Corozal Bay is located adjacent to Corozal Town, in northern Belize, Central America. The Mayan ruins of Cerros are located across the bay from Corozal Town. The town is off the radar of most mainstream tourists, which makes it an ideal spot from which to explore the prehistoric roots of the area.
The site of Cerros is relatively easy to reach from Corozal Town itself, with both boat trips and road routes available. Travelling to the site on foot is a 10-mile trek, however, on dirt roads and tracks. Taking a boat trip is by far the simpler, if less adventurous, option.
Habitation on the site of the ruins dates back to 400BC, though the urban development of the site did not begin in earnest until around 50BC. Prior to that date, the site was a small village, where the main subsistence industries were fishing and farming, supplemented with some trading. The fertile soil and rich seas in the region made Cerros and Corozal Bay a prime spot for a settlement.
The progression of the site from a village to a more urban environment coincided with a cultural change, as the Maya in the area began to experiment with the idea of kingship as a political structure. The economy of the area around Corozal Bay also began to become wealthier and more productive around this time. The inhabitants of the site buried their homes, and replaced them with an impressive array of public squares and large temples.
The process of urbanisation seems to have come to something of a halt in about 100AD, however. The last of the town’s impressive structures date to around that time, with many of the other temples and plazas seeming to have fallen into disuse prior to that date. The population started to decline fairly rapidly at around this time, too, and new construction projects were limited to the periphery of the site.
The entire settlement seems to have been entirely abandoned by around 400AD, and was not found again until 1900. That was when amateur archaeologist Thomas Gann made note of some mounds, which he assumed were ancient ‘look-out points’. Gann was an Irish doctor, raised in England, who discovered and documented many Central American archaeological sites, while working as district medical officer in British Honduras for 25 years from 1894.
His noting of the mounds drew attention to the site, but archaeological work did not begin in earnest at Cerros until 1973. Since then, several impressive structures have been excavated. Ball courts, temples and pyramids can all be explored at the site now by visitors.
Several impressive masks, used for religious rituals by the Maya, were also discovered on the site. Burials have also been found, as well as several dwelling places. Much of the site still remains to be excavated.
Corozal Bay offers plenty of opportunities to rest and recuperate after a trip to Cerros, especially if visitors have walked to the site and back along the gravel track. There is a decent selection of places to eat for such a small town. Travellers can enjoy local Indian and Mexican restaurants, as well as pizza parlours.
As well as visiting the archaeological sites in the area, visitors can also relax by taking boat trips to nearby islands. Many of the boats leave from the Thunderbolt Dock in Corozal Bay. There is also a good range of shops in Corozal Bay, selling a variety of souvenirs and local items, as well as more general goods.
The best thing to do when visiting Cerros is to take a walk around the site, which should give a good idea as to what is the history and attraction of this area. Close to Cerros is another Maya site, Santa Rita Corozal. This is believed to have been the important Maya city of Chetumal, and visiting here is a nice way to complement a trip to Cerros, while staying in Corozal Bay.
Taking a trip to Cerros (Maya ruin in Corozal) is well worth doing. Corozal Bay itself is a charming town, which is somewhat remote, giving visitors the chance to sample a genuine slice of life in Belize. They can also see some of the deepest historical roots of the country, while enjoying an invigorating jungle adventure.