As the adventure capital of Belize, Western Belize is chock-full of exhilarating activities to get the heart pumping. San Ignacio is the central hub when it comes to checking each Belize experience off your bucket list. Located only a couple of hours away from the international airport, this vibrant town can quickly become the go-to for itinerary building, whether you’re an avid Eco-traveler or a thrill-seeker. To make the most of your visit we recommend using the award winning Lodge at Chaa Creek as a base, since it offers various day trips that sum up the essence of Belize.
For the Nature Lovers:
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
This 100,000-acre reserve is about two hours away from the town of San Ignacio. A massive reserve boasting waterfalls, caves, natural pools, and a plethora of wildlife, it continues to earn the title of “must-visit” when staying in Western Belize. Nature-lovers will become entranced by the slow transition of broad-leaf trees to pine, the undulating mountains and the multitude species of birds. A day trip from San Ignacio to discover all Mountain Pine Ridge has to offer is totally feasible. For instance, The Lodge at Chaa Creek offers the full-day experience of Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and it’s only 90 minutes away from the lodge. Here’s what the experience with Chaa Creek’s Inland Expeditions would entail:
- Departure at 8:00 a.m. (90-minute drive)
- Thousand-Foot Falls – whose height actually reaches to about 1,600 feet.
- Rio Frio Cave – The large, open-air cave is ideal for first-time spelunkers. The vast entrance yawns open into a deep, moist cavern with a small pool at the bottom. Look closely and you can spot evidence of ancient Maya civilization.
- Rio On Pools – This last stop consists of naturally-made cascading pools, a welcome respite from all the walking and hiking in Mountain Pine Ridge.
Pontoon on the Vaca Lake:
Did you know a few miles upstream from the Lodge at Chaa Creek is a man-made water reservoir? Sitting in the upper Macal River Valley lies Vaca Lake, a waterhole that stretches six miles long and is now explored by various travelers via a Pontoon on the Vaca Lake Tour. The experience takes you around the lake where you can admire three majestic waterfalls while adrift in a pontoon. Here’s what to expect from one of the coolest Day Trips From San Ignacio Belize:
- Departure at 8:00 a.m.
- A Jungle Trek to the pontoon, endearingly named La Capitana.
- While aboard the pontoon, keep your eyes peeled for Tapirs, Spider Monkeys and perhaps even an ocelot!
- Jump in for a massage at any one of the three, large waterfalls stationed around the reservoir.
- After your dip in the cool water, take an exploratory hike and finish it off with some more much-needed swimming.
- Enjoy your picnic lunch before heading back to the Lodge!
Any Google search on Belize will urge you to visit the well-known “best Little Zoo in the world.” About an hour’s drive away from the Lodge at Chaa Creek, The Belize Zoo is home to many rescued and rehabilitated wildlife that are native to the country. Sitting on 29 acres of tropical savanna, the zoo exhibits more than 125 animals. Some of the most notable ones you’ll come face-to-face with are the giant Jabiru Stork, the elusive Jaguar and even Belize’s national bird, the Keel-Billed Toucan. The itinerary for visiting is quite flexible due to the Zoo’s convenient location. This way, you can combine the experience with transfers to or from Chaa Creek.
Chaa Creek Inland Expedition Gets You There In Style
Chaa Creek Inland Expeditions offers expert handpicked tours & itineraries that open up the fascinating world of Belize, from inland Mayan archaeological treasures to the stunning Barrier Reef, beautiful cayes and coastal resorts and villages.
For the Adrenaline Seekers
Xunantunich Mayan Ruins
Have you really been to Belize if you haven’t asked your concierge how close the Maya site of Xunantunich is? Luckily, if you’re staying at Chaa Creek the site is only about 20 minutes away. Inside the Classic Period Site sits the behemoth of “El Castillo,” arguably the highlight of Xunantunich. This 40-meter tall plaza offers unparalleled views of the valley at the summit. With the lodge’s Inland Expeditions, you’ll:
- Depart anytime between 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
- Head to San Jose Succotz, home of Xunantunich
- Cross the Mopan River via an old-fashioned ferry
- Drive up to the major ceremonial center where you’ll have the entire site almost all to yourself for about two or three hours. Visit the other two temples before taking on the challenge of climbing El Castillo all the way to the top.
- Spot the Howler and Spider Monkeys swinging from the surrounding trees.
- Take a selfie with the Mask Hieroglyphic some say represents the Sun God.
- Head back out to the nearby lodge for some exquisite grub.
Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave (ATM)
In case you missed it, in 2018 National Geographic named Belize’s ATM Cave as one of the most sacred in the world. ATM, which stands for the Mayan name “Actun Tunichil Muknal,” is one of the most sought-after experiences for adrenaline-seekers. The Maya artifacts are ancient history that are so well-preserved, not even cameras are allowed inside this cave. ATM’s revered reputation may have done the rounds across the world, but this is still an experience very much shrouded in mystery. You can explore it first-hand by:
- Departing the Lodge at Chaa Creek by 7:30 a.m.
- After a 1.5-hour drive and 45-minute jungle hike, you have lunch at the ATM camp.
- Swim into the cave entrance, wading through the shallow river and then climb onto ladders leading to the sacrificial altars.
- Look out for jade axe heads, pottery and even bloodletting implements.
- Careful! Once inside, watch out for skeletal remains and even the resident skull – all sacrificial victims of a time long past.
- Gaze upon the Crystal Maiden, the highlight of the cave, whose intact skeleton is sparkling with crystal carbonate. Admire all the stalactites and stalagmites before cautiously heading back out and hitting the road to the Lodge.
- *Tip: keep in mind this experience is not for the faint of heart, so come prepared for a challenging – yet rewarding – memory of a lifetime.
For both Nature Lovers + Adrenaline Seekers
Belize Cave Tubing and Ziplining
This combo experience is a rite of passage for many first-time visitors to Belize. Tying in adventure with nature, the Belize cave tubing and ziplining experience caters to any type of traveler. Venture deep into “Xibalba” as the Mayas called the caves, for they believed it led to the underworld. Here, your headlamp and trusty guide will lead you through history – all while you drift on your river tube.
Take to the skies with ziplining after emerging from the depths of the caves. Zip through the rainforest canopy, and let the adrenaline sharpen your bird’s-eye-view of the jungle below. If you’re booking with Chaa Creek’s Inland Expeditions, the drive is only 1.5 hours away and the departure time is 7:30 a.m. daily, so you have plenty of chances to squeeze in this day trip before you head back home.
Did we miss any Day Trips From San Ignacio Belize? Comment them below so we can review and update this list :).