San Ignacio, Belize has a lot to enjoy and explore, so you definitely want to give yourself at least 2 days in this part of the country! We chose to explore Mayan ruins, ride inner tubes through caves, and zipline through the highly-rated local company Vital Nature and Maya Tours – also known as Cavetubing.bz.
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Click here to watch the video of our experience!
On our first day/day of arrival in Belize, we had a relaxing afternoon settling into our San Ignacio accommodation. On our second day, we enjoyed a full day of exploring the Mayan civilization of Xunantunich and tubing in the pitch-black caves of “Xibalba”. Finally, we went ziplining on our day of departure before heading to the Belize Zoo and eventually the water taxi station in Belize City to get to Caye Caulker.
RELATED: One Week in Belize – Caye Caulker
Another great thing about Vital Tours is that they can take care of all transportation to each point of interest; and can even arrange airport pick-up and drop-off to Belize City. Each tour also includes a delicious homemade lunch of marinated chicken, rice and beans, and cole slaw. Just writing that sentence makes me want to have it all over again! (And yes, I am typically pescatarian as you may know from my snorkeling in Caye Caulker post – but I make the rare exception in situations like this).
By the way: Rogelio was our driver from Vital Tours, and Alfredo was our guide for Xunantunich and Xibalba.
Keep reading to find out what to expect from each activity, and check out the video below to visually experience our adventures!
Mayan Ruins: Xunantunich
Starting the day with Xunantunich was great, because we got to tire ourselves out by exploring under the hot sun before relaxing in inner tubes later on. Xunantunich is not hard to hike either, and should be accessible if you have at least a medium level of fitness.
When it comes to getting to Xunantunich, you actually take a 5-minute boat ride across a small stretch of water before hopping back into your vehicle and continuing upward to the Mayan site. Upon arrival, you’ll notice a visitors’ center that is full of interesting and helpful information to review before you see the civilization itself. I highly recommend stopping in here to get some context and a great appreciation about what you witness around Xunantunich.
After the visitors’ center, it’s approximately a 10 minute walk (or less) upward to the actual ruins. Xunantunich itself was a massive civilization – the largest Maya civilization known in modern history, in fact – so the structures that you will see are actually ruins of different buildings within the ancient city.
I highly recommend exploring Xunantunich with a guide, like we did. You could theoretically explore the ruins yourself, but you will miss out on interesting facts and firsthand knowledge from a local.
The site itself is impressive, with the castle ruins itself being the most beautiful. Be sure to climb up the stairs on the left side of the structure to see an intricate stone etching, depicting Mayan gods.
After you make it to the top of the castle ruins, take time to enjoy the expansive view of Belize’s treetops. Fun fact: you can even see the Guatemalan border from up here!
It was hard to do justice to the tubing experience via video, because it is truly pitch-black once you get deeper into the caves! If you’re afraid of the dark, it might be a bit daunting. But, take it from a scaredy-cat: the experience is surreal and so worth it. Plus, having a very knowledgeable guide leading us through the caves made me feel very safe.
Before even getting to the caves, you will be fitted with helmets and water shoes (if you didn’t bring your own), and given an inner-tube. After this, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the cave drop-off point – depending on your group’s pace. We were thoroughly enjoying the knowledge that Alfredo shared about various plants, animals, and rock structures, so we took a very leisurely approach to the walk. The great thing is, taking a private tour means you get to have this kind of freedom!
Once you reach the entrance of the first cave, you also have the option to take a dip, or even jump off the small cliff that overlooks the pool of water. I happened to do both, with zero regrets.
After getting into your inner tubes (note: if you’re the one taking photos or videos, go in the front) it’s time to head into Xibalba. Here’s what you can expect, depending on the size of your group and who your guide is:
- Pitch-black surroundings when your helmet-lamps are off. Seriously, you won’t be able to see your hand if it’s right in front of your face! It’s amazing how Alfredo was still able to navigate this.
- Stunning stalagmites and stalactites, as well as remnants of ancient Mayan pottery. Alfredo even let us stop for a moment to walk up into an alcove within the cave to explore this type of scenery.
- Unexpected relaxation. Even though being deep down in a dark cave might seem like an anxiety-inducing experience, it can be very relaxing if you simply surrender! By that, I mean: take a deep breath and enjoy the sensation of silence. You’re in good hands, and you should enjoy this unique experience.
After you exit the last cave, you’ll be treated to a nice, easy ride down the river before arriving back at the drop-off point. Typically, this will be the end of your tour day and you’ll be ready to head back to your hotel and relax.
Ziplining through the Treetops
Ziplining was actually an impromptu activity for us, but everyone had an amazing time! Vital Tours has its own property and course for ziplining and we immediately knew we were in good hands.
After getting fitted with our helmets, harnesses, and gloves, it was a very short walk to get up to the first ziplining course. After a clear tutorial from our guides, it was time to go flying! Be sure to listen carefully to your guides when it comes to how exactly you should hold onto the cable; and when/how you need to brake. This is crucial not only for your safety, but for everyone’s.
We ziplined on a clear, sunny day, so we were able to delight in the view of the trees zooming by below us. Words can’t truly do this experience (or the other two!) justice, so I definitely recommend checking out the tour video to get a better idea of what to expect.
Overall, we truly had an amazing time in San Ignacio, in large part due to our experience with Vital Tours. I cannot say enough good things about this company, and I highly recommend them to anyone who wants their San Ignacio vacation to be a memorable one.
Disclaimer: This tour was provided to the blogger by Cavetubing.bz in exchange for blog content. All opinions are 100% my own!