Caracol Temple and Archeological Reserve in San Ignacio, Belize

Things to do in  San Ignacio

Little town in the jungle

San Ignacio has long been a popular hub for travelers who want to experience the ruins and outdoor attractions of western Belize or take a day trip to Tikal, across the border in Guatemala. Located on the western end of the Macal River, directly across from the twin town of Santa Elena, San Ignacio offers plenty of things to do, both in the city and out in the surrounding areas. Touring the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins or going tubing through the ATM Cave (Actun Tunichil Muknal) are traveler favorites.

Top 15 attractions in San Ignacio

Xunantunich

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Overlooking the beautiful Mopan River from a hilltop, the ruins at Xunantunich are some of the most visited Maya sites in the world. Located in the Cayo region, Xunantunich—which means “stone woman” in Mayan—dates back to the Classic Era, around 200–900. The complex comprises about 25 temples and palaces.More

Actun Tunichil Muknal

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Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Stone Sepulchre) in the Cayo district of Belize is a popular excursion destination, just outside of San Ignacio. Visitors experience an Indiana Jones-type adventure where they wade through the cave’s tunnels and passageways lined with stalactites and stalagmites.More

Altun Ha

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Altun Ha, site of the ruins of an ancient Mayan city, covers about 3 square miles (8 square kilometers) of Belizean countryside. The central area has more than 500 historic structures, mostly built during the Maya Classic era (AD 200 to 900). Join a private or group tour to learn how the city’s 10,000 inhabitants lived.More

Belmopan

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After Hurricane Hattie struck Belize City in 1961, the decision was made to move the capital and government offices inland. The town now called Belmopan, part of the Cayo District, was built and became the landlocked capital of Belize. Just an hour from Belize City, and equally close to San Ignacio, Belmopan is a calm area with markets, coffee shops, and restaurants.More

Lamanai

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Meaning "submerged crocodile" in Yucatan Mayan, Lamanai is perhaps the most mysterious Maya site in Belize, because it is not yet completely uncovered. See history in the making as you visit the excavation site, where some temples still remain buried underground. Exposed structures that rise from the jungle floor offer plenty to explore.More

Tikal National Park (Parque Nacional Tikal)

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Once a powerful seat of the Mayan empire, the Tikal ruins are now the most famous archeological site in Guatemala and one of the most-visited sets of Mayan ruins in all of Latin America. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of temples, plazas, and pyramids, was first settled around 700 BC, and modern visitors still get swept away by their beauty and powerful aura.More

San Jose Succotz

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Spread out along the banks of the Mopan River, this small rural village is the jumping-off point for Xunantunich, one of Belize’s most impressive Maya sites. The pace of life in the town is slow, although a steady stream of visitors pass through en route to the jungle-surrounded stone ruins on the far side of the river.More

Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

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Established as a reserve in 1944, the 100,000-acre Mountain Pine Ridge is easily the most breathtaking scenery in all of the Cayo District, if not Belize. The Chiquibul Road will lead you through pine forests, waterfalls, cascading water pools over granite boulders and the Maya Mountains in the distance—it’s a sight to be seen.More

Caracol

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Located near the Guatemalan border, the ancient Maya city of Caracol is the largest archeological site in Belize. Discovered in 1938, Caracol covers about 65 square miles (168 square kilometers) and includes more than 35,000 structures, five plazas, and an abundance of jungle. Visit on a day trip for a unique look at Maya life.More

Barton Creek Cave

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Among all the Maya caves in Belize, Barton Creek Cave is unique: a tall river cave that was once used for sacrificial purposes and can be explored only by canoe. The most striking feature is a stalactite so low, you occasionally will have to duck into the canoe to avoid getting struck. But the ride to the end is well worth it.More

Big Rock Falls

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Set amid the pine-covered and boulder-strewn slopes of Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, this 150-foot (46-meter curtain of roaring white water is one of many picturesque waterfalls that dot this wooded wilderness area. Hidden behind the forest foliage, the falls attract bathers who come to swim in the pool at its base.More

Blue Hole National Park

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Tropical forest surrounds the sapphire cenote after which this national park is named, while two cave systems—Crystal and St. Herman’s—extend across part of the 575-acre (230-hectare site. The park’s caves contain sculptural limestone formations and Maya relics, while above ground, nature trails weave through the jungle foliage.More

Cahal Pech Maya Site & Museum

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Located just a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the town center of San Ignacio, Cahal Pech is a small but significant archaeological reserve that can be visited in a couple of hours. The site, which was settled around 1,000 BC and abandoned in AD 800, includes plazas, ball courts, an altar, and even a royal burial chamber.More
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El Pilar Mayan Ruins

El Pilar Mayan Ruins

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El Pilar is an ancient Mayan city located at Belize’s border with Guatemala. It’s a Middle Preclassic and Late-Classic Mayan site, which is currently under excavation by the University of California. The site is believed to contain 20 or more plazas and hundreds of other structures spread out over more than 50 acres. Visitors will find several easily navigable trails here.More

Crystal Cave (Mountain Cow Cave)

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Crystal Cave, also known as Mountain Cow Cave, is located within the Blue Hole National Park near Belmopan, Belize’s capital city. Sacred Mayan rituals and important ceremonies were once performed here, and visitors today will see remnants such as ceremonial bowls, pots, and even skeletal remains from sacrificial victims. It is also full of natural wonders including rock formations, massive stalagmites, and crystal clusters.More

Top activities in San Ignacio

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All about San Ignacio

When to visit

Belize has two major seasons: a dry season and a wet one. The dry season, which is also the high season, starts in December and runs through May—though the weather at the tail end of the season can be quite hot. The rainy season means cheaper prices on lodging and fewer crowds, as well as a risk of hurricanes in June–November.

Getting around

San Ignacio is a compact, walkable town, so you won't need to rely on public transportation if you're hanging out in town. However, if you want to visit any of the nearby attractions, you'll need to either hire a taxi or sign up for a tour. Whether private or group, tours are often a better option, as many include transportation, guide services, admission fees, and lunch.

Traveler tips

If you're looking for an inexpensive place to get a fresh, local meal, Cenaida's Belizean Food is the ticket. Situated on Far W Street in the heart of town, this simple spot attracts visitors and residents alike with its hearty portions of flavorful dishes. Grilled meats, chicken and fish dominate the menu. There are some good vegetarian options, too—ones that go beyond the standard sides of beans and rice with plantains.

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People Also Ask

Is San Ignacio Belize worth visiting?

Yes, San Ignacio is worth visiting. It's a great base for travelers who want to explore Belize's natural side, beyond the beaches. The town itself is more of a day trip hub than a destination, but it's got plenty of facilities for travelers looking for spots to eat and sleep.

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Is it safe to walk around San Ignacio Belize?

Yes, it is safe to walk around San Ignacio Belize. The town is a popular tourist hub and plenty of travelers, including solo women, visit throughout the year. Like anywhere, it’s wise to take precautions here, including not flashing expensive goods or cash and avoiding going out alone after dark.

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How many days do you need in San Ignacio Belize?

It depends. Some people may stay several nights, while others interested in more robust sightseeing and outdoor activities might stay longer. Your best bet for deciding how long to stay is to figure out what you want to do and then calculating how long you'll need to make it happen.

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What is San Ignacio Belize known for?

San Ignacio is known as a place for travelers to stay while exploring many of Belize's most popular natural and cultural attractions. Some of the better-known attractions include Guanacaste National Park, the caves of Actun Tunichil Muknal (often referred to as the ATM Cave), and the Maya ruins at Xunantunich.

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Can you drink the water in San Ignacio Belize?

No, you cannot drink the water in San Ignacio Belize unless it’s been filtered using reverse osmosis. Many restaurants and hotels, particularly higher-end ones, will provide safe drinking water, but otherwise, it’s better to purchase bottled water or bring a high-end filtration device to use.

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What language is spoken in San Ignacio Belize?

English, Belizean Creole, and Spanish are all widely spoken in San Ignacio. English is the official language of Belize, and you won’t need to know other languages to get by as most everyone from here is an English speaker, including those who use Creole or Spanish as their primary language.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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