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Moderate -- The Rolson Hotel (tel. 824-2730; www.rolsons.com) offers clean, business-class-style rooms, with televisions, air-conditioning, and free Wi-Fi.

Inexpensive -- San Ignacio is a very popular budget travel destination, and there are plenty of good options in town. During the high season, reservations are recommended for the more popular places. At other times, backpackers might prefer to arrive in town early enough to visit a few places, and see which place gives the best bang for the buck. Of the backpacker-geared options, I like the Hi-Et, 12 West St. (tel. 824-2828), with its hostel-like vibe and playful name. Those looking for accommodations with the trappings of a business-class hotel but at budget prices could also check out the New Balmoral Hotel, 17 Burns Ave. (tel. 804-3502), or the Plaza Hotel, 4A Burns Ave. (tel. 824-3332).

Cosmos Camping (tel. 824-2116; cosmoscamping@btl.net) is a campground on the road leading out toward Branch Mouth and Las Casitas, where you can pitch your tent for BZ$10 (US$5/£2.65) per day. There are showers and communal bathrooms that are kept clean, and the river is just across a field. This place is about a 15-minute hike from downtown San Ignacio, doable for a backpacker. They also have some simple cabins here as well. Still, I prefer the camping options farther outside of town, including Clarissa Falls Cottages and the Trek Stop, or Midas Tropical Resort, which is on the same road before Cosmos.

On the Road to Benque Viejo & the Guatemalan Border

While San Ignacio is the regional hub and does make a good base for side trips, the real attractions in western Belize are up the rivers and in the forests. Within a few miles of San Ignacio are several lodges set somewhat off the beaten path, where you can canoe down clear rivers past 1.2m (4-ft.) iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks; ride horses to Mayan ruins; hike jungle trails, and spot scores of beautiful birds and, occasionally, other wild animals. Out on the road to Caracol and Mountain Pine Ridge, there are more of these lodges. Except for the true budget traveler, I highly recommend that you stay at one of the lodges listed below while you're in the area. A few of the lodges can be reached by public bus from San Ignacio, though you may have up to a 20-minute walk after getting off the bus, so consider taking a taxi or arranging pickup in town. All the lodges offer a wide range of active adventures and tours to all the principal sites in the area.

Very Expensive -- Ka'ana (tel. 824-3350; www.kaanabelize.com) is a new, high-end resort hotel, with a series of rooms and private cottages with modern perks like flatscreen televisions and iPod docking stations. While Ek' Tun (tel. 820-3002; www.ektunbelize.com) is a unique, isolated, and gorgeous retreat with just two individual cottages set on the banks of the Macal River, it can only be reached by boat.

On the Road to Bullet Tree Falls

El Pilar (tel. 824-3612; www.marc.ucsb.edu/elpilar) was discovered in the 1970s, but real excavation and exploration didn't begin for another 20 years, and in fact it's still in its nascent stages. The site sits on a high hill some 274m (900 ft.) above the Mopan River and is one of the largest Mayan settlements in Belize. Some say it even rivals Caracol. This ancient ceremonial city featured over 25 known plazas and covered some 40 hectares (100 acres), straddling the Belize and Guatemala border. The site is quite large, but most visitors concentrate on Xaman Pilar (North Pilar) and Nohol Pilar (South Pilar). Pilar Poniente (West Pilar) is in Guatemala, a little less than a mile away. There are several well-marked and well-maintained trails through the site. While you can explore El Pilar by yourself -- you can even download a very informative trail map from the above website -- I still recommend hiring a local guide. Plan on spending at least 3 hours here, though you could easily spend a full day or two exploring this site. The sunsets from Plaza Ixim looking west to Pilar Poniente and the forested hills of Guatemala are spectacular.

El Pilar is located about 19km (12 miles) north of San Ignacio, past the village of Bullet Tree Falls. In addition to driving your own vehicle, several tour agencies in San Ignacio offer horseback or mountain-bike tours out to El Pilar.

A Place to Stay in Bullet Tree Falls -- Folks love Cohune Palms River Cabanas (tel. 824-0166; www.cohunepalms.com), which has a collection of thatch-roofed cabins on the banks of the Mopan River. Casa del Caballo Blanco (tel. 707/974-4942 in the U.S.; www.casacaballoblanco.com) is the new kid in town, with neat, cozy rooms, just on the outskirts of downtown.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.