By Lebawit Lily Girma
Lining the Caribbean Sea with close to five miles of beaches on Belize’s eastern coast, Hopkins bursts with Garifuna culture, water activities, diverse culinary experiences—over 40 establishments from local to chef-prepared meals—nearby national parks, and budget to plush resorts. It’s a place that draws the backpacker as much as the luxury traveler, all of whom are in search of an authentic, laid-back corner of Belize.
Newtown, on the north side of freshwater lagoon, was the village’s original settlement before the community moved to what is now Hopkins. Garifuna culture is alive and well—drums echo day or night at beachfront weekly shows and during private drumming lessons offered in the village. Thatch roof restaurants serve hudut—mashed plantains with a fish coconut sauce—a dish you can learn to make from scratch in a traditional Garifuna kitchen at Palmento Grove. This Afro-Amerindian cuisine contrasts against the best gourmet, Chef-prepared meals in the country at Chef Rob’s, south of the village, among others. Meanwhile, you can learn about the history and culture of Belize’s ancient civilization at the nearby Maya Center.
Located a boat ride away from the Belize Barrier Reef and close to a handful of national parks, including Sittee River’s bioluminescent waters, days in Hopkins are easily filled fly fishing, diving, snorkeling, beach hopping, birding, and crocodile spotting. Less than an hour away by car, Bocawina National Park’s pristine waterfalls beg for a swim, while adrenaline packed jungle trails and rappelling reward with spectacular sinkholes.