Places for a Dip
Mayan culture, past and present, may be the main attraction of Punta Gorda, but it also boasts plenty of natural attractions. In the forested hills south of San Antonio is one of the most beautiful swimming holes in all of Belize. Flowing out of a cave in a limestone mountain, the aptly named Blue Creek is a cool stream with striking deep turquoise water. Lush rainforest shades the creek, creating an idyllic place to spend an afternoon. You can cool off by swimming up into the mouth of the cave from which the stream flows. Blue Creek is also known locally as Ho Keb Ha, which means "the place where the water flows from." During the dry season, you can actually hike about 8km (5 miles) through the cave to an aboveground exit. The village of Blue Creek is reached from a turnoff about 2.4km (1 1/2 miles) east of San Antonio. From here it's another 4km (2 1/2 miles) south on a rough dirt road. The creek runs right through the little village, but the best swimming holes and the cave source of the creek are about a 10- to 15-minute hike upstream.
Just off the Southern Highway, near the village of Big Falls, there is a natural hot spring that's billed as the only such hot spring in Belize. You can have a refreshing swim in the river at the falls and then warm your muscles in the hot spring. This is a popular spot for locals on weekends.
There are also some attractive small waterfalls near the village of San Antonio, with inviting pools for a refreshing dip.
The fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling to be had off Punta Gorda are world-class. Kayaking on the ocean or up the Moho River is also excellent. Most tour operators and hotels in town can offer or line up a snorkel, dive trip, or fishing expedition out to the very underexplored Sapodilla Cayes.
If you want to do an extended dive trip, or some volunteer work in marine conservation, check in with the folks at Reef Conservation International (tel. 702-2117; www.reefci.com). These folks have cabins and campsites, as well as research and dive facilities on the idyllic Frank's Caye, which is part of the Sapodilla Marine Park.