Fun Things To Do In San Ignacio, Belize in 2023
There are a plethora of fun things to do in San Ignacio, Belize, in 2023 that are adventurous, great for families and affordable. Adventurers will be thrilled with canoeing or kayaking down the Mopan River, mountain bike riding or an Indiana Jones experience at Actun Tunichil Muknal and you can rappel into Crystal Cave. Families can enjoy ziplining, horseback riding through Xunantunich or sliding down the rocks at the Rio On pools as well as an inner tube ride into Barton Creek Cave and children will be like the Green Iguana Conservation Project. Nature lovers will be delighted with the wildlife at Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, the Blue Hole National Park, the Belize Botanical Gardens and the cascading water at Big Rock Falls. There are numerous archaeology sites such as Caracol, Altun Ha, Lamanai, Cahal Pech and you can take a day trip to Tikal National Park. Read below about San Ignacio activities, attractions and points of interest.
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The most popular thing to do in San Ignacio for all adventurers including families is to plan on taking an Archaeology Tour. There are numerous Mayan Ruins for you to explore and view while you learn more about the ancient culture, history and rituals of these fascinating people. You can journey to ancient cities like Caracol whichmay contain up to 35,000 structures, Lamanai where you will first travel down the New River and you can ride a horse while viewing Xunantunich. Other excursions include Che Chem Ha Cave, Rio Frio Cave, Actun Tunichil Muknal and the day trip to Tikal National Park is a must do. There are add-on options such as swimming at the Rio On pools or cruising on an inner tube through Barton Creek Cave and the Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins.
Tikal Day Trip from San Ignacio
When you are searching for an interesting family-friendly experience that is packed with plenty of sights, culture and history of the Mayan people then a perfect thing to do in San Ignacio is to take the Tikal Day Trip from San Ignacio. Your full day journey starts with complimentary hotel pick-up service where you will be transported to the Guatemala border. Once across the border you will continue to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Tikal National Park while listening to your expert explain the intricacies that you will view throughout the day. After you enter Tikal National Park you will follow your guide and learn more interesting facts about the 3,000 palaces, temples, ceremonial altars, plazas and ball courts. Your guide will explain why Tikal National Park was a political, religious and social hub for the ancient Mayan people. You will witness structures such as the King Moon Double Comb which stands 144-feet tall and the Double Head Serpent which towers 212-feet into the sky. You will have plenty of extra time to explore on your own before you indulge in a complimentary lunch and are transported back to your hotel in San Ignacio.
Horseback Riding Tours
If you are looking for a relaxing way to travel through the jungle or an ancient Mayan city with your family then a perfect thing to do in San Ignacio is to go on a Horseback Riding Tour. These excursions are packed with adventure as well as interesting learning opportunities about the ancient Mayan culture and you will be delighted with the jungle landscape that you will travel through on your journey. You can follow your trail guide to places such as Che Chem Ha Cave, Flower Camp Cave, Actun Chapat Cave and even the Forgotten Jungle City of Minanha. Other exciting places you can visit on horseback is Xunantunich Mayan Ruins, the lush Maya Mountains and you can visit an organic farm as well as sinkhole in Santa Familia.
When you want an experience that is filled with adrenaline as well as beautiful jungle scenery and is family-friendly then an ideal thing to do in San Ignacio is to take a Zipline Tour. You will travel at breathtaking speeds as you soar over the canopy of the jungle at heights up to 75-feet as your adrenaline reaches new highs as you go from platform to platform. The bird's eye view while gliding along the cable course is amazing and offers opportunities to watch wildlife in their natural habitat as well as view hundreds of birds. Other excellent added options can be included on these excursions such as visiting a butterfly farm, viewing the 150-foot Big Rock Falls or you can choose to add-on a tubing experience through Barton Creek Cave.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave)
One of the most popular things to do in San Ignacio for people wanting to learn more about Mayan rituals and culture as well as for adventurers who like interesting experiences is to travel to Actun Tunichil Muknal, also known as ATM Cave. Located 1.25-hours from San Ignacio within the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, the Actun Tunichil Muknal is a 3-mile long cave which is accessed by a 45-minute walk through the jungle. Once at Actun Tunichil Muknal you will have to swim, slither through tight openings and climb a narrow ladder as you learn the importance of the Xibalba people of the underworld. The cave is filled with numerous artifacts that have been calcified to the floor for centuries if not thousands of years as well as numerous carvings that feature altars and temples dedicated to animals, people as well as other spirits sacred to the ancient Mayan people. Within the cave there is also the Crystal Maiden which is a skeleton of an eighteen year female who is only one of fourteen skeletons that have been found within this sacrificial cave.
There are numerous fun filled adventures that can be found while taking a Sightseeing Tour which is one of the best things to do in San Ignacio for all types of adventurers including families. You have a wide variety of places you can visit on these excursions that range from the Macal River to the Caracol Mayan Ruins to the Mopan River to the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins. There are numerous ways you can go sightseeing as well as that can have you paddling a canoe along the Rainforest Medicine Trail or horseback riding through an ancient Mayan city. You can also choose to travel by coach with an expert guide explaining everything you see while walking through places like the Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins.
One of the most family-friendly things to do in San Ignacio that is filled with the excitement of traveling on a jungle river and learning interesting history of the area is to try a Tubing Tour. You will be pleased with the variety of places you can float down a river which includes places like the Mopan River and the Macal River where you can view the jungle scenery of the Maya Mountains as well as the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Other exciting adventures on these excursions are floating through different caves in which you will view stalagmites and stalactites while learning the interesting history of the Xibalba people which are the keepers of the underworld in Mayan folklore and culture. An added bonus on some tours is a walk through the ancient Mayan city of Xunantunich.
Kayaking and Canoeing Tours
When you want to combine a little exercise while viewing the beautiful jungle landscape and assorted attractions from waterfalls to Mayan Ruins then an ideal thing to do in San Ignacio is to take a Kayaking and Canoeing Tour. These excursions range from half to full-day experiences which will have you paddling on the Mopan River and the Macal River. You will be delighted with the scenery and the wildlife sightings as well as viewing other attractions that range from the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve to Xunantunich Mayan Ruins to the Big Rock Waterfall to learning the interesting history of the ancient Xibalba people of the underworld at Barton Creek Cave. You have a variety of paddling options from more challenging rapids in a kayak or paddling in calm waters in a canoe which is ideal for families.
Xunantunich Mountain Bike Adventure
When you want to find a jungle adventure that includes a day of exercise then the best thing to do in San Ignacio is to take the Xunantunich Mountain Bike Adventure. Your half-day adventure begins with complimentary hotel pick-up where you will be taken to the small village of San Jose Succotz where you will be outfitted with all the necessary biking and safety equipment. From here you will travel across the Mopan River on a hand cranked ferry and then start peddling on your journey to Xunantunich Mayan Ruins. Along the way you will be thrilled with the cycling terrain which involves single and double track roads that take you through the jungle environment. Once at Xunantunich Mayan Ruins you will have plenty of time to explore with your expert guide explaining all the intricate details of this ancient city's history. After climbing to the top of El Castillo which is the second highest Mayan structure in Belize you will travel back to San Jose Succotz where you will be transported back to you hotel in San Ignacio.
If you want to see the largest Mayan Ruin in all of Belize then the only thing to do in San Ignacio is to take a trip to the Caracol Mayan Ruins. Located 2.5-hours from San Ignacio adjacent to the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Caracol which translates to snail in Spanish is situated on 25,000-acres within the Chiquibil Forest Reserve and contains over 35,000 structures within five plaza areas that were occupied from the Pre Classic to Post Classic Period or from 1,200 B.C.E. to 1,050 C.E. Once inside Caracol Mayan Ruins you will find a lush jungle environment with numerous palaces, ball courts, temples, stelae and alters. The most impressive of all the structures is the Caana pyramid which towers into the sky some 140-feet and once on top you are treated to an incredible view of the area. There is also more than 20 stelae at Caracol Mayan Ruins which explain the history of the ancient city, the dates of each temple and altar. Also onsite is an informative visitor's center and a museum that is packed with artifacts that have been excavated from the ancient city.
When you are searching for an adventure to a Mayan Ruin that can only be accessed by boat then the perfect thing to do in San Ignacio is to visit Lamanai. Located 4-hours from San Ignacio in the Orange Walk District, Lamanai which means the submerged crocodile is situated within 959-acres along the New River Lagoon and contains 113 structures which were continuously occupied from the Pre Classic Period to the Spanish Conquest or from 1,500 B.C.E. to 1640 C.E. Lamanai Mayan Ruins can be accessed by taking a 1.5-hour boat ride on the New River and continuing with a 1.5-mile hike through the jungle. Once at Lamanai you can explore these fascinating ruins where you can view the Temple of Mask and the Jaguar Temple were a 10 pound jade mask was discovered during excavations. The High Temple towers 100-feet into the air and once you have finished the climb you are afforded with breathtaking views of the surrounding area. In addition, you can visit the onsite museum where you can see hundreds of artifacts including the 10 pound mask which is on exhibit.
One of the most interesting Mayan Ruin sites in Belize is Xunantunich Mayan Ruins which is an ideal thing to do in San Ignacio for families who are looking to learn more about Mayan history. Located 5.5-miles from San Ignacio adjacent to San Jose Succotz along the Mopan River, the Xunantunich which translates to stone woman is situated on 640-acres and contains six plazas that are surrounded by at least 26 palaces and temples which were occupied during the Late Classic to Early Post Classic Period or 700 to 1,000 C.E. Xunantunich Mayan Ruins were primarily a ceremonial center with El Castillo towering some 130-feet into the sky. Within El Castillo there are two structures one of which contains a large stucco frieze. The frieze portrays a large mask with ears that is believed to be the sun god named Kinich Ahau and adjacent to the mask is the sign of the moon with a border that represents Venus. There is a visitor center onsite which contains details of the excavations as well as several interactive exhibits and artifacts.
There are numerous Mayan Ruins within Belize that are superb to see and to visit the Altun Ha Mayan Ruins is one of the more unique things to do in San Ignacio. Located 2.5-hours away from San Ignacio along the Old Northern Highway 31-miles from Belize City, the Altun Ha also known as the Rockstone Water in the Mayan language is situated on 44-acres and contains 13 structures as well as two main plazas which were occupied in the Pre Classic thru to the Early Post Classic periods of the Mayan civilization or from 900 B.C.E. to 1,000 C.E. The Altun Ha Mayan Ruins has many fascinating features such as a large water reservoir which is referred to as the Rockstone Pond which is lined with yellow clay allowing the pond to retain water. The highest structure at Altun Ha Mayan Ruins is the Temple of the Masonry Altars which stand almost 60-feet in the air. An excavation of the ruins in 1970 revealed a 10 pound carved piece of jade that resembles Kinich Ahau which is the Maya Sun God. Today, the jade carving is on display along with numerous other artifacts within a small visitor center.
Crystal Cave (Mountain Cow Cave)
If you are interested in natural geologic wonders as well as learning about ancient Mayan culture then an ideal thing to do in San Ignacio is to take a visit to the Crystal Cave also known as the Mountain Cow Cave. Located 90-minutes from San Ignacio along the Hummingbird Highway south of Belmopan, the Crystal Cave is situated within the Blue Hole National Park and is accessed after a moderate 50-minute hike through the jungle landscape. Once at Crystal Cave you will rappel 15-feet down into the ancient underworld of the Xibalba people. In Mayan folklore and culture caves are believed to be the portal that unites the human world with that of the invisible gods. Crystal Cave contains many Mayan remnants and artifacts that were used in Mayan ceremonies as well as sacred rituals. As you travel through the cave you will experience seeing skeletal remains, pottery, wall carvings and ceremonial artifacts. The Crystal Cave is a natural wonder within itself with massive rock flows, walls of calcite crystal clusters and stalagmites as well as stalactites.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
One of the best things to do in San Ignacio for outdoor and nature lovers that like scenic beauty mixed with wildlife is to plan a trip to the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Located 20-miles from San Ignacio along the Chiquibul Road, the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is situated on 300-square miles of landscape that is primarily Honduras Pine as well as broadleaf forest that rests upon a granite massif and contains several major attractions within the Cayo District. Once at the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve you will have the opportunity to explore places such as the Hidden Valley Falls which has a drop of over 1,500-feet making these falls the tallest in Central America as well as Big Rock Falls on the Privassion Creek, the Rio On pools, Barton Creek Cave and Rio Frio Cave which is credited with the largest entrance to a cave in Belize. There are numerous miles of hiking trails within the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve where you can watch wildlife like ocelots, jaguars, Baird's tapirs and there are Morelet's crocodiles as well as hundreds of bird species.
Big Rock Falls and Rio On Pools
If you like to swim and jump into crystal clear pools of water as well as view an incredible waterfall then the best thing to do in San Ignacio is to go to the Big Rock Falls and Rio On pools. Located 13-miles from San Ignacio, the Big Rock Falls and Rio on Pools are situated within the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Big Rock Falls is part of the Vaca Plateau and the 150-foot waterfall can be accessed by a 15-minute hike which can be treacherous at times. The Big Rock Falls are created by large pieces of granite along the Privassion Creek where the water tumbles downward in to a clear pool of water where you can go swimming and cliff jumping. The Rio On pools is a series of natural slick granite waterslides and swimming holes where you can indulge in a bit of adrenaline as well as relax with a natural back massage from the cascading waters.
Barton Creek Cave
When you are interested in exploring one of the most important caves within Mayan culture then a superb thing to do in San Ignacio is to visit the Barton Creek Cave. Located less than 17-miles away from San Ignacio, the Barton Creek Cave is situated adjacent to the Noj Kaax H'Men Elijio Panti Forest Reserve as well as the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve. The Barton Creek Cave was significant in Mayan culture because the cave was home to the underworld people called Xibalba. This 7-mile long cave can only be accessed by canoe and is packed with low lying stalactites which make for a challenging trip. Today there are numerous archaeological remnants along the ten ledges within the cave that includes pottery, a child's skull and the remains of 28 humans have been excavated from Barton Creek Cave. Artifacts such as pottery shards have been found to be from the Early Classic to the Late Classic Periods of the Mayan civilization which spans a total of 700 years.
Blue Hole National Park
If you like to view the natural wonders of the environment along with numerous species of birds then a great thing to do in San Ignacio is to plan a trip to Blue Hole National Park also known as St. Herman's Blue Hole National Park. Located just under 90-minutes from San Ignacio along the Hummingbird Highway south of Belmopan, the Blue Hole National Park resides on 575-acres of landscape that includes St. Herman's and Crystal Cave as well as the Sibun River. The Blue Hole was created from a collapsed limestone cave which was then filled with water from the Sibun River that created blue as well as turquoise colored waters with a depth of 25-feet and a diameter of 300-feet. The Blue Hole National Park is superb for swimming, hiking and picnicking where you can observe wildlife including 200 species of birds. When you visit the Blue Hole National Park a good place to go is St. Herman's Cave where you will find the mysterious underworld people in Mayan folklore called the Xibalba and Crystal Cave also known as Mountain Cow Cave which offers plenty of walls covered in crystals, flow stones, stalactites and stalagmites.
When you are ready to experience one of the finest rivers in Belize that is packed with fun activities and interesting sites along its banks then a perfect thing to do in San Ignacio is to go to the Macal River. Started in the Maya Mountains just south of San Ignacio, the Macal River runs in a northern direction through the Mountain Pine Ridge area until it converges with the Mopan River to form the Belize River. The Macal River has several interesting sites along its banks such as the Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins, the Belize Botanical Gardens and the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary as well as the town of San Ignacio. The Macal River flows through most of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve and National Park which is home to a first and second generation forest of broadleaf tropical trees. Activities along the river include tubing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and wake boarding. As you indulge in activities along and on the Macal River don't be surprised by witnessing numerous endangered animals from jaguars to tapirs to black howler monkeys.
Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins and Museum
One of the more popular things to do in San Ignacio for all travelers including families that are interested in learning more about Mayan people and their architecture is to plan a trip to the Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins and Museum. Located just outside of San Ignacio, the Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins and Museum are situated within 2-acres on a hilltop overlooking San Ignacio and was the home to an elite Mayan family from 1,200 B.C.E. to 900 C.E. The Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins and Museum contains over 30 structures that range from an altar to temples to residential buildings to ball courts as well as a royal burial chamber and residential buildings. The highest structure on the site is a 75-foot tall temple that resides within a centralized plaza. Cahal Pech which means Place of the Ticks in the Mayan language has a museum onsite which contains hundreds of artifacts that include such items as obsidian blades, mosaic masks made of shell and jade as well as other jade objects. The museum also features an interpretive film, a model of the site and several paintings depicting everyday life at Cahal Pech during days of high occupation.
Photo by Rebecca Wilson
Belize Botanic Gardens
If you are interested in learning more about the flora and fauna that exist in Belize as well as Mayan culture then an ideal thing to do in San Ignacio is to visit the Belize Botanic Gardens. Located 10-miles away from San Ignacio near the Macal River, the Belize Botanical Gardens are situated on 45-acres of tropical landscape and their primary function is to promote the tropical plants of Belize through growing and studying. The Belize Botanic Gardens is the only registered botanic garden in the country and boasts many opportunities for you to view and learn about the plants of Belize. When you visit you can take a self-guided or guided which include an orchid house with over 200 species of orchids native to Belize; there is an experimental section with fruit trees that could help the economy; there is a Mayan house in which you can learn about the way Mayans used native plants for medicine, food and rituals as well as an inland lagoon that is complete with a bird blind to help you discover the vast number of bird species in the Cayo District.
Photo by Rebecca
Green Iguana Conservation Project
When you are searching for family-friendly things to do in San Ignacio that involves the conversation of animals then planning a trip to the Green Iguana Conservation Project is perfect. Located in San Ignacio along the Western Highway, the Green Iguana Conservation Project is situated within the grounds of the San Ignacio Resort Hotel and specializes in the conservation of preserving the endangered green iguanas of Belize. Once you are inside the Green Iguana Conservation Project you will enjoy viewing, touching and handling numerous green iguanas as you more about their habitat as well as the conservation efforts of the organization. The Green Iguana Conservation Project collects hundreds of eggs from this reptile and monitors the iguanas from incubation to hatching to rearing to finally releasing them into their wild native habitat. You will view several interactive exhibits and programs that are concentrated on protecting as well as conserving the green iguanas. Other options while visiting are joining the Adopt an Iguana Program and children can participate in the Iguana Kids Club.
San Jose Succotz
If you want to combine a cultural experience with Mayan Ruins then an ideal thing to do in San Ignacio is to take a trip to San Jose Succotz. Located 5.5-miles from San Ignacio along the Western Highway, San Jose Succotz is situated along the banks of the Mopan River and is home to the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins. San Jose Succotz is the starting point for adventurers looking to explore the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins and is home to one of the most decorated marching bands in all of Belize. San Jose Succotz celebrates several other festivals throughout the year including the Succotz Fair which features several days of festivities that are based on folklore and cultural traditions. The small town is transformed into a paradise of music, traditional dancing along with plenty of Mestizo and Maya cuisine as well as several amusement style rides. In addition, San Jose Succotz is known for growing a wide variety of medicinal plants that are used within the Mayan culture.