The inland mountainous towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena are located in western Belize. San Ignacio serves as the capital of Cayo District. This region is located about a 90-minute drive away from Belize City, and a 10 minute drive away from the Guatemala border. Many travelers enjoy staying San Ignacio for its great access to jungle adventure tours of nearby Mayan ruins, caves, and rivers or stay here while en route to the famous Tikal Mayan ruins in Guatemala. In this post, we’ll give you some basic travel tips to help you plan your stay in San Ignacio, Belize.
Fly with Tropic Air
The fastest way to get the San Ignacio is to take a Tropic Air flight. There is a local airport in San Ignacio that is easily accessible, and taxi drivers can meet you here to take you straight to your hotel.
Drive Yourself or Get a Private Driver
The second fastest way to get here is by car. You can rent a car in Belize City and drive directly to San Ignacio, or hire a taxi driver. Either way, the drive takes about 2 hours.
Take the Public Bus
The only sort of local transportation that exists in Belize is the public bus. These are not fancy air-conditioned buses, but rather recycled yellow school buses. While not the speediest way to get to San Ignacio due to its frequent stops, the public bus is by far the cheapest and it is also a cultural experience as most local Belizeans will hop on and off the bus.
Where to Stay in San Ignacio, Belize
Within San Ignacio, there are a wide variety of accommodations to suit all kinds of budgets and travel tastes. Some accommodations are close to town, and others are tucked further away in the mountains or jungles.
Hotels in San Ignacio Town
- San Ignacio Resort Hotel
- Acropolis Maya Hotel
- Rolson Hotel
- Cahal Pech Village Resort
- Midas Belize
- Windy Hill Resort
Accommodations Around San Ignacio
Belize Eco Lodges
Tours and Activities
San Ignacio is home to a number of tourist attractions, all of which can be reached and toured either by ones’ self or by a tour company. Note that not all tours are available on any given day. Most tour companies require a certain minimum number of registrations before they run. Since San Ignacio is a mountainous town, many tours and activities here involve jungles and Mayan ruins, with the exception of several water-based activities including kayaking and caving.
The majority of Mayan ruins in Belize are located deep in the mountain towns, away from the beaches. San Ignacio is one of the best hubs in the country for exploring Maya ruins. Within San Ignacio, you can easily access the ruins of Xunantunich, Caracol, El Pilar, and Cahal Pech, to name a few. You can also arrange a day trip or overnight tour of Tikal Mayan ruins in nearby Guatemala.
This area of Belize is full of caves, many once used for ceremonial purposes by the ancient Maya. There are several main caves that draw visitors, and each offers a unique way of interacting with the cave.
Río Frío cave is located in Mountain Pine Ridge and is very easy to hike into without any intensity. Barton Creek Cave offers a leisurely tubing experience down a 7-mile long freshwater creek. Not for the faint of heart, underground caving at Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave is among the prime tourist attractions in San Ignacio. Finally, Crystal Cave and the Black Hole Drop are the most energy-intensive caving and rappelling experiences.
Cowboy culture is strong in and around San Ignacio, and there are several stables where you can enjoy horseback riding. Ranging from leisurely nature tours to rides to the Mayan ruins, horse rides are available for visitors of all skill levels.
Given the proximity of the jungle to San Ignacio, there is plenty of wildlife to be seen. Often times, you’ll stumble upon howler monkeys, toucans, and other exotic animals just by wandering around a Mayan ruins site. However, there are also a few places where you can definitely see and interact with wildlife.
The Green Iguana Conservation Project is located within the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. It’s a special area where iguanas are bred and shown off to visitors. Swing by and get up close and personal with these prehistoric creatures. Another wildlife attraction is Tropical Wings Butterfly Farm where you can see various stages of caterpillars and butterflies in growth.
Also worth mentioning is the Belize Zoo. Even though it’s not located in San Ignacio proper, it’s en route to the town from Belize City and worth stopping by to see all kinds of animals native to Belize.
Food and Drink
The food and culture in San Ignacio are largely Hispanic due to the town’s proximity to the Guatemala border. Many menus will offer traditional Belizean foods including the all-time favorite of rice, beans, and pork (pibil). There are lots of restaurants offering cuisines from all over the world in downtown San Ignacio. Many of these restaurants use fresh, organic produce and can accommodate for many different kinds of dietary restrictions. Food prices are relatively cheap, with a full lunch meal costing around $10 Belize ($5 USD).
San Ignacio market also takes place daily in the downtown area where a handful of vendors sell fresh produce, seafood, and cuts of meat. The market’s biggest day happens every Saturday when vendors from all areas of town flock to downtown to sell and buy fresh and made-to-order foods.