Often referred to as the “Wild West” of Belize, the Cayo District is a delightful blend of diverse cultures, natural settings, and adventure destinations. The largest district in Belize, Cayo District is more than 2,000 square miles of pasture land, pristine rivers, verdant hills, tropical forest and a rich assortment of ancient Mayan Cities.
Belize’s capital Belmopan is located in Cayo District, the seat of the government and the terminus of the panoramic Hummingbird Highway. San Ignacio Town, the second-largest municipality in the country, is a vibrant mix of cultures, including Creole, Maya, Mestizos, Chinese, German-speaking Mennonites, East Indian immigrants and North American expatriates.
The agricultural heartland of Belize, Cayo District is where much of the country’s bananas, mangos, orange, vegetables, and corn are grown. Ranching is also important in Cayo District, producing much of Belize’s dairy and meat, including mouthwatering mozzarella cheese and savory pastrami. Mennonite farmers in tightly-knit communities like Spanish Lookout in Cayo District supply poultry and other homegrown products like peanuts to supply local farmers markets and shops.
The primary focus of Cayo District, however, is tourism, as more and more international visitors are learning to appreciate the many exciting destinations in the region. Heading out from San Ignacio Town, visitors can explore vibrant jungles and rolling hills built on the remains of ancient coral reefs formed in what became the Caribbean Sea millions of years ago. The limestone remains of those reefs give Cayo District its signature geology, forming vast networks of sinkholes and caves that the ancient Maya used to perform their most sacred religious rites.
Some of the most intriguing ruins of Maya cities are located in Cayo District. Xunantunich features an enormous pyramid temple soaring high above the jungle floor. The ruins of Cahal Pech, once the home to Maya elites, lies on a gorgeous setting overlooking the Macal River just a few miles outside of San Ignacio Town. Further out, the ruins of Caracol are situated at higher altitudes in the Mountain Pine Ridge area of the Chiquibul National Park, a city measuring more than 55 square miles. Perhaps the most famous of all ancient Maya sites, the towering city of Tikal, is located just across the border from Cayo District in neighboring Guatemala.
Visitors with their own car have a variety of day trip options in Cayo District, whether it’s enjoying the country’s most colorful market in San Ignacio Town, enjoying fine dining and quaint cafes, or exploring one of the many impressive Maya ruins. Cayo District is also home to luxury hotels and resorts, ranging from intimate jungle settings to deluxe modern accommodations. Visitors without private transportation can arrange for guided tours or take advantage of the country’s network of very affordable intercity buses.
One of the most beautiful destinations in Cayo District are located in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Several spectacular waterfalls are located within the reserve, including Rio On Pools, Big Rock Falls, and the Five Sisters Falls, excellent spots to stop and enjoy a picnic or plunge into the refreshing waters to cool off on a hot day. Other options include horseback riding, mountain biking, canoeing, and hiking throughout Cayo District, taking the time to drink in all of the beautiful scenery.
With so much to see and do in Cayo District, and delightful jungle lodges and elegant resorts, it’s no wonder that Cayo is rapidly becoming one of the preferred destinations in Belize.
Where to stay in Cayo Belize
Cahal Pech Village Resort
When exploring the many wonders of western Belize and Cayo District, stay at the Cahal Pech Village Resort. With a gourmet restaurant serving local delicacies and beautiful views of the whole Belize River Valley, Cahal Pech offers comfortable accommodations with full modern amenities.