San Ignacio is a small town in the Cayo region of Belize. San Ignacio, or Cayo as it is called, is located on the Macal river, and makes a good and affordable base for exploration of the stunning regions around it, with plenty of day trips to be taken and several decent tour guides willing to take you. It's also an important transit town en route to or from Guatemala.
San Ignacio is renowned for its close proximity to Belize's famous Maya ruins, and is a hub for outdoor activities such as caving, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding. It is one of the last towns in Belize before entering Guatemala, where many visitors go to visit the Tikal Maya ruins.
San Ignacio is easily reachable by car. The Western Highway is the best road in the country and is fully paved and free of pot-holes. There are several gas stations along the route so you have no worries there. Once you reach the sister-city of San Ignacio - Santa Elena - be aware that there are two bridges and each is a one way bridge. You have to make a right turn, if you are heading west, and run downhill to cross the bridge into San Ignacio. Locals apparently know tourists will miss this turn and are quite aware to signal you that you have made a mistake if you try to go the wrong way.
You leave San Ignacio across the Hawksworth Bridge which is the only suspension bridge in Belize. This is also a one-way bridge to leave town, unless the low lying bridge is closed.
2nd Class buses (no air conditioning or "trunk" for suitcases) run frequently from Belize City; the trip is usually less than 2½ hours, in spite of numerous stops. Buses run to Dangriga on the coast in about 3 hours. In the other direction, buses run to the Guatemalan border quite close by, with connections to Flores and Tikal. As of 2019, a bus from Belize City to San Ignacio costs BZ$9 (Belizean dollars).
Belize Ground Shuttle offers daily shared shuttle service to and from San Ignacio and the International Airport, Belize City, Placencia, Hopkins, and Dangriga. They have a fleet of brand new vans for safety and comfort. Great for groups.
Ron's Belize Shuttle specializes in private shuttle service offering door to door service between any destination in Belize.
BZ Shuttle Services has an outstanding recorder of transporting you to and from your destination on-time. Your Belize Shuttle Driver is Denfield Gomez, known locally as Denny, maintain an impeccable driving recorder when it comes to shuttling you to or from your destination.BZ Belize Shuttle [formerly dead link]
Teddy Bear shuttle and taxi service is safe and reliable, you can find him just behind the Belize Bank in the centre of San Ignacio Town. Teddy Bear Shuttle Service
Offers private shuttle transfers from San Ignacio, Belize western border to Flores or Tikal in Peten, Guatemala. The company even have the ability to transfer you to just about any where from San Ignacio Town. Belize Tikal Shuttle
Shuttles can pick you up at the airport, or most any other spot, and transfer you much quicker and with much more ease since they are door to door. William's Belize Shuttle has the best reputation.
See Belize City#By shuttle for a list which includes addresses and phone numbers of the shuttle companies as many of them are based in San Ignacio.
The roads in town are quite walkable, and traffic is light. Most everything is within a 5-minute walk from downtown. There is really no reason to drive. The town is foot-scaled so walking is your best bet for getting about and really experiencing the town.
There are public buses with service to nearby resorts for only BZ$1 per person. This offers a great way to get into town, but if you expect to stay late remember you may have to take a taxi back, and they can get increasingly more expensive later into the night.
One can also rent a car locally. There are a few car rental agencies in town.
- Flames Auto Rental has the best reputation and the best prices.
- Matus Car Rental is also an option.
- Premium Rentals in Santa Elena offers small SUV's and large passenger vans.
Many tour companies in San Ignacio, Pacz Tours and KaWiil Tours being the best for safety and quality per outside evaluators, run tours to a wide variety of interesting caves, ruins, rivers, and jungle trails. K'in Winik is known for providing amazing tours and overnight jungle camping throughout Mountain Pine Ridge, including Caracol.
It's a good idea to read reviews for other tour companies before booking because some of them have treated guests poorly.
Most of these are day trips, leaving early in the morning and returning the same afternoon. Not all tours are available on any given day. Most tour companies require a certain minimum number of registrations before they'll make the run. Checking in the night before for which tours are available the next day is often the best option.
- 1 Actun Tunichil Muknal (usually abbreviated to "ATM"). A Mayan sacrificial burial site near San Ignacio. The site is contained entirely within a cave system, and access to the relics is gained via some 500 m (1,600 ft) of climbing over rocks, wading and swimming through water that is at times over 1.5 m (4.9 ft) deep. The cave was a sacred site for the Mayans and it contains many examples of pottery, ceramics, and stoneware, as well as several sets of human sacrificial remains, one of which (known as the "Crystal Maiden") has been almost entirely covered in limestone crystals by the water in the cave. The site is a 45-minute drive from San Ignacio, and, due to the caving aspect, it may only be visited when accompanied by an official guide (who will provide appropriate safety equipment) and you can't take photos inside. Most tour companies in San Ignacio are able to offer officially guided tours.
- 2 Cahal Pech. Daily during daylight hours. The main attraction in the town. The name literally means "Place of the ticks" and Cahal Pech is a smallish set of Mayan ruins that were abandoned around 800-900 AD. There is an indoor museum displaying artefacts, a site plan, and information on the ruins in a regional context. There are, allegedly, guided tours, but these are unneeded, as the site is easy to traverse. The entire site should take 1-2 hours at most for a thorough exploration. Once at the ruins, the site is fairly flat, but Cahal Pech is at the top of the hill overlooking San Ignacio. The walk uphill to it from the main town is quite exhausting and is difficult even from the San Ignacio Resort Hotel on the hill. If you have any disability, or are in poor physical condition, you will want to drive. Admission is BZ$10 (or USD$5) but may change.
- 3 Caracol. Biggest ruin in Belize, yet mostly unexcavated, so you really feel like you are in a national park on a ruin. Ca'ana, place of the sky, is one of the biggest and most massive temples in the Mayan world. Definitely a must see ruin, and it comes with stops at Rio On Pools and Rio Frio Cave too.
- 4 Xunantunich (Maya Ruins). Wear good shoes, bring water and plan to spend about 3-4 hours. There is a free ferry in Succutz over the Mopan River. From there you can easily walk the 1 mi (1.6 km) to the site. BZ$10.
- 5 Tikal. (in Guatemala)
- Iguana Hatchery. Visit the Iguana Conservation Project and the interpretive Medicinal Jungle Trail at the San Ignacio Hotel. Ranked as one of the best family excursions in San Ignacio.
- Green Hills Butterfly Ranch.
- Tropical Wings Nature Center. Located on the outskirts of San Jose Succotz, a 10-minute bus ride from San Ignacio going towards Benque. Includes a butterfly farm & small educational museum, 9-hole disc golf course (the first in Belize & Central America) and a restaurant located on site.
- Canoe or kayak on the Macal River.
- Rent bicycles.
- Belize Gifts (In the JNC mall). They have a huge selection of great gifts and souvenirs.
- Back to My Roots, Burns Avenue (Across from the JNC mall).
- Indita Maya (Venus Hotel bottom floor).
- Tropicool Gift Shop, Burns Avenue (Next to Pacz Tours).
- A B C Supermarket, Bullet Tree Road. 7:30AM-9PM. a large supermarket.
- New Flags Supermarket, Western Highway, ☏ . 8AM-9PM. a large supermarket with lower prices.
- The Belize Bank & Scotia Bank & Atlantic Bank (all 3 banks have ATMs in San Ignacio). 24 hour ATMs. All three banks' ATMs take Mastercard.
San Ignacio is one of the more tourist-friendly towns in Belize, with a variety of restaurants keeping longer hours than in many other towns. There are a wide variety of restaurants, and many have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.
- Ko Ox Han-Nah, 5 Burns Avenue (One block from downtown). From the lamb quesadillas to the lamb curry to the omelettes, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all covered here. They raise almost all of their own animals at their farm.
- Hodes Place (Next to Macal River Park, one block from the market). Great for kids of all ages. Includes video games, air hockey, pool tables, playground (in a small orchard), jukebox, and a small casino. Try the burritos: they are big and cheap.
- South Indian Restaurant (In the Plaza Del Rio mall, a 5-minute walk from downtown.). Try their ginger lime juice, which is delicious. Worth seeking out for very tasty dishes including fish or chicken curries and several vegetarian options - their samosas are what they are known for, and must be tried.
- Mr Greedy's Pizzeria, Burns Ave. Best pizza in town, and a great burger too. Greedy's has been completely redesigned; they've added a great bar, giving the place a much more open look and feel. They have an excellent menu, with plenty of great appetizers - try the onion rings; they are the best in the country. They offer free high-speed Wi-Fi for customers.
- Maxim's Chinese Restaurant, Bullet Tree road (About 2 blocks from downtown). One of the best Chinese restaurants in San Ignacio. Menu including: Delicious Fried Chicken (what they are known for) ranging from $5 and above, fried rice, chao-mein, chop-suey, kun-pao, and etc.
- Vivian's, Joseph Andrews Drive (3 blocks from downtown, next to Sacred Heart College, and across the street from Mom's Place). Vivian's Coffee and Ice Cream shop is great. Their coffee smoothies are always great to cool one off. Good ice cream too. All the local students go there, which is a good sign.
- Mincho's, Burns Ave (Downtown). Mincho's is the fast food place of San Ignacio. They are only open for breakfast and lunch. They have all the Belizean fast food: tacos, burritos, salbutes, panades, and garnaches. They have the best fresh juice in San Ignacio, and it's only $1 per glass.
- Guava Limb
- The Great Mayan Prince
- Running W Steakhouse
- Cappello's Up the Hill Bar and Grill (Next to Cayo Twist, near the Cahal Pech hill). Cappello's easily has 100 different drinks, and some of the best appetizers around. You can hang out under the steel palapas, enjoy the great view, and listen to mellow music like reggae, or hang out inside for more local music. Their happy hour goes from opening until 7PM every day.
- Club Rehab (Across the street from the casino). Great club to start off at or end up at since they are usually open from 4PM until after 2AM. They usually play great music, and you can request songs most of the time too. Great happy hour from 4 to 7PM when they offer half-priced drinks. Thirsty Thursdays at Rehab is happy hour all day.
- 1 Remo's Roadhouse. Many of the ex-pats start at Remo's because of the great conversation and stories provided by the owner – he can tell you stories that even locals don't know. It's in Bullet Tree Falls, 3 miles from downtown – the first building on the right as you enter Bullet Tree Falls.
- 2 Bamboo Bar (Bambu Bar), ☏ . Cozy dive bar with sand floors and bamboo bar stools, in the heart of town. Quite Americanized, but plays more classic rock as opposed to pop music you'll hear from other tourist bars.
- 3 Fuego Bar and Grill, ☏ . Popular among tourists. Its atmosphere and cuisine may offer a pleasant break from those uncomfortable with the less developed locations in town, at the consequence of a less authentic Belizean experience.
Since San Ignacio is the biggest town close to Guatemala, from where many tourists enter and exit Belize, the city, therefore, has quite a few accommodations relative to its size and attractions.
- Bella's Backpackers Belize. Multi-levelled edifice with a tree growing right through it, a roof-top terrace and a hammock-room tree house overlooking the town and surrounding jungle. With plenty of couches, comfy chairs and hammocks to relax in. Great French pressed coffee. Dorms are BZ$25 or BZ$30 for semi-private, while private rooms are BZ$65 for walk-ins. Laundry service for BZ$15.
- Purple Mayan. This hostel features 12-foot ceilings, exotic hardwoods, custom mosaic sinks, and great woodwork by local artisans. River tubing to the Xunantunich ruins is included in room rate. Wi-Fi. Female-only, male-only or co-ed dorms BZ$37; single private room BZ$100; double private room BZ$110. Sheets and towels not included..
- J&R Guesthouse. A small place with four rooms a couple of blocks from the city centre. Single with shared bath BZ$20. Also, have doubles and room with private bath. Owners are friendly and can help guests get to numerous destinations.
- Hi Yet. Many backpackers stay here. A block from downtown, it has many rooms upstairs.
- The Trek Stop. Mile 71½ Western Highway, on the outskirts of San Jose Succotz. It's next to the highway but with approximately 22 acres (9 ha) of land, you won't feel so close to civilization. Shared and private cabins available, composting toilets; spots for camping as well. Restaurant on site, disc golf course, butterfly farm, trails. Lots of birds and different wildlife on site.
- Pacz Guest House. The common area is basic but spacious, water refills and a fridge to store some of your food for the road and/or beers. There is a small terrace leading into the rooms which was great for sitting and relaxing.
- Cocopele Inn. Offers apartments for groups and single/double rooms.
- Tropicool Hotel, 30 Burns Avenue (One block from downtown), ☏ . They have nice little cabins encapsulated on their property.
- Mahogany Hall Luxury Boutique Resort. A small 20-room colonial-style mansion nestled on the banks of the Mopan River in Bullet Tree Falls.
- Marthas Guesthouse. Located in the heart of San Ignacio Town, offers a spacious room with almost all the amenities of most top resorts in the area. Rates starting US$70.
- 1 Cahal Pech. It's on the most predominant Mayan hillside in San Ignacio, and next to the Cahal Pech ruins. This resort offers guests an amazing view of San Ignacio and surrounding local sites. The hotel has three pools and a jacuzzi, when it is working. Lately, they have had complaints due to substandard bedding, but the view is still the best, by far, in San Ignacio. Great for families. US$90.
- 2 San Ignacio Resort Hotel. A lovely place on beautiful grounds, impeccably clean rooms with air-conditioning, a pool, and very helpful staff. Cute little extras like fresh sprigs of herbs on bathroom towels. Quite pricey by Belizean standards, at US$114/per night for two queen beds. The occasional wall of cinder block or slightly frayed rug shows this hotel is not quite up to the standards the price would imply, but they're close.
Nearby lodges & resorts
- Parrot Nest Lodge. You can sleep in a treehouse in a 100 ft (30 m) tall Guanacaste tree. The lodge is surrounded on three sides by the Mopan River since it's on a peninsula. Parrots, iguanas, agouti and otters are all able to be seen on the grounds. The cabanas are in a huge garden, which, though lush and exotic, is virtually mosquito free. The Parrot's Nest is in Bullet Tree Falls, which is just a couple of miles from downtown San Ignacio, so you don't have to endure the city noise and lights. US$50 to US$75 a night per cabin.
- [dead link] Bullet Tree Riverside Cabanas. Another great place to stay 10 minutes from downtown San Ignacio, on the banks of the Mopan River. The cozy thatched cabanas are tucked among lush palm trees, with a remote jungle feel to it! Enjoy freshly prepared local Belizean dishes. Tours and activities included trip to Tikal, horseback riding and explore nearby Mayan ruins, cave or river tubing. Pick-up or drop off at Belize International Airport can all be arranged.
- Windy Hill Resort. Windy Hill is a few kilometers outside of town on a hill. Ask any taxi driver. Beautifully landscaped grounds and spacious cottages. Peaceful surroundings. Nice open air restaurant. The owners offer canoe and other tours. Local experts give herb walk and bird viewing. Price is around US$100 but the taxi driver gave a promotion coupon for US$30.
- Chaa Creek. Chaa Creek is the best resort in Central America, bar none. Totally eco-friendly, and they have hundreds of acres. They are on the Macal River, and do canoe rides, biking, and horseback riding. Located 30 minutes from downtown. You can choose to stay at an expensive and luxurious cabin, or at the Macal River Camp, which has casitas and is geared towards those who prefer the outdoors. The Macal Camp is US$55/person/night and includes breakfast, dinner, hot showers, toilets, and excellent service.
- Ka’ana Resort. Ka'ana is out of the town of San Ignacio, in a valley nestled among the Maya Mountains of Belize’s Cayo District and surrounded by lush tropical gardens. They have a nice infinity pool and a great restaurant. A definite treat for the high-end traveller.
- Benque Resort and Spa. Situated in the mountainous Benque Viejo Del Carmen (on the way from San Ignacio to the Guatemalan border). Built in 2008 and freshly renovated in 2014, situated along the Mopan River, the hotel offers Wi-Fi, big verandah. Away from San Ignacio, listen to the Succotz Marching Band practice while you sit on your deck overlooking the river and quiet jungle. Benque Resort is a popular destination due to its proximity to Xunantunich ruins being right outside your door, and the river tubing from the dock at Benque Resort. Actun Chapat cave and Che Chem Ha cave and numerous waterfalls and grottoes. There's a Mayan Spa, the first of its kind in Cayo, with such treatments as ancient cave mud facials, and Mayan massage. From BZ$111 for double room with AC, BZ$36 for dorm.
- Belmopan - the capital of Belize is a good jumping-off point for other destinations. from San Ignacio to Belmopan is 42 km, and takes one hour in a bus.
- Hopkins it is 140 km from San Ignacio to Hopkins. A bus via Belmopan takes three hours.
- Tikal - across the border is the world heritage site of Tikal with ruins dating back to 6th century BC.