Itinerary Help needed! What are the best things do in Belize near San Ignacio?

Kayak on Macal River

If you’re looking for the best things to do in Belize, add San Ignacio to your bucket list! San Ignacio is rich in natural beauty, culture, and a fabulous food scene – yet somehow still undiscovered.

The San Ignacio area in Western Belize is the best base to experience quite a bit of what Belize has to offer. The eco-tourism capital of beautiful Belize, San Ignacio, or as the locals call it, ‘Cayo’ is a treasure trove of interesting adventures.

From deep steeped history, and captivating Mayan ruins to pristine forests and thrilling jungle adventures, this area has something exciting to offer even the most avid globetrotters.

If you’re wondering what should be in your itinerary, here is a list of the top 8 things to do in Belize that are in or near Cayo.

1 – Explore the ATM Cave

ATM Cave

Nestled within Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM), is one of the most interesting sites in Belize.

MY Travel BF  has an informative blog about everything you need to know before doing the ATM Cave.  ATM Cave is home to Mayan human sacrificial remains. While there are plenty of skeletons you can see, the cave offers so much more.

The Mayans was the cave thousands of years ago as a sacred location where they offered human sacrifices to appease their gods.

This expansive network of underground caves is a treasure house for archeologists who’ve unearthed many artifacts since the cave was rediscovered in 1989. 

The cave is also home to a diverse ecosystem of crabs, bats, crayfish, and even tropical fish.

2 – Take a tranquil canoe trip down the Macal River

Macal River

If you’re the kind of traveler who opts for the less-trodden paths, this may be a great activity to add to your itinerary.

The experience offers the perfect balance between adventure and relaxation on an unspoiled tropical river.

Paddling on the beautiful Macal River is a unique way to get up close to Belize nature.

The river is surrounded by a dense tree canopy serving as a natural habitat for butterflies, and exotic birds such as orange-breasted falcons and a variety of raptors. You can also spot Howler Monkeys!

Belize Hub urges you to take a row down the Macal River to experience nature in Belize at its best.

Whether you prefer a tour with a guide, or you’re brave enough to enjoy a solo adventure, canoeing on this scenic river is a must-do.

3 – Go Cave Tubing

Cave Tubing

Cave tubing in Belize lives up to the hype and it’s a fun-filled water sport that appeals to all ages.

Floating down the stream on an air-filled tube surrounded by lush rainforests, and dark limestone caverns can be the most exhilarating adventure.

Melynda Harrison on her TravelingMel Blog has a very informative article about Belize Cave Tubing. She shares that the Maya saw caves as entrances to the underworld. So, it’s also an educational experience to learn about the historical and cultural value of the cave systems.

4 – Explore Maya Ruins

Maya Ruin

Worth noting is that currently the population of Belize is only about 400,000!

Although it’s believed that the Maya civilization started in Mexico, their greatest accomplishments are traced to Belize.

The country has over 600 Mayan sites some of which are open to the public.  In fact, right in the center of San Ignacio sits Cahal Pech.  And a quick 10-minute drive from San Ignacio is Xunantunich.  Other Maya ruins within the Cayo area include, Caracol, El Pilar and Pacbitun, to name a few.

Bret and Mary of green global travel state that though the era of Maya civilization dominance ended some 500 years ago with the Spanish invasion, their historical and cultural influence lives on today. 

It’s fascinating to see how the ancient world and modern Belizeans live harmoniously. To date, the tallest building in modern Belize is an ancient Mayan structure!

5 – Indulge in Belize culture

Belize Culture

Being a multiethnic country with over 5 ethnic groups Belize has very captivating cultures. From the descendants of the ancient Mayan people to East Indians, Mexicans and Afro-Caribbeans, this marvelous mix translates into a melting pot of cultures.

Soaking up the culture and interacting with the locals is one of the best things to do in Belize.

Giselle Hernandez, in an article for Caribbean lifestyle, states that  Belize is a diverse country, in more ways than one. This means each and every Belizean carries their eclectic heritage with them.

There are a lot of ways you can enjoy the local culture. You can sample traditional delicacies, take a cooking class, or learn how to process chocolate from cacao seeds.

6 – Enjoy a hike at Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

Mountain Pine Ridge

Established in 1944 the reserve is the largest, as well as the oldest protected area in Belize.

It’s one of the best places to visit if you’re a nature lover. Tamara Sniffin wrote an article for my beautiful Belize blog and shared that if you really want to immerse yourself in all that is Belize, exploring on foot is the ultimate experience.

Boasting streams, gorges, steep ridges, deep valleys, and waterfalls Mountain Pine Ridge offers a myriad of activities for all types of thrill-seekers. Some of the highlights include, Rio Frio Cave, Rio-on-Pools, Big Rock Falls, and several other unique and interesting areas.

7 – Shop like a local at San Ignacio market

San Ignacio Market

Set directly on the banks of the Macal River in downtown San Ignacio, this market gives you an awesome opportunity to shop and interact with the locals. The San Ignacio Farmer’s Market is a wonderland. Merchandise for sale represents all Belize cultures: Creoles, Maya, Mestizo, Mennonites, and more.

@rockalittletravel shares several photos of the massive, vibrant market filled with color and happy chatter between buyers and sellers.

Traders, farmers, and vendors congregate every day of the week to sell their goods. You can go to the market to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs & spices. You can also take a seat at one of the pop-up eateries to enjoy local dishes.  This may also be the best time to purchase souvenirs at one of the dozens of stalls.

While you can choose to visit any day, the market day is on Saturdays, and this is when the market is in its most vibrant form and busy with all sorts of activities.

8 – Flow your way into Barton Creek

Barton Creek Cave

Exploring Barton Creek Cave is one of the best things to do in Belize. It’s known as one of the most enchanting wet caves in the Cayo area.

Not only is it one of the largest subterranean sites in the country but it’s also an incredible place to explore if you’re yearning for a visit to an active archeological site, but don’t want to hike into a cave. In a country with more than 100 navigable caves, Barton Creek Cave stands out for its unique history and impressive size. 

The only way to visit the cave is by taking a canoe tour. This gives you a chance to meander through the Mayan underworld while learning about the history of the cave plus see different artifacts that have been discovered here over the years. 

Corey Cook with @fifi_and_hop shares a few photos and even a short video of canoeing into Barton Creek Cave.


There you have it! These are only 8 of the best things to do in Belize. Whether you’re an eco-traveler, a nature fanatic, a culture lover, or a history buff, this country has something in store for you.

For even more exciting things to do in & around the Cayo area, check out these activities and adventures! Be sure to scroll to the bottom for clickable links for all kinds of great things to do in Belize.

And check out these incredible photos of:

Maya Sites

Nature Activities

More Fun Stuff

Also be sure to read some of the additional Lucky Dreamer Blogs on topics like What to Pack, What Not to Pack, Itinerary Ideas, What’s the Weather Like – and MORE!

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