San Ignacio: High Adventure in Inland Belize
Last week we shared about our experiences in Caye Caulker, Belize, which covered the first two days of our week in Belize. Today we’re moving on to the next three days in and around the San Ignacio area. Next week, we’ll wrap up by sharing our thoughts on the final two days of our trip, in Placencia.
We began our Belize trip on an island, but most people visit Belize (at least in part) for its jungles, caves, and Mayan ruins. Enter the San Ignacio portion of this trip.
After spending two slow, refreshing days on Caye Caulker, it was time for some high-speed activities and adventure in Belize’s awesome inland areas.
How we got there:
We toiled over transportation throughout our time in Belize, but we landed on the decision to rent a car for our three days around the San Ignacio area. This is one thing we’d probably go back and change if we could because (1) it was crazy expensive with additional hidden costs, (2) our tour company provided several pick-ups that we didn’t know were part of the deal, and (3) the public transportation would have been totally doable and saved us hundreds of dollars. Our thought was that we’d be able to cross the Guatemala border to visit Tikal with our car, but we we also didn’t know you needed a special affidavit provided only by certain rental car companies to do that. So hindsight is 20/20 on this one.
Where we stayed:
Our lodging in San Ignacio could not have been more perfect. We booked three nights in Mana Kai Campground & Cabins in an adorable wooden cabana with a private bathroom for just $35/night. The property had tent camping, hostel-like rooms, cabanas, air-conditioned cabins, common areas, a shared outdoor kitchen, and free wifi. The best part, though, was its proximity to the heart of San Ignacio: each night, we walked the 5 minutes into town for street food and ice cream from Western Dairies. Most other travelers we talked to felt a bit isolated, especially without a rental car, in their hotels and hostels along the outskirts of the city.
What we did:
Here’s the fun part. There is a reason why everyone leaves the coast and islands of Belize for the jungles and caves. There are so many activities and adventures! We knew immediately that we were going to squeeze a lot of fun into three days. Thankfully, Belize Inland Tours was able to help us out with this goal. We had a great experience with Belize Inland Tours as they provide tours away from the cruise-ship crowds that flood some areas.
On Day 1, we drove from Belize City toward San Ignacio and stopped at Blue Hole National Park (national parks, yay!) for our first tour: cave tubing. We had heard about the infamous cave tubing when we first started researching Belize, and it sounded like a fun afternoon activity. There are many options for cave tubing, but Belize Inland Tours are the only tours that are stationed in Blue Hole National Park, and that means they are much more intimate and much less touristy. We loved cave tubing, but it only got better from there.
All of Day 2 was spent on the ATM Cave Tour which we had heard so much about. We are so glad we splurged on this experience. Belize Inland Tours doesn’t operate tours here, but they will still book you a tour through an amazing partner guide. All day, we swam, climbed, crawled our way through the cave, which is filled with broken pottery and human remains from ancient Mayan human sacrifice ceremonies. I don’t know if we’ll see anything quite as unique and sacred in our lives.
Our third day in San Ignacio was on our own, as we drove to three separate Mayan ruins: Caracol (the largest in the area, and about a 2-hour drive from San Ignacio), Xunantunich, and Cahal Pech. It was a long day with a lot of bumpy driving and climbing steep Mayan steps, but we are so glad we arranged our day in order to see all three ruins.
Finally, as we were heading out of San Ignacio, we joined in on one more tour with Belize Inland Tours. Personally, I think this one was the most fun. The tour was an all-day cave kayaking tour, but the tour company was awesome and worked with us to leave really early in the morning and go faster than they might usually go so we could squeeze it in. Since we were the only people with our guide, our accommodations were met. We spent the morning kayaking about six miles through the jungle and three separate caves, all inside Five Blues National Park. I think of all the ways we explored caves in Belize, my favorite was on top of a kayak.
What we ate:
Cole was so excited at the cheap street food all around Belize, but especially in San Ignacio. Each night, we walked around and found a new table to try out. Each night was so delicious. We ate a mix of burritos, tamales, and tacos, and most full meals cost us about $4-5 total for the both of us to eat. Two of our nights were capped with ice cream at a local favorite called Western Dairies. For breakfast one day, Cole walked just a minute or so from our campground to a bakery that sold amazing donuts and pastries. Other than that, it was street food all the way!
We loved our trip to Belize, and that was mostly due to these three days explorings its natural and historic areas around San Ignacio. Most people who visit see at least a little of this area, and after leaving, we felt like we did it justice.
It would not have been a complete trip to Belize without a visit to San Ignacio.