If you're staying in Orange Walk Town, you might want to visit the Banquitas House of Culture, at Main Street and Banquitas Plaza (tel. 322-0517), which is set just off the river on some expansive and manicured grounds. The House of Culture itself features a small collection of artifacts and historic displays from the Mayan, logging, and colonial eras. There's also a small amphitheater here that very occasionally may have live music, theater, or dance. In the center of town you'll find La Inmaculada Church, one of the few colonial Spanish churches in the country.
Two of the most popular tours out of Orange Walk Town are to Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and the Lamanai ruins.
If you're looking for some nearby outdoor adventure and a refreshing dip, head to Honey Camp Lagoon, which features an unlikely sandy beach ringed by palm trees next to a spring-fed freshwater swimming hole. Honey Camp Lagoon is located about a 20-minute drive south from Orange Walk Town, via the Old Northern Highway.
If your hotel can't hook you up and you want a local guide for any of the aforementioned tours or trips to any of the nearby ruins or up to Lamanai , call J. Avila & Sons River Tours, 42 Riverside St. (tel. 322-3068), or Jungle River Tours, 20 Lovers Lane (tel. 302-2293), which is run by the very personable and knowledgeable Wilfrido Novelo.
A Couple of Minor Mayan Sites Nearby
Cuello -- This small site is located just over 4.8km (3 miles) from Orange Walk Town, near the Cuello Rum Distillery. It is named after the family that owns the land and distillery, and permission to visit the site must be obtained in advance. While very small and little excavated, Cuello is nonetheless one of the oldest-known Mayan sites in Belize, showing evidence of occupation as far back as 2600 B.C., in the early Pre-Classic Period.
There are two main plazas on the site, surrounded by small temples and ceremonial structures. Very little has been excavated and restored so far. Evidence exists that this minor ceremonial city was razed on more than one occasion during distinct warring periods.
Permission to visit Cuello can be obtained by stopping at the rum distillery at the entrance to the site, or by calling in advance (tel. 322-2183). If you ask, you will probably be able to get a quick tour of the distillery as well. You might also be able to arrange for a guided tour by asking around Orange Walk Town. To get here, take the San Antonio Road out of Orange Walk Town towards Yo Creek.
Noh Mul -- Noh Mul means "great mound," and this site boasts the largest Mayan structure in the Orange Walk District. Noh Mul was active in two distinct periods, the late Pre-Classic era from around 350 B.C. to A.D. 250, and during the late Classic era from A.D. 600 to 900. At the time, it was a major ceremonial center and supported a massive residential community that extended for nearly 21 sq. km (8 sq, miles). One of the more interesting features here is the fact that the two major ceremonial plazas are connected by a raised walkway, or sacbe. Crude excavation techniques, pillaging, and local agriculture have combined to limit the amount of restoration and conservation in evidence at Noh Mul.
Noh Mul is located about 1.6km (1 mile) west of the small village of San Pablo, which itself is about 14km (9 miles) north of Orange Walk Town. Any nonexpress bus running the northern line to Corozal and Chetumal can drop you off at San Pablo. However, your best bet for visiting Noh Mul is to try to arrange a tour in advance in Orange Walk Town or Belize City. You should have permission to visit Noh Mul; to get permission in San Pablo, check in with Estevan Itzab (no phone), whose house is located across from the water tower in the heart of the village. There are no facilities on-site, so bring some food and water with you.