Duration: at least one week
Budget: $45 per day
Stay: Palmento Groove Lodge
Hopkins welcomed us with a spectacular blood moon on the night of our arrival. A breathtaking natural phenomenon! I have been back to visit several times since then.
What makes the village is the special vibe and the way the community is engaging with tourism. Hopkins’s main street is lined with mostly locally owned guesthouses and small restaurants and forms the village’s center.
While Hopkins South is dominated by all-inclusive, the North has developed into a little backpacker haven. Tucked away behind the main streets, you’ll find charming locally-owned restaurants, cute bakeries, and even some nightlife. I love Hopkins because tourism seems to blend in seamlessly.
A place for the soul
Yet, Dani wanted to introduce Lauri to Hopkins because it is a place for the soul which has to be felt to describe its charm and vibe adequately. It is a fantastic place to dive into Garifuna culture and everything that comes with it: Punta dances, delicious food, and a distinct lifestyle and values.
Punta Gorda, Dangriga, and the friendly town of Hopkins form the centers of Garifuna culture in Belize.
The Garifuna people are descendants of African, Caribbean & Indigenous South American origin. After being exiled from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in 1797, the majority of Garifuna today live along the Caribbean coastlines of Honduras, Belize, and Nicaragua. Many Garinagu people cherish and live their cultural heritage until today.
The unique Garifuna culture and the chance to participate in and learn from it make Hopkins one of the best places to visit in Belize.
Music & Punta
Garifuna drums set the rhythm. While in Hopkins, you’ll surely get to listen to some typical drumming. If you have some rhythm, you might try and take some classes at Lebeha. The distinctive drumming is accompanied by either the Punta or Walavine. Two fierce, traditional dances.
While many Belizeans speak English, Creole and Spanish, the Garifuna people also have their distinct language, Karif. Over time Carib and European languages have influenced the Garifuna language, a member of the Arawakan family.
By the way: Both Garifuna language and Garifuna music were declared “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2008. Pretty impressive, no?
Even though the heritage is actively lived, you’ll rarely spot Garinagu men wearing the traditional dashiki. A colorful v-neck shirt inspired by African printing.
In Hopkins, you’ll for sure be able to taste the excellent typical cuisine. Deliciously spiced seafood, Hudut, or coconut rice will stimulate your taste buds. We find it one of the most delicious cuisines in the region!
Enjoy sea life and go snorkeling or diving
Since we planned to move on to Belize’s Cayes, we passed on the possibility of touring Belize’s Cayes from Hopkins. However, Hopkins offers an excellent starting point for excursions to the nearby Cayes and the Barrier Reef. Belize is supposedly home to the western hemisphere’s largest barrier reef. As a result, you’ll find plenty of diving, snorkeling, and fishing opportunities.
Of course, you can enjoy the beach in Hopkins, too! A Miles-long, natural Caribbean coast seams the village. But, although it’s nice to hang out and dip into the water, Hopkins is not the typical beach destination.
Look out for Jaguars at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
The world’s first jaguar preservation sanctuary offers the (admittedly small) chance to spot the majestic cats in the wild! Amidst lush vegetation, the park affords you waterfalls and stunning views! Cockscomb park is the best place to let go of some energy tubing and hiking if you have been a bit lazy the last few days. The park offers accommodations and a campsite within its grounds, but you can also visit the park on a day trip—entrance fee: BZ$10. The park is tranquil and does not get too many visitors. It’s perfect for taking in the lush vegetation in Belize’s jungle!
Pure Magic: Bioluminescence River Tour
The Bioluminescence River Tour is one of the coolest things to do in Hopkins! The tour takes you on a journey that is sure to wow your senses and leave you wide-eyed. Even though we have visited bioluminescence waters worldwide, we still find them super magical!
Starting at the Sittee River, conveniently located near the south end of Hopkins, you’ll hop aboard a boat and venture out into the water. Keep your eyes peeled for reflections that could belong to anything from birds to crocodiles! But the real magic happens as you cruise through the cut in the lagoon that leads to Anderson’s Lagoon. Prepare to marvel at the stunning bioluminescent waters as you dip your hands or dive in and swim. You won’t regret experiencing this miraculous natural wonder, so brace yourself for a night to remember!
Go horseback riding
Exploring the surrounding by horse is one of the most magical things to do anywhere. This half-day tour takes you to the beautiful orange groves and lush rainforest. And what’s more, you’ll cool off with a refreshing swim in the river with the horses! The working farm is also home to a variety of animals, including sheep, cows, and goats. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Hopkins while horseback riding.
Pure Magic: Bioluminescence River Tour
If you have relaxed enough and feel like a little adventure, check out Bocawina, the ultimate hotspot for thrill-seekers in Hopkins. Get your pulse racing by experiencing the longest zipline in Belize. With 14 platforms and 9 different runs, you’ll glide through the stunning rainforest canopy like a free-flying bird, taking in the breathtaking natural scenery from a unique perspective. The complete course is an adrenaline-pumping 2.5 miles long, and the longest single run is a whopping 2,300 feet. Try waterfall rappelling and conquer your fears for an even more heart-pounding thrill. Bocawina is truly beautiful and totally worth exploring!
Practical travel tips for Hopkins & Belize
Which language is spoken in Belize?
The official language of Belize is English, which is inherited from its history as a former British colony. However, many other languages are also spoken in the country. Spanish, a widely spoken language in neighboring countries, is spoken by a large portion of the population and is considered the main language for communication between different ethnic groups.
In addition to English and Spanish, several indigenous languages such as Mayan languages and Garifuna, a mix of West African and Arawak origins, are also spoken in Belize. These languages are an important part of the cultural identity of the indigenous communities and efforts are being made to preserve them.
What is the official currency in Belize?
The official currency of Belize is the Belize dollar (BZD). The BZD has remained relatively stable over the years and is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate of BZ$2 to US$1. This makes it easy for tourists and investors to use and exchange foreign currency while in Belize.
US Dollars are also widely accepted, but I recommended having some BZD for smaller purchases and transactions. ATMs can be found in most towns and cities, dispensing both BZD and US dollars.
What is the best time to visit Hopkins?
Hopkins experiences quite heavy rain from June to September as anywhere in the Caribbean. This time is also considered hurricane season. The high season starts in November till February. The best time to travel is, without a doubt, shoulder season in June so that you can visit Mango fest or November for Garifuna Day!
Is Hopkins safe for travelers?
Hopkins is calm and pretty safe during the day. We have never felt unsafe, but we've also almost always been hanging out with our local friends. Be more careful at night and during Mango fest & Garifuna settlement day.
How can I protect myself from sandflies?
Once you get to Hopkins, buy some handmade coconut oil to protect yourself from sandfly bites! They are especially active during morning and evening hours.
How to get to Hopkins?
Depending on where you are coming from, the bus may stop directly in the center of Hopkins or at "Junction," about 5 km outside. Don't be shy. Locals passing by will surely give you a ride.
Festivals and celebrations
Hopkins has two significant events: Mango Fest in June and Garifuna Day Settlement on November 19th. The otherwise sleepy village bursts with life, drumming, food, and celebrations. Both events are major and not to be missed if you are in Belize!
Can I drink tap water in Belize?
In the towns, the water is supposedly drinkable. But as you will spend a lot of time on the water and Cayes in Belize, bring a water filter or a self-cleaning bottle to be safe and avoid causing plastic pollution. The bottles will keep your water fresh and cool, too!
What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?
Eating fish: To protect marine life in Belize, fishing is regulated by seasons to guarantee the species' time to recover. Therefore, make a point of not eating lobster or conch when not in season! Conch season runs from October to June. Lobster season is from July to February.
Sunscreen: Protect the unique marine life in Belize, and always wear reef-friendly sunscreen. Check out our guide to coral-safe sunscreens here.
Plastic: Bring your self-cleaning bottle to avoid causing trash by consuming bottled water.
Best places to stay in Hopkins, Belize
Palmento Grove Lodge, owned and operated by Garifuna locals, offers an authentic experience of the Afro-Caribbean culture indigenous to Belize. This cultural preservation center has been promoting traditional knowledge, history, and way of life for over a decade now, and it operates as a sustainable farming business. By visiting Palmento Grove, you are empowering the local community, supporting their love for their culture, and participating in various cultural activities such as drumming, dancing, storytelling, and cooking. The Lodge’s socially conscious approach adds an extra layer of significance to your experience.
I LOVE this place. Tricia’s place is a true paradise located at the Northern tip of Hopkins. The uniquely designed house felt like home from the very first minute. The rooms are beautiful, and the location on the beach is peaceful! Owner Tricia is a wonderful host and makes you feel right at home.
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San Ignacio and its twin town Santa Elena form the heart of the “Cayo” district. While there is a comfortable touristic infrastructure, San Ignacio manages to maintain an authentic and vibrating charm. Contrary to the coastal part of Belize, Spanish is most widely spoken. San Ignacio is surrounded by lush vegetation, fast flowing rivers, Maya ruins, and caves. There are lots to do in this lively little town!