Best Way to Spend 2 Weeks in Belize – San Ignacio, Placencia, and Caye Caulker
Picture yourself walking through the jungle to ancient ruins or lounging in a hammock over a white sand beach. It sounds like paradise, right? One of the top reasons we chose Belize to be our honeymoon destination was the variety of ways we could enjoy the country. In San Ignacio, we trekked through the jungle to ancient Mayan ruins. In Placencia, we kayaked to a nearby caye covered with mangrove trees. On Caye Caulker, we hung out at The Split sipping drinks and watching the sun set over the Caribbean Sea. If any of this sounds like something you want to do, then keep reading to find the best way to spend 2 weeks in Belize.
Day 1-6 San Ignacio
We began our two week Belize adventure in the small town of San Ignacio. San Ignacio is located on the western side of the country and sits near the Belize-Guatemala border. The town is surrounded by lush jungle and there are quite a few ancient Mayan ruins very near to it. To get to San Ignacio, we took a shuttle from the airport in Belize City, which is on the eastern side of the country. Because Belize is so small, the drive across the country to San Ignacio only took about 2 hours including a short stop at a grocery store in town. On the way we saw something that blew our minds, horse drawn carts with Mennonites selling fruit from their farms. Apparently there is a large population of Mennonites in Belize – which just adds to the rich culture of the country.
Where to Stay:
Table Rock Jungle Lodge
In San Ignacio, we stayed at a very unique eco resort called Table Rock Jungle Lodge. The lodge was located about 25 minutes outside of town down a very bumpy dirt road. Table Rock Jungle Lodge is actually located on an almost 100 acre (40 hectare) fully functioning citrus farm – in the middle of the jungle! The onsite open air restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients, including fruit from the orchards and fresh eggs from the farm’s chickens. This was the only restaurant we ate at during our time in San Ignacio because the food was just that good and the chef had a new menu every night.
The majority of the rooms on the property consisted of cabanas or cabins. We stayed in the “Mot Mot” cabana, which was very clean and comfortable (just remember you are in the jungle so expect tiny visitors like geckos or maybe even a scorpion). We had a hammock in our front patio area and were surrounded by vibrant and peaceful jungle. One of our favorite parts about staying here was exploring the property using the many paths and trails. There are trails across from the property leading through dense jungle as well as one just down from the restaurant leading to the Macal River. Once at the river you can utilize free canoes or innertubes to explore the riverside jungle. Be cautious of the rapids – we almost got swept away! You can also canoe up the river a few minutes to the nearby Chaa Creek Resort for lunch or a cocktail (they make their own alcohol infusions).
When staying at Table Rock, don’t miss out on wandering through the extensive maze of orange groves. Within them you will see (and hear) cute little donkeys that happen to LOVE oranges for snacks. You are free to pick any fruit you see in the orchards and eat it yourself or offer it to one of the donkeys. This was such a fun way to spend a couple relaxing hours wandering around the farm.
What To Do in San Ignacio:
Cave Tubing through Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve (with Belize Zoo visit)
If you are looking for a unique way to explore the Belize jungle, then definitely check out a cave tubing tour. We booked this tour through our lodge and it included a trip to the Belize Zoo as well. The tour began early in the morning with a visit to the zoo, which is about an hour from San Ignacio. The zoo itself is on the smaller side, but we were very impressed with the quality and size of the exhibits and habitats. All of the animals at the zoo were rescued, born there, or were being rehabilitated. Our favorites were the hilarious toucans, the gorgeous jaguars, and the odd looking tapirs (the national animal of Belize).
After an hour or two at the zoo we stopped at a nearby local restaurant for lunch. We happened to be the only ones on the tour along with our guide, so we were able to go at our own pace. After lunch, a 20 minute drive took us to the beginning of our cave tubing adventure. We were given helmets and innertubes before we began our hike through the dense foliage to the mouth of the cave. We highly recommend wearing all quick-dry clothing or having a change of clothes as well as water shoes since the hike to the cave river takes about 30 minutes and passes through a stream. Along the way we saw snakes, leafcutter ants, and even learned a few jungle survival skills (thankfully we didn’t have to use them).
The jungle trail ended at a set of wooden stairs leading us down to the mouth of the cave at the Mopan River. We (ungracefully) got into our tubes from the small dock and started floating down the bright blue river. This simultaneously relaxing and adventurous tour took us through cave tunnels with waterfalls and dramatic limestone features as well as lush jungle scenery. One of the best parts was when our tour guide spontaneously pulled us over inside the cave to go spelunking above the river.
Caracol Mayan Ruins
It was difficult to decide on one Mayan ruin to visit, but we finally settled on Caracol because it is the largest site in Belize. We booked the tour through our lodge and it also included a stop for a swim at Rio on Pools which was very refreshing after a day of hiking in sweltering Belize humidity. The ruins are located about 2.5 hours south of San Ignacio. We also made a surprise stop along the way to stretch our legs at a huge cave. After quite a few miles down a very bumpy dirt road (lots of these around the San Ignacio area) we finally made it to Caracol Ruins.
The area is huge and has so much to see, so we highly recommend having a guide. We were able to climb to the top of the large main temple which had an incredible view over the jungle canopy and we could see all the way to Guatemala. The ruins are magnificent and the history of the site is fascinating so don’t miss out on this tour. Be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen and bring lots of water as it can get extremely hot hiking around the exposed structures.
After a few hours of exploring and a lunch break, we headed to Rio on Pools. This is an area in the Mountain Pine Forest Reserve just off the side of the road that consists of a bunch of small natural swimming pools and waterfalls. It was a lot of fun to swim here and it was SO refreshing after hiking in the heat and humidity.
Day 6-10 Placencia
Next, we headed to the Caribbean beaches of Placencia which is about a 3 hour drive southeast. The town rests at the end of a long narrow peninsula which creates a natural lagoon on its west side. Lined with mangroves on one side and white sand beaches on the other, this peninsula is a great location for eco-tourism. The biggest draw for staying in Placencia was its proximity to the stunning Silk Caye National Park.
Where to Stay:
Singing Sands Inn
7 miles north of the town of Placencia, Singing Sands Inn is in the central area of the peninsula called Maya Beach. We chose cabana number one with a big hammock in front of it allowing us to relax and take in the beautiful views of the calm Caribbean Sea. We were just steps away from the water and spent much of our time wading in the shallow, warm sea. Be on the lookout for harmless moon jellyfish! Cabana number one also sits away from the rest of the cabanas so you get a little more privacy. The hotel offers free kayaks and bicycles to guests, which we took advantage of. Roughly a mile off shore there is a mangrove covered caye that we paddled the kayaks to. At the hotel there is also an onsite open air restaurant and you can easily book snorkeling tours to nearby cayes at the front desk.
What to Do:
From our hotel, we took a couple of the free kayaks our hotel provided and paddled out to False Caye (about 1 mile off shore). Pointing our kayaks toward the mangrove covered caye, we paddled toward it at a leisurely pace. Along the way we spotted some trumpet fish and bioluminescent comb jellies in the clear waters. The jellies were almost completely translucent and I was only able to spot them from their outlines and the dim colorful light they emitted.
Once we got near the tiny island, we started seeing some coral reef below us and wished we had brought some snorkeling gear. It only took us about half an hour to reach the near side of False Caye at our leisurely pace. We ended up paddling around to the opposite side of the caye to find a really small patch of sand to land on. Not able to find a way past the mangroves, we just walked around in the warm, shallow water to spot some tropical fish for a while. Once we felt like we discovered all we could wading through the shallows, we got back in our kayaks to head back.
Silk Cayes Marine Reserve Snorkeling Tour
Snorkeling the Silk Cayes Marine Reserve and the barrier reef was the main reason we stayed in Placencia. We booked the tour through our hotel and the caye was chosen based on weather conditions. Launching from the PADI Dive Center near Robert’s Grove, we made it to the protected area in about an hour. The tiny caye is surrounded by stunning turquoise waters full of marine life. It felt like we discovered a hidden paradise in the middle of the sea. The island we landed on had a few other small tour groups so we took turns snorkeling for around 45 minutes at a time. We got to see a ton of different reef species like parrot fish, triton’s trumpet, sting rays, and a huge grouper.
Around midday we ate lunch on the caye. After we ate the provided lunch, we got back onto the boat to go to another area of the barrier reef. This next location is where we got to swim with huge (but friendly) nurse sharks and eagle rays. Not everyone in our group was comfortable jumping in the water with sharks, but it was completely safe. Larry and I were the only two in the water with the eagle rays and nurse sharks, which made it that much more special. We definitely recommend venturing out to the barrier reef to do some snorkeling or diving if you visit Belize.
Day 10-14 Caye Caulker
From Placencia we took a shuttle (about 2.5 hours) back to Belize City to hop on the water taxi to Caye Caulker (about 45 minutes). The coral island is surrounded by beautiful blue-green waters and is very close to the barrier reef. Some of the best fishing, diving, and snorkeling in Belize is no more than a mile from the island. Caye Caulker is mostly inhabited on the south side of The Split (a small channel that divides the island), while the north side is covered in mangrove trees. We spent the majority of our time here relaxing since we were heading back to L.A. after a few days. The laid back and slow paced nature of the town is perfect for a calming getaway. If you’re looking for more of party scene take the water taxi to nearby Ambergris Caye.
Where to Stay:
Seaside Cabanas Hotel
This boutique hotel faces the Caribbean Sea and is close enough to the water taxi dock to walk to (if you don’t have too much luggage). It is centrally located in town and nothing is much more than a 10 minute walk away. There are different types of rooms to choose from including a few with their own hot tub and hammock, which is what we picked of course. They have a pool in the center of the property and plenty of lounge chairs surrounding it. Seaside Cabanas also has bicycles and kayaks available for rent, unfortunately they’re not free like at Singing Sands Inn.
What to Do:
Bike Around the Island
Caye Caulker is a very small island and you can easily bike slowly around it in about an hour or so. It’s a great way to see the island and familiarize yourself with the layout of the caye. There are no cars on Caye Caulker – only bikes and golf carts so biking around is very safe and convenient.
Spend an Afternoon at The Split
On the south side of the island is what’s known as “The Split.” It’s a popular hangout spot where you can have lunch and cocktails at The Lazy Lizard and swim in the warm turquoise waters in the channel. If you are brave enough, there is a platform you can jump from into the sea. Definitely give this a shot – it was the highlight of our time spent at The Split!
Eat Amazing Food
The best food of our Belize trip was found on Caye Caulker. There are a vast array of restaurants offering a variety of different cuisines. Here were our favorites:
Hisbisca by Habanero
This tiny restaurant was literally right across the road from our hotel. It specializes in Caribbean style fare and seafood. It has a nice ambience and patio where you can people watch while sipping on a mojito. I highly recommend ordering the snow crab – it was extremely fresh and delicious.
Il Pelicano served up the BEST ITALIAN FOOD WE HAVE EVER HAD. It sits away from the main road in a lush tropical garden. The ambience was gorgeous and felt like a hidden oasis. Try the gorgonzola pizza and the Paccheri al profumo di tartufo. The truffle pasta was out of this world amazing and we still reminisce about it on a daily basis. Who would have thought you could find authentic and delicious Italian food in the middle of the Caribbean Sea?!
The Cake Lady
As you stroll down the main road on Caye Caulker toward The Split, keep an eye out for the “Cake Lady.” She serves fresh, homemade cake slices from a cart on the side of the road for about $2.50 USD ($5 BZE) each. You can’t go wrong with any of the flavors, but we recommend trying the rum or pineapple.
Belize is a magical country that has something for everyone from the lush jungles and adventure activities of San Ignacio to the relaxing Caribbean beaches of Placencia and Caye Caulker. It is melting pot of cultures and is unlike anywhere else we have visited. The people were so friendly and we always felt very safe. Let us know in the comments if you have ever been to Belize and what you thought of it. For another Central American adventure itinerary check out our post on Costa Rica. Thanks for stopping by and happy travels!