Travel Tips

San Ignacio, Cayo Belize Travel Guide: What to See, Do, Costs, & Ways to Save

By Belizing Staff 3/9/2019 4 minutes

San Ignacio, Cayo

Belize has a lot to offer to travelers, and the Cayo District is ground zero if you want to make the most of your time here. Guatemala is just a stone’s throw away, but you could stay for months without having to cross over the border to find new things to do. Cayo used to be the beating heart of the Maya civilization in Belize, and that means that there are still plenty of well-preserved ruins to explore. But the same qualities that made Cayo such fertile territory for the Mayas also makes it an ideal location to live, work, and play. Vast and seemingly endless networks of caves create a fascinating and parallel underworld to what happens on the surface, and these once sacred networks of underground have become popular destinations for spelunking and cave tubing. Aboveground, Cayo is bursting at the seams with hiking trails, dense jungles, and refreshing swimming holes. The low population density and an admirable commitment to ecological preservation contribute to one of the most beautiful and diverse stretches of wilderness in the world.

San Ignacio Travel Guide
San Ignacio Travel Guide
But the Cayo District isn't all wild frontier. San Ignacio is the beating heart of civilization in the Cayo District, and its population reflect the rich melting pot of cultures that call Belize their home. San Ignacio is the launching point for most adventures in the Cayo District, but it's worthy of exploration in its own right - home to a rich diversity of food, history, and culture. And it's an inexpensive town around the board, so you won't have to worry about breaking your budget just for the opportunity to have comfortable and modern accommodations.

How to Get to San Ignacio, Cayo

No matter how you choose to make the trip to San Ignacio, chances are you'll be coming from Belize City. The old capital's airport is the main path of entry for international travelers, and it's the only way to fly in to Belize from abroad. But once you arrive in Belize City, you'll have a few options available for reaching the Cayo District.

By Public Bus

Public bus is the cheapest option for getting to San Ignacio, and it's a prime opportunity for mixing and mingling with the locals, but the buses can get crowded, and the journey is significantly more time intensive than other options. You'll need to take a taxi from the airport to the terminal, but a one-way ticket to San Ignacio will cost you a modest 10 BZD.

By Flight

The most direct path from Belize City to San Ignacio is by airplane. You can get a Tropic Air flight from the Belize City Airport to Maya Flats for about $150, and the entire flight just takes about 30 minutes. From the airport, you can reach the heart of San Ignacio via car in just ten minutes. It's easily the quickest way to get situated in the Cayo District.

By Shuttle

The advantage of getting to San Ignacio by land is that you get a firsthand view of the beautiful scenery of Belize. Shuttle services from the airport provide a level of convenience you simply won't find in the public bus, and they don't have to cost you a fortune. Belizing.com offers a competitive marketplace you can use to connect with the best shuttle and transfer services in the country.

San Ignacio Travel Guide
San Ignacio Travel Guide
San Ignacio Travel Guide

Find Transportation To San Ignacio Town

What to Do in San Ignacio, Cayo

The most difficult thing you have to worry about in San Ignacio is figuring out how to spend your time. The leisure options are practically limitless, and while that means that there are possibilities for any traveler, the sheer depth of opportunities can be a bit overwhelming. Here are some of the best attractions.

Xunantunich Maya Ruins

The architectural site known as Xunantunich translates to "Sculpture of Lady", and it's one of the most expansive and well preserved Maya ruins in the world. The highlight is El Castillo, the second tallest manmade structure in Belize.

Cahal Pech Maya Ruins

Another popular archaeological site, Cahal Pech was once the home of an elite Mayan family. It's a site rich with history, as archaeological research indicates that it was a human habitat as far back as 1200 BCE.

Barton Creek Cave

The channels in Barton Creek Cave may be imposing, but a tour is anything but. This underground network is eerily quiet, and the canoe ride through its waters is a serene and sobering experience.

San Ignacio Travel Guide
San Ignacio Travel Guide

Zip Lining at Calicko Jack's

In counterpoint to the peacefulness of Barton Creek Cave, zip lining is one of the most thrilling experiences you can have in Belize or anywhere. Calicko Jack's hosts numerous zip lining courses in a full-service resort.

Mountain Pine Ridge

Taking a hike through Mountain Pine Ridge is like engaging in a tasting course for Belize's natural splendor. It offers massive granite boulders, powerful waterfalls, and dense stretches of pine forest.

San Ignacio Market Tour

There's no better way to explore the local color of San Ignacio than a sojourn through the town market. It's a hub of activity for San Ignacio residents, and you'll find everything from local produce to handmade arts and crafts.

San Ignacio Travel Guide
San Ignacio Travel Guide

Canoeing on Macal River

If the idea of canoeing through the underworld of Belize makes you claustrophobic, the Macal River may be more your speed. The peaceful winding river is a great way to discover the plethora of natural Belizean wildlife firsthand.

Visit the Iguana Conservatory

A hiking or canoeing tour allows you to get up close and personal with the beasts of Belize, but you don't have to leave the town to meet the country's trademark iguanas. San Ignacio Resort Hotel has made it their mission to keep alive the endangered green iguana, and they host a number of different exhibits and educational programs.

Caracol Maya Ruins

Caracol is a window of ancient civilization hidden away deep in the jungles of the Cayo District. An on-site museum allows you to plunge deep into this aging city's historical importance, but just walking through its abandoned streets is a transcendental experience in its own right.

San Ignacio Travel Guide
San Ignacio Travel Guide

Rio on Pools

Belize is a great place to get wet and wild, but you don't have to charter a canoe tour or make a trek out to one of the glorious beaches. Rio on Pools is home to a generous variety of natural pools and waterfalls, and many of the natural basins simulate the experience of a jacuzzi. You'll absolutely want to make time for a waterfall massage.

Big Rock Falls

The hike up to Big Rock Falls isn't an arduous one, but it offers access to one of the most stunning waterfalls in a country known for them. Standing at 150 feet in height, Big Rock Falls spills into a swimming hole that's completely safe and incredibly inviting.

Thousand Foot Falls

Thousand Foot Falls makes Big Rock seem like a triviality. It's widely believed to be the largest waterfall in the entirety of Central America, but its name is actually a misnomer. No, it's not smaller than it seems. Thousand Foot Falls stands roughly 1,600 feet in height.

San Ignacio Travel Guide
San Ignacio Travel Guide

San Ignacio Butterfly Farms

The Belizean Blue is one of the most beautiful specimens in the world, but it's not the only variety available at the butterfly farms in and around San Ignacio. Butterflies play an important role in the Belizean ecosystem, and a visit to one of the local farms allows you to observe them more en force and more closely than you can in the wild.

ATM Cave

The ruins of Maya cities can give you great context for how residents of Belize's most powerful civilization lived, but Actun Tunichil Muknal can provide a powerful window into how they worshipped and died. Once seen as a passage to the afterlife, the ATM Cave was a site for human ritual sacrifice, and many of the remaining relics and skeletons are still intact.

Horseback Riding

There are plenty of tour companies that offer hikes through the jungles of the Cayo District, but there's nothing quite like venturing through the landscape on the back of a horse. Whether you're looking to experience to open fields or the vast jungles, a horseback ride can provide you with a unique perspective, and many of them can be combined with other tours so you can pack more adventure into an afternoon.

San Ignacio Travel Guide
San Ignacio Travel Guide

Tikal Maya Ruins

Tikal Maya Ruins are technically located in Guatemala, but they're no more than a day trip away from San Ignacio proper. Located deep in the Guatemalan jungle, the city of Tikal Maya is one of the largest remnants of Maya civilization still in existence. It's even been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Where to Stay in San Ignacio, Cayo

The Cayo District is home to miles of rugged frontier, but that doesn't mean that it's bereft of civilization. Much of San Ignacio's prosperity comes from tourism, and they've developed a huge wealth of resorts and amenities as a result. Chaa Creek, Midas, Ka'ana Resort and Spa, Maya Mountain Lodge, and Cahal Pech Village Resort are just a few options available to travelers who want to live in style. If you want to make the most of your journey to Belize, take the time to check out sites like Expedia.com, Booking.com, and TripAdvisor. But don't neglect house sharing sites like Airbnb. You can often get full apartments or houses to rent for a pittance. Regardless of the time of your visit or your individual circumstances, you can find a wide variety of lodgings ranging from budget-class hostels to five-star luxury hotels.

San Ignacio Travel Guide
San Ignacio Travel Guide
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Tours/Activities
$
25
-
$
65
/ Person
$
25
-
$
35
/ Adult
Type of Vehicle:
Full Size Van
 (16)
Philip S.W Goldson International Airport to San Ignacio One Way Shuttle from Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE) to San Ignacio Town.... more
Shuttle departs promptly from the airport arrivals terminal and arrives at Hode's Place in San Ignacio Town.
Schedule of Airport Departures:

12:00 pm

2:45 pm

4:30 pm

5:30 pm

*This departure schedule is fluid. We may leave early as soon as all passengers are onboard. Sometimes we may wait for passengers who may be delayed. We don't normally take walk-on passengers, so it is always possible to leave earlier than scheduled.

Don't worry, we won't leave without you if your flight is delayed or arrives very close to the departure time. We try to accommodate all passengers and ask for some consideration if we need to wait a few minutes for other passengers. If you have a significant delay, we may switch you to the next departure if one is scheduled. The day's last departure will wait until all passengers are accounted for.

An optional hotel drop off service is available to hotels and destination within town limits of San Ignacio and Santa Elena. Please select the appropriate add-on options when submitting your booking request. If you are not sure whether your hotel is within town limits, you may contact us to inquire or you may book the regular rate and book the additional service with the driver.

Hotels within our drop off zone include, but are not limited to:

Ka'ana Resort

San Ignacio Resort Hotel

Cahal Pech Village Resort

Maya Mountain Lodge

Casa del Caballo Blanco

Western Guest House

Midas Resort

Western Guest House

Bellas Backpackers

D's Hostel

Aliana's Airbnb

Lucina's Airbnb

Homehill Apartments

Casia Hill Resort

Rumor's Resort

Rolson's Hotel

If you are staying at Hode's Hotel, you do not need to pay the additional hotel drop off fee since all drop off's are at Hode's Place. This is a nice outdoor restaurant to relax, grab some food, and wait for your in-town transport or local taxi.

*Drivers cannot accept cash payments but can process credit card payments for additional service arranged before departure.
$
99
-
$
112
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
BARTON CREEK is a living cave in that it is still growing and developing with 10ft of water flowing constantly throughout. The ancient Mayans believed that their Gods would reside ... morein such places and Barton Creek Cave in particular because of its abundance of water. The Mayan God Chaac (God of Water) was believed to occupy the cave, whenever the Mayas were going through a draught or needed a rain god for crops they would go into Barton Creek and sacrifice young virgins who were thought to be suitable gifts to the Gods. The Mayans believed the cave was an opening or gateway into the underworld and treated it with great fear and respect.

BIG ROCK FALLS: Deep in the escarpment of the Mountain Pine Ridge, Big Rock Falls is another of the area’s waterfall treasures. The tremendous view of water rushing over the huge 150-ft rock formations and plummeting into the deep perfectly round pool at its base provides a rush of excitement. You won’t regret stopping by to take a nice cold swim, which you will definitely enjoy regardless if you are on your own, with someone or with your family.
$
150
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
Provider:
ATM Cave was first explored in 1989 and National Geographic produced a documentary about ATM Cave in 1992 called Journey Through the Underworld. ... more

Actun Tunichil Muknal is one of the most impressive Maya ceremonial caves containing bloodletting altars used in sacrifices and over 1400 artifacts as well as human skeletal remains.
$
75
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
Journey to the ancient Maya ruins of Xunantunich on a horse for a closer experience with nature and appreciate the wonders of our rainforest, flora and fauna. This experience begins ... moreon the outskirts of Succotz village riding along the banks of the Mopan River, you'd be lucky enough to spot the Howler Monkeys jumping from limb to limb and witness their powerful howl. Then heading on to the Maya site of Xunantunich, one of the most popular sites in Belize; where you will learn of its importance in Maya history. At the top of the highest temple, you'll behold a spectacular view, miles of rainforest as well you will spot the border town of Benque Viejo (Belize) and neighboring Melchor de Mencos (Guatemala).
$
95
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
 (2)
For an exciting combination of Xunantunich and water sports, try our kayaking and Xunantunich tour! This adventure starts at the impressive site of Xunantunich, which means “maiden ... moreof the rock” in Maya. This site takes you back in time of a once great and flourishing civilization. View stellae, ball-court, elite residential palaces, sacred altar for blood-letting rituals and ceremonial courtyard. Climb to the top of El Castillo which is 130 ft and enjoy a panoramic view of the picturesque landscape below. After learning about the magnificent Maya history, it's time for the adrenalin rush-gliding down the rapids of the Mopan River on your sit-on top kayaks. The challenge is to stay on top of the kayak as you ride down while at the same time enjoying nature in this particular area.
$
140
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
 (3)
Tikal national park is located in Guatemala, 75 miles west from San Ignacio or 2 hrs 30mins drive. Tikal is the most magnificent of all Mayan archaeological sites. Tikal has its beginnings ... morearound 600 BC and in the late classic period the architecture excelled all world capitals, the population was of 100,000. The site is dominated by 5 enormous steep side limestone temples that rise over 200 ft from the forest floor; only 2 are allowed for climbing. 3000 structures have been identified and 20% has been excavated. The park has an area of 222 sq miles and has had no human settlement for the past 1000 yrs. It is home to 300 species of birds, 5 species of felines, 3 species of primates, deer, anteaters, and snakes making it a true tropical rainforest experience.
$
95
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
Caracol Archaeological Mayan Site shuttle package (1 Day Tour) We provide guest/s a package deal of the Mayan Archaeological site, Rio Frio Cave, Rio On Pools, and Swim at Big Rock ... moreFalls. We leave promptly leave at 7:30 a.m.from San Ignacio Town and returns at 5:00 p.m. We are happy to pick you up at your hotel/ lodge. 

Ca'ana / Sky Palace at Caracol It is the largest Archaeological Site of entire Belize. En-route to Caracol, we tour other tourism sites: Rio On Pools, Rio Frio Cave. Then returning from the site we do a last stop at Big Rock falls for a refreshing swim.
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Belizing Staff

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