restaurants at the lodges. Bring all the water you’ll need for the day, plus snacks and maybe lunch!

๐Ÿฅพ Water shoes, hiking shoes, or sandals: Pack some shoes you can walk in down muddy hills and along slippery rocks. I brought these shoes that are grippy and sturdy for hiking and double as water shoes!

๐Ÿ’ฆ Travel towel: I love this fast drying, sand resistant travel towel. I bring it everywhere!

๐ŸŽ’ Dry bag: A dry bag like this can be very helpful to keep all your valuables safe and dry!

๐Ÿ› Bug spray and sunscreen: I didn’t have any issues with bugs while I was in Mountain Pine Ridge, but definitely experienced my fair share of itchy bug bites during my month in Belize. Always bring insect repellant just in case!

๐Ÿ“ท GoPro or waterproof phone case: I have a GoPro Hero11, which has 27 megapixels and screens on both sides, and I love it!

๐Ÿฉน Travel insurance: While it is not a physical item to pack, please donโ€™t forget to purchase travel insurance in case something happens! I always buy a policy with SafetyWing.

Left: The mouth of Rio Frio Cave, Right: Sipping a mocktail at Gaia Riverlodge

More Things to do Nearby Rio On Pools Belize

If you’re making the journey to Rio On Pools from San Ignacio, Belize City, or another part of the country, consider checking out some other gorgeous spots in the Mountain Pine Ridge area! My favorite things to do nearby include:

๐Ÿ”ฆ Seeing the Giant Rio Frio Cave: This massive cave is just a short drive away from Rio On Pools, and its 110% worth visiting if you are in the area. However, do not go here if there has been rain and be careful driving as the road is in very rough shape!

๐Ÿ‘™ Swimming Beneath Big Rock Falls: This beautiful waterfall is the most popular attraction in Mountain Pine Ridge and is definitely worth a stop if you have time!

๐Ÿน Enjoy a Drink at Gaia Riverlodge: Slow down and take in the tranquility of Mountain Pine Ridge at Gaia Riverlodge’s boho luxury restaurant overlooking the Five Sister’s Waterfall.

๐Ÿฆ‹ Visit Green Hills Butterfly Ranch: Learn about the butterfly lifecycle and spot 7 species of hummingbirds here!

Read more about these Mountain Pine Ridge attractions and others in my full guide to the best things to do in Mountain Pine Ridge Belize.

Woman sitting at the Rio Pools in Belize

Getting Around Mainland Belize

๐Ÿš™ Renting a Car: The best way to experience all (mainland) Belize has to offer is to rent a car! Just keep in mind that some roads are not in the best shape and you should never drive for the first time after dark (learn the potholes in the light first!) You can compare rental prices from various rental companies here, but I usually end up renting from locally-owned Crystal Auto Rental when Iโ€™m in Belize.

๐Ÿš• Private Shuttles (and Tours): If you prefer not to drive in Belize, you can easily get around by booking a private shuttle from the airport, and then going on guided tours for all your jungle adventures. This shuttle is also the best option for folks flying into Belize airport and then going directly the islands!

๐Ÿš Public Busses: Riding the local chicken bus is a popular way to get around Belize for backpackers and budget travelers, but I wouldn’t recommend it to most people as the busses are hot, crowded, slow, and unreliable. Spend the extra money for a private shuttle (or car rental) so you can get your destination more quickly and maximize your time in beautiful Belize.

Best Things to do in Belize

๐ŸŒฒ Explore Mountain Pine Ridge: Perhaps the most underrated area of Belize, Mountain Pine Ridge is full of beautiful waterfalls and fun swimming holes, plus the most striking cave I’ve ever seen! You will need a vehicle with 4WD here, but this day trip from San Ignacio is also an option!

๐Ÿบ Discover Ancient Ruins: There are far more Mayan ruins here than you could ever expect. I recommend a day trip Tikal (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in nearby Guatemala, a river cruise to Lamanai in Northern Belize, and/or a visit to Xunantunich near San Ignacio.

๐Ÿ‘™ Experience ATM Cave or go cave tubing: Dare to explore the famous ATM cave system, where youโ€™ll swim upstream until you find rooms with hundreds of Mayan artifacts and human remains. Book your ATM tour here ahead of time (they sell out!) Or, go on a more relaxing cave experience, cave tubing!

๐Ÿš™ Drive the Hummingbird Highway: Belizeโ€™s most scenic drive connects the Cayo District to the Caribbean coastline. Chase waterfalls, swim in a cenote, indulge in local chocolate, go caving, and taste Belizeโ€™s famous hot sauce along the way. My guide to the Hummingbird Highway.

๐Ÿฆˆ Coral Reef Snorkeling & Diving: Whether you stay in Caye Caulker, San Pedro, or Hopkins, be sure to book a guided snorkeling or diving experience on Belizeโ€™s gorgeous barrier reef!

My Favorite Places to Stay in Belize

๐Ÿคฟ Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort in HopkinsThe best place I’ve stayed in Belize! Hamanasi is located in Hopkins, which is said to be the friendliest place in Belize. The town is full of Caribbean charm, and the resort itself is incredible with next-level service, a gorgeous oceanfront property, and wonderful guided day trips to both the jungle and islands. Read my review of Hamanasi.

๐ŸŒบ Weezie’s in Caye Caulker: My favorite hotel on the vibrant island of Caye Caulker. Weezie’s has a beautiful property on a quieter part of the island, but it is still very close to all of Caye Caulker’s restaurants. Check Weezie’s nightly prices.

๐Ÿš  Gaia Riverlodge in Mountain Pine Ridge: The most breathtaking (and peaceful) hotel I’ve ever seen! Gaia is situated on a cliff overlooking the river and mountains in Mountain Pine Ridge, with an excellent onsite restaurant, and a tranquil area by the waterfalls below to relax. Check Gaia Riverlodge nightly prices.

More Belize Travel Guides

๐Ÿบ Worth It? Belizeโ€™s ATM Cave Tour

๐Ÿš™ Unforgettable Stops Along the Hummingbird Highway

๐Ÿšค Best Lamanai Belize Tours & What to Expect

๐Ÿ  My Honest Review of Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort

Final Thoughts: Belize Rio On Pools

The Rio On Pools are one of my favorite hidden gems in Belize. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did, whether you join a Rio On Pools tour or visit on your own. And as you plan the rest of your Central America jungle and beach adventures, be sure to check out my other Belize travel guides!

This post How to Visit Rio On Pools in Belize first appeared on Your Friend the Nomad.