Geographically the Largest District in Belize, Cayo District spans more than 2,000 square miles across diverse terrain – from rolling hills and sweeping farmland devoted to citrus orchards and cattle farming, to lush river valleys and rugged mountain ridges covered in sub-tropical jungle.
Easy to reach on the Western Highway, the Cayo District is approximately a one-hour drive east from Belize City; with another hour to reach San Ignacio, located less than 10 miles from Cayo’s western border with Guatemala.
With an estimated population of about 75,000, one of Cayo’s most important industries is eco-tourism. Besides the country’s most extensive number of Archaeological Sites, along with such natural wonders as cascading waterfalls and limestone Caves, Cayo offers the unique opportunity to encounter its physically diverse flora and fauna in a relatively intact environment.
Much of Cayo consists of broad-leaf jungle overlying limestone formations. These formations are a result of an uplifting of ancient coral beds during the past 20 million years. Over time, flowing water has gradually dissolved the limestone, forming underwater rivers, sinkholes, and the Spectacular Caves for which Cayo is famous for.
Above 2,500 ft, granite rock formed from molten intrusions created a landscape of canyons, valleys and waterfalls, and vistas of stunning beauty. The Mountain Pine Ridge was formed in this way.
Cayo, once a region rich with logging and chicle farming, today depends on citrus groves, cattle ranches and tourism as its main sources of income.
Agriculture in Cayo is concentrated in the Belize River valley, where the soil is kept fertile with flood waters from the highlands. Most settlements in Cayo District were founded in these areas, because the rich soils produced plentiful harvests and the waterways provided a means of traveling and transporting goods.
Towns & People
Cayo District’s diverse and hospitable residents have long attracted a vast spectrum of people and cultures. In addition to long time resident Creoles, Cayo is home to Maya refugees from Guatemala and Mexico, Lebanese, East-Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs, as well as Mennonite farmers, adventure-seekers and retirees from North America and Europe.
San Ignacio is the hub of commerce and tourism for western Belize, and together with its sister town – Santa Elena – make up the largest populated area in Cayo District with over 20,000 residents. Located along the banks of the Macal River, on a series of bluffs, San Ignacio and Santa Elena are at an elevation high enough to be noticeably cooler and less humid than the low-lying coastal plains.
The two towns are separated by the Macal River and Belize’s only suspension bridge, the one-lane Hawksworth Bridge (Built in 1949). San Ignacio is located along the Western Highway 70 miles west and 90 minutes drive time from Belize City and 9 miles from the Guatemalan border … read more
Belmopan, the “new” capital of Belize, was established in 1965, following devastation to the former capitol, Belize City, by Hurricane Hattie. The geographical center of the country, Belmopan lies near Cayo District’s eastern edge, 50 miles west of Belize City and 20 miles east of San Ignacio.
A population of 20,000 makes Belmopan one of the smallest capitols in the world …And that makes everything close at hand. You can walk from your hotel to the government buildings in a matter of minutes … read more
Spanish Lookout, Belize’s most modern Mennonite community with approximately 3,000 residents, is located midway between San Ignacio and Belmopan. The community is spread out over open field and living in modest homes, resembling scenes from days gone by of the rural mid-west.
The Mennonites are a self-sufficient group who run their own church-based community and in keeping with their tradition, wear clothing reflecting simple and conservative tastes … read more
In Between Wild Rivers & Tropical Hardwood Forests
an easy-going people, living by the river in modest villages, traditionally have earned a living from working the land.
Today, it is not an uncommon site to see villagers along the river banks swimming, bathing and doing the family laundry.
WELCOME TO CAYO …