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Traditions in Belize: La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge

By Belize Hotel Association Staff 3/26/2019 2 minutes

What is the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge?

The La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge is the longest canoe race of its kind in Central America consisting of 170 miles of paddling along  the Belize River over the course of 4 days. The race has been listed as one of the world-renowned Peak Races' 100 Toughest Races in the World. It is held annually in the month of March and it brings together about 90-100 teams of professional and amateur paddlers from all over the world.

Now in its 22nd year, the first Ruta Maya Race, took place in March 1998. The event was first proposed by Richard Harrison, a Belizean investor, after which several partners came together to create this annual event. The aim is to promote natural products, while focusing on strength and endurance and mainly to raise awareness of the Belize Old River, which is one of Belize’s most famous and recognized assets.

All teams participating in this canoe race consists of three members who must be aboard the canoe at the start of the race, no substitutes are allowed once the race has commenced. The race is divided into eight different skill categories which include Male, Female, Family and Master’s to name a few. All must follow the bottom underlying stringent rule stating that propulsion can only be manual, human muscle powered, and with single blade paddles only.

When is La Ruta Maya 2019?

The La Ruta Maya canoe race is scheduled for Friday, March 8, to Monday, March 11, 2019. Many teams participating in the race usually start their training months before the actual competition as it is a high-endurance competition.

Where does the La Ruta Maya canoe race start and end?

The start of the race sees hundreds of locals and visitors trooping to the banks of the Macal River in San Ignacio Town to watch the canoes pass and to cheer on their favorite teams.  In addition, at some places like Burrell Boom, along the river bank, you can get delicious local food and enjoy music and festivities while giving support to the teams as they arrive.

At each station, prizes are also presented to the teams based on their categories and on the final leg, the champion winners are awarded the Kinich Ahau trophy which is theirs to display for the entire year, until the next race.

The route for La Ruta Maya is as follows:

  • Day 1: Hawksworth Bridge in San Ignacio Town to Banana Bank
  • Day 2: Banana Bank to Double Head Cabbage
  • Day 3: Double Head Cabbage to Henderson Bank in Burrell Boom
  • Day 4: Burrell Boom to the Swing Bridge in Belize City

How to watch the La Ruta Maya River Challenge?

You can watch the La Ruta Maya race at any stops going eastward along the Macal and Belize Rivers.

Where to watch La Ruta Maya River Challenge?

Some of the popular spots to watch the race are:
  • Hawksworth Bridge or Wooden Low-lying Bridge in San Ignacio/Santa Elena Town
  • Baking Pot Ferry
  • Iguana Creek Bridge
  • Banana Bank
  • Burrell Boom
  • Lord’s Bank
  • Swing Bridge in Belize City
The La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge is more than just a canoe race for the Belizean people. It is a yearly tradition that brings out the mightiest of hearts, locally and internationally, for a grueling 4-day canoeing competition.

If you’ve never been a part of La Ruta Maya, then be sure to plan to visit Belize for the month of March to watch this exciting event. You can follow this race from beginning to end, or maybe schedule a day to enjoy the festivities at one of the river banks and cheer on the paddlers as they arrive.

La Ruta Maya River Challenge - Photo Cred: Black Orchid Resort
La Ruta Maya River Challenge - Photo Cred: Belizing.com

Belize Hotel Association Staff