As the story goes, Tiger Cave got its name when a group of locals followed a large jaguar (or tiger as it was locally called) into a dark cave. The cave is also referred to as San Miguel Cave, as it is accessed from the Kekchi Maya village of San Miguel in the Toledo district. A local guide can be found in San Miguel, and visitors can either hike there and back, or arrange to hike there, and canoe back. The hike from San Miguel to the cave is about an hour and a half through plantations. The experience is different in the dry season, as the river is low, and the entire hike is dry.
Before reaching the cave, the trail passes a crystal clear spring. The water may be covered with leaves, but a closer look will reveal sparkling clean water underneath. The massive rock formations will appear as the cave entrance approaches. It is quite likely that you will not encounter other visitors, as this cave is not very well known. You will pass a lovely swimming spot in the river, but not to worry – a swim can be fitted into the schedule on the way back.
The cave is comprised of two sections. The first section is relatively well lit during the day, and a short hike inside will reveal an even more impressive entrance, leading to a ledge. This is the area where the “tiger” was said to have fallen when running from the locals, later giving the cave its name. Inside this section, it is necessary to carry lamps, as light quickly fades. The rock formation is impressive, and worthy of an extended visit.
After leaving the cave, a refreshing swim is a welcomed option. During the dry season, the river is low, and a dip in the river is a treat. The rocks on the make a perfect resting place for a snack and a cool drink. Butterflies rest carefully on the riverbanks, and the only people in sight are you, your companion and your guide. It truly feels like the dreamer’s interpretation of a hidden paradise.
If you elected to have a canoe ride back down the river (prearrangement necessary), a short walk from the swimming spot will lead you to the rendezvous point. A wooden canoe, with its captain (most likely a teenager from San Miguel) will take you home. The ride along the river is slow, and quiet, with lots of birds (including the Ringed Kingfisher and the Violacious Trogon). In the dry season, some areas along the river are too shallow for the canoe, and it is necessary to get out, and help to push it over the rocks.
When getting closer to the village, you may see locals fishing in the river, or women washing on traditional rocks. If school is out, children may very well be seen playing in the river. The trip ends at the bridge in San Miguel, just about the same place the trip started, maybe five hours prior.