Happy New Year!
I’m lucky in that my office is closed from Christmas Eve through New Years Day. This offers me a great chance to do a little traveling over the holidays (something I intend to do more of), so Michael and I, along with his mom and grandmother, ventured down to Belize this Christmas — starting in Hopkins and ending the trip in Caye Caulker.
Today’s travel diary is all about Hopkins; Caye Caulker will come later this week.
When deciding where our stops in Belize should be, we chose Hopkins because of its reputation as “Belize’s friendliest village,” and it truly lived up to that name! Belizeans in general, but especially people in Hopkins are so inherently, genuinely friendly. I found myself wanting to use the phrase, “going out of their way,” but honestly, that wasn’t even true. The kindness that the entire village showed to us seemed to be inherent in who they are; they were just such friendly, genuine people that were quick to say hello and start a conversation, or help you find a place to eat, or even help get your rental car out from being stuck in the sand on Christmas Day — yup, that really happened ;) I loved Hopkins for this.
If you’re looking for luxury when it comes to your travels, Hopkins probably isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for a genuine Belizean experience where you truly get to experience the culture of a place, keep reading!
What to Know
Hopkins is kind of a no-frills type of place. It’s a village, and not one that seems to attract a huge number of tourists, although we did hear that the tourism is growing there and met a few fellow travelers. In addition, we met various people from around the world — the US, Canada, Russia, the Philippines, the Netherlands — who had made the move to Hopkins permanently for all the reasons we loved it too.
If you stay near what I would consider to be “downtown” (the northside), you’ll be staying in the cultural center of the Garifuna population in Belize. The southside of the village is much newer, more tourism-based, so I’d recommend the northside for the authentic village experience that we got.
Where to Go
So I’ll be honest, we didn’t do a ton during our time in Hopkins aside from bounce around the village interacting with the people…and eating! Food in Hopkins was my favorite of the trip. Every meal was better than the last, and honestly, we didn’t even have enough time to eat everywhere we wanted to. If you’re a fellow foodie, here are a few must-try places:
- Bahay Fiesta: This place is new, and nearer to the Southside of Hopkins. It’s a Filipino-Caribbean fusion restaurant in a gorgeous house that was built by the family that lives and works there. They have gardens in the back where some of the food is grown, and some seriously amazing food. Favorites on the menu are the chicken adobo and catch-of-the-day served “barbecue-style” (I believe that’s what it was called), both with rice noodles.
- Love on the Rocks: Probably one of the nicer restaurants in the village, Love on the Rocks is unique because of its cooking style — you cook your meat (we opted for lobster and filet) on a 700-degree hot rock, right at your table. Fun and delicious!
- Swinging Armadillo: This is a local hangout on the Northside of Hopkins, where you’ll find lots of villagers grabbing a beer and dancing to live drums on Thursday or reggae on Friday. It’s also a great place to eat that sits right over the water. The menu doesn’t have a lot on it, but the fish is really fresh and amazing.
- Thong’s Cafe: Our breakfast spot for pretty much every day we spent in Hopkins, this place has the best rum smoothies! Not to mention, all the food is so fresh — from the farm fresh eggs, to the veggies, and more.
The one place we wanted to try but didn’t get a chance to was Innie’s, which serves traditional Garifuna dishes and was widely touted as being the best around the village.
In addition to eating, Hopkins has a beach, of course, and various snorkling, fishing and island hopping tours. We didn’t do any of these things until we arrived in Caye Caulker later in our trip, but the home we stayed at was right above Happy Go Luckie Tours, and I can recommend them based on my interactions with Luckie and Cheryl alone.
Hopkins is also a great central location from which to do many day trips in-land, including visiting the Mayan Ruins, cavetubing, ziplining, hiking, cliff jumping and more.
How to Get There
Hopkins is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Belize City and the international airport, so you’ll need a car to get there. Just a note: don’t take the Coastal “Highway,” regardless of what Google might tell you. It’s a long dirt road and will add time to the trip unless you have a vehicle that can handle it at faster speeds. Take what appears to be the longer way to stay on paved roads. The roads in Hopkins are all dirt roads, so you’ll still get your fair share of them once you get there.
Where to Stay
As I mentioned, you’ll get more of the authentic Hopkins experience by staying on the Northside of the village. We were really lucky to have found a beautiful second-floor home — complete a with rooftop deck! — on Airbnb, right in the center of everything and just a block to the beach. (If you haven’t ever used Airbnb, click here for a $20 credit off your first stay.) I would highly recommend it if it fits your group size.
We also interacted with folks at Coconut Row, which happens to sit right in front of the home we rented, on the beach. So while we didn’t stay there, I can recommend it based on interactions with its team and guests.
Overall, our time in Hopkins was amazing, and I’d highly recommend a stop in this village on any trip to Belize!