Hopkins is a charming fishing village on the Caribbean coast in Belize. Hopkins is small, but it is an attractive destination thanks to a nice mix of adventurous hikes, laid-back beach days and culture. The village ceased to have fishing as its sole source of income a while ago. It’s now increasingly popular among travelers and the range of accommodations is slowly increasing. Nevertheless, it has a wonderful relaxed, local atmosphere and you will usually see only a handful of tourists. In this article you will read valuable tips on the best activities to do, the nicest places to stay and useful information on how best to travel there.
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Things to do in Hopkins
Hike the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, located south of Hopkins, is a beautiful location for nature lovers. This particular sanctuary is known as the world’s first jaguar reserve and was established to protect an area of over 400 km². The chances of spotting wild jaguars are very slim, but the sightings of tropical birds and reptiles are much greater!
There are several hiking trails you can follow, varying in difficulty and length. You can opt for a leisurely walk along the riverbanks where, with luck, you can spot various birds and other animals. Tubing, floating in a large inflated tire, is also a fun activity!
If you’re seeking some adventure, you can follow the trails that lead deeper into the park. One of the most popular trails is the Tiger Fern Trail that leads to the beautiful waterfall with swimming opportunities. Ben’s Bluff Trail and Victoria Peak Trail are also popular hikes that go deeper into the sanctuary.
Visit the Mayflower Bocawina National Park
About a 0.5 to 1-hour drive north from Hopkins lies the breathtaking Mayflower Bocawina National Park. Established in 2001, the national park covers some 7,000 acres of tropical forest with more than 200 different species of birds, anteaters, howler monkeys, tapirs and even jaguars.
A full tour of the park covers a duration of 7 hours of hiking. However, the park rangers do not recommend this, as it’s quite strenuous and barely leaves you time to swim at one of the waterfalls. I can recommend choosing a few specific routes and taking your time completing them.
If you’re interested in spotting wildlife, it’s recommended to go early in the morning when most of the animals are still showing themselves. To be fair, the chances of spotting many animals are slim, but the hikes are still absolutely worthwhile. In fact, the national park is home to several waterfalls among which the most visited are the Antelope Waterfall, Lower Bocawina and Upper Bocawina Waterfall.
One of the shortest hikes in the park leads to the literal highlight, the Antelope Waterfall. Along the way, you climb to a beautiful viewpoint and are eventually rewarded with a natural pool to take a refreshing dip in. The hike is fairly flat in the beginning and gets a lot steeper toward the end, so wearing good shoes is recommended. Count on about 45 minutes to an hour of hiking.
After the Antelope Waterfall, you can only take the same trail back down to continue your way to other waterfalls. The Lower Bocawina Waterfall is about a 1-hour walk from the park entrance, and at a brisk pace it’s only about 30 minutes from the Bocawina Rainforest Resort.
For a hike including a refreshing splash in the water at both the Antelope Waterfall and Lower Bocawina Waterfall, you will need about 4 to 5 hours. Add to that a leisurely lunch at the park’s Wild Fig restaurant, located next to the Rainforest Resort, and you end up with about 6 hours. The restaurant is open until 3 p.m. for a nice lunch.
At the Bocawina Rainforest Resort, you can not only stay overnight, but also fly through the jungle while ziplining. This takes about 1.5 hours and costs 75 BZD. That was just a little too expensive for me, so I opted only for the scenic hikes.
How do you get to the Mayflower Bocawina National Park?
The Mayflower Bocawina National Park can only be reached by cab or with a tour. The last stretch from the main road is quite bumpy. A cab ride to the park costs about 150 BZD round trip and, of course, you can share the cost by traveling with several people. Agree a time with the driver when they will pick you up again.
Discover the underwaterworld
Not only on the island of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye you can admire the Belize Barrier Reef, also from Hopkins you can! Several tours are offered from Hopkins that can usually be arranged at your accommodation.
Get to know the Garifuna culture
Belize is a mix of cultures including Creoles, Mayans and Garifunas. The town of Dangriga in southern Belize is considered the spiritual capital of the Garifuna people, an ethnic group with a rich history. But many people from the Garifuna community also live in Hopkins.
Music plays a big role in Garifuna culture, and you can definitely get a taste of that in Hopkins! The traditional music is mainly made with drums and is very energetic. Often it’s accompanied by singing where the lyrics often tell stories about the history, daily life and spirituality of the community. I had the opportunity to experience a performance at Ella’s Restaurant/Cool Spot.
Try local food on the beach
Hopkins may be a small town, but there are plenty of nice restaurants, and often just steps from the beach.
For example, you can score good pizza at Driftwood Beach Bar & Pizza Shack. Besides the good food, you can also enjoy a cool Garifuna drum show there.
Maxim’s Bar & Grill is a super simple spot where you can try delicious Belizean food. They are open for early breakfast, lunch and dinner overlooking the sea.
Have some drinks (and a dance) in the evening
You won’t find big parties in Hopkins. There are some bars and restaurants here and there that are open until the evening. Expect the biggest crowd during the weekends.
A popular spot in the evening is Ella’s Cool Spot. This is one of the places that plays live Garifuna music on some nights as well. They have an upstairs area with music and the posibility to dance if you’re up for it!
Most bars close around 10:00 – 11:00 pm. Do you still feel like having a drink after that? Then the best idea is to meet the locals! One night I decided to join some villagers for a drink in front of a local store that is allowed to stay open until late at night.
Best places to stay in Hopkins
The range of accommodations in Hopkins is slowly but surely increasing. The options consist mainly of hotels, guesthouses and resorts. Currently there’s only one hostel in Hopkins, The Funky Dodo Backpackers hostel which is a good option if you’re traveling on a smaller budget. This lively hostel has both dorms and private rooms, a communal kitchen and a cozy lounge where you can meet fellow travelers.
The Crash Pad Adventure Hostel is also a really super good option if you’re looking for a not too expensive place to stay. Emma, the owner, is super helpful and always makes you feel at home. For a double room you pay around $50 – 70 USD per night. If you own a motorcycle license, I can definitely recommend renting a motorcycle from Emma for a day or two. It’s the perfect way to explore the area. For a day you will pay about $65 – 75 USD.
Should you have a bigger budget, it’s definitely worth trying one of the resorts outside the village. Most resorts are located on a beautiful stretch of beach. Expect to pay at least $150 per night.
How to get to Hopkins?
Traveling from Belize City, you can take the bus from the Belize City bus terminal towards Placencia. This bus route goes through Belmopan and Dangriga, where the bus makes a short stop of about 10 minutes. A bus ticket costs about 15 BZD. The ride takes about 3-3.5 hours to Dangriga and a total of about 4 hours to the Hopkins junction. At the Hopkins intersection, you will have to take another bus or a cab for 15-20 BZD to the village.
Another option from Belize City is to take a cab, which costs about 150-175 BZD. Pretty pricey in fact!
Coming from Caye Caulker? Then you can take a cab from the ferry to the Belize bus terminal or walk this short distance in about 15 minutes.
Since 2023, the brand new Floralia bus has been running from Belize City in the north all the way to Punta Gorda in the south, and vice versa. These touring buses have super comfortable seats, TV AND air conditioning (something you won’t find in any other bus in Belize). You can check their schedule here.
If you travel from Hopkins further south, you can expect the Floralia bus about 15-30 minutes after it leaves in Dangriga. If you see a big shiny bus approaching, you can easily stop it by waving. From the Hopkins junction to Placencia, you will take about 2 hours and pay 8 BZD. You can also get off along the way wherever you want. And everyone does. The bus stops around the towns almost every 30 meters to let someone off or on, no joke.