Top 7 Cultural Attractions of San Ignacio, Belize

Jaguar in Belize
Jaguar in Belize

San Ignacio, Belize is a small lovely town located on the Cayo region of the country and mere minutes away from the border with Guatemala.

Considered as the heartland of the Belizean Mayan World, San Ignacio has its fair share of cultural and adventure attractions, even for those who travel with a tight budget.

Here’s some of my favorite things to do in Belize.

Top 7 Cultural Attractions of San Ignacio, Belize

Discover the Cave of the Crystal Maiden (Actun Tunichil Muknal or ATM)

Probably the number one cultural adventure of Belize is this ancient cave located one hour away from town. The entrance fee is kind of high (95 USD for a guided tour plus lunch) but it’s the only way to explore it. You will be crossing rivers on foot as you make your way through the Mayan jungle before reaching the ATM cave.

After one hour of cave exploring,  you will reach the archaeological vestiges of pottery and skeletons that once belonged to Mayans that were sacrificed in order to please the ancient Gods. Unfortunately photos are not allowed inside of the ATM cave thanks to a clueless visitor who damaged one of the skulls when he dropped his camera.

Explore the charm of the downtown

Sure, nothing of historical significance happened in this small Belizean town but due to San Ignacio’s fame as a tourist hub, you can expect the classical expat/tourist street. In Burns Avenue you can sample many Belizean dishes (mainly rice and beans with an extra side of rice) as well as some international cuisine.

For some reason, all local supermarkets are populated by Taiwanese immigrants. Did you know that Belize has very close ties with Taiwan? Their political alliance is so strong that the visa fees for Chinese tourists (2,000 USD. Yes, two thousand.) is over the top!

Climb the ancient Mayan Pyramids:

There are three main Mayan Pyramids for you to choose: Cahal Pech, Xunantunich and Caracol. Cahal Pech is located within the town of San Ignacio and can be easily reached on foot. Xunantunich is 15 minutes away by car or one hour away by horse. Caracol, on the other hand, can only be reached by organized tour since it’s located two hours away from San Ignacio and there are military men patrolling the road.

Entrance fee is 10 Belizean dollars (5 USD) for each site and yes, all of the Pyramids can be climbed. I specially recommend a small day trip to Cahal Pech since hardly anyone visits it!

Enjoy horseback riding

The Cayo region of Belize has a beautiful countryside and the best way to explore it is by horse. There are many routes you can take in order to enjoy horseback riding. My favorite by far is the one that goes from San Ignacio all the way to the Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich.

The whole experience is absolutely breath-taking. Even when it rains since you’ll truly feel as if you’re in an Indiana Jones movie. Exploring new lands has never been so romantic!

Learn about the unique history of Belize

Belize, formally known as British Honduras is the only Central American country whose official language is English. The reason for that is because it used to be a colony of the British Empire until recently. In fact, it’s still part of the Commonwealth and you can find the face of Queen Elizabeth II on their coins.

What makes Belize so unique is the mixture of Kriol (Caribbean African) and Mestizo (Indigenous + Spaniards) culture. The unity of both cultures is so strong that it’s even featured on the country’s flag.

Go tubing down the river

While not as popular as it was before, you can still tube down the river that goes across San Ignacio. The cost is about 25 USD for the equipment. Alternatively, you can go cave tubing near Belmopan, the capital of Belize.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to do this activity so here’s an amazing article by a traveler friend of mine where she shares her experience of cave tubing in Belize. Enjoy!

Visit the Iguana Conservation Center

The highlight of my Belizean experience by far was being able to play with the amazing Iguanas of the Iguana Conservation Center. Specially the cute baby ones! Did you know that Iguanas are actually very harmless to humans? Don’t let their lizard appearance scare you off, they’re actually very well-behaved!

Stay tuned for this week’s article about Iguana facts to learn more about the day that a baby Iguana almost became my new travel companion!

From Mexico to Belize City to San Ignacio

From any point in the Mayan Riviera (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Chetumal), you can take a daily ADO nigh bus that goes all the way to Belize City. The price is about 40 USD and it arrives to Belize at 07:00 am.

The only negative aspect is the Mexico border scam where foreign visitors are forced to pay an exit fee (by law, people should only pay it at the airport and not at land crossings). Sure, it’s good to stand your ground and say no to paying 20 USD per person…but the fact is that if you’re the only not paying, all of the group will have to wait until you or the corrupt border officer gives in.

We ended up waiting 1 hour at the Mexico-Belize border thanks to a wealthy elderly couple that refused to part ways with 20 USD each. Such is life, uh?

From dirty Belize City, you can catch a water taxi to Caye Caulker in order to enjoy some amazing Caribbean snorkeling and diving or go west towards the Cayo region and San Ignacio (one hour and a half by chicken bus, 4 USD). Some visitors just prefer to go directly from Belize City to Flores, Guatemala so there are some private companies that offer that service.

Last month I spent three nights at San Ignacio and I wish I have had the time and money to stay there for a longer time since there are so many activities to do in the area, although most of them have a very high entrance fee since you’ll require a guide.

Where to stay in San Ignacio?

While there are a few hostels located within town, the best accommodation can be found on the road that goes from San Ignacio to Xunantunich. The one I stayed at, Rumors Resort Hotel, was just minutes away by car from the main city so I constantly hopped on and off on the shared 1 USD taxis.

Inside of the hotel you can find a restaurant, a terrace and (in a few months) a pool for you to relax. They also offer competitive tour prices so you can just directly book everything from them. My room even had a mini fridge so I stored there a lot of cheap snacks from downtown (seriously, prices at Belize’s touristy restaurants are very high for Central American standards!).

Later this month I will be back to Belize (this time on the Caribbean side) as I’ll make my way back to Mexico and yes, I would definitely recommend you to experience the Cayo region of this wonderful country. It’s like nothing you’ll ever see in Mexico or Guatemala.

The culture shock of seeing Mestizo looking people speaking English and only English is more than enough to keep you wondering for weeks!

Last but not least, don’t forget to use our Booking.com Affiliate Link of Wonders for making hotel reservations.

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

Have you ever been to San Ignacio, Belize? Would you like to? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: I was invited by Rumors Resort Hotel to stay with them for three nights. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Jaguar in Belize
Jaguar in Belize

9 Comments

  • I’ve never been to do Belize, but its on that ever growing list of mine. I’d be up for all of your suggestions.. but I refuse to get my haircut in that shack!

  • Looks like a place I could spend some time just relaxing and horse riding, which is my big passion! But I refuse to cut my hair as well, not because anything wrong with this place but because I’m a bit weird about my hair and I need to know the hairdresser for a while before he/she can come close to me with scissors in their hands! My that is just my OCD kicking in :)

  • That place looks like lots of fun!! I have been to Belize twice, but only Belize City and Caye Caulker. I feel like I missed out now.

    I am still reeling by your comment about $2000 for a visa for Chinese. How ridiculous!!

  • Awesome article! We loved San Ignacio and would definitely agree that the ATM caves can’t be missed. Even on a very tight budget we decided to check them out and we’re so glad we did. Didn’t get out to the iguana centre though, that sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for taking us back!

  • We skipped over San Ignacio on our travels and it is something I definitely regret. If I had stayed for a second week then we would have stopped a spent a couple days there. But honestly, I liked Belize, but I could go on in my life and never return and be okay with that. Guatemala on the other hand, I would go back in a heartbeat!

  • Glad you enjoyed Cayo (and Rumors — Frankie is pretty awesome). I want to expound on your statement regarding “Chinese” tourist visas — there is a visa waiver in place for ROC (Taiwan) passport holders visiting Belize since 2012-ish. The high visa fee only extends to passport holders from PRC, excluding Hong Kong, which has been mistakenly included in some forums/posts. I’ve read it’s part of a “repatriation fee”, which is supposedly refundable upon exit from what I’ve heard from several PRC travelers.

    Let me know if you make it to San Pedro on your return visit — I live in Belize part of the year and I’m headed back this weekend.

  • April 2015 My sister and I, from far away South Africa, visited the island as part of a shore excursion while on the Emerald Princess Cruise ship. We sped at what felt like breathtaking speed down the old Belize river…an experience in itself, to get to the Mayan ruins. I climbed a few ruins, not all the way to the top, I must admit, while my sister, who’s not so fit, sat in the shade of the big trees ‘soaking in’ the beauty all around her….and also resting from the long, hot walk to the ruins. We hired a reputable tour company who then took us on a mini tour of the part of the island enroute to the Iguana farm. You can only ‘belize’ what an awesome time we had !

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