San Ignacio is the day trip mecca of Belize – find out what tours are available as well as information on attractions, food, accommodation & transport.
San Ignacio is a small town on the west bank of the Bacal River, in the Cayo district of Belize – its-twin town Santa Elena lies on the east bank.
Travellers can visit the forested Mayan ruins of Cahal Pech & Xunantunich, as well as the Iguana Conservation Project at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel.
For more information, see our post How to Visit Xunantunich Ruins Without a Tour.
As one of the most popular destinations in Belize, there’s very good tourist infrastructure in place. Decent budget accommodation, good restaurants & regular transportation options make San Ignacio an easy place for travellers to want to visit & stay.
There’s not much to see or do in San Ignacio itself but it’s an excellent base town for exploring the region.
Outdoor adventurists can go hiking, kayaking, swimming, caving & horseback riding while cultural lovers can visits some of the most famous Mayan ruins in the country.
But unfortunately for DIY budget travellers, if you don’t have your own wheels, it’s hard to get around. The only alternative is to take a tour – and they don’t come cheap.
Tours from San Ignacio
Here’s a list of the most popular tours offered from San Ignacio & their prices:
- Actun Tunichil Muknal cave tour – BZ$180 / US$90
- Barton Creek canoeing tour – BZ$150 / US$75
- Caracol ruins – BZ$180 / US$90
- Tikal ruins – BZ$290 / US$145
- Horseback riding at Xunantunich – BZ$190 / $US$85
- Mountain Pine Ridget hiking – BZ$190 / US$85
These are the listed online prices from Maya Walks, the agency we used for our ATM cave tour – we paid BZ$10 lower than the online price, so you can expect to pay a little less when booking in person.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave Tour
Caving at Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) is the #1 tour in San Ignacio.
It was also voted the #1 Sacred Cave in the World by National Geographic.
Actun Tunichil Muknal is a 45 minute drive from town. A 40 minute walk through the Tapir Mounain Nature Reserve takes you to the entrance of the cave. Then the adventure begins – swimming & wading for 1.6 km through the dark chambers & narrow passageways of the Mayan underworld, before reaching the final resting place of the “Crystal Maiden”.
The “Crystal Maiden” is a perfectly preserved, complete female skeleton, with glistening, calcified bones.
Along the way, you’ll also see the remains of other skeletons, along with ancient stoneware & ceramics – Actun Tunichil Muknal is an utterly unique Mayan archaeological site.
The ATM cave tour is not for the faint-hearted but it’s also not that extreme. There are a few tight squeezes, swims in the dark & claustrophobic moments but if you love adventure travel, don’t hesitate to sign up for this amazing experience!
Price of tour: BZ$170 / US$85
Includes: transport, entrance fee, helmet, head torch, water shoes, guide, lunch, drinks
Tour operator: Maya Walks
* No photos allowed inside the cave but Maya Walks emails you some stock photos
What to Eat in San Ignacio
There are lots of local & international food options in San Ignacio.
For the best budget meals in town, we recommend eating at Cenaida’s Belizean Food & the Chinese restaurant near Hi-Et Guest House.
Cenaida’s Belizean Food offer delicious local dishes such as Stewed Beef with rice & beans for BZ$8.00.
The Chinese restaurant serves large plates of chow mien noodles for BZ$9.00 that can be shared between 2 people.
For lunch, there are a few comedor shops offering stewed chicken with rice & beans for $5.00.
For breakfast, eat at the road stalls opposite on Waights Avenue in the city centre. Burritos, tacos, juices & Belizean snacks cost BZ$1-4.
How to Get to & from San Ignacio
We took an express bus from Belize City to San Ignacio (via Belmopan) – it departed from Novelo’s Bus Terminal on W. Collet Canal Street.
The ride cost BZ$9.00 / US$4.50. The normal service is BZ$1 less.
For more information, see our post Belize City: What to See & Do in 2 Hours.
We visited the Blue Hole National Park & St Herman’s Cave from San Ignacio. There are buses to Belmopan on the hour, every half hour. Bus tickets costs BZ$3.00.
For more information, see our post Visit St Herman’s Blue Hole National Park.
If you’re heading to the Guatemalan border, take a bus from San Ignacio to Benque Viejo del Carmen for $2.00. From the bus stop, it’s a 2 km walk or taxi to the border.
For more information, see our post Benque to Melchor de Menchos Border Crossing.
Where to Stay in San Ignacio
Hi-Et Guest House is the best budget hotel in San Ignacio.
A room with shared bathroom is BZ$30 / US$15 – we negotiated for BZ$25 a night for 3 nights.
Rooms are small but clean with a fan, some have a small balcony – the showers have hot water.
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*** The Final Word – San Ignacio is a traveller-friendly town offering lots of activities, if you have the money ***
What tours did you do in San Ignacio?
Easy DIY travel outside city centres using public transport
Visited in July 2016