15 Things to Do in San Ignacio + Insider Tips

Downtown San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize
Reading Time: 8 mins

San Ignacio is one of the most popular ecotourism destinations in Belize. It serves as a hub for eco-friendly travelers that are interested in the top jungle and cultural attractions of western Belize.

Some of the best things to do in or near San Ignacio include sightseeing at nature reserves such as Mountain Pine Ridge, and exploring ancient Maya temples and sacred caves. There’s also a popular farmers market and green iguana hatchery that are must-visits, and an abundance of local restaurants and bars to try, which contribute to the town’s excellent food and nightlife scene. And don’t forget to go cave tubing, zip-lining, river canoeing or kayaking, and finally, horseback riding through the jungle!

Top things to do in San Ignacio, Cayo

If you still need convincing that San Ignacio is an amazing place to go in Belize, here’s a list of popular activities and attractions that might help you make up your mind.

1. Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

Big Rock Falls in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Cayo, Belize

Mountain Pine Ridge was established in 1944 to protect the native Belizean pine forest, which is not common in the country. The landscape features rolling pine forests spread over smooth, granite hillsides.

Along with being a superb hiking destination, the park has many attractions. Top attractions include the Rio Frio Cave, Rio On Pools, Big Rock Falls, and the Caracol Maya temple.

Insider tip: Touring Pine Ridge is great since in just one day you’re able to do many of the top things mainland Belize is known for, such as birdwatching, swimming, caving, hiking, and exploring Maya ruins.

2. Xunantunich Archaeological Reserve

El Castillo is the tallest temple at Xunantunich

Xunantunich is one of the most impressive Maya sites in Belize and it is a must-see for anyone visiting western Belize. The reserve is about 15 minutes away from San Ignacio and it is surrounded by lush jungles and wildlife such as birds and monkeys.

El Castilo, which is the main temple at Xunantunich and can be climbed by visitors, shoots 130 ft above the rainforest canopy offering panoramic views of nearby villages and the Guatemalan mountains.

Insider tip: Visitors have to get across a hand-cranked ferry over the Mopan River to get there.

3. ATM Cave

Family at ATM Cave

Actun Tunichil Muknal is one of the most impressive and artifact-rich Maya ceremonial caves ever found, containing rare bloodletting altars used in sacrifices by Maya royalty and over 1400 catalogued artifacts, as well as sacrificial human, remains. \

A must-see at the ATM Cave is the world-famous “Crystal Maiden”, which is an intact skeleton of a young female that was sacrificed by the ancient Maya. Due to a covering of calcium carbonate, it sparkles eerily in the lamplight.

Insider tip: By visiting several tour operators in downtown San Ignacio, you can get the best-priced tour.

4. San Ignacio Farmers’ Market

San Ignacio sign at the San Ignacio Farmers Market

The San Ignacio Market is a great place to see locals mingling and witness firsthand why Belize is considered a melting pot of cultures. The best time to visit is on Saturdays when people from all over Cayo come to either sell their produce or stock up on groceries for the week.

At the market, you can basically find just about anything: food, vegetables, jewelry, and clothes, to name a few items.

Insider tip: Eat lunch at the market, the tacos and pupusas are my favourites. Yum!

5. Jungle Pontoon Waterfall Adventure

Jungle Pontoon Waterfall Adventure in Cayo, Belize

A major highlight for anyone that enjoys boat tours, the jungle pontoon waterfall adventure takes people on the Macal River through the remote jungles of Cayo. Guests are treated to a memorable experience of visiting various waterfalls, swimming, tubing, and cliff jumping off rocks.

This full-day jungle cruise is fun for people of all ages and it includes a boat guide, good vibes, and a delicious BBQ lunch.

Insider tip: You if don’t want to be active, you can simply just lounge on the boat or hang out on tubes.

6. Eat at downtown San Ignacio restaurants

Guava Limb Restaurant in San Ignacio, Cayo

San Ignacio has several amazing downtown restaurants and they are all near each other. These restaurants principally offer a fusion of Mestizo, Maya, and Garifuna dishes, however, there are also Indian, Chinese, and American-style restaurants.

The best spots for food are Ko-Ox Hannah, Guava Limb Cafe, Erva’s Restaurant, Cenaida’s Belizean Food, Pop’s Restaurant, and The Burnz.

Insider tip: Best place for Dinner is Ko’Ox Hannah or Guava Limb Cafe; The Burnz, Cenaida’s or Ervas are great for lunch, and Pop’s Restaurant is excellent for breakfast.

7. The Green Iguana Conservation Project

A baby Green Iguana at the Green Iguana Conservation Project

Have you ever heard the term ‘Bamboo Chicken’? In Belize, the Green Iguana is prized as a special treat during specific religious months and this has led to it becoming an endangered species. As a result, the government and private sector have invested in making sure this unique species is protected via educational awareness and conservation efforts.

By visiting the Green Iguana Project at the San Ignacio Hotel Resort, you can witness the life cycle of this creature and also contribute to the protection of this reptile.

Insider tip: Also available on-site are birdwatching tours and a short rainforest medicinal plant trail.

8. Cave tubing and Zip-lining

Belize Cave Tubing

Cave tubing and zip-lining is loads of fun and is one of Belize’s most popular excursion. Cave tubing is an interesting way to mix swimming/ floating and cave exploration. Ziplining is perfect for adrenaline junkies wishing to soar above the rainforest canopy tops. 

Cave tubing and zip-lining are typically paired together since they can be done near each other.

Insider tip: It’s better to book this as a small-private tour and tell your tour guide that you’d like to avoid the cruise crowds.

9. Chaa Creek Nature Reserve

Rainforest infinity pool and Manicured Grounds at Chaa Creek Eco Resort

Set along the banks of the Macal River, the Chaa Creek Nature Reserve is a 400-acre protected area that offers extensive ecotourism facilities near San Ignacio.

Along with hosting a series of nature trails, including a rainforest medicine trail, highlights within the reserve include a natural history museum, butterfly farm, Maya organic farm, and horseback riding and birdwatching tours. And aside from birds, it’s a great place to see native wildlife like howler monkeys.

Insider tip: Those that wish to stay there can since Chaa Creek Resort, which is rated as one of the world’s best eco-lodges, is located within the reserve.

10. Mayan Chocolate Making and Tasting

Traditional Mayan chocolate-making in Belize

Located in downtown San Ignacio, AJAW Chocolate & Craft is a great place to go for anyone that is interested in learning about the history and culture of Mayan chocolate-making.

Through an interactive tour, guests experience making Mayan chocolate using a traditional grinding stone, known as a metate. The process includes grinding cacao beans into a paste which is then used to make a chocolate drink that the ancient Maya once consumed.

Insider tip: Souvenirs such as local organic chocolate liqueur, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and chocolate bars can be purchased there.

11. Cahal Pech Maya Site

The Main Courtyard at Cahal Pech Maya Ruins

Found in walking distance from downtown San Ignacio, Cahal Pech Maya Temple has a small visitor centre/ museum and a couple large Maya temples which are really exciting to explore. This site usually surprises everyone who visits since as you leave the visitor centre and enter the site’s main plaza, you are overwhelmed by the contrasting environment and thick jungle foliage that surrounds the temples.

The charming natural atmosphere and the fact that you can often find yourself being the only person there, makes Cahal Pech a personal favorite archaeological site.

Insider tip: An early morning visit means that almost no one will be there and it also provides a great opportunity for bird-watching.

12. Canoeing the Macal River

Macal River canoeing in San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize

Lazily glide up or down the Macal River spotting wildlife and enjoy a brief departure from San Ignacio’s “busy” downtown. Canoeing the river is a great way to spend a relaxing morning or afternoon since it tends to be a peaceful and quiet experience.

A definite plus for anyone seeking tranquility is that people mostly don’t live on the banks of the Macal River and the river doesn’t have any rapids.

Insider tip: Hire a guide if you are interested in spotting wildlife. Their experience has given them a keen eye for catching stuff you would miss.

13. Enjoy San Ignacio’s Nightlife

Club NEXT at the Princess Casino in San Ignacio, Cayo

Partying with locals is always fun so I recommend that you have a downtown booze bender! C’mon, you’re on vacation! A good place to start is either at The Burnz or Eva’s in the downtown core – or The Guava Limb for something nicer. And to end the night, go dancing at San Ignacio’s best nightclub: the Next Lounge at the Princess Casino.

But before going to bed, don’t forget to stop downtown (on Burns Avenue) to eat Rice & Beans with stew chicken/ BBQ or Cowfoot soup.

Insider tip: The Burnz, Eva’s and Tandoor offer happy hour rum and cokes from around 3 – 6 PM. I mentioned Cowfoot soup above, make sure to have it with lots of hot sauce to prevent being hungover the next day.

14. Head to Sweet Ting for a sweet delight

Sweet Ting in San Ignacio, Cayo

Sweet Ting is exactly what the name suggests: a dessert shop. It has the widest variety of homemade desserts in San Ignacio, or probably all of Cayo. If the sweets don’t call your attention, the smell of freshly brewed coffee will lure you from afar.

Since I’m not much of a coffee drinker, what draws me here is their yummy Tres Leches Cake. It’s absolutely delicious.

Insider tip: You can also find here a large assortment of international pre-packaged gourmet delicacies and the occasional Victoria Secret underwear. It’s definitely an interesting place.

15. Try Restaurante Tipico Salvadoreno’s Milk Shakes

Located in Santa Elena (the twin town of San Ignacio) on the Western Highway across from CP Gas Station, Restaurante Tipico Salvadoreno specializes in Central American cuisine. But the highlight of this place is their unbelievably good milkshakes so make sure to try the Papaya, Mango, Melon or Strawberry shake.

By the way, if you’re into pupusas, this is a great place to have them! I also recommend their Latin-American-Belizean-style burritos.

Insider tip: Try the Melon milkshake, you’ll not be disappointed! The Papaya shake is the second best.

I hope you enjoyed these tips, they are great for both budget backpackers and luxury travelers.



Reader Interactions


  1. Belize Blog says

    Gonna have to skip the bender but the Sweet Ting recommendation is a home run. I could eat there EVERY DAY. That is some solid cake.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *