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Hopkins, Belize

For the second portion of our stay in Belize in December, we were based in the seaside town of Hopkins.

Now, I believe I have sufficiently established throughout all of my travels that I am not much of a beach person. As much as I like dipping in the sea – and splashing in the waves with my children – I do not like anything else that is usually involved in the beach-going activity: the glaring sun, the overall idleness, the annoying strangers around you, the penetrating all clothing sand.

However, this was the very first time on our travels that a quiet semi-private beach lay right outside our apartment door. With enough shade just a few meters from the water’s edge to actually make me want to be out there. If I ever pictured my ideal beachside setup, this was pretty much it.
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
The waters of the bay that lap Hopkins shore were amazingly tranquil in the mornings – as if the bay was a lake instead of a part of the open sea. That made for a few serene perspectives.
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Picturesque vessel remnants lie on the beach here and there.
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Food shacks along the shore serve pretty amazing meals. Below is the eatery directly next to “our” section of the beach where we dined on two separate occasions. It will never attract a Michelin mention. But as an experience of having an unpretentious locally sourced meal right by the water’s edge, it was certainly unparalleled for us.
Hopkins, Belize
In fact, the yellow building protruding onto the beach that we have seen in a couple of shots above is also a restaurant where we ate on another occasion. Here is a look at it from farther out on the water.
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins is considered to be the Garifuna cultural center of Belize. Garifuna are Afro-Caribbean people with diasporas in Central and North America. In Belize, which is very big on its multiculturality for such a small country, there even exists a national holiday – the Settlement Day on November 19th – that celebrates the arrival of Garifuna. The food and the music in Hopkins are very much influenced by the Garifuna traditions. Live music performances of the drum-jam variety frequently accompany evening meals on the beach – and continue for hours.

The town itself is just a couple of kilometers long, with full-service resorts at the northern and southern edges of its bay. It is also just a couple of streets wide. There are supermarkets and a few public-service buildings, but mostly private houses that frequently double as small businesses or guest lodges.

That Belize is not a very rich country is very much on display on that small stretch of the coastal village. The scenery is very colorful and the people are awfully friendly. And yet, for every place that looks reasonably new and well-kept, there is a neighboring house that betrays owners’ limited resources.

A perspective from the roof of our guesthouse complex is in itself an illustration, with contrasting houses in the foreground, and an unfinished abandoned-looking construction in the distance.
Hopkins, Belize
In no particular order, street-level perspectives of houses in different fashions of upkeep.
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
As mentioned above, some of these double as small businesses or guest lodges.
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
Hopkins, Belize
It is not entirely obvious, but the building on the left in the last picture above is a barbershop.

You will also notice occasional people in those perspectives. I am never keen on photographing strangers and I usually go to extra lengths to remove accidental people from my shots. Somehow in Hopkins, it did not feel like I was intruding when including people in the photos, so I simplified my post-processing a bit. A couple of kids actually posed for me.
Hopkins, Belize
A curious “Not for sale” sign graces a clearly disused house.
Hopkins, Belize
And a good example of the “phased construction” approach that is found all over Belize. Instead of building the entire house at once, parts of it are built in line with available funds, with breaks between the phases that could last years. When you first see these, they look abandoned – especially when the lower floors are left unfinished – but I have been assured on several occasions that they are but incomplete.
Hopkins, Belize
A very unexpected double tiny house in the center of Hopkins.
Hopkins, Belize
And a public toilet on the street.
Hopkins, Belize
I did not locate the “M” counterpart anywhere nearby.

A sunrise over the tranquil waters.
Hopkins, Belize
We made a couple of intraday excursions during our stay in Hopkins. One warrants a separate post, which will be coming in due time. Another resulted in too few good shots, so I will tack them on here.

The destination for that was the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, quite close to town but requiring a careful and slow 45-minute drive on an unpaved approach road. Once in the park, we went for a rather non-trivial hike – marked as “moderate” in difficulty – which was not at all commensurate with our athletic abilities. Or, to be precise, only the youngest member of the party, at 13 years of age, felt good after completing the roughly 5 km-long loop with over 600 meters of total elevation difference.

There were two payoffs. At the highest point, we took in this vista of the huge national park and the nearby mountains.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize
The highest mountain in the distance is Victoria Peak, which is actually the second-highest point in Belize at 3,675 feet.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize
The other payoff was at the lowest point of the trail: the Tiger Fern Double Waterfall. This is the picture of its upper part.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize
As you would presume, I took an invigorating swim in that pool, which made the hike worthwhile to me on balance.

And what about the wildlife? As could be expected, you can barely see anything in the middle of the day. There were some birds, a butterfly or two, other insects, and remote noises of howler monkeys, but certainly nothing of visible special interest. The sanctuary is alternatively known as the “Jaguar Preserve” with purportedly several dozen big cats roaming around. But jaguars are decidedly nocturnal animals, so there wasn’t much of a chance of us crossing the path of even one.

Our local guide got very excited about seeing this little bird perched on a branch a few feet off the hiking path. It is called Tody Motmot and is apparently a really rare sighting – or, possibly, the guide was trying to earn his tip by hyping up something in the absence of anything more dramatic.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize
With all said and done, it was an excellent choice of ours to spend a few days in Hopkins and around it.