San Ignacio is a town located in the Cayo district of Western Belize. This town makes a great base for exploring the regions many natural wonders and important archaeological sites.
Unlike other tourist towns in Belize, San Ignacio maintains a unique local flare. Its residents are an eclectic mix of Mayans, Garifunas, Belizeans, Chinese, and even some unconventional American expats.
Now the most historical of these residents is undoubtedly the Mayans, which have a long-stemming history in this region. In fact, near San Ignacio, there are various Mayan ruins. The most accessible being Cahal Pech.
In contrast, the Garifuna residents are Afro-Caribbean in origin. They place much emphasis on drumming and dance for self-expression. Spiritually, the Garifunas are primarily Catholic, but also Rastafarian. For this reason, I’ve noticed 4:20 seems to celebrated here at any time of day. Hah! 😛
Anyway, despite the local vibe, San Ignacio still caters well to tourists, and the town has numerous tour operators, offering guided expeditions to the areas many caves and waterfalls.
The most famous tour being Actun Tunichil Muknal, which is a cave filled with Mayan relics and a crystallized skeleton. All these tours; however, come at a hefty price tag. They range from 90-100+ USD for a one-day trip!:o
Now since these tours were not on my must-do list, I opted to save my money and go on a self-guided tour of San Ignacio, to find some other budget-friendly things to do in town. 😀
What to Do in San Ignacio
These waterfalls, located only a short 15-minute ride from town, were the perfect spot to cool off on a hot day.
Side note: You’ll notice how the majority of my activities were near water. That’s because average daily temps here were about 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit, with over 50% humidity. Staying cool was a priority! 🌞 😰
Anyway, I went with a guy from my hostel, a San Franciscan, who works in advertising, for companies like Facebook, Airbnb, and Yelp.We went for a dip with two adorable local kids, and then took a walk along a path near the falls. The rocks at Monkey Falls were filled with numerous carvings, but we couldn’t confirm whether they were symbolic or just modern-day vandalism. 🤔🤔
On the way back we past this thatched circular building where some unconventional expats invited us in to try their homemade kombucha. The guy had a long scraggly beard, and was wearing only his underwear, and the woman only had on a sarong, but they seemed friendly enough. Hah! They operate a yoga and meditation clinic on this facility, which includes eating organic vegan foods, as well as, mantra chanting and ceremonial dance. 🤔🤔🤔While we didn’t take part in their clothing-optional dance party 😂😂😂, we did try a bit of their kombucha, a fermented tea drink that they had infused with hibiscus leaves.
By the way, they advertise their home on Airbnb, if you want to stay with them, and experience their incredibly free-spirited lifestyle. 😛
Cost: 2 USD for a shared taxi (called ‘Jasmin Van’) to Monkey Falls
San Ignacio runs along the west bank of the Macal River, and Branch Mouth is where the Macal River and the Mopan River collide to form the Belize River.To get to Branch Mouth I took a 35-minute scenic walk on a dirt road out of town, passing by farm houses, where children played on swings in the front yard, and chickens clucked away alongside them.
Branch Mouth’s water is very clean, so it’s a great spot to take a dip, and there is even a man offering a boat ride to the other side of the river bank.
San Ignacio Farmer’s Market
The farmer’s market is open daily, but it’s best visited on Saturday morning. When I went, I saw farmers selling fresh produce, locals cooking up regional dishes, and even some people selling clothes and handicrafts, making for a sort of flea market feel.As far as food goes, I noticed lots of Mexican dishes, like tacos, tamales, and flautas, but also the popular El Salvadorian pupusa, a corn dough that is filled with beans, meat, or cheese, then grilled on a comal.
Pupusas are generally topped with a cabbage slaw and a spicy salsa. Additionally, there were Amish selling baked goods and a Chinese couple selling Hong Kong egg cakes (a sweet pancake batter grilled in a small ball-shaped waffle maker). Everyone at the market gathered together to eat at picnic tables under a plastic tarp.
Cost: ~5 USD (I found bananas and watermelon for less than a dollar, plus bean/cheese pupusas for ~2 dollars each)
I stayed at Bella’s Backpacker Hostel, which has a spacious common room, clean bathroom and cooking facilities, plus free WiFi. They even advertise on WorkAway, where you can volunteer at the hostel in exchange for free accommodation. Many people I met at the hostel were involved in this work exchange.
Cost: 12 USD/ night
From Caye Caulker, I took a 9 USD water taxi to Belize City. From the ferry port I walked to the bus station, where I took a 4 USD westbound bus to San Ignacio. The entire journey took roughly four hours.
Anyway, up next I’ll be heading for Guatemala, where I plan to start making my way down through Central America to Costa Rica. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then. 🙂