story and photos by John Lamkin
The sound of the beating drums takes me back to some time before history, some time in the dark past where mystery lived. Someplace very far away from this mental/mechanical/electrical existence we now experience. Coming back from this “trip,” I’m in the Rhum Shack at Hopkins Bay Resort and the Garifuna drummers are taking a break.
This lovely resort is on the shore of Belize’s Caribbean, in Stann Creek District. I’ve just come up from Placencia on assignment for a luxury real estate feature. This is my next to last stop on this trip – my last “work” stop, then on to my favorite island, Ambergris Caye. From there I’ll take a boat taxi back to Chetumal bay, Mexico.
The resort is located between Placencia and Dangriga in the heart of the Garifuna communities that were settled two hundred years ago, it is barely emerging as a tourist destination. The village of Hopkins remains a Garifuna village and although it does have a couple of wood carving shops and a drumming center, the visitor is not assaulted by “quaint” tourist shops. Here local people ride their bicycles through town or visit with their families and neighbors.
The Garifuna (ga-RIF-u-na) people are reputed to be descended from Kalinago and the Arawak people, then later in the 1700s by Creoles from further down the coast of Central America. In 1802 large groups of Garifuna settled here and although the area appears mostly Garifuna, the Creole influence is still evidenced in the language.
There are few places that I’ve found that offer this feeling of being away from our daily lives, free from incursions from the outside world as does Hopkins Bay Resort. Here you can wake up in the morning and not think of “what to do.” Built as condos, they afford all the comforts of having the option of light housekeeping, and provide spacious bedrooms, bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, and a living room with a large front deck that faces the ocean. The units are mostly two bedroom, but if just one is the preference it’s easy to close off the adjacent bedroom as both are designed as master bedroom suites. But for families or friends who travel together, the upstairs bedroom can also be included, making it into a three bedroom accommodation.
The palm-lined beach has hammocks strung between the palm trees located to take full advantage of the ocean breezes and comfortable lounges afford the perfect spot for reading and napping. In addition, only a stones throw from the beach, there are two lovely pools also fringed by comfortable, padded lounges, as well as an outdoors thatched-roof bar near one of them.
A seaside palapa (thatched roof, open-air), the Rhum Shack, that serves as the restaurant is open for all meals in a relaxed, informal environment and the gardens are well cared for and extensive. The entire resort feels spacious, from the individual accommodations to the architectural layout which follows an ample horseshoe cluster of tropical style buildings, with lots of landscaping between them, providing both beauty and privacy.
Sitting in the living room with the large sliding doors thrown open and meditating on the ebb and flow of the multi-hued Caribbean just a feet away it’s hard to think of being any other place..
There are lots of day trips from the resort that would be a meaningful experience, including bird watching, fishing, diving and snorkeling. Trips can be arranged to the Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve, to a tropical rain forest in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, the Blue Hole or out to view the manatees. The resort will arrange these and other trips for you. But another possibility is just spending a day or two without any planned excursions and enjoying the completely unspoiled beach and the lulling rhythm of the water.
I referred to this as work, but it’s too enjoyable for that word. In the words of George Bernard Shaw,
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
IF YOU GO
Stann Creek, as the 2nd largest district in Belize, includes this part of the coast which remains much as it’s been for the past two hundred years. Now, it’s a good deal more accessible both by road and by the two airports, one in Placencia and the closer one in Dangriga. Both are serviced with short, frequently scheduled shuttle flights by Tropic Air to Belize City.
Both United and American Airways have flights from the U.S. to Belize City, Belize.
Belize Tourism Board
Placencia, Stann Creek District, Belize,
Stann Creek District, Belize, Central America
Where to stay in luxury:
Hopkins Bay Resort
John Lamkin is an award-winning journalist and photographer.
He is Executive Editor of Global Writes Magazine, owner/editor of Paloma Blanca Press, and Board member and Member Publications Chair of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association.
In addition to Examiner, John is a contributor to Luxury Latin America, Luxe Beat Magazine, City Room, Luxury Avenue, and many other publications.
He lives in Taos New Mexico and Laguna Bacalar Mexico.
His most recent book is Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers: an Odyssey of the Heart — available from your local bookstore or Amazon and other online booksellers.