San Ignacio Belize and its sister-town of Santa Elena are the country's most popular inland tourist destination for a reason. There's are so many interesting things to do here that you'll certainly want to consider visiting during your Belize vacation. San Ignacio is the more important of the two towns, and it's where most tourists base themselves, though nothing more than the beautiful Macal River separates the two. The Hawksworth Bridge that spans it was built in 1949, and it's the only suspension bridge in Belize. San Ignacio is often referred to as "Cayo" by locals, so you may impress them upon your arrival with use of the appellation. You can get to San Ignacio by heading west on the aptly named Western Highway from Belize City, and it's just about 70 miles and a 90 minute's drive. Should you go by bus, it's about a 2 ½ -hour trip. There is an airstrip in San Ignacio, but you might find it difficult to get a flight here. That may change as San Ignacio tourism increases in popularity. What do people seek here, you might ask? Impressive Maya ruins, forested hiking trails, curious caves, and beautiful butterfly gardens are just the beginning.
San Ignacio Cayo and Santa Elena are Belize's second-largest urban area, and they are the hub(s) of the Cayo District. Here, the mountains begin to rise and the Guatemala border is none too far off. Many people heading on from Belize to Guatemala stop in San Ignacio, though the nightlife is a bit more subdued than you might expect if you're looking for it. That's not to say you can't find a nice bar or three to hang out at. The San Ignacio Resort has quite a positive reputation in town, and its bar and casino are bound to give you about all the nightlife you'll need. Of course, San Ignacio vacations are usually so full of activities that you may be too tired to party long into the night. The San Ignacio hotels surely see a lot of happily worn-out customers.
The aforementioned Maya ruins help to make San Ignacio
trips so rewarding, and tours and trips to one or more
of these ruins is something that almost must be experienced
on San Ignacio vacations. Xunantunich, Caracol,
and El Pilar are a few of the major Maya ruins sites that
you'll want to consider visiting, and if you're
really in it for the Maya experience, you might even think
about heading over to Guatemala where the impressive ruined
city of Tikal looms
large in the jungle. Close to town, the ruins at Cahal
Pech can easily be visited during San Ignacio vacations.
You're just a short cab ride and a 20-minute uphill
walk away. It's worth the walk in case you're
hesitant for that reason. Unless you have a good guide,
be sure to grab yourself an informative guide of the printed
variety at any of the ruins upon arrival, as it will surely
help you to better enjoy the experience. Before or after
visiting some Maya ruins, you might decide to take to
the Macal and Mopan rivers in a kayak, canoe, or inner
tube. Come during the July-September rainy season, and
you might get a swifter ride than usual, which is fine
by some. River running, if you will, is surely a top San
Ignacio tourism draw. You can enjoy a little swimming
in the rivers as well.
If you like horseback riding, there are some great trails to be enjoyed in the Cayo District, and bird watchers will revel in the avian sights and sounds. Over 600 species of birds are known to at least spend some of the year in Belize. Exploring the area caves is another favorite San Ignacio Cayo pursuit. The Maya of Belize used the country's caves most likely for religious purposes, and many of these caves show evidence of their past activity. If you're up for a challenging, full-day cave excursion from San Ignacio, Actun Tunichil Muknal is just a 45-minute drive away. You'll then be required to execute a 45-minute hike if you want to reach the cave. You will get wet once inside, and you might avoid it if you can't swim. There are less-challenging caves in the area that can be just as rewarding. You can find plenty of tour operators in San Ignacio Cayo, and many of the San Ignacio hotels have their own travel desks to help you arrange any number of activities. Chances are good that you'll be taking advantage of all the opportunities to get out and experience some of the best that Belize has to offer. It can get fairly cool up in the mountains here, so be sure to bring some warm clothing just in case. Thankfully, you can still leave the parka at home.