Belize doesn’t have states, provinces, or departments. Instead, the country is divided into six different districts. Cayo District is the largest district in the country, located in the west of Belize along the border with Guatemala.
While you won’t find many cowboys in Cayo, the area is often referred to as the “Wild West” thanks to its abundance of lush rainforests, mountains, pristine rivers, and enormous national parks. The biggest urban area in Cayo is San Ignacio Town and its twin Santa Elena across the river, the second-largest municipal area in the country. San Ignacio is a popular jumping off point to experience the beauty of nature in Cayo, but the town is worth a visit if only for its thriving open-air market where farmers, artisans, and villagers meet to exchange gossip and sell fresh produce, dairy products, handicrafts, and traditional medicinal compounds.
Cayo is home to several small villages dispersed throughout the territory, including the Mennonite settlement of Spanish Lookout where hardworking people of faith produce some of the country’s best cheeses and furniture.
Most people, however, come to Cayo to explore the rich abundance of wild nature in the area. There are several Important Birding Areas located in the district, as identified by the Belize Audobon Society. And massive national parks like the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve (some 106,000 acres/430 square kilometers), home to the tallest waterfalls in Central America and exotic wildlife like jaguars, monkeys, crocodiles, and endangered ocellated turkeys.
Adventure options in Cayo include horseback riding, hiking, bird watching, zip lining, and the uniquely Belizean sport of cave tubing at sites like Caves Brach. Cave tubing involves participants aboard an inflatable inner tube exploring vast underground river systems. Cayo District is also home to the Rio Frio Cave, once used by the ancient Maya for religious ceremonies, and Rio on Pools, a collection of swimming holes located at the base of a waterfall.
Other popular destinations in Cayo include ancient Maya sites, including Caracol and Xunantunich, two vast cities that once competed against Tikal (just across the border in modern-day Guatemala) for dominance of the region. And just across from San Ignacio lies the ruins of Cahal Pech, a cliffside community built exclusively for Maya nobles and members of the elite.
Chabil Mar is an award-winning luxury resort located on the Caribbean coastline in Placencia, Belize. Chabil Mar offers visitors Belize all-inclusive jungle and sea vacation packages that include guided tours to the best spots in Cayo.
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