We’d come from New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Flores — three by plane, one by bus. It had been a long journey to get to a tiny fisherman’s village about three hours south of Belize City. But as we unloaded onto the sandy paths of Hopkins Bay Resort, any travel fatigue we might have been experiencing quickly melted away.
Yes. This? This would most certainly do for the first stop of our Baackes-Allen Belize Takeover.
Hopkins Bay Resort is a sprawling beach-front property at the far north end of the tiny village of Hopkins. It consists of freestanding villas arranged around two pools, the chic poolside Drum Bar, and the main gathering space, the Rhum Shack.
The Rhum Shack was something straight out of the glossy pages of a travel magazine, a whimsically designed backdrop for a winning social media profile picture around every corner. “This,” Olivia had declared, “is what Instagram dreams are made of.”
This is what colorful Caribbean dreams are made of.
Hopkins Bay Resort consists of freestanding villas arranged into private one, two, and three bedroom units with full kitchens. Book one bedroom and you’ll get the upstairs, book the two bedroom and you’ll get the downstairs, book the three bedroom and the entire villa will be yours.
We were in a two bedroom, two bathroom villa that angled out towards the sea, just steps from the edge of the water.
While the units are not quite as modern as the newly renovated bar and restaurant, they are incredibly spacious and well-appointed. We loved having two full bedrooms and bathrooms, a full kitchen and plenty of room to lounge. The weather was somewhat temperamental throughout our stay, and when it was drizzling we weren’t stuck going stir crazy in a tiny hotel room — we had plenty of room to spread out and read, relax, and watch movies on the living room’s large flatscreen.
I also really appreciated the in-room water jugs, which allowed us to refill our own bottles and keep consumption of plastic down. (Heading to Central America? Pack a reusable water bottle — I found many places, from hostels to high end hotels, offered free refills of clean filtered water!)
The real beauty of Hopkins Bay, however, lies outside the sprawling front porch.
Like any family vacation, ours was rife with silliness, from photo-bombed selfies to hammock hide-and-seek. Occasionally we also pretended to be normal, and laid by the beach.
But we had more on the agenda than swinging in a hammock all day, fun as that too can be. One of my favorite perks of Hopkins Bay Resort is that they offer free kayaks and free bikes to guests — great ways to see all the beauty Hopkins has to offer. One afternoon, we each grabbed a set of wheels to pedal our way up and down this one-road town.
We didn’t get far — literally right next door — before we stopped for lunch at Driftwood Pizza. This place is what people conjure in their minds when they’re daydreaming about a tropical Central American paradise. Dreadlocked musicians swinging in nearby hammocks, local kids inviting you to join a game of beach volleyball, and picnic tables strewn along a palm-lined stretch of sand.
Oh, and the delicious pizza didn’t hurt either.
Afterwards, we burned off our carb-fest by tooling around town a bit. Hopkins is teeny tiny, with just about 1,000 residents and one main dirt road. We loved passing by the brightly colored buildings and sweetly hand-painted signs, and didn’t pass a single person without receiving a friendly wave, smile, or greeting.
For a small village, Hopkins had an impressive array of places to eat. We ate the majority of our meals right at Hopkins Bay Beach Resort at the Rhum Shack, which served up breakfast, lunch and dinner, and features live music in the form of local Garifuna drumming one night a week (if you happen to miss that night, don’t fret — there are opportunities to catch it all over town!)
While the kitchen closed a tad early for our tastes, we loved everything else about this restaurant.
However, our hands down most unique dining experience took place right in our villa kitchen. Hopkins Bay offers something called a Garifuna Cooking Experience, in which a local woman comes over to cook regional specialties like Hudut while chatting about life in a laid-back fisherman’s village. While I can’t say Hudut is a new favorite meal, I still love everything about this idea — it celebrates local culture, provides a rewarding job in the community, creates a really authentic experience for visitors, and facilitates a genuine connection between travelers and locals.
Plus, it was hilarious watching my mom and sister try to use the human-size mortar and pestle.
Other local favorites eats were Love on the Rocks, a hot-plate restaurant, and, of course, Driftwood Pizza.
Our three days in Hopkins flew by — we all agreed we longed for four. Had the weather been better, we might have wished for even more! However, we did get a good taste of the area — one full day out on a fishing and snorkeling excursion (stay tuned for that post!), one full day exploring the resort and village, and two lazy half days before or after being in transit.
Hopkins is an interesting place. While the Drum Bar might feel like something out of a magazine spread, this is not a manicured all-inclusive in the Caribbean. When you need to get across town, you’re going to be dragging over potholes in a beat-up minivan packed with your cab driver’s kids. When you want to go souvenir shopping? You’ll be doing it out of a thatch-roof shack on the side of the road or via a ruthless beach vendor, rather than from a polished resort gift shop. Personally, I dig that. (Minus the beach vendor. Beach vendors make me want to scream and go sprinting into the ocean and hide under water breathing through a straw until they and their hand-thatched turtle figurines have moved onto the next unsuspecting tourist.) But, ahem. I do like things that are a little rough around the edges.
That said, we agreed that at Hopkins Bay had more of a condo vibe than a resort one — some standard resort amenities like a lobby, a gym, and a convenience shop were absent, and the staff is insanely sweet but service is somewhat lackadaisical. Still, who needs a lobby when you’ve got a big front porch, who needs a gym when you have an ocean to kayak on, and who needs a convenience store when your mom packs her own arsenal of rice cake snacks? If there are two words I’d use to describe Hopkins Bay Resort, they’d be family-friendly. And this family loved that.
Stay tuned for our snorkeling adventures in Hopkins!
Missed a post? Read all my Belize coverage here! Many thanks to Hopkins Bay Resort for hosting us and making our family trip so special. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.
Planning a trip to Belize for August 2015? You’re in luck! Hopkins Bay has a US$99 a night special, a full 60% off the rack rate, for August travel. That’s a serious deal.