SAN IGNACIO

Belize

San Ignacio is a small town in the Cayo region of Belize. San Ignacio, or Cayo as it is called, is located on the Macal river, and makes a good and affordable base for exploration of the stunning regions around it.

Info San Ignacio

introduction

San Ignacio is a small town in the Cayo region of Belize. San Ignacio, or Cayo as it is called, is located on the Macal river, and makes a good and affordable base for exploration of the stunning regions around it, with plenty of day trips to be taken and several decent tour guides willing to take you. It's also an important transit town en route to or from Guatemala.

Tourism

San Ignacio is renowned for its close proximity to Belize's famous Maya ruins, as well as being a hub for outdoor activities including caving, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, and more. It is also one of the last towns in Belize before entering Guatemala, where many visitors go to visit the Tikal Maya ruins.

History

The town was originally named El Cayo by the Spanish. On October 19, 1904, El Cayo was officially declared a town by the government of British Honduras. In the past a creek ran between the Macal and the Mopan rivers one mile outside of San Ignacio going toward Benque Viejo. This creek then fulfilled the definition of an area of land completely surrounded by water and thus the name Cayo, "island". There was a large wooden bridge across this creek in the late 1940s, but since the creek eventually dried up, the area was filled with limestone gravel and today there remains no evidence of its existence. The demise of the creek, however, took away the distinction for the classification of a 'cayo' from the venerable western town of 'El Cayo' and returned it to a regular land mass.

Geography

San Ignacio is situated on the banks of the Macal River, about 63 miles (101 km) west of Belize City and 22 miles (35 km) west of the country's capital: Belmopan. The town has an area of approximately 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2).

Transportation - Get In


By car

San Ignacio is easily reachable by car. The Western Highway is the best road in the country and is fully paved and free of pot-holes. There are several gas stations along the route so you have no worries there. Once you reach the sister-city of San Ignacio - Santa Elena - be aware that there are two bridges and each is a one way bridge. You will need to make a right turn, if you are heading west, and run downhill to cross the bridge into San Ignacio. Locals apparently know tourists will miss this turn and are quite aware to signal you that you have made a mistake if you try and go the wrong way.

You leave San Ignacio across the Hawksworth Bridge which is the only suspension bridge in Belize. This is also a one-way bridge to leave town, unless the low lying bridge is closed.


By bus

2nd Class buses (no air conditioning or "trunk" for suitcases) run frequently from Belize City; the trip is usually less then 2 and 1/2 hours, in spite of numerous stops. Buses run to Dangriga on the coast in about 3 hours. In the other direction, buses run to the Guatemalan border quite close by, with connections to Flores and Tikal. As of 2014, a bus from Belize City to San Ignacio costs BZ$8 (Belizean dollars).


By shuttle

BZ Shuttle Services has an outstanding recorder of transporting you to and from your destination on-time. Your Belize Shuttle Driver is Denfield Gomez, known locally as Denny, maintain an impeccable driving recorder when it comes to shuttling you to or from your destination.BZ Belize Shuttle

Teddy Bear shuttle and taxi service is safe and reliable, you can find him just behind the Belize Bank in the center of San Ignacio Town. Teddy Bear Shuttle Service

Offers private shuttle transfers from San Ignacio, Belize western border to Flores or Tikal in Peten, Guatemala. The company even have the ability to transfer you to just about any where from San Ignacio Town. Belize Tikal Shuttle

Shuttles can pick you up at the airport, or most any other spot, and transfer you much quicker and with much more ease since they are door to door. William's Belize Shuttle has the best reputation.


By plane

Tropic Air offers flights to San Ignacio from several other locations in Belize, including Belize City, Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and Goldson International Airport in Ladyville.

Transportation - Get Around

The roads in town are quite walkable, and traffic is light. Most everything is within a 5-minute walk from downtown. There is really no reason to drive. The town is foot-scaled so walking is your best bet for getting about and really experiencing the town.

There are public buses with service to nearby resorts for only BZ$1 per person. This offers a great way to get into town, but if you expect to stay late remember you may have to take a taxi back, and they can get increasingly more expensive later into the night.

One can also rent a car locally. There are a few car rental agencies in town.

Hotels

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Hotels

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Shopping

  • Belize Gifts: Located in the JNC mall. They have a huge selection of great gifts and souvenirs.
  • Back to My Roots: Located on Burns Avenue across from the JNC mall.
  • Indita Maya: Located in the Venus Hotel bottom floor.
  • Tropicool Gift Shop: Located on Burns Avenue next to Pacz Tours.

Restaurants

San Ignacio is one of the more tourist-friendly towns in Belize, with a variety of restaurants keeping longer hours than in many other towns. There are a wide variety of restaurants, and many have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.

  • Ko Ox Han-Nah: From the lamb quesadillas to the lamb curry to the omelettes, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all covered here. They raise almost all of their own animals at their farm. Located at 5 Burns avenue, one block from downtown.
  • Hodes Place: Great for kids of all ages. Includes video games, air hockey, pool tables, playground (in a small orchard), jukebox, and a small casino. Try the burritos: they are big and cheap. Located next to Macaw park, one block from the market.
  • South Indian Restaurant: Try their ginger lime juice, which is delicious. Worth seeking out for very tasty dishes including fish or chicken curries and several vegetarian options - their samosas are what they are known for, and must be tried. Located in the Plaza Del Rio mall, which is a 5-minute walk from downtown.
  • Mr Greedy's Pizzeria: Best pizza in town, and a great burger too. Greedy's has been completely redesigned; they've added a great bar, giving the place a much more open look and feel. They have an excellent menu, with plenty of great appetizers - try the onion rings; they are the best in the country. They offer free highspeed wi-fi for customers, Located on Burns Ave.
  • Maxim's: Maxim's Chinese Restaurant, one of the best chinese restaurants in San Ignacio, located about 2 blocks from downtown on Bullet Tree road, Menu including: Delicious Fried Chicken(what they are known for) ranging from $5 and above, fried rice, chao-mein, chop-suey, kun-pao, and etc.
  • Vivian's: Vivian's Coffee and Ice Cream shop is great. Their coffee smoothies are always great to cool one off. Good ice cream too. All the local students go there, which is a good sign. Located on Joseph Andrews Drive, 3 blocks from downtown, next to Sacred Heart College, and across the street from Mom's Place.
  • Mincho's: Mincho's is the fast food place of San Ignacio. They are only open for breakfast and lunch. They have all the Belizean fast food: tacos, burritos, salbutes, panades, and garnaches. They have the best fresh juice in San Ignacio, and it's only $1 per glass. Located on Burns Ave, downtown.

Coffe & Drink

  • Cappello's Up the Hill Bar and Grill Cappello's easily has 100 different drinks, and some of the best appetizers around. You can hang out under the steel palapas, enjoy the great view, and listen to mellow music like reggae, or hang out inside for more local music. Their happy hour goes from opening until 7:00pm every day. Located next to Cayo Twist, near the Cahal Pech hill.
  • Meluchi's Taverna & The Grave Yard Lounge Meluchi's do special events almost every weekend, including drink specials and either DJs or live music. Located on Joseph Andrews drive, in front of Sacred Heart College.
  • Club Rehab: Great club to start off at or end up at since they are usually open from 4PM until after 2AM. They usually play great music, and you can request songs most of the time too. Great happy hour from 4 to 7 when they offer half priced drinks. Thirsty Thursdays at Rehab is happy hour all day. They are located across the street from the casino.
  • Mr. Greedy's Pizzeria and Bar: Greedy's has been completely redesigned; they've added a great bar, giving the place a much more open look and feel. Their happy hour runs from 3 to 6. They have an excellent menu, with plenty of great appetizers - try the onion rings; they are the best in the country. They offer free highspeed wi-fi for customers, Located on Burns Ave.
  • Remo's Roadhouse. Many of the ex-pats start at Remo's because of the great conversation and stories provided by the owner – he can tell you stories that even locals don't know. Located in Bullet Tree Falls, just 3 miles from downtown – the first building on the right as you enter Bullet Tree Falls.
  • Bamboo Bar (Bambu Bar), +501 669-3684. Cozy dive bar with sand floors and bamboo bar stools, located in the heart of town. Quite Americanized, but plays more classic rock as opposed to pop music you'll hear from other trourist bars.
  • Fuego Bar and Grill,  +501 824-3663. Popular among tourists. Its atmosphere and cuisine may offer a pleasant break from those uncomfortable with the less developed locations in town, at the consequence of a less authentic Belizean experience.

Sights & Landmarks

Many tour companies in San Ignacio, Pacz Tours being the best for safety and quality per outside evaluators, run tours to a wide variety of interesting caves, ruins, rivers, and jungle trails. K'in Winik is known for providing amazing tours and overnight jungle camping throughout Mountain Pine Ridge, including Caracol.

It's a good idea to read reviews for other tour companies before booking, just because some of them have treated guests poorly.

Most of these are day trips, leaving early in the morning and returning the same afternoon. Note that not all tours are available on any given day. Most tour companies require a certain minimum number of registrations before they'll make the run. Checking in the night before for which tours are available the next day is often the best option.

  • Actun Tunichil Muknal (usually abbreviated to "ATM") is a Mayan sacrificial burial site near San Ignacio. The site is contained entirely within a cave system, and access to the relics is gained via some 500 metres of climbing over rocks, wading and swimming through water that is at times over 1.5 metres deep. The cave was a sacred site for the Mayans and it contains many examples of pottery, ceramics and stoneware, as well as several sets of human sacrificial remains, one of which (known as the "Crystal Maiden") has been almost entirely covered in limestone crystals by the water in the cave. The site is about 45 minutes drive from San Ignacio, and, due to the caving aspect, it may only be visited when accompanied by an official guide (who will provide appropriate safety equipment). Most tour companies in San Ignacio are able to offer officially guided tours.
  • Barton Creek Cave Barton Creek Outpost: Take the road in Georgeville to Mountain Pine Ridge, drive 20-30 minutes and turn at the large brown sign on the left to Barton Creek Archaeological Reserve. Its about 4 miles (6.4 km) from there. phone is 662-4797 Currently closed.
  • Cahal Pech is the main attraction in the town. The name means literally "Place of the ticks" and Cahal Pech is a smallish set of Mayan ruins that were abandoned around 800-900 AD. There is an indoor museum displaying artifacts, a site plan, and putting the ruins in a regional context. The site is open 7 days a week during daylight hours. Admission is USD $2.50 but may change. There are, allegedly, guided tours but these are most unneeded as the site is easy to traverse. The entire site should take 1-2 hours at most for a thorough exploration. Once at the ruins the site is fairly flat, but Cahal Pech is at the top of the hill overlooking San Ignacio. The walk up hill to it from the main town is quite exhausting and is difficult even from the San Ignacio Resort Hotel on the hill. If you have any disability or are in poor physical condition you will want to drive.
  • Caracol Biggest ruin in Belize, yet mostly unexcavated, so you really feel like you are in a national park on a ruin. Ca'ana, place of the sky, is one of the biggest and most massive temples in the Mayan world. Definitely a must see ruin, and it comes with stops at Rio On Pools and Rio Frio Cave too.
  • Xunantunich (Maya Ruins) (admission: BZ$10) Wear good shoes, bring water and plan to spend about 3-4 hours. There is a free ferry in Succutz over the Mopan River. From there you can easily walk the 1 mile (1.6 km) to the site.
  • Tikal (in Guatemala)
  • Iguana Hatchery Visit the Iguana Conservation Project and the interpretive Medicinal Jungle Trail at the San Ignacio Hotel. Ranked as one of the best family excursions in San Ignacio.
  • Canoe or kayak on the Macal River.
  • Rent bicycles.
  • Green Hills Butterfly Ranch
  • Tropical Wings Nature Center Located on the outskirts of San Jose Succotz, a 10-minute bus ride from San Ignacio going towards Benque. Includes a butterfly farm & small educational museum, 9-hole disc golf course (the first in Belize & Central America) and a restaurant located on site.

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