When we first started planning our family trip to Belize with kids, I had in mind white sand beaches and snorkeling – and we definitely got that! But I didn’t realize how varied and culturally rich such a small country could be. It was a delight spending a few days in the western part of the country and we found some amazing things to do in San Ignacio Belize.
Getting from Belize City to San Ignacio
If you’re wondering, ‘How do I get from Belize City to San Ignacio?’, it’s pretty straightforward. There are a few different options for this trip.
For us, by far the easiest way to travel in Belie with kids was to rent a car and drive ourselves. It’s relatively quick – about 2 hours – and the roads are good and very straightforward. We didn’t have any issues at all. This also meant we had access to our own car for the entire time in San Ignacio Belize with kids. This meant that we could stay at a lodge with more space for our family that felt like it was really in the jungle, instead of only sticking to right in town. I believe it cost us about $400-450 or so for a 4-day rental of a 7-seat vehicle (5 seaters were about $100 cheaper).
Another option is the one most popular with locals – the “chicken bus.” This is the least expensive option – usually around $10 per person – but also may be crowded, hot, and not very comfortable (they’re typically old school busses).
A private shuttle is another option, and usually costs around $200-250. Since driving in Belize is pretty straightforward, however, I recommend simply renting a car and driving yourself instead as it gives you quite a bit more flexibility and will likely cost less.
You can also fly – there are a couple airlines that make the very short flight (Tropic Air and Maya Island Air). However, it tends to be pricey (around $250-300 round trip per person) and the airlines only fly on certain days of the week.
Hotels in San Ignacio Belize for Families: Best San Ignacio Belize Resorts
There are a number of resorts in San Ignacio Belize and more low-key hotels in San Ignacio Belize – something for every travel style. We personally really loved staying at the Mariposa Jungle Lodge. It’s about 30 minutes from downtown San Ignacio, outside the town of San Antonio, so it definitely has a quieter feel to it than being in the city. We LOVED this – we felt like we were really in the jungle and the lodge was absolutely lovely. The Mariposa Jungle Lodge was the perfect place for our large family to stay in Belize.
We really appreciated that this lodge in San Ignacio has a big family cabin that slept 6 (plus our toddler), which can be hard to find. And the rates there are much more reasonable than many of the luxury resorts, but with the same gorgeous jungle setting. Plus, it had a pool, restaurant, nature trail, bird watching tower, and more on site. We genuinely loved it for our trip to San Ignacio with kids and highly recommend it.
Another hotel in San Ignacio for families that I’ve heard great things about is the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, which is right in town and has more of a traditional hotel feel. It’s also where the Green Iguana Conservation Project is housed, so it’s very easy to visit. Other hotels in San Ignacio with kids in the Cayo area that have come highly recommended to me are the Sweet Songs Jungle Lodge, the Lodge at ChaaCreek, and the Cahal Pech Village Resort.
How Many Days Should I Spend in San Ignacio?
With so much to do in the country, one of the trickiest parts was figuring out how long we should spend in each area. When planning a San Ignacio Belize itinerary for our family, we found that 3 full days was a great amount of time to experience a number of the incredible wonders of the area without feeling too pressed. We easily could’ve spent several more days, but 3 days in San Ignacio Belize with kids felt like a good amount of time to experience the main things to do in Cayo Belize while still leaving time for coastal excursions on our one week Belize itinerary.
When planning a 3 day San Ignacio itinerary for families, I’d generally recommend spending one day visiting an ancient Maya site (and perhaps combining with a zip line depending on which one you visit), spending one day visiting a cave and waterfall, and one day spending time in town visiting the green iguanas, the farmers market, and taking a chocolate making class. (You could also do a zipline later in the day on that 3rd day if you visit Tikal on a full day tour from San Ignacio Belize and don’t have time to combine with a zipline). This also felt like a doable and fun San Ignacio itinerary when visiting Belize with kids.
Best Things To Do In San Ignacio Belize With Kids
Okay, let’s get to what to do in San Ignacio Belize with kids! There are so many fun things to do when visiting San Ignacio, both with and without kids. We had our kids with us when we visited Belize so we took their interests into consideration. But we found that there were so many family-friendly Belize activities that pretty much everything on this list of the best activities in San Ignacio are great for all ages. The adults loved the activities we chose “for the kids,” and the kids loved all the more adventuresome things to do in Belize, too!
Explore a Family-Friendly Cave
Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave in Belize With Kids
There are so many incredible caves in this area of Belize, and something for every ability. Cave touring is one of the best things to do in San Ignacio Belize with kids and there are lots of options of cave tours from San Ignacio Belize.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) is one of the most popular, and involves quite a bit of adventure. You must visit with a guide, who will take you through multiple stream crossings (some up to waist deep), crawling through narrow spaces, and climbing inside the cave to view ancient pottery, a site of multiple human sacrifice rituals, and to learn about sacred Maya rituals. It’s an incredible experience for adventuresome families. Keep in mind that the site itself has a minimum height requirement of 40″, so it’s not a good Belize activity option for families with young children (unless you’d like to switch off, which would need to be done on separate days).
Visiting Barton Creek Cave in Belize
Those traveling to Belize with younger kiddos but who still want a water experience can consider Barton Creek Cave. This is another ancient Maya site that was also the location of human sacrifice and that still boasts some ancient pottery, though less than ATM. Here, visitors can canoe through the dark cave with along with a guide, and there’s no minimum ate/height requirement. It’s a peaceful experience that’s a perfect San Ignacio cave tour for all ages while still providing some of the cultural significance and history. It also can easily be done in a half-day, so it’s a good option if you’re short on time or don’t want to dedicate a full day to the ATM Cave.
This one also has the option of a calm pool outside the cave where you can take a dip if you’re interested.
Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch
This Belize cave tour is one that allows you to either kayak or go tubing through the cave – such a fun adventure. It’s not quite as adventurous as ATM but typically requires a hike and the tubing. This archaeological site also requires a minimum height of 40 inches – which makes it not a great Belize family activity for families with younger kids.
Rio Frio Cave in Belize
Finally, Rio Frio Cave is another option close to some other fun activities (Rio on Pools, Big Rock Falls), and is one you can walk right into (it also has the largest natural opening in Belize). You can also explore this one without a guide, so it’s great for Belize budget travel or if you want a more spontaneous Belize trip.
Visit An Ancient Maya Site
There are so many incredible Maya sites in the western region of Belize and surrounding areas. Do not miss visiting at least one of them on your family trip to Belize!
Visit Tikal From Belize
The biggest Maya site in Western Belize is Tikal, across the border in Guatemala. Most rental car agreements will not allow you to drive across the border, so it’s best to book a private tour. You can find a private Tikal tour for families that pick you up at your hotel near San Ignacio. Alternatively, it’s usually a bit less expensive to drive to the Guatemalan border yourself, and connect with your private shuttle there. There is ample, safe parking at the border, and it’s a relatively straightforward process to walk across the border.
Wherever you pick up your tour for Tikal with family, be sure to have your passport handy, as well as some cash and your lodging information. You’ll need to pay entrance and exit fees per person (children under 12 are free), and fill out some simple forms with your information. Though Google Maps shows 2 hours of drive time from San Ignacio to Tikal, it ended up being a bit longer for us (not including the time to cross the border) – about 20-30 minutes to get to the border, and about 2 hours to drive from the border to Tikal.
This makes for a full day adventure in Belize for your family, but it’s incredibly worthwhile to visit the largest city and center of ancient Maya civilization.
Visit Other Ancient Maya Sites in Belize
There are a number of other sites within Belize itself that provide incredible insight into the ancient Maya peoples. Xunantunich, Caracol, and Cahal Pech are some of the most popular.
Xunantunich boasts the second highest temple in Belize, has over 25 temples, and is only about half an hour from San Ignacio. Caracol is notable for having the highest temple in Belize, and about 150,000 people at its peak, where the population was even more dense than Tikal, but is a 2+ hour drive from San Ignacio. Cahal Pech is the closest – it’s just outside the town of San Ignacio Belize and has beautiful views – and is also easy to visit on your own without a tour.
Book a tour to Xunantunich (here or here) or Caracol (here or here).
There’s nothing quite like ziplining through the jungle! Belize has a number of different options for this in different areas. Many cave tours include a zipline option (you can book here or here). If you’d rather go without a tour, there are also a number available that you can visit on your own.
We visited Calico Jack’s while on our family trip to Belize and loved it! There were a bunch of different levels (as well as some that included rappelling and other activities – we didn’t have time for this but it sounded so fun), and we loved that even our 2 year old could participate. This was one of the most exciting things to do in San Ignacio with kids!
Take a Chocolate Making Class
Chocolate was really important to the ancient Maya, and being able to learn about its history and processing from modern-day Maya individuals is incredible. We absolutely loved our chocolate making and tasting tour at Ajaw Chocolate. It was a wonderful Belize experience for our family. They showed each part of the process, from bean to the type of hot cacao drink that the Maya would drink. It was so fun, and we loved purchasing some chocolate products in the shop at the end. Both the kids and adults enjoyed this chocolate making class in Belize.
Visit the Green Iguanas
One of our kids’ very favorite activities in San Ignacio Belize was visiting the green iguanas at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. Regardless of whether you’re staying at the hotel, you can reserve a short tour to visit the Green Iguana Conservation Project. There, you’ll learn about the habitat and history of this threatened reptile, and you’ll also have a chance to feed and hold them. Our kids absolutely loved holding the baby ones! Add visiting the green iguanas to you list of things to do in San Ignacio Belize with kids!
Swim in a Waterfall
Belize is rightfully famous for its incredible waterfalls. A number of them are safe to swim in, which is a perfect family activity in Belize for a hot day.
Big Rock Falls in Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is one of the most famous (and was our family favorite waterfall in Belize) – there is a bigger waterfall and several smaller waterfalls and pools. You can even jump off rocks of varying heights, which is so fun! Plan on a short but somewhat strenuous hike down – it’s between .25 – .5 miles and requires traversing about 100 steps along the way (that aren’t always even/stable).
The nearby Rio On Pools are another great option. It’s not quite as strenuous to get down to these pools, and they tend to be a bit calmer and shallower, which could be nice if you’re traveling with younger children.
Stop into the Farmers Market
The San Ignacio Farmers Market is one of the biggest in the area and is especially bustling on Saturdays. Stop in for produce, handicrafts, and to just mingle with locals as you wander the stalls. You will certainly enjoy this wonderful Belize farmers market on your family trip to Belize.
Eat At Local San Ignacio Restaurants (Don’t Forget to Try Fry Jacks!)
If you’re wondering what to do in San Ignacio Belize, there are a number of great San Ignacio restaurants where you can sit down and just take in the atmosphere. We enjoyed our meal at Hode’s Place, and heard great things about Authentic Flavors (unfortunately, it was closed on our remaining days there after we heard about it). Ko-Ox Han-nah also came highly recommended to us. Wherever you go in San Ignacio to eat, be sure to try fry jacks at some point – they’re very popular for breakfast, and are often served with beans.
There are plenty of hiking trails in the San Ignacio area, whether you’d like to explore near a river or in the heart of the rainforest. The short one down to Big Rock Falls is fun, or you can turn it into a longer hike by starting at Blancaneaux Resort. You can also spend time hiking near the river area there, or to one of the terrific caves on a tour. The Masewal Forest Garden Medicinal Trail is also lovely (and short) and has lots of information about traditional plants used medicinally by the Maya. No matter which hiking trail you choose, you will find wonderful outdoorsy things to do in Belize with kids!
Look for Wildlife
There are opportunities all around to seek out wildlife while on your family trip to Belize! Whether you’re visiting the iguanas or going birdwatching, the area of San Ignacio is filled with different creatures. Our jungle lodge had its own birdwatching tower on site, which was so nice. We also spotted toucans in the wild when visiting Tikal. Plus, our kids loved spotting and catching lizards and iguanas everywhere we went. So fun! Belize is also home to over 700 species of butterflies; consider paying a visit to the Green Hills Butterfly Ranch to enjoy some up close butterfly watching with kids in Belize.
I hope that’s helpful as you plan a trip to San Ignacio Belize with kids or without. It’s such a great spot for either a family trip to Belize or for solo and couple travelers. I highly recommend including this incredible San Ignacio area as part of any Belize itinerary for families!
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