Belize has a lot more to offer than just palm trees, white-sand beaches, and bright blue Caribbean Sea! Out in the lush, green jungle, countless adventures and off-the-beaten-path things to do in San Ignacio, Belize await you.
Visit San Ignacio to discover moss-covered Mayan ruins dripping with ancient history; unspoiled rainforest reserves bursting with waterfalls and wildlife; mysterious subterranean caves hidden away in the Belizean jungles; and a generous helping of local Belizean life and culture.
I came to San Ignacio expecting to visit a Mayan ruin or two, and then to head straight back to the coastline. But, no. San Ignacio turned out to be my favorite town in all of Belize… and it was difficult to leave! There’s magic in the air, water, soil, and treetops here!
Keep reading to uncover my selection of the 15 best things to do in San Ignacio, Belize!
15 Best Things to Do in San Ignacio, Belize
In this San Ignacio guide, you’ll find everything you need to know for a successful trip to San Ignacio, Belize – from where to go, what to see and do, how to get there, where to stay, and more!
Feel free to use this table of contents to jump to specific sections – or simply read on.
Table of Contents
- 15 Best Things to Do in San Ignacio, Belize
- Why Visit San Ignacio?
- 15 Incredible Things to Do in San Ignacio, Belize
- San Ignacio, Belize Travel FAQs
- Did you know…
Why Visit San Ignacio?
San Ignacio is the hub of western Belize’s Cayo District, the largest district in the nation. Though it’s one of 5 must-visit Belize destinations for travelers, San Ignacio thankfully lacks that overly-touristy feel (no offense, Caye Caulker!).
As you meander San Ignacio’s art-filled streets, Belizean day-to-day life and culture buzz around you.
This is a lived-in town – and has been for some time! You’ll discover the country’s Mayan history everywhere; not only at the ruin sites, but also in the faces of descendants and in moments of culinary bliss.
There are a ton of fun things to do in downtown San Ignacio and in the surroundings.
Plus, the town’s strategic location will provide you with easy access to all the gems around the Cayo District (like the ATM Cave, Xunantunich, Caracol, and the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, just to name a few!).
You’ll have endless opportunities to learn about Belize’s heritage, support the area’s rich wildlife through ecotourism activities, and deepen your own connection with nature.
This article is here to help you plan the trip of a lifetime to San Ignacio, Belize!
What to Do in Downtown (+ Walking Distance)
1. Soak Up the Morning Light at Cahal Pech
One of the best Mayan ruins around San Ignacio, and my personal favorite, are the Cahal Pech ruins.
They are so majestic, you wouldn’t expect them to be perched just above bustling downtown San Ignacio. Go in the morning to experience walking between ancient pyramids with little to no other visitors.
Cahal Pech is often less touristy than other, larger Mayan ruins in Western Belize, like Xunantunich and Caracol. A morning at Cahal Pech will invigorate and inspire your day!
2. Mingle with Locals at the San Ignacio Market
How do soursop and calala sound? Exotic? Well, San Ignacio’s market is full of delicious tropical fruits, so why not walk through, and sample a few that you’ve never seen before?
Then, sit down at a food stall and order some freshly made Belizean street food – like fry jacks (fried, and sometimes stuffed, breakfast cakes) and salbutes (corn cakes topped with meat and veggies; a Mestizo tradition).
Oh, and don’t forget to try dukunu. This is a tamale-style dish of roasted corn blended with coconut milk, developed by the ancient Maya thousands of years ago!
Every Saturday at the San Ignacio Market, artisans from around the country come to sell their handmade treasures, like eco-friendly jewelry and woven tote bags (I still use mine daily!).
The San Ignacio Market is a buzzing and vibrant community event, and one of the best free things to do in San Ignacio!
3. Visit the Green Iguana Conservation Project
If you like animals, I’d recommend visiting the Green Iguana Conservation Project inside the gorgeous San Ignacio Resort Hotel. You’ll learn all about these scaly creatures and have the chance to hold them, too!
The Green Iguana Conservation Project ended up being one of my favorite things to do in San Ignacio, Belize.
The $11.25 USD tour fee goes to supporting their rehabilitation and is worth getting up close and personal with the beautiful green iguanas!
4. Admire the Street Art Around Town
Captivating murals grace the sides of many buildings around San Ignacio. Roaming around town and admiring these artworks is one of the simplest things to do in San Ignacio.
San Ignacio street art tells stories of Belize’s heritage, culture, and history.
A Painted Conversation, at the corner of West and Far West Street, is one of the largest. It tells the story of a midwife aiding in the delivery of 1,000 Belizean babies.
Behind Belize Bank on San Ignacio’s main street, Burns Avenue, are two more: Belize’s Past and Present, depicting just that, and a powerful painting of Kukulkan, the Mayan snake deity.
5. Take a Mayan Chocolate Making & Tasting Tour
Learn the Mayan history of cacao at the AJAW Chocolate & Crafts store in downtown San Ignacio. The art of preparing cacao – from fruit, to bean, to rich drink – is an important part of Mayan culture.
This shop is operated by a Ketchi Mayan family, so you can expect an authentic (and delicious) experience!
You’ll have the opportunity to grind cooked cacao beans on a stone metate, the traditional way – how cool! Sample the cacao drink, and purchase some powdered cacao at the gift shop to make your own at home.
Best Excursions Around San Ignacio (Cayo District)
6. Have a Blast on the ATM Cave Tour
Exploring this sacred site requires you to swim through a partially submerged cave system, climb through tiny crevices, and duck under stalactites (helmets are required and provided!).
As you learn about the human sacrifices that used to take place in the cave, time seems to stand still. Spelunking through the clear-water cave, seeing ancient Mayan artifacts, and bearing witness to a crystalized skeleton make this one of the top things to do in San Ignacio, Belize.
No photos, no phones, cameras, hard sneakers, or belongings of any kind are allowed inside – to preserve this extremely unique cave of the ancient Maya.
7. Tour Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park houses the ruins of an ancient Mayan civilization likely named “Yax Mutal”, dating back to the 6th century B.C.
The Tikal Mayan Ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the top things to do nearby San Ignacio if you’re looking to see as much as you can while in Central America!
The jaw-dropping monolithic structures of this ancient Maya city will leave a lasting impression.
Get excited to spot wildlife such as howler and spider monkeys, exotic birds such as macaws and parrots, and larger mammals like armadillos and brocket deer!
8. Caracol Maya Ruins
Make your way 25 miles south of San Ignacio, Belize to the Caracol National Monument Reservation. You’ll need a 4X4 high-clearance vehicle for this wild and winding road!*
At 25,000 acres, Caracol is the largest Mayan empire in the entire country! Climb 140 feet up to the tallest manmade structure in Belize, the “Caana”, or “Sky Palace”. Thousands of years ago, Caracol was the largest Maya center in Belize; an epicenter for politics and agricultural development.
Hot tip: You can either take this Caracol Maya Ruins Tour (Including Rio On Pools, Rio Frio Cave and a Picnic Lunch) or you can venture out on your own. Rent a 4X4 in San Ignacio at Matus Car Rental.
9. Get Wet at Rio on Pools
Ever been to a natural waterpark? On your way back from Caracol, take a couple hours to enjoy the incredible Rio on Pools!
Slide down the slippery moss-covered rocks and sit under the refreshing waterfalls of this natural wonder on the slopes of Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Rio on Pools is one of the most fun things to do in San Ignacio! Plus, it’s free!
As mentioned above, you can drive yourself to Rio on Pools, or book this Caracol Maya Ruins Tour (Including Rio On Pools, Rio Frio Cave and a Picnic Lunch)!
10. Walk into the Rio Frio Cave
While you’re up in the gorgeous Mountain Forest Pine Ridge Reserve outside of San Ignacio, venture into the limestone Rio Frio Cave, which will refresh you with its chilly waters flowing through.
The Maya used this 65-foot tall cavern for ceremonies, as its shape resembles an amphitheater space. Rio Frio Cave is one of the best off-the-beaten path and free things to do in San Ignacio, Belize.
Go on a wild Belizean adventure and drive yourself to the Rio Frio Cave, or book this Caracol Maya Ruins Tour (Including Rio On Pools, Rio Frio Cave and a Picnic Lunch)!
11. Day Trip to Xunantunich Mayan Ruins
The magnificent ruins at Xunantunich nestle right up against the Belize-Guatemala border just a half-hour drive from San Ignacio, Belize.
The 130-foot-tall “El Castillo”, “The Castle”, of Xunantunich is the country’s second-largest manmade structure! Of all the things to do in San Ignacio, Belize, appreciating the grand Mayan pyramids of Xunantunich is not something to skip.
Adventurers should consider booking Xunantunich and Cave Tubing Combo Tour, which stops for an epic three-hour cave tubing adventure at the Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve on the way back to San Ignacio!
12. Meander Around the Belize Botanic Gardens
After a 20-minute drive from San Ignacio, you’ll find the Belize Botanic Gardens. This is a great place to spend a few hours hiking, taking photos, and discovering Belize’s abundant flora.
You can take a self-guided tour, or book a private guided tour when you arrive (any time between 8 am and 2 pm) to learn about Belize’s medicinal plants, and the functional uses of indigenous trees and flowers. My favorite part is the Giant Bamboo forest!
13. Watch Birds of Prey at the Raptor Center
Visiting rehabilitation centers like the Green Iguana Conservation Project and the Belize Raptor Center are fun and educational ecotourism activities.
The staff at Belize Raptor Center rehabilitate birds of prey, such as owls, kites, hawks, and eagles, that have been recovered from around the Cayo District. Getting to feed an endearing White Kite was so special!
Bird lovers, this is one of the best things to do in San Ignacio, Belize!
14. Go Horseback Riding through an Ancient Maya Jungle City
Rare preserved Mayan artifacts, burial tombs, caves, and temples await you at the Minanha Maya archeological site, “the forgotten jungle city.”
On this Horseback Ride to the Forgotten Jungle City, gallop through thick green jungle canopy on your very own horse while learning about the Mayan civilization, Minanha, from the owners of this sacred land.
This is one of the most fun things to do in San Ignacio for history and horse lovers alike! Just be sure you’re up for a full day on horseback before you giddy up!
15. Canoe the Barton Creek Cave
The Barton Creek Cave is a famous archeological site and Maya ceremonial cave near San Ignacio. The cave is hauntingly beautiful.
The remains of at least 28 people (thought to be sacrificial victims) were buried throughout the 4.5 mile long Barton Creek river cave. Researchers have determined that about 1,800 years ago, rituals for agriculture, possible fertility rites rituals, bloodletting rituals, human sacrifice, and lineage internment took place within the cave.
Exploring Barton Creek’s cave system on this Barton Creek Canoe Tour is one of the top things to do in San Ignacio, Belize!
You’ll drift under the lush jungle canopy and paddle through cavernous twists and turns, while marveling at the many stalactites, spotting ancient Mayan artifacts, and learning about ancient Mayan history. Spooky!
How to Get to San Ignacio
Arriving in San Ignacio, Belize is simple from the airport in Belize City!
San Ignacio is just under two hours from Belize City by car. If you plan to rent your own car to explore all of Belize, then make sure to reserve a 4X4, lifted SUV; that way, no adventure is out of reach! This is my favorite car rental website for great deals; plus, free cancellation ensures you can book with confidence. Make sure to set Belize City as your pick-up and drop-off point for the cheapest deals.
If you prefer not to drive yourself, you can book this Private Shuttle to San Ignacio from Belize City International Airport. This is the most convenient and comfortable way to get to San Ignacio. Click here to book your private shuttle.
By bus, the ride is around three hours long. This is a local “chicken bus,” so expect a bumpy ride, frequent stops, crowds, and no air conditioning! Buses don’t leave from the airport, so you’ll have to hop in a taxi (about $25 USD) and drive 20 minutes to the nearest bus stop first. Buses leave roughly every 30 minutes, and the bus journey from Belize City to San Ignacio will cost less than $5 USD.
Alternatively, you can take a domestic flight on a puddle jumper plane from Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City to Maya Flats Airstrip outside of San Ignacio.
Where to Stay in San Ignacio
No matter your budget, I have you covered with the best places to stay in San Ignacio!
Here are my top picks:
- The Lodge At Chaa Creek ($$$): Extreme luxury awaits in the jungle! At Chaa Creek, watch monkeys swing from the trees, sip cocktails in the pool as toucans fly overhead, and fall asleep to the sounds of frogs ribbiting (in the most chic and comfortable of jungle lodgings!) Click here to book it!
- Ka’ana Resort and Spa ($$$): Pamper yourself with a luxury stay in the jungle, and be near all the best things to do in San Ignacio, Belize. Dine at the on-site restaurant and sip a handcrafted cocktail in the garden to unwind. Click here to book it.
- Gaia River Lodge ($$): In the heart of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest lies this adults-only, high-end ecolodge. Wake up in your thatched-roof cabana to howler monkeys in the remote jungle with a spa, bar, treehouse restaurant, and natural pool! Click here to book it.
- Falling Leaves Lodge ($$): Jungle chic! Stay right behind the Cahal Pech ruins in San Ignacio for your slice of tropical paradise, complete with restaurant, spa, and multiple accommodation options. Click here to book it.
- The Old House Hostel ($): Looking for budget-friendly lodging in San Ignacio? I recommend the private room at The Old House Hostel. This is not a party hostel, though they do sometimes host BBQ nights at the owner’s ranch nearby. (Amazing!) The hostel’s wooden deck has the best view of downtown San Ignacio. Click here to book it.
15 Incredible Things to Do in San Ignacio, Belize
Many people visit San Ignacio, Belize and become so entranced by the jungle and the myriad of activities, that they end up extending their stay. (I’m not speaking from experience, or anything…)
The sparkling stalactites and stalagmites in the caves, crisp waterfalls and swimming holes, howling monkeys and colorful birds, and ancient ruins and temples of the Maya around San Ignacio are sure to do more than impress… They will live in your memory of epic adventures forever!
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San Ignacio, Belize Travel FAQs
Yes, San Ignacio is worth visiting. In this small, authentic Belizean city, you will encounter awe-inspiring jungles, cool waterfalls, tropical rainforests, and pine forests, all brimming with flora and fauna. Plus, there are many local cultural experiences and activities to enjoy around San Ignacio that are both educational and fun; from ancient Maya ruins and sacred caves to animal rehabilitation centers, street art, and local markets and restaurants, there’s plenty to discover! This article details all of the best activities to enjoy in San Ignacio!
San Ignacio, Belize is known for being the hub of the western interior of Belize, and the main town in the Cayo District. San Ignacio is renowned as a haven for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and history buffs, famous for its ancient Mayan ruins (such as the ATM Cave and Cahal Pech), local and worldly cuisine, ecotourism activities, and eco-lodges – like the incredible Lodge At Chaa Creek.
At a minimum, you should plan to spend 4 days in San Ignacio, but if you have even more time, great! With one week in San Ignacio, you’ll have enough time to see the best Mayan ruins, tour the many caves, and get to know the downtown area of San ignacio. To be specific, while in San Ignacio, make sure to embark on the ATM Cave Tour, venture out to Xunantunich, take a day trip to the ancient ruined city of Tikal, take a chocolate-making class, visit the green iguanas at the Green Iguana Conservation Project, and explore the local market. There’s plenty more to do still; explore our list of the best things to do in San Ignacio in this article!
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