We will try to give an overview of the cities that we stay in on our travels. Our first stay in Belize was in San Ignacio. It is probably the best place to stay in the Cayo District of Belize (where the majority of the Mayan ruins of Belize are).
Where we slept: Hi-Et Guesthouse. We choose to spent all 6 nights of our stay in San Ignacio here. We enjoyed a very small double room with a shared bathroom for BZ$ 25/night. Our room had a small balcony overlooking the town which we loved and ate breakfast on every morning. Hi-Et is not a hostel, so we did not have use of any common area, though there was a shared refrigerator. We were there in low season so we did not have many people staying with us. It was quiet and comfortable.
Favorite Place to Eat: Our favorite place was a small Belizean place right across the street from the Hi-Et Guesthouse: Cenaida’s. We returned here twice because of the good, affordable Belizean food and the friendly service. It was never too crowded and did not feel as touristy as some of the restaurants/bars on the main drag.
Things to Do: (Note that these are in the order that we did them, not ranked in any way!)
- Cahal Pech (Our Mayan Ruin #1): This ruin is within easy walking distance from the center of San Ignacio. We walked south of town up some rather large hills. We did need to ask for directions a couple of times. Cahal Pech is the oldest ruin in Belize and looked a bit different than several of the others we visited. It was generally smaller and more covered by jungle.
- Branch Mouth Swimming Hole: We heard about this from our Lonely Planet guidebook. It touted it as a beautiful swimming hole at the confluence of the Mopan and Macal Rivers, just outside of town. The walk was definitely longer and we expected, and the swimming hole a little less nice. But, the great benefit was that we felt like we were completely outside the tourist zone of San Ignacio. We walked for a long way down a less used dirt road beside large plots of farm land. When we reached the confluence, it was definitely nice to take a quick dip in the river. We were the only ones there! There was also a hanging rope bridge across the Mopan. We enjoyed walking over and briefly exploring the other side. There would be a lot of cool stuff to see on that side, though we did not feel like we had the time to explore too much more.
- Saturday Market: We enjoyed wandering through the market on Saturday morning. There were many stalls selling local foods and crafts. We enjoyed some freshly made empanadas and burritos. There is nothing quite like watching them make the tortillas right in front of you. Yum! We also really enjoyed buying some fresh cheese from a Mennonite. There are many Mennonites in Belize, but it is always a surprise to see them. They definitely stand out, often being tall, blond, blue-eyed, and speaking low German. They also drive horse-drawn buggies. It definitely reminded us of being in Amish country a little bit.
- Xunatunich. See Post.
- Music in Town Square: There were several nights were we experienced free music in the town square. There was multiple performances by local groups which we quite enjoyed.
- ATM Tour. See Post.
- Caracol Tours. See Post.
- Tikal Tours. See Post.
Overall, we really enjoyed San Ignacio. It is a great place to stay to really get a feel of the Belizean Mayan ruins. We definitely recommend it!