A jumping-off point for adventurers and nature lovers from all over the world, San Ignacio is a perfectly positioned village with ruins, caves, and rivers within striking distance.
While it's surrounded by jungle, this town is only a short drive from the stunning beaches of the coast. In few other places will you find history, archaeology, and natural beauty that matches that of San Ignacio.
If you're a lover of color, you'll find plenty in the jungle that surrounds this small town.
San Ignacio sits on the edge of protected historical sites such as El Pilar that bear witness to the region's ancient and medieval heritage.
It wouldn't be a true escape without a cave. Visitors will be happy to note that the area surrounding San Ignacio is home to large cave networks.
The rural nature of San Ignacio is such that it's possible to ride a horse right out of town and into the surrounding hills.
Not all as old as the ruins: local artists continue to fashion clothing and art in the manner of the Maya.
One of the stellar attractions of visiting San Ignacio is the huge number of Mayan sites within a few miles of the resort. In fact, Cahal Pech is the oldest of all, and it's a short (but steep) climb from the town center. Built 3,500 years ago, this is a seriously old archaeological site, and the Visitor's Center gives a good picture of what's gone on since then. The centerpiece is the 25 meter tall temple and the Mayan Ball Game court, but the views over the Macal River are just as appealing.
Often shortened by locals to ATM, Actun Tunichil Muknal is an extensive cave system and sacred Mayan site in the Tapir Mountain Reserve, around 10 miles east of San Ignacio. To get there, you'll need to hike a short way across some thick jungle, giving it a bit of an Indiana Jones feel. And when you get there, the feeling is confirmed by the sight of skeletons of victims sacrificed over a thousand years ago to appease the Mayan gods. In the surrounding reserve, look out for howler monkeys and Baird's tapirs as well.
Back in Cayo itself, the market is probably the town's central attraction. Be there every Saturday when farmers across western Belize converge on a plaza next to the football stadium, complete with wonderfully fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade jams stuffed with tropical fruit, and plenty of wholesome street food. If you want a panade (corn dough stuffed with meat) to take on a hike, or just some freshly baked tacos, there's no better place to be.
Perhaps better known by the name "the Maiden of the Rock", Xunantunich is half an hour to the southwest of San Ignacio, and completely unmissable. One of the most photogenic and impressive of all Mayan sites, the courtyards are lined with stunning friezes depicting Mayan life, and their sometimes brutal religious rites. Much more than just a temple, Xunantunich is a fully-excavated city, and its main temple is still classed as Belize's second tallest building. Join tours that uncover fascinating details of life in the Yucatan 500 years before Columbus arrived.
Aside from Mayan ruins and vibrant markets, nature is one of western Belize's calling cards, and the Belize Iguana Project is the place to get your biodiversity fix. Located in the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, the center cares for a community of charismatic green iguanas, and educates visitors about their lives, and their endangered status. Tours of the center are a delight, but don't miss the Medicinal Jungle Trail next door, where guides provide an absorbing primer on traditional Mayan medicine. You won't look at the rainforest in the same way ever again.
As with much of Belize, San Ignacio has a tropical climate with heavy rainfall in summer. For this reason, February and March may be the best months to visit.
Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (BZE) in Belize City and as well as airports in Guatemala are good options for flying in to the area. Bus services can be arranged ahead of time for about BZ$10 to take you to San Ignacio.
San Ignacio is conveniently situated by the Western Highway, easily the best road in Belize. Car rentals can be arranged for about BZ$20 a day in any major city.
Numerous buses leave Belize City for San Ignacio each day. Buses cost about BZ$10.
There are many hotels in town catering to all sorts of visitors. Cheap options include J & R Guesthouse. More upscale options include Martha's Boutique Guesthouse, which is locally owned and decorated in traditional fashion.
Cahal Pech - The Cahal Pech Archaeological Reserve offers guests a taste of Mayan ruins within city limits. The reserve has pyramids and a small museum.
Hawksworth Bridge - the town's highest concentration of restaurants is found just north of the Hawksworth Bridge.
Macal River Park - a quiet area surrounded by several local eateries.
There is no public transportation in San Ignacio, and everything in town is reachable on foot.
Taxis can be found in San Ignacio, with a BZ$5 pickup fee and a BZ$8 fee per mile after that.
Car rentals are possible both within town and at major cities in Belize. They will typically cost about BZ$150 a day for a small SUV.
While the town doesn't have a shopping street, there is a JNC mall in the downtown area. Most local items can be found at the foothills of the Mayan ruins.
Several grocers serve the town. You should be able to find eggs for BZ$3 a dozen and bread for BZ$2 a loaf.
Popular local favorites serving up Belize specialties include Ko-Ox Han nah and Mincho's. A meal at a laid-back restaurant will set you back by about BZ$7.