On this page
Free things to do don't have to be low quality. In fact they can be more authentic. Here are a few activities I enjoyed as a local.
I also give you my opinion on some popular paid activities recommended online.
Bullet Tree Falls, a small village, is only a six minute drive away from San Ignacio Town and you can swim all along the riverside at no cost. The river is called the Mopan River. You won't find this on any trip advisor list because it's a local thing. The water is clean and refreshing, especially on a hot, humid day.
- Cost: $1.00 USD Taxi Ride
- Location: Mopan River at Bullet Tree
San Ignacio Town happens to have one of the most vibrant and diverse markets in the entire country of Belize. Walking around the market, you'll see a rainbow of colors and an interesting mix of people. The aroma from the grilled and fried dishes will make you want to try everything in sight.
- Cost: Free
- Opening Hours: 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM Daily
- Location: San Ignacio Market
On weekends, the market is busier than most days. It's filled with locals visiting from the surrounding villages restocking on supplies, enjoying street food, and swimming in the river.
This Macal River is literally behind the San Ignacio Market. After you're done exploring the colorful San Ignacio Market, you can stroll down by the river-side and people watch. To this day, I enjoy buying food, taking it by the river, and people watch. Locals tend to park by the riverside, bring their food and family and chill. During sunrise and sunset, the birds are calming to watch and hear.
- Cost: Free
- Location: Behind San Ignacio Market
Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve is filled with the most beautiful, untouched areas in Belize.
In this area, you can visit Big Rock Waterfalls, Rio on Pools, Rio Frio Cave, 1000 Foot Falls and Caracol Mayan Ruins.
- Cost: Free (If hitchhiking)
- Location: Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve
For more details read Mountain Pine Ridge Guide
I recommend going to Big Rock Falls because it's the closest attraction from San Ignacio Town. There are no public buses to the reserve as yet. The only bus that travels to this area goes to San Antonio Village and only goes once a day and then comes back to town.
Xunantunich is one of the many ancient ruins in Belize. This one is special though and worth exploring from my point of view. It's a much larger and impressive complex compared to Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins, another ancient ruin in San Ignacio.
- Entrance Fee: $5.00 USD per person
- Tour Details: Unguided with optional tour guide
- Opening Hours: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM Daily
- Location: San Jose Succotz
The visit to Xunantunich includes a short trip over a manually-operated bridge and a 0.5 mile or 0.8 km hike uphill. Upon arriving at the complex, you have a choice of exploring different sites within the area with El Castillo being the largest ruin.
On a lucky day, you might even see or hear howler monkeys on the trees. Their howling sound like dinosaur growls in Jurassic Park.
If you're a fan of birding, Xunantunich is a birder's paradise. Hiking up the trail early in the morning is the best time to spot local bird species. After buying your tickets, you can ask the guard or any worker to point you to the birder's trail within the complex. After visiting the ruins more times than I can count, this new birding trail reignited my curiosity for wildlife.
For more information, read Xunantunich & Cahal Pech if you haven't decided between the two Mayan Ruins.
I'm not a big fan of tours honestly but being a huge fan of chocolate makes this experience a no-brainer. The short chocolate tour shows you how the Mayas created their traditional chocolate from their precious superfood, the cacao.
The instructor of the family owned business is Adrian, and he is knowledgeable, passionate and authentic. If you appreciate raw flavors, this will tickle your senses in all the right places. The entire process is immersive and fascinating to say the least.
AJAW offers longer tours that take you to the cacao farm to see the origin of the process.
Cahal Pech can be seen as Xunantunich's little brother, smaller and wilder in nature. After visiting this ancient ruin couple of times, I began to appreciate its intricacies. The site is like an ancient jungle maze that's smack in the middle of town. The site's neighbors are literally local homes with people going about their daily business.
- Cost: $5.00 USD per person ($10.00 BZD)
- Tour Details: Unguided with optional tour guide
- Opening Hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Daily
- Location: Cahal Pech Hill
My recommendation is to go in early in the morning or late in the evening to catch all the birds that perch on the trees. I visited during the pandemic and was lucky enough to spot a tiny owl on a tree along with rodents running around the ruin.
The pandemic gave these sites time to heal and wildlife was able to wake up again. Traveling while no one is moving around has its perks. You might even get the entire complex to yourself.
For many visitors, the ATM cave tour is the #1 reason they come to Belize. The cave experience has gained so much popularity that it's bordering a natural wonder of the world I think. At first, I thought this cave tour was overhype but after finally doing it, I personally think it's bloody unreal that a tour of this nature exits. Let me explain why.
- Cost: $125 USD per person ($250 BZD)
- Tour Details: Mandatory Tour Guide
- Duration: 3 to 4 hours (In the cave)
- Driving Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 5 to 6 hours
- Location: Seven Miles El Progresso
This tour takes you into an underworld journey for about four hours, where you'll visit the sites where the Mayas did weird rituals in order to satisfy their Gods. The sacrifices yielded results that can be seen within hands reach.
While in the cave, you'll be crawling through small cracks and swimming through crystal-clear water as though you were in a Lara Craft video game.
It's a surreal experience and my words don't justify it but the tour guides' words will.
The cave tour guides are all knowledgeable, passionate and entertaining. Partially, because there are only 25 certified tour guides that can conduct the ATM tour in the whole country. Most are of Mayan heritage which makes it extra special.
The Green Iguana Conservation Project is rated as the #1 tour in San Ignacio. But is it worth it? If you love iguanas, I think it is, but it's not as impressive as the overly edited images paint it in my opinion.
Upon arrival at the reserve, which is behind the San Ignacio Resort, I realized the site was a lot smaller than I thought. It didn't reflect the vibrant pictures you find online, which are over edited in my opinion. The entire reserve is a small cage with the iguanas running around happily eating their grub for the day. Now, the best part of the tour is the guide who shares with you interesting facts about the tiny dinosaurs.
Personally I'm not a big fan of caged up animals if I don't know how ethical their practices are, but that's just me.
Update 2022: After doing a little research, I found out that the iguanas are released after they are mature enough to be reintroduced into the wild. You can even adopt a juvenile iguana and they send you pictures. They also claim that the proceeds from the adoption go a scholarship fund.
This site is proudly ad-free which means bias-free opinions & suggestions. Your kind support helps keep it running.