Orange Walk Town lies just 26 miles south-southwest by road from Corozal Town and 26 miles southwest from the Cerros Peninsula as well. From Orange Walk you will pass through the Villages of San Estaban, Progresso and Copper Bank before you reach Cerros and Cerros Sands.
In Orange Walk you can shop for food, supplies, construction materials, most items you will ever need. We have found the variety in the Hardware store a bit better than Corozal Town. Medical Clinics, Hospital, Emergency and Dental Care is also available. So if you cannot source a product in Corozal, you may find it here.
A sugar cane cutter overlooks the center street in Orange Walk town as cycle racers pedal their way to Belize City.
The scenic New River runs just south of Orange Walk. There are tour guide operators doing river runs to Lamanai located here. The smokestacks of the sugar mill can also be seen from this area. Sugar, though, no longer reigns supreme in Orange Walk. In addition to the economic boost from eco tourism, there has been agricultural diversification in recent years. This has seen the recent introduction of fields of soybean, onions and papayas as cash crops. The Orange Walk district is also well known for its cattle and rum production.
The Orange Walk District, with a population of just over forty thousand, is the country’s third largest populated district and is much more than sugar, soybean and honey country. Orange Walk provides exotic places to visit. The sights and sounds of nature abound here, either at the famous Mayan ruins of Lamanai and Cuello, or at various places along the New River for the jungle river adventurer. And, with over 400 species of birds recorded in this district, more so than anywhere else in the country, the Orange Walk District is truly a birder’s paradise.
And, of course, if one wants to continue further north after enjoying Orange Walk, 30 miles away is the border town of Corozal and the Free Zone for visitors bent on shopping or visiting the Casinos.
Archaeology students at Lamanai
Cruising the New River by boat to the Lamanai ruins is also a birder’s paradise. The waterway teems with bird life. Rare birds abound, like the roseate spoonbills, sun grebes and long-necked anhingas. Near the mouth of the lagoon is a large ceiba tree with a huge nest, home to a five-foot jabiru stork, the largest bird in the country which has a nine-foot wingspan.
And naturally, Program for Belize , with over 400 recorded species, also offers world class birding. “A Field Guide to the Birds of Belize” by Jones and Gardner will help visitors familiarize themselves with many of the species to be seen. The Gallon Jug Conservation Society, the Belize Audubon Society, the Lamanai Field Research Center or any of the lodges mentioned here also appreciate field notes from visitors who record rare, unexpected sightings. Near Orange Walk Town too is the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to many species of bird life, including herons, egrets and the famous Jabiru stork. According to folk stories, Orange Walk got its name from the many orange groves of the past that hugged the banks of the New River which flows through the town and was a major trading route centuries ago for the Maya.
The town is a cultural mix of Mestizos (Spanish-Maya), Maya, Chinese, East Indians and Creoles. The widely spoken languages in this district are Spanish, English and Creole. In the heart of town sits the 100-year old La Inmaculada Church, one of the many evidences of Spanish influence prevalent in Orange Walk. The British colonial history is also very much in evidence.
The Banquitas House of Culture was opened in September 2002 with a historical exhibit of Orange Walk Town from 1500 – 2002 AD. In addition to its displays of Maya artifacts, river travel, chicle making, sugar cane cutting and the north’s historic Catholic Church, Banquitas also reflects the colonial past. Banquitas, located on the western bank of the New River, was a way station for logwood cutters in colonial times; at the height of Maya life in the area, Banquitas was part of a community known as Holpatin; Banquitas was also the heart of colonial administration, where the British built Fort Mundy and today it is still the area where government offices are located.
Fishing along the New River is also common. Hand lines will pull up large mouth bass and other fish. Cruising the New River brings into view spectacular sites of flora and fauna, and crocodiles up to 16 feet long sunning along the river banks. Tours to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai, Cuello and Nohmul, as well as wildlife adventures, can easily be arranged, whether through guides in Orange Walk Town and its hotels, or directly from the nearby exotic jungle resorts mentioned earlier. Accommodations in Orange Walk Town itself are comfortable and moderately priced.
The nearby community of Shipyard is home to members of the Mennonite community. Like in other areas with Mennonite communities you can see the distinctive styles of denim-apparel with large straw hats, and use of the old-fashioned horse and buggy.
Nights in the town offer dancing, especially on weekends – punta rock, reggae, disco and bolero music are popular. Mi Amor Hotel downtown usually has regular weekend entertainment, and D* Victoria has a disco. In Orange Walk, probably more so than in other districts, Chinese and Spanish cultures are mixed – especially in the area of cuisine as there are more than two dozen Chinese restaurants in town. A little known secret to tourists is that the best carnival parade takes place in Orange Walk town every 21st September, Independence Day.
A 20-minute drive away from Orange Walk Town is Honey Camp Lagoon, which offers a freshwater swimming hole and a sandy beach surrounded by coconut palms. Also easily accessible from Orange Walk Town are Maruba Resort Jungle Spa, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, the Altun Ha Mayan Ruins and other Belize District sites (see Belize District for more information on these).
Rio Bravo Conservation Area
The Rio Bravo conservation center
The Rio Bravo is managed by Programme for Belize , a nonprofit organization with offices in both Belize and the United States . The government has approved a management program for the reserve that includes low-impact tourism, approved agricultural projects and limited and controlled logging on certain portions of privately-owned lands that adjoin but are not actually on the reserve.
The reserve covers 280,000 acres. It is a tropical forest area that is home to all of the Belizean cats (jaguars, puma, ocelot, margay and jaguarundi) and numerous other animals, including both howler and small monkeys, gray foxes, king vultures, and over 80 species of bats. Over 400 species of birds reside in the area’s forests, as well as over 200 varieties of trees and 250 different kinds of orchids. Along one trail is located what some claim is the largest mahogany tree in Belize (the country’s national tree is the mahogany).
Visitors to the Rio Bravo area can find accommodations at Programme for Belize. Programme for Belize has two field stations in the area. La Milpa Field Station sleeps 46 in four cabanas (eight units each with private baths) and a 30-bed dormitory. The Hillbank Field Station is on New River Lagoon. It is a forestry research center which sleeps 38 in two cabanas (four units each with private baths) and a 30-bed dormitory.