Guide to San Ignacio

Reading Time: 6 mins
The San Ignacio sign in San Ignacio, Cayo

San Ignacio serves as a hub for eco-tourism in western Belize. Providing easy access to top jungle attractions in Cayo and nearby Guatemala, and an excellent food and nightlife scene, it is easily within the top 5 most popular destinations in Belize.

On this page
About San Ignacio
Things to Do
Where to Eat
Where to Stay
Best Time to Visit
Safety Concerns
Getting Here & Around

About San Ignacio

Downtown San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize

Located in western Belize, San Ignacio is a small town in Cayo. The town sits across from Santa Elena, separated by the Macal River. Together, both towns make up the largest settlement in the Cayo District and are referred to as the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena (SISE).

See also: Top places to go in Belize and Top things to do in Belize

San Ignacio and Santa Elena serve as cultural-economic hubs for western Belize. Locals from all over Cayo visit the twin towns for work, shopping, and entertainment. This had led to the clustering of shops in the downtown cores and it has nurtured an excellent nightlife and food scene that is not seen elsewhere in Cayo.

Area:3.2 Square miles
SISE Population:24,896 Residents
Nearby Settlements:Bullet Tree, Esperanza, Cristo Rey
Nearest Airport:Maya Flats Airstrip (CYD)

Things to Do in San Ignacio

El Castillo is the tallest temple at Xunantunich

Due to its natural beauty and amenities, San Ignacio is popular with locals and travelers that are interested in experiencing cultural and rainforest adventures. Along with San Ignacio having many things to do and see in the downtown core, staying in San Ignacio also facilitates easy access to attractions across Cayo so its often used as base for day trips.

Some of the popular things to do in San Ignacio and throughout Cayo include visiting ancient Maya temples and caves, hiking at national parks, cave tubing, zip-lining, and horseback riding through the jungle. Although one may think San Ignacio primarily attracts explorers looking for hard adventures, there are plenty of soft adventures to do.

Soft adventures may include downtown San Ignacio walking tours, canoeing the Macal River, bird watching, visiting the Farmers’ market, and going to the Green Iguana Hatchery at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel.

Things to Do in San Ignacio

  1. Visit the Cayo Farmers’ Market and/ or take a self-tour of the murals in Downtown San Ignacio
  2. Explore the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave or go cave tubing and zip-lining
  3. Go bird watching or spend the day exploring the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
  4. Visit the Maya sites of Xunantunich or Cahal Pech
  5. Support conservation efforts by visiting the Green Iguana Hatchery

Where to Eat in San Ignacio

Guava Limb restaurant in San Ignacio, Cayo

San Ignacio is one of the most diverse spots for food in Belize since it has a melting pot of cultures. The Mestizos, people of mixed Maya and Spanish descent, are the largest ethnic group in the area. However, large groups of Maya, Mennonite, Creole, and even pockets of Lebanese and Chinese also reside in San Ignacio or in the nearby towns and villages.

With many diverse cultures calling San Ignacio home, there is a thriving restaurant scene. Some of the most traditional Belizean dishes can be easily eaten in San Ignacio, such as garnaches, salbutes, black relleno, panades, cow foot soup, bollos, johnny cakes, and boil up. Of course, don’t forget to try fry jacks or Belize’s national dish: rice & beans with stew chicken and potato salad.

Top Restaurants in San Ignacio

  1. Guava Limb Cafe
  2. Ko-Ox Hannah
  3. The Burnz
  4. Tollaca Smokehouse
  5. Cenaida’s Belizean Food

Where to Stay in San Ignacio

Chaa Creek Belize Tree House in San Ignacio, Cayo

San Ignacio and western Belize are mostly known for having hotels and resorts that are mindful of protecting and conserving natural environments while improving the well-being of the local people. In fact, many of the hotels there are some of the best places to stay in Belize, with award-winning jungle resorts such as The Lodge at Chaa Creek being recognized as eco-tourism pioneers.

Most of the accommodations in downtown San Ignacio are small boutique hotels and guest houses that cater to low- to mid-range budget travelers. However, a quick 15 to 20-minute car ride beyond the downtown core gives travelers access to remote eco-lodges and jungle resorts, some set along the Macal River or within private nature reserves.

Best Time to Visit San Ignacio

Downtown San Ignacio, Belize

The best time to visit San Ignacio is between December and April, which is during Belize’s dry season, when you can expect clear blue skies and sunny days that aren’t too hot.

Although December to April is the best time to visit San Ignacio, due to the popularity of this time, the downside is that things are more expensive in Belize during this time. This is why I typically recommend to not shy away from visiting during the tourist off-season.

Things in San Ignacio are not that different during Belize’s low-tourism season and in addition, many discounts are offered on rooms and tours. Yes, the off-season is during Belize’s wet season, but unless you’re visiting during a tropical storm, often it only rains in the morning or early afternoon for brief one- or two-hour periods.

Safety and Security Risks in San Ignacio

ATM at Atlantic Bank in San Ignacio, Belize

Popular destinations in Belize, such as San Ignacio and elsewhere in Cayo District, are typically just as safe as where you live.

The most common crime is petty theft so normal safety precautions apply. Do not flash large sums of money, do not leave personal belongings unattended, refrain from walking alone late at night (especially if drunk), and lock your doors when you leave your hotel room or Airbnb. Resorts typically provide in-room safes for valuables and have security guards at night.

Most food and beverages are safe to consume in San Ignacio. But don’t drink the tap water. If drinking water isn’t included in your stay, which may happen at vacation rentals, bottled water can be bought at supermarkets. Resorts and hotels provide “purified” water for guests so pack a reusable water bottle for tour expeditions and daily use.

Lastly, young women that are traveling alone/ are single may receive unwanted attention from Belizean men. Unfortunately, there is no “right way” to deal with catcalling but often the best response is to ignore it. Sorry.

Getting Here & Around

Maya Flats Airstrip near San Ignacio in Cayo, Belize

San Ignacio doesn’t have an international airport, so you’ll have to fly to the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) in Ladyville, a suburb of Belize City. From there you’ll need to either take a domestic flight or shuttle/ taxi or rent a car to get to San Ignacio. You can also take the local bus from Belize City. A cab from the international airport to the Belize City bus terminal is US$25.

Taking a domestic flight to San Ignacio is the most direct option. The flight from PGIA to the Maya Flats Airstrip, which is 10 minutes outside of San Ignacio, costs about US$140 and it takes about 20 minutes. Getting to San Igancio by vehicle involves a 1.5-hour trip if it’s a shuttle/ taxi (US$150-$300) or car rental (US$125/day). Buses from Belize City to San Ignacio take about 3 hours and the trip costs about US$6.

Once in San Ignacio, transportation options to get around include bikes, taxis, canoes, or car rentals.

San Ignacio Pictures

Travelers who visit San Ignacio also visit

If you like my San Ignacio travel guide, please consider sharing it. This helps other people find my useful destination guides.