As the last town before Guatemala, San Ignacio feels more Spanish than Caribbean. It’s the jumping-off point for Belize’s western rainforest, home to the spectacular ruined Mayan cities of Caracol and Xunantunich and the eerie bone-filled caves of Actun Tunichil Muknal. Here’s our pick of the best hotels in and around this charming town.
Sitting on the edge of San Ignacio and the rainforest, Cassia Hill offers good-value accommodation in Belizean cabins and large, well-fitted rooms in plusher, balcony-fronted villas. Both are set in a butterfly-filled garden within the hotel’s private rainforest reserve. The resort also has a spa and a swimming pool with views of the forest canopy, and San Ignacio’s restaurants are a five-minute cab ride away.
Chaa Creek is one of the most comfortable rainforest hotels in Belize, set in a private wilderness reserve, with a series of villas and cottages overlooking the Macal River. The most luxurious option is the treetop villa, with rooms standing at canopy level and featuring bird’s-eye views of the trogons and monkeys in the neighboring trees. Staff can organize plenty of tours and overnight stays deeper in the jungle.
One of the best ecotourism projects in Belize, this wilderness lodge beside the rushing Macal River sits in its privately protected tract of jungle. The Black Rock Lodge grows organic produce, recycles water and draws energy from a hybrid of hydroelectric and solar power. Accommodation is rustic: wooden bungalows with stone floors, fronted with big decks opening onto the forest and the spectacular river valley. The lodge also employs excellent guides who will take you on adventures.
The swankiest hotel in downtown San Ignacio blends a feel for the wilderness with urban comfort. The pool patio, restaurant and balcony terraces look out over the forest canopy, where birds chirrup from early morning until late evening. Some of the rooms and spacious suites come with four-poster beds and elegant furniture, and the hotel has in-room spa treatments, a bar and one of the country’s better restaurants.
On the forested outskirts of town, this plush resort has luxurious villas in a garden crimson with heliconia flowers. Each one is moodily lit, decked out in lush hardwood, and comes with a private plunge pool, a king-size bed you could get lost in and ensuites with sturdy stone basins and large mirrors. The hotel also has smaller suites, and its restaurant is one of the best in Belize.
Set in the heart of the forest above the Macal River Valley, the safari-chic Sweet Songs Jungle Lodge has palm-thatched cabins linked by long wooden walkways and decked out entirely in warm tropical hardwoods. Each one is dimly lit for intimacy and has a fixed (and a swinging) bed – the latter suspended on ropes. Netted sides are entirely open to the forest but closed to mosquitoes. The lodge also has casitas and houses and offers a range of light adventure tours.
This forest lodge is all about the wildlife and is usually busy with birders in the early mornings, gathered on the observation decks in gaggles, scoping the surrounding forest with binoculars. Guiding is excellent – and the lodge maintains a downloadable species list. Rooms are comfortable, situated in a variety of thatched air-conditioned or fan-cooled cabins and cottages with tiled floors and walls adorned with colorful local art. However, most guests spend the majority of their time outdoors.
There are sweeping views of San Ignacio and the surrounding forests from the duplex cabins at this hilltop hotel. While the decor is a bit pared back, the cabins more than make up for it with their vast interior space and excellent location. You can also book a standard room or suite. The resort is a stone’s throw from San Ignacio’s Cahal Pech ruins, too.
This grand colonial-style mansion has four-poster beds as big as a Spanish galleon and jacuzzi tubs in the suites. In a firefly-filled jungle next to the water, where the trees flutter with emerald hummingbirds and vivid red tanagers, its location is also hard to beat. There are plenty of tours on offer – including those of the Mayan sites, Actun Tunichil Muknal caves and the jungle – either on horseback, foot or kayak.
This riverside resort on the edge of San Ignacio has a series of big, air-conditioned, ensuite bungalows set in a pretty forested garden. It also has larger rooms in an Italianate main building, the color of pistachio ice cream, overlooking one of the town’s biggest pools. Excursions include river kayaking – right from the hotel grounds – caving and visiting the remote (and beautiful) Mayan city of Caracol.