Explorer Series: Cowboy Santiago Juan


In this month’s Explorer Series, we’re going o meet a true Central American cowboy…

Santiago Juan is the owner of Hanna’s Stables, a picture-perfect place well-known to Ka’ana guests – it is just up the road, after all! A fantastic tour guide, Santiago is an expert at giving visitors a truly unique experience in the jungles of Cayo.

We sat down with him this week to talk about what makes a horseback ride in the jungle so irresistible…

Why should visitors to Belize choose Cayo as their destination of choice?

The El Cayo District is best known for its diversity in activities. It offers the most visited Mayan Temple in Belize (Xunantunich) and the most visited cave system (ATM). It also offers the opportunity for guests to see the beautiful diversity of people and cultures all making it work together.

Our small and sleepy town of San Ignacio is very quaint with many small restaurants and excellent opportunities for people watching. On a bright and early Saturday morning there’s nothing better than a visit to the colorful farmers market, which in more ways than one was trending before farmer’s organic markets had started trending in North America and Europe!

Farmer's Market in San Ignacio Belize

Can you tell us the story of how you came to open a stable?

I was brought up in the Mopan River valley on a working farm. This valley is home to many Mayan cities – some popular and some not too popular. We all have read about Xunantunich but as a little boy galloping around on my horse I explored cities like Actun Kan, Buena Vista, Calla Creek and San Lorenzo which is the one I grew up in. All these cities of the past were my play grounds.

It was a natural choice for me to study Agronomy being a farm boy. As I explored the science of botany and plant cultivation it became more and more known to me of all the plants in our modern day cuisine which had been domesticated in my back yard. The mayans domesticated plants such as Avocados, Papayas, Amaranth, Beans, Corn, Pumpkins, Tomatoes, Hot Peppers, Chaya just to mention a few. My love for horses and my natural surrounding had so much to offer that it was an obvious choice to share my love and knowledge with visitors to my little part of the world.

Hannah's Stables in Belize

Of your many offerings, what would you say is the most unique experience guests look forward to when visiting Hanna’s Stable? And why?

Hands down the most unique and popular experience is riding to Xunantunich. This ride offers wonderful opportunities for birding, howler monkey viewing, breathtaking landscapes riding along the Mopan River – which was named in honor of the Mopan Mayas of the valley – interaction with our guides and a leisurely ride which requires no previous experience to the most magnificent Mayan city of all: The Lady of the Rock (Xunantunich).

Horseback riding to the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins in Belize

What is your most memorable guest story?

One of the most memorable times of all was about two years ago when I had a male guest ask me if I can accompany him to the rest rooms. Well, that is not a common request in this part of the woods.

Anyway I proceeded to walk alongside him and he said not to look back but he had a very special favor to ask. He handed me a handkerchief and ask me to please place it in my pocket which I did. Once we were out of sight he requested that while we were on our ride to the Mayan Temple that I should stop at the most picturesque location as what I had in my pocket was a ring as he planned to propose on the ride.

The bride to be could not hold back the tears as he nervously on his knees presented the ring to her. Most naturally she accepted and I was the photographer of the day to capture it all!

Horseback Tour of Xunatunich

Ka’ana guests are always talking about how much they loved their experience horseback riding to Xunantunich. What do you think makes it so special?

What makes this tour so special is the pairing of a magical rainforest ride leading to a location that is full of culture, history and adventure. All these factors evoke a heartwarming amount of emotions that will last a lifetime for all who get to experience this tour.

We couldn’t agree more Santiago! Ready to book your own adventure with Cayo’s own cowboy? Talk to our team today!