Wild rivers, Maya ruins &latino vibes
Duration: at least 3 days
Budget: $ 80 per day
Stay at: Maya Mountain Lodge or Pine Ridge Lodge
San Ignacio and its twin town Santa Elena, form the heart of the “Cayo” district. It’s the first stop for many travelers coming from Guatemala. While there is a comfortable touristic infrastructure, San Ignacio maintains an authentic and vibrating charm. Contrary to the coastal part of Belize, Spanish is the most widely spoken. San Ignacio is surrounded by lush vegetation, fast-flowing rivers, Maya ruins, and caves. There are lots to do in this lively little town!
- Sight Seeing 85% 85%
- Food 75% 75%
- Culture 80% 80%
- Activities 95% 95%
After some great weeks on Belize Cayes, we decided it was time for us to continue our journey. So, with our newfound friend Zoe, an American ex-pat whom we met on Tobacco Caye, we were off to discover Belize’s western part. As soon as we hopped off the bus, we felt an entirely different vibe from the coastal area.
Tour the mysterious ATM cave
We saw fantastic pictures of the famous ATM cave and were eager to visit. That was until we checked our budget and the prices for the tour. Unfortunately, our extended stay on the Cayes has ripped quite a hole into our budget, so we decided against visiting Belize’s ATM cave. However, we have heard from other travelers that it is an awe-inspiring experience. Check out Chloe’s article if you want to visit the ATM caves.
Stroll around the colorful market
As in many Central American towns, visiting the local market is always a good idea. It was in San Ignacio when we first tried soursop juice. The white juice gained from the exotic fruit has become one of our all-time favorites!
Cool down at the Rion pools at Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve
After some pretty lazy weeks by the beach, we felt a bit itchy. Eager to head out, Lorena and I decided to go on a hike through Mountain Pine reserve. Together with two younger guides, we ventured out to challenge our muscles at least a bit. The walks were pretty easy, and we enjoyed being surrounded by green. A tour to Mountain Pine Reserve can be combined with the Big Rock Falls and Rio Frio Cave, ending in Caracol. However, as mentioned above, the prices for tours are steep, so we decided to enjoy a full day at the Rion Pools and its surrounding caves.
Xunantunich Ruins - Belize's Maya ruins
You can find ancient Mayan ruins all across Central America. Compared to its neighbors in Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras, the ruins of Xunantunich are a lot smaller and less visited. As with many Maya ruins, it’s advisable to take a guide to get a complete understanding. However, if you are also short on cash, you can quickly discover the ruins of Xunantunich by yourself. The ruins are located on the other side of the river in the village of San Jose Succotz, easily accessible by bus and ferry (it’s free). The ruins cost 10 $BZ to enter and make up for a great half-day trip. We followed the recommendations of our hostel and took our swimsuits with us. After visiting the ruins, we dipped into the river for refreshment. We got off at the gas station and accidentally wandered towards Cahal Pech Resort Hotel on our way back. While it was the wrong direction to our hostel, we saw a fantastic sunset from there!
Float along the River
San Ignacio and its twin town Santa Elena offer plenty of opportunities to float along the river. Our friend Zoe wanted to visit a friend of hers, the owner of Rawspa Resort, so we decided to come along. Located within lush vegetation, we enjoyed the day by the Mopan River. After so much time by the sea, it almost felt weird to swim in the sweet water again. We spent our day listening to birds, jumping off the pier, and floating along the river in a tube. To our surprise, Misael and Michael invited us to a wine tasting. Contrary to “traditional” wine, Michael produces wines from exotic fruits. Sipping wine, we let the time pass until it was time for us to head back to our hostel. After so much time by the beach, our “jungle day” at Rawspa made up for the perfect change!
Get ready to travel SAN IGNACIO
The border crossing between Guatemala and Belize
The twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena are popular stops for travelers from Guatemala. Once you have crossed the border, San Ignacio is a ride of about 45 mins. However, if you continue your journey by bus, keep in mind that there is no “fixed schedule.” Therefore, we recommend you show up in the morning to get an early bus.
How to get to San Ignacio and away
Buses in Belize tend to be slow, and you don’t want to be traveling at night. We couldn’t find a “fixed bus schedule by the time we traveled.” But we could observe that San Ignacio is connected to Orange Walk, Belmopan, and Belize City. You’ll also find daily buses heading to the border of Guatemala.
Best time to visit:
San Ignacio experiences quite heavy rainfall and high temperatures during the summer months. But, other than that, it’s a year-round destination.
Safety in San Ignacio, Belize
As anywhere, exercise extra caution at night. Other than that, it feels safe.
The touristic infrastructure is well developed, and you’ll be able to find plenty of restaurants, ATMs, accommodations, and tour agencies. However, while you can find reasonably priced food and lodging, expect to pay steep costs for tours to nearby activities.
In the towns, the water is supposedly drinkable. But as you will spend a lot of time on the water and Cayes in Belize, bring a Lifestraw Pro to be safe and avoid causing plastic pollution. The Lifestraw Pro will keep your water fresh and cool, too!
Biggest challenge for the responsible traveler
Eating fish: To protect marine life in Belize, fishing is regulated by seasons to guarantee the species’ time to recover. Therefore, make a point of not eating lobster or conch when not in season! Conch season runs from October to June. Lobster season is from July to February.
Sunscreen: Protect the unique marine life in Belize, and always wear reef-friendly sunscreen. Check out our guide to coral-safe sunscreens here.
Plastic: Bring your Lifestraw Pro to avoid causing trash by consuming bottled water
Packing List Belize
Are you traveling Belize & Central America?
Check out our packing list for everything you need, from clothes to gear to eco-friendly toiletries.
Enjoy your trip without worrying about what you forgot to bring, and Immerse yourself in the culture of Central America with all the right gear!
Places to visit in Belize
A small Country with a big personality!
Caye Caulker, Belize’s backpacking hotspot charms it’s visitors with its easy going and fun vibes. It’s an excellent place to get to know Belize. While it is far from representative, it shows you the fun, carefree side of life. Creole, Rastafaris, and travelers perfectly blend. On top of that, Caye Caulker offers several amazing things to do.
Tobacco Caye is so small in size but holds so much for those who are open to it! It’s an island with a heart and a soul which we hold really dear. On top of that, it is surrounded by some of the most turquoise water you’ll ever see!