Altun HaOpen: 8-5 year-round
Fees: BZD 10/USD 5 per person. If desired, you can hire a tour guide for approximately USD 20.
Location: from the Philip Goldson - Belize City International Airport, take a left at the Northern Highway and travel approximately 10 miles/16 km. Turn right at the Old Northern Highway and proceed approximately 12 miles/18 km. Turn left at the sign for Altun Ha, and continue approximately 2 miles down the paved road to the parking lot for the site. Travel time is approximately 45 minutes from the airport.
Website: http://nichbelize.org/ia-maya-sites/altun-ha.html. A good map of the site, along with a description of the major features, can be found here.
Time Needed: 30 minutes minimum; 1-2 hours for the best experience.
Special notes: the Old Northern Highway is quite narrow (barely wide enough for 2 cars in spots) and was in poor condition when we traveled it in late October. Use caution and watch for large potholes and tour buses...Altun Ha has become a popular spot for cruise line tours during cruise season (generally December through June). You might want to check which days the cruise ships will be calling on Belize City during your vacation and plan around them...Only a small snack bar is available at the Altun Ha site, so plan on eating before or after coming...You are permitted to climb the steps to the top of the structures. It is easier than it looks in the tropical heat, though, so carry water and wear suitable shoes. The steps can get slick during and immediately after rains.
Altun Ha roughly translates to "Rockstone Water", named after the man-made water reservoir located on the site (do not swim in the reservoir - it is rumored to be home to a 9-foot long crocodile). It was believed to have been inhabited from approximately 900 B.C. to 1000 A.D., and at its zenith, may have been home to more than 10,000 people. A sign marking the spot greets you after you walk through the entrance gate, along with a historical marker.
Standing on top of the A-3 temple with a good view of Plaza A. It's a long way down. The A-3 temple structure is also believed to date to the 6th century.
A-3 temple with Plaza B in the background.
There are actually several other areas of ruins within the park site; you may see these referred to as "Sections C through H" in various literature on Altun Ha. However, these sections did not appear to be open to the public during our visit. It is possible that these other sections are accessible during the high season.
Altun Ha is worth a visit if you come to Belize, and probably the easiest of the Mayan ruins to reach given its proximity to Belize City. We decided to act as our own tour guides to Altun Ha. Since everyone in Belize speaks English, this is easy enough and a good way to save some money for other things, but if you'd rather not do that, guided tours are available from most hotels in Belize City and Orange Walk. Or, you can visit Belize on a cruise ship, and take a ship-provided tour. Prices generally range from $60-80 a person if you want to go that route.