The Cayo District Travel Guide
A new BZ$4 million welcome center in the heart of San Ignacio opened in mid-2013, and it’s a beauty. The Cayo Welcome Center has a visitor information center and displays of Maya artifacts dug up from under Burns Avenue and elsewhere.
The Belize Tourism Board website, www.travelbelize.org, has some information on visiting the Cayo. Eva’s restaurant, when run by Englishman Bob Jones and his wife, was known for many years as the place to get the latest news and gossip about Cayo. Jones is now associated with PACZ Tours. Eva’s is now under new management and is a ghost of its former self.
The Cayo Star, a weekly tabloid newspaper, has news about the Cayo and particularly about San Ignacio. It’s available online at www.belizenews.com and elsewhere. San Ignacio Town (www.sanignaciotown.com), though a commercial site, has considerable information on the Cayo. Best of Cayo (www.bestofcayo.com) offers opinionated recommendations of the best places to stay, eat, shop, and drink in San Ignacio. Belmopan City Online (www.belmopancityonline.com) has tourism information on the Belmopan area, along with local news of the capital city. For information on how Belize is governed, visit the National Assembly of Belize website (www.nationalassembly.gov.bz)—the site also explains how you can request a visit to the legislative assembly.
If You Have 3 Days in the Cayo
Upon arrival at the international airport, immediately head to the Cayo by rental car, bus, or shuttle van. If you have time, stop en route at the Belize Zoo. Stay at one of the jungle lodges around San Ignacio if it's within your budget. On your first full day in the Cayo, explore the area around San Ignacio, visiting the Xunantunich and Cahal Pech Mayan ruins (both have visitor centers, and the one at Xunantunich is new in 2013), the Belize Botanic Gardens on the grounds of duPlooy's Lodge, and Green Hills Butterfly Farm. Assuming you have the energy, walk the Rainforest Medicine Trail and spend a few minutes at the Natural History Center, both at The Lodge at Chaa Creek. On the second day, if you're not planning to move on to Tikal in Guatemala after your stay in the Cayo, at least take a day tour there. Guided tours from San Ignacio usually include van transportation to the Tikal park, a local guide at the site, and lunch. Alternatively, if you're heading to Tikal later, take a day trip to Caracol in the Mountain Pine Ridge. Bring a picnic lunch and make stops at Río On pools, the Río Frio cave, and a waterfall, such as Five Sisters on the grounds of Gaia Lodge, or Big Rock Waterfall nearby. On your final day, take a full-day guided tour of Actun Tunichil Muknal. Have dinner at a restaurant in San Ignacio.
If You Have 5 Days in the Cayo
Rent a car at the international airport and drive to a jungle lodge near Belmopan. If you have time, stop en route at the Belize Zoo and do a quick driving tour of the capital. On your first full day, go cave tubing and take a zip-line canopy tour at Nohoch Che'en Caves Branch Archeological Reserve, also called Jaguar Paw after a now-closed jungle lodge at the site. Alternatively, for a more strenuous day, take a trip with Caves Branch Adventure Camp, or do its cave-tubing trip. End your day with dinner at your lodge and a night wildlife-spotting tour. On your second day, drive down the Hummingbird Highway and take a dip in the inland Blue Hole. Also, visit St. Herman's Cave, or go horseback riding at Banana Bank Lodge near Belmopan. On the third day, move on to a jungle lodge near San Ignacio or in the Mountain Pine Ridge and follow the three-day itinerary.