A single ancient Maya temple rises along the Corozal Bay in the outskirts of Belize’s northern-most town of Corozal. Known as Santa Rita, this archaeological site may not be large, but it does not lack in splendour. Believed to once have been part of the great coastal Maya city of Chetumal, occupied from 2000 BC to 1530 AD, Santa Rita is, in my opinion, the perfect site for my toddler’s first exploration into the ancient Maya world.
As a travel aficionado, I have been eager to take my little one on adventures across Belize since the day she was born. Now 19 months old, Inori is finally ready to take off with momma and explore her little country. Of course, travelling with a toddler is not always easy, so I have to shy away from the more remote and challenging destinations. Located just outside of the heart of Corozal Town, Santa Rita proved to be the right location for my toddler’s adventure debut. A day trip from San Pedro Town; our journey began with a quick flight aboard Tropic Air followed by a short, 15-minute car ride to the site.
Santa Rita is open seven days a week, 8AM to 5PM. A small park fee of $5BZ for Belizeans and $10BZ for foreign visitors is charged at the entrances. In Belize, Sundays are considered family day, so Belizeans enter free at all archeologically sites across the country.
At its peak in history, archaeologists believe Santa Rita once covered the entire area of what today is Corozal Town and enjoyed the status of being the provincial Maya capital of Chetumal. However, today only one temple has been restored. Structure Seven is the tallest of all the structures at Santa Rita and one of the few that still exists. The modern-day town of Corozal was now built over many of the other ancient temples of Chetumal.
To my curious toddler, Structure Seven raised high into the skies, and she was eager to reach the top. The temple is decorated with elaborate murals showcasing sacrificial rituals. I enjoyed sharing this piece of history with my daughter. With every stride she took to climb higher and higher, I am reminded of the importance it is to pass down our Belizean heritage to our little ones. For Inori, this was just the first adventure of many yet to come!
Fun fact: Almost every year, on the beautiful grounds of Santa Rita Archaeological Site a ceremonial wedding is held. With the help of the Corozal Chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) and the Corozal House of Culture, the students of the Corozal Junior College re-enact the wedding between Maya Princess Tzazil-Ha and Spanish Conquistador Gonzalo Guerrero. The grand event is not only a tribute at keeping the Maya culture alive, but a chance to relive history. It’s usually held in December of each year, but the exact details and date aren’t available until closer to the date.