So you want a tropical getaway, but also don't want to lay around with nothing to do. You want an adventure! You want relaxation and exploration.
You want to visit the small town of San Ignacio, Belize.
This section of the Cayo region is really more of a jungle than a typical Belize beach getaway. Located close the ancient Mayan ruins on the western and inland side of Belize, this town is most popular for its many outdoor adventures including hiking, climbing, and caving!
The Jungles of Belize
With sprawling jungles and miles of coastline there is never a shortage of things to see in San Ignacio.
One of the most popular attractions is the ancient Mayan town of Xunantunich. This 9th century Mayan ruin is set on a hilltop overlooking the Mopan River. Be sure to wear good shoes as you tour the 25 temples and palaces. Also, keep your eyes out for the elusive howler monkeys.
Another main Mayan attraction is Cahal Pech. Meaning "Place of the ticks," these ruins were abandoned around 800 AD. While there, visit the indoor museum to see ancient artifacts, a map of the area and an overview of the history of the ruins. Unlike Xunantunich, Cahal Pech is relatively flat, but reaching the site requires travelling up a steep hill. If you are not in good shape, you will want to drive. Be sure to admire the stunning view of San Ignacio while up there.
The largest ruin in Belize is also the most unexcavated. Caracol often feels more like a national park than a ruin. Stroll the lands and be sure to stop in at Ca'ana, the place of the sky. This is the biggest and most massive temple in the Mayan world. This is definitely worth a visit.
One of San Ignacio's rarest delicacies is their "bamboo chicken." You may know it as iguana. Yes, in Belize they eat their iguanas at certain times of the month. No, this is not a recommendation to try iguana. Because of this rare treat, iguanas in this area are endangered. This has lead to great conservation efforts including the family-friendly Green Iguana Hatchery. Here you can watch the lifecycle of the iguana and learn more about the continuation iguana protection.
For more fun with wildlife, make a stop at the Tropical Wings Nature Center. This eco-center features interactive exhibits about birds, ants, plants and the Ancient Maya. Outdoors there is an area where butterflies are raised from eggs to pupae. There is also a medicinal plant garden with natural remedies used by the locals.
San Ignacio is an outdoor-lover's dream come true. With activities like horseback riding, bicycling, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, bird watching and more available to visitors, there's no chance you'll get bored here. Many tours will cover whatever you're looking for.
The entirety of Belize is known for its caves. No Belizean vacation adventure would be complete without a caving expedition. Barton Creek Cave is a single-passage stream cave meaning you explore it from a canoe. Expect to spend an hour or so paddling along this ancient Mayan waterway. As you travel inside this mountain, tour guides will point out skulls and artifacts, and the high ceilings and cathedral chambers are the perfect spot for stunning photographs.
The Macal River is ideal spot for a relaxing endeavor. Grab a canoe and leisurely paddle down the river as you spot wildlife and escape civilization. Stay out for the evening to experience true peace and quiet.
Another popular vacation activity is shopping. The San Ignacio's Farmers Market is a great spot to pick up anything from fruits and vegetables to jewelry and clothes. Take a moment to look around and witness the locals interacting and appreciate this true melting pot.
Food and Dining
This tourist-popular region offers restaurant serving all tastes. For some local flavors, order dishes influenced by the Mestizo, Mayan or Garifuna cultures. You can also find the tastes of India, China, and America in any of the popular downtown restaurants.
The roads in the town of San Ignacio are completely walker friendly and actually quite enjoyable. If you plan on traveling outside the city, join a tour group, ride a bus or drive your own car. While buses run frequently from San Ignacio, they are not the quickest form of transportation. Take them if you want the true Belizean experience, but otherwise, take a cab.