ATM Cave Tour From San Ignacio: Is It REALLY Worth The Price?

Come find out all you need to know about going on an ATM Cave Tour from San Ignacio. From entry fees, safety, what to expect, what to wear, and more!


Get ready for an amazing journey as we reveal the fascinating wonders of the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave Tour! This highly acclaimed adventure from San Ignacio has captured the hearts of thrill-seekers and history enthusiasts alike.

Now when I was backpacking Belize, the ticket price was my budget for a few days. This is no doubt the most expensive thing I did in Belize and I had to be sure it was worth it.

I have been lucky enough to visit Belize twice since it is such an incredible country with so much to offer. Of course, I had to do an ATM Cave Tour from San Ignacio, and it has certainly been one of the highlights of both trips.

Now if you are similar to me this considerable price for an Actun Tunichil Muknal cave tour will certainly be something weighing on your mind. You will be asking yourself questions like “Is this really worth the price?” and “What makes this tour so special?”

Well lucky in this guide we give you all the answers to those burning questions and more! From the history and significance of the ATM Cave, to the logistics and what to expect on the tour, we have got you covered. So let’s dive in and find out if this once-in-a-lifetime experience is truly worth it!


navigating over rocks and following the guide inside actun tunichil muknal cave
navigating over rocks and following the guide inside actun tunichil muknal cave

🚗 How I Book Ferries & Shuttles In Belize: GuateGo


Historical Significance of ATM Cave

The ATM cave, located in Belize, served as a sacred site for rituals and ceremonies for the ancient Maya.

Initially explored around 300-600 AD, it wasn’t until 700-900 AD that the Maya ventured deeper into the cave, performing human sacrifices and presenting pottery and stoneware as offerings to their gods.

Within the cave lie numerous skeletons, some of which have been preserved by the cave’s mineral-rich environment.

Among them is the renowned Crystal Maiden, a young boy whose bones sparkle in the light. The cave’s unique formations create altars, silhouettes, and captivating shadows.

Abandoned by the Maya prior to the arrival of the Spanish, it was rediscovered in 1989 by Canadian geologist Thomas Miller.

Today, the cave stands as a national park and a highly sought-after tourist attraction, requiring the guidance of licensed experts and adherence to strict visitation regulations.

the impressive crystal maiden of belize, where she sparkles in certain lights
the impressive crystal maiden of belize, where she sparkles in certain lights source: MayaWalk

Why Visit The ATM Cave

The Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave is a true marvel of nature that captivates with its stunning beauty and awe-inspiring formations.

Travel back in time as you explore the maze-like chambers. Each turn unveils ancient Mayan artifacts that have endured through the ages. Admire the detailed carvings and paintings on the cave walls, narrating stories of a long-lost civilization.

Immerse yourself in the sacred atmosphere as you learn about the rituals and ceremonies that were once performed in this mystical cave. Imagine the echoes of ancient chants and the flickering light of ceremonial torches illuminating the darkness.

The ATM Cave offers a rare and immersive opportunity to connect with the rich history and heritage of the Mayan civilization, allowing you to experience firsthand the wonders that have fascinated explorers and archaeologists for centuries.

stalactites growing from the ceiling of the atm cave
stalactites growing from the ceiling of the atm cave

🚗 How I Book Ferries & Shuttles In Belize: GuateGo


Booking An ATM Cave Tour

Are you ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure with the ATM Cave Tour? Booking your tour is easy as! Simply reach out to one of the tour operators located in San Ignacio.

These tour operators specialize in providing exceptional experiences for visitors like you, ensuring you have a seamless and enjoyable journey through the mystical ATM Cave.

Personally, I traveled with MayaWalk Tours and can recommend them 100%.


How Much Does An ATM Cave Tour Cost

When it comes to pricing, it’s important to note that prices may vary depending on the package and additional services included.

However, the average price range for an ATM cave tour is between $90 USD and $125 USD per person.

swimming into the atm cave from the entry point in the jungle
swimming into the atm cave from the entry point in the jungle source: MayaWalk

What Is Included On The Tour

One thing to note is some packages may offer extra perks such as transportation, knowledgeable guides, and even a delicious picnic lunch to fuel your exploration.

Most tour operators provide all the necessary equipment, including helmets and headlamps, to ensure your safety and convenience.

Additionally, knowledgeable guides will accompany you throughout the tour, providing valuable insights into the cave’s history and significance. Transportation to and from the site is often included, making your journey seamless and hassle-free.

By booking in advance, you can secure your spot and have peace of mind knowing that everything is taken care of.


How Fit Do You Need To Be To Do An ATM Cave Tour

While the ATM Cave Tour promises an incredible adventure, it’s important to note that it involves physical challenges.

You should have a moderate level of fitness to navigate the cave’s terrain, which includes hiking, swimming, and climbing. The tour takes you through narrow passages, where you may need to squeeze through tight spaces and wade through waist-deep water.

Some sections require climbing and scrambling over rocks.

Now I am a plus-size girlie who spends a lot of her time working from her laptop. This means I am a bit larger than average and I am also quite tall as well. As you can imagine this did lead to some concerns especially when it comes to climbing and squeezing into tight crevasses.

Thankfully my fears disappeared when I met one of the tour guides, an extremely enthusiastic and passionate gentleman who embodied the phrase “If I can do it, you can do it”, and he was right!

One thing to note is that when it did come to tight squeezes through rocks, there was always a second option if you weren’t comfortable. As well as if you couldn’t pull yourself up in certain areas the guides would step in to assist.

Overall, don’t let your physical abilities stop you. As long as you are able to hike for a couple of hours and swim you will be fine!

climbing down a section of rocks into the river on the atm cave tour
climbing down a section of rocks into the river on the atm cave tour source: MayaWalk

🚗 How I Book Ferries & Shuttles In Belize: GuateGo


What To Expect At Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave

Once inside the ATM Cave, get ready for an exhilarating adventure like no other.

Wade through underground rivers, traverse narrow passages and marvel at stunning rock formations. Immerse yourself in the ancient world as you learn about Mayan rituals and witness the remnants of their sacred ceremonies.

An ATM Cave Tour offers the perfect balance of adrenaline-pumping activities and cultural enrichment.


Exploring the Cave System

The ATM Cave system is a wonderland of stalactites, stalagmites, and crystal formations. As you make your way into the depths of the cave, you’ll be stepping back in time, right into the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization.

The cave walls echo with ancient stories, if only we could hear them.

But don’t worry, our knowledgeable guides are there to fill you in on the history and significance of the site.

Remember that flashlight we mentioned? You’ll be using it to illuminate stunning cave drawings and pottery fragments left behind by the Mayans. And let’s not forget the skeletal remains from ancient sacrificial rituals, adding an eerie but fascinating touch to your adventure.

a lone traveler looking out into the atm cave with a head torch on
the impressive sights you will see on the atm cave tour source: MayaWalk

Swimming and Hiking Adventures

Crank up the adrenaline a notch higher with some exciting swimming and hiking experiences! You’ll find yourself wading through rivers that cut across the cave, surrounded by the cool murkiness that adds a hint of mystery to the adventure.

Just imagine swimming in the same waters where the ancient Mayans performed their sacred rituals!

Hiking through the ATM Cave is not just about reaching the end, it’s a journey.

With every step, you’re walking the same paths that the ancient Mayans once did. The thrill of climbing over rocks, navigating through narrow passages, and maneuvering around stalagmites makes the experience even more exhilarating.


Learning about Mayan culture

Stepping out of the ATM Cave, you might feel like an archaeologist fresh off a historical discovery. But hey, the exploration and learning don’t stop here!

The Mayan culture is a vast tapestry of fascinating beliefs, rituals, and traditions.

Be immersed in this rich heritage, visiting ancient ruins, meeting local artisans who continue to weave the threads of Mayan traditions into their handicrafts, and feasting on local foods that have been part of Mayan cuisine for centuries.

walking through one of the main caverns on the atm cave tour belize from san ignacio
walking through one of the main caverns on the atm cave tour source: MayaWalk

Safety Concerns and Rules In ATM Cave

It’s essential to follow the rules set by your tour guide to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Be mindful of potential risks and listen attentively to the instructions provided.

Your guide will be there to assist and guide you every step of the way.


Rules and Regulations to Follow

As adventurers, we need to respect the places we explore.

Stick with the group: It’s super important to stay together. No wandering off! The cave can be tricky to navigate, so your guide’s expertise is critical.

Wear appropriate gear: Helmets and life vests are non-negotiable—they’re there to protect you!

No touching: As much as you might want to touch the ancient artifacts or the cave formations, please resist! They’re delicate and we want to keep them intact for future explorers.

Photography: I know you’ll want to capture these incredible moments, but you cannot bring your camera into the ATM cave. This is a strict rule that was implemented after a tourist accidentally damaged an ancient skull with his camera.

Leave no trace: Adhere to the “leave no trace” principles. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter to preserve the cave’s natural beauty.

the entry to the beginning of the atm cave where you will need to wade through the water
the entry to the beginning of the atm cave where you will need to wade through the water

Potential Risks and Precautions

Adventure is fun, but it can come with a few risks—especially when exploring a place as wild and unique as the ATM Cave. So here’s the lowdown on what could go sideways and how you can prevent it:

Getting lost: With its winding paths and numerous chambers, it’s easy to lose your way in the cave. The best way to avoid this? Stick. With. The. Group.

Slips and falls: Those rocks can be super slippery, folks. Always watch your step.

Damage to the cave or artifacts: We all love a good souvenir, but these artifacts need to stay where they are. Touching can cause irreversible damage. So look with your eyes, not your hands!

Disturbing the wildlife: Yes, bats are cute, but they don’t necessarily think the same of us! Be mindful of your surroundings and watch out for the local inhabitants.

Flash floods: Unlikely, but possible. Listen to your guide and move quickly if they tell you to.

Now I do think there is a difference between the types of ATM Caves Tours offered. Some you must wear safety gear such as a lifejacket and others you don’t.

Personally, I am not the biggest fan of lifejackets, though I actually really enjoyed having it on this tour. They prevented my back or sides from getting scratched up if we were climbing in tight spaces and would provide a bit of padding in case something went wrong.

checking out the stalagmites and stalactites growing in a more open section of the atm cave
checking out the stalagmites and stalactites growing in a more open section of the atm cave

🚗 How I Book Ferries & Shuttles In Belize: GuateGo


Top Tips for Visiting

To ensure an exceptional experience during your ATM Cave Tour, here are some additional tips to consider:

  • Dress comfortably in lightweight, breathable clothing that allows for easy movement and flexibility. Opt for moisture-wicking materials to keep you cool and dry throughout the adventure. There is also a changing room at the carpark.
  • When it comes to footwear, choose sturdy closed-toe shoes or hiking boots that provide excellent traction and ankle support. The cave terrain can be uneven and slippery, so having reliable footwear is crucial for safety and stability. Don’t forget to bring socks as well!
  • Pack essentials such as insect repellent to ward off any pesky bugs that you may encounter along the way. Mosquitoes and other insects can be prevalent in the jungle surroundings.
  • Consider bringing a small first aid kit with basic supplies such as band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers. While safety measures are in place, it’s always better to be prepared for any minor incidents that may occur.
  • Plan your visit to the ATM Cave during the dry season for optimal conditions. This will ensure that the water levels are lower, making it easier to navigate through the cave without any hindrances. Check the weather forecast beforehand to avoid any unexpected surprises.
  • Do not bring any cameras or backpacks. This is a strict rule that was implemented after a tourist damaged an ancient skull with his camera.
  • Don’t forget to bring some nutritious snacks such as energy bars, trail mix, or fresh fruit to keep you fueled and satisfied during the day. It’s important to maintain your energy levels, especially during physical activities.
  • Be prepared for a challenging but rewarding experience. The ATM cave tour is not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. You will have to swim across a river, climb over rocks, squeeze through narrow passages, and walk on uneven surfaces.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared and ready to make the most of your ATM Cave Tour, creating unforgettable memories along the way. Enjoy the adventure!

hiking through a deeper section of water on the atm cave tour, using torches to see the way
hiking through a deeper section of water on the atm cave tour, using torches to see the way source: MayaWalk

My Experience On An ATM Cave Tour

As I previously said I went on an ATM Cave tour with Mayawalk. Day of we meet at their offices in town, sign some paperwork, and get suited up for the adventures.

A short while later it is on the bus, and off into the countryside. We stop briefly to grab some snacks so we can keep our energy levels up. It’s going to be a busy and hot day.

Back on the bus, we continue the drive before arriving in the car park. We jump out, use the bathrooms, and gear up for the first part of today’s adventure, the hike.

As we approach the trailhead, our guide gives us a rundown of what to expect, he also reiterates that cameras and backpacks are not allowed. I am glad he reminded us as I had a camera in my bag.

After a short hike, we come upon the river. Time for our first adventure crossing it! Thankfully the water levels were low enough so we could comfortably walk across.

Reaching the other side we continue the walk through the jungle attempting to spot some local wildlife on the way, but no luck.

After about 30 minutes we reach the entry point, but before venturing in we have some final snacks, a big drink of water, and leave our gear out. Since it is just tours here everyone’s stuff is pretty safe.

The next part of the tour required us to swim into the cave entrance. Our guide briefed us on what to expect and showed us where we needed to swim. With our life jackets securely on, we confidently swam into the dark cave.

Once inside, our guide turned on his headlamp and led us through the winding passages of the cave. Along the way, he pointed out different rock formations and explained their significance in Mayan culture.

Prepare to be amazed by the indescribable wonders that await you inside the cave. Every moment is filled with jaw-dropping beauty that words simply cannot capture. As you navigate through narrow squeezes and carefully choose your next step, you’ll feel like a skilled adventurer conquering uncharted territory.

Over the next three hours, we journeyed through a complex network of tunnels and dry chambers. We swam through dark waters, climbed towering boulders, and navigated narrow gaps like experienced rock climbers.

But the highlight of the exploration awaited us at the top. We reached Actun Tunichil Muknal’s famous ceremonial chamber, where the remains of the mysterious “Crystal Maiden” rest.

While debates continue about her gender and age, there’s no denying the awe-inspiring sight of her remarkably preserved, calcified bones. They emit a radiant sparkle, earning her the well-deserved nickname.

The chamber itself is also adorned with ancient artifacts and sacrificial remains, making for an unforgettable viewing experience.

As we made our way back out of the cave, our guide shared more fascinating information about the history and significance of this sacred site. We couldn’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity to witness such a unique and remarkable part of Mayan culture.

Back in daylight, we hike back to the carpark where to change into dry clothes and sit down to a delicious and well-deserved lunch, taking in the incredible scenery around us.

hiking through a more open and flat section on the atm cave tour belize
hiking through a more open and flat section on the atm cave tour belize source: MayaWalk

What To Pack For Your Visit

If you are planning to visit the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, you need to be prepared for a challenging and rewarding adventure. You will need to hike, swim, climb, and crawl through the cave with a licensed guide.

Here are some of the things you need to pack for your tour of Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave:

Hiking shoes or water shoes: You will need shoes that can get wet and have good grip and toe protection. You will be walking on slippery rocks, mud, and water inside the cave. Socks are also mandatory for preservation reasons.

Swimwear and shorts: Wear swimwear under your clothes, as you will have to swim across a river and through some sections of the cave. Shorts are recommended, as long pants can get heavy and uncomfortable when wet.

Extra set of dry clothes and sandals: You will need to change into dry clothes and sandals after the tour, as you will be soaked and dirty. There are changing facilities at the parking lot.

Small backpack: Make sure you have a small backpack to carry your essentials, such as water, snacks, bug spray, and sunscreen. You will have to leave your backpack at the entrance of the cave. Cameras are not allowed inside the cave, so don’t bring any.

Reusable water bottle: Bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill at the parking lot or at the river. However, bottles are not allowed inside the cave.

Snacks: Definitely pack some snacks to keep your energy up during the tour, as it can last up to 6 hours. Bring some light and nutritious snacks, such as granola bars, nuts, or dried fruits.

Bug spray: Bring some bug spray to protect yourself from mosquitoes and other insects that may be present along the trail or near the river. Apply it before you start the tour.

Sunscreen: You will need some sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun, especially if you have fair skin or burn easily.


🚗 How I Book Ferries & Shuttles In Belize: GuateGo


Where To Stay In San Ignacio?

San Ignacio is a popular destination for budget travelers who want to experience the natural and cultural wonders of Belize. There are many affordable accommodation options in San Ignacio, including hostels, guesthouses, campsites, and eco-lodges.

Personally, I stayed at Bellas Backpackers. I had a great experience at their Caye Caulker location, so I was looking forward to a similar experience in San Ignacio. However, I was surprised to find that the location here is much quieter than on the island.

I was actually the only person in my dorm for all 3 nights of my stay. On average, there were about 4 to 6 people staying at the property each night.

Despite the small number of guests, it created a cozy atmosphere. We would gather in the kitchen at night, discussing travel plans and cooking delicious meals.

If you prefer a more social environment, Old House Hostel is where most backpackers in San Ignacio stay. I met some travelers who were staying there, and they mentioned that it was quite busy, which is the opposite of my experience at the hostel in San Ignacio.

Bellas Backpackers

Bellas Backpackers

A chill family-style hostel in the center of town. Dorms start at $12.00 per night.

BOOK NOW
The Old House Hostel

The Old House Hostel

The most popular hostel in the town. Dorm rooms start from $12.00 per night.

BOOK NOW
Yellow Belly Backpackers

Yellow Belly Backpackers

Another lovely hostel in a great central location. Dorms here start for around $12.00 per night.

BOOK NOW
Nabitunich

Nabitunich

A beautiful countryside farm stay for a unique experience. Private rooms here start at $60.00 per night.

BOOK NOW

Things To Do In San Ignacio

San Ignacio in Belize offers a variety of attractions and activities for travelers who want to experience the natural and cultural wonders of the country. Here are some top things to do in San Ignacio:

Xunantunich Ruins: Explore ancient Maya ruins dating back to the 7th century AD. Climb the El Castillo pyramid for panoramic views of the jungle and river. Admire carvings and sculptures depicting Maya gods and rulers.

Green Iguana Conservation Project: Support the conservation of endangered green iguanas in Belize. Visit the project at San Ignacio Resort Hotel to learn about the iguanas and their habitat. Interact with and feed the iguanas.

Macal River: Enjoy the scenic and tranquil river. Take a walk along the riverbank, rent a canoe or kayak, or join a tubing tour.

Cahal Pech Archaeological Reserve: Explore another ancient Maya site located on a hill overlooking San Ignacio. Marvel at temples, palaces, plazas, and ball courts. Don’t miss the museum.

Tikal Mayan Ruins: Take a day trip to Guatemala to visit the famous Tikal Maya Ruins. Explore structures spanning over six centuries of Maya history. Keep an eye out for wildlife.

Caracol: Journey to the Chiquibul Forest Reserve to uncover the once-powerful Maya city of Caracol. Marvel at the Caana pyramid and other temples, tombs, altars, and carvings.

San Ignacio Market: Immerse yourself in the lively market that takes place every Saturday. Browse through fresh produce, crafts, clothing, and more. Try local dishes.


FAQs About Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave

How hard is the ATM cave in Belize?

The ATM cave is considered to be a moderately difficult hike, with some parts involving swimming and crawling. It is recommended that visitors have a moderate level of fitness and are comfortable in confined spaces. Professional guides will also accompany visitors on the tour to ensure safety and provide assistance if needed.

Can children visit the ATM cave?

Children under the age of 8 are not allowed on the ATM cave tour due to safety concerns. Older children may be able to visit with their parent’s consent, but it is ultimately up to the discretion of the guide and tour company.

How long of a walk is it to the ATM cave?

The hike to the ATM cave takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your pace and fitness level. The trail can be uneven and slippery at times, so it is important to wear appropriate footwear. Also on your way back you will be wearing wet socks so it can be pretty uncomfortable.

Is ATM tour worth it?

Many visitors consider the ATM cave tour to be one of the highlights of their trip to Belize, myself included. It offers a unique and immersive experience that combines history, adventure, and natural beauty. The cave itself is an incredible sight to behold with its ancient artifacts and crystal-clear pools.

How much does ATM cave cost?

The cost of the ATM cave tour varies depending on the tour company and whether or not transportation is included. On average, it costs around $90 to $100 per person for a guided tour with transportation from San Ignacio. It is important to research different companies and look at their safety practices as well as prices.

How deep is the water in the ATM cave?

The water in the ATM cave can range from ankle-deep to chest-deep, depending on the season and rainfall. It is important to note that there are some areas where visitors will need to swim or wade through deeper water, so it is recommended to bring a change of clothes for after the tour.

How old are the skeletons in ATM caves?

The skeletons in the ATM cave are estimated to be over 1,000 years old and belong to the ancient Maya civilization. These remains were discovered in 1989 by a local farmer and have since been studied by archaeologists, providing valuable insights into the lives of the Maya people.

How big is the ATM cave?

The ATM cave is approximately 5 kilometers long and features narrow passageways, large caverns, and underground waterfalls. It is a challenging but rewarding hike, with some areas requiring crawling or squeezing through tight spaces. However, the incredible sights and historical significance make it all worth it.

How long is the ATM Cave tour in Belize?

The average length of the ATM cave tour in Belize is around 3 to 4 hours, including transportation time. However, the duration can vary depending on the tour company and group size.

🚗 How I Book Ferries & Shuttles In Belize: GuateGo


Wrap Up: ATM Cave Tour San Ignacio

In conclusion, the ATM Cave tour is an unmissable adventure for anyone visiting San Ignacio. This experience offers a unique blend of physical challenge and historical exploration that is sure to leave you with a deeper appreciation of the rich Maya history.

Be prepared to be dazzled by the cave’s natural beauty and intriguing archaeological treasures.

This journey into Belize’s underworld is not just a tour but a voyage into a fascinating past that promises to be an unforgettable part of your Belizean experience.


Any Questions? Let me know in the comments!


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Come find out all you need to know about going on an ATM Cave Tour from San Ignacio. From entry fees, safety, what to expect, what to wear, and more!

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Photo credit: “Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave Entrance“, “Cave Formations” & “The Great Chamber(CC BY 2.0) by Bernard DUPONT . “Cave Tourist ATM” & “Cave Tourist ATM” (CC BY 2.0) by Tony Rath .

Other photos were provided by Maya Walk Tours.


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.


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