For our final major Belize experience, it had to be back to the beach given our skins were unlikely to see any more vitamin d for a few months.
Hopkins is a little laid back town towards the south of the country and near the national Jaguar reserve. We were originally going to take a side trip into the reserve but the big cats are elusive, they recommend hiking gear for the trip, and most animal sighting activity are at dawn and dusk. All in all it was making a realistic successful trip a little tricky.
Hopkins is another hot, humid town where downpours can be quick to bubble up and then dissipate. Our first impressions were not great. I took to my bed with a very gripy tummy; a mix of a long hot car journey, a slightly dodgy piece of chicken in Guatemala, and a touch too much Guatemalan rum in my belly. When you have the belly the size of mine you are rather in trouble when it malfunctions. When I did venture out, the sight of well meaning locals and tourists on the beach picking up tons of plastic from the tide and their bitten corn-beef legs from the sand-flies tells the downside of Hopkins. The idyllic beach is being swamped by plastic, and your beach bod is going to be bitten to hell and back unless you coat yourself in vile harmful chemicals. Oh well, I was built for comfort rather than beauty and a few more body imperfections were unlikely to make much of a difference now.
When cleared the beach is idyllic and I spent an hour doing that hammock tied to two coconut trees on the beach thing, while wrapping the edges of the fabric into a cocoon to keep out the biters. It looked like a spider had caught a particularly juicy meal from afar but I was enjoying the vibe and not getting bitten. Everyone should do the hammock on the beach thing if only for the insta photo.
Hopkins has 3 rows of streets and 33 blocks, so in theory there are 99 street corners to hang outside, although most of them are populated by vacant lots or family homes; either wooden shack with tin roof, fairly antiquated concrete buildings, or modern fairly plush living.
There are perhaps 15 restaurants and bars in the village, ranging from very local places with very simple facilities, to quite plush and fairly pricy places. At the one end of the town are a few fancy resort places. Call me a tourist snob, but I don’t travel around the world to stay in your standard fancy resort; you might as well be anywhere.
Our home for 4 days was the White Horse hotel with some nice rooms and a couple of bungalows on the beach front and a bit of shared outdoor space. It worked well; the space was pleasant and the Americans sharing the hotel equally pleasant and reserved (if a little loud by UK standards).
Our room was tidy, with a fridge, a fan, nets over the windows and bars for security. It must be fairly easy for a sneak thief to try their luck, so the bars were welcome and meant we could keep the breeze coming through the window all night. You can hire air con if you wish and there are fans in the room. Angel the manager was friendly and helpful and we had a relaxed but quite tidy vibe. The local Chinese supermarket about 50 paces away kept the supplies of water, coke and Hobbs IPA and Belikin lager flowing.
Just up the road were a couple of restaurants. Mikhal runs Virge a roadside shack of a place with good family food and a nice Caribbean vibe. Mikhal lived in LA as a footballer but found the life and thrust to the top too stressful and now he manages the restaurant while firing baby bullets into his missus on sultry quiet afternoons. It’s quite a gaggle of kids around the place.
Mikhal has a charming way of grabbing a seat and sitting with you as he explains what he (or his missus) can cook for us. Most things involve a lovely coconut rice. Evening meals are a friendly family affair with the small football team of kids chatting to you and Mikhal gently enjoying the vibe. This is a good place for candid night photo shots out into the street. Food is good, local creole, home cooked standard and cheap. Mikhal will cycle to the supermarket if you drink him out of supplies.
We also enjoyed good ice cream at Nice Cream and it was nicely frozen giving some confidence that it was not going to make my dicey belly even worse. A few cokes had in any case largely worked its magic (its tricky to get diet coke here).
Peers Place is a good German owned restaurant although the owner is a bit Germanic stern, and the rather distastefully named Thongs is also good if you want to veer away from the local food type. We had tired of burritos and so a simple tuna salad hit the spot and the food was good, wholesome and tasty at both these restaurants. They have great cocktails too.
We tended to preference food places a bit away from the beach and those without sandy floors. The sand-flies would feed on you while you fed on something else otherwise.
There is less of the culture of the golf buggy in Hopkins and they were in truth a nuisance in San Pedro. Instead it is about walking and biking in Hopkins. The cheaper bikes have no brakes or gears and are quite hard work in the humid heat. On the other hand, routes are flat and not busy so you can go your own pace and a wobble is not a life threatening risk.
While the place is very chilled overall, the negative aspects of tourism are beginning to be found in Hopkins; the brattish kids offering to be guides and trotting out a few badly timed beats on a drum and then expecting to be paid should be curbed rather than encouraged. It’s that kind of vibe that can trash a place quite quickly.
In terms of external activities, there are a few places to hike out of the village but it is easier to grab a tour; thus Hopkins offered a good mix of chill time but with opportunity to get out and see a bit more of Belize if you choose. We went to Monkey River which was an excellent experience. I might be a little critical of Hopkins but actually we really enjoyed our 4 nights chill time here overall.