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Hopkins and Staan Creek With Kids

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

Our first mainland stop in Belize brought us to the beautiful, chilled out village of Hopkins, 2 hours south of Belize City. There is a very strong Garginua/Garifuna influence in the area (indigienous Caribbean people) which is evident in all of the restaurant and bars as well as the amazing language of Belizean Kriole. It’s quite different from the Mayan and Mexican influence we have seen so far on our Central American adventure. This was an absolutely perfect location to explore with the children and we offer you our tips from our three days in Hopkins and surrounding province of Staan Creek.

Getting There and Around:


As mentioned in other Belize posts, we rented a car to get around this glorious country. Once we arrived on the mainland from the Cayes, we took a two hour bus to San Ignacio to collect our car, which we then drove in a loop around the country. It was a two hour wait for the bus but the kids were happy to do their activity books in an air conditioned cafe near the station. It seems convoluted but this bus-to-car plan was definitely the cheapest and fastest way as it avoided the logistical and financial nightmare of dropping the rental car off in a different location and the bus was quite cheap anyway.


It's also worth mentioning that the mostly paved roads are in a good condition and there is ZERO traffic - as in a 2 hour drive to Hopkins from Belize we probably saw maybe 5 cars on the interstate-type-highway. Speaking of which, the so-called Humming Bird Highway has the most glorious views of unspoiled jungle - I can't overstate how amazing it is.


Changing the baby casually in public on the floor of whatever pavement we are near is commonplace in backpacking around the world. I've only ever seen ONE changing table on our travels with kids in 7 years and 20 countries at the time of writing, and it was in a Thai airport.

Cockscomb Wildlife Basin Jaguar Reserve:

For our first taste of jungle trekking on this trip and our first activity in the Hopkins area, we picked the Cockscomb Wildlife Basin Jaguar Reserve. This unique sanctuary in southern Belize covers an area of about 150 square miles of tropical rainforest, and is the world's first Jaguar Preserve. Surrounded by the Cockscomb mountains, some parts of which are apparently unexplored, made this area feel incredibly wild and untouched.

After driving a few miles down a seemingly never ending super bumpy unmade road we arrived at the deserted entrance and picked two short trails from the unguided hiking map. For those without kids, you can opt for a four day hike to the highest peak in Belize here at Cockscomb.

The very first thing that occurred as we set off was a huge sandwich-plate sized grasshopper thing flew straight into our seven year olds face, haha! The squidgy mud made for some very slippery paths through the jungle which our three year old absolutely loved (she loves a good mess!). No wildlife was stupid enough to come anywhere near us with the excited squeals she let out every time she saw the amazing leaf cutter ants (which was every 2-3 steps!) but the sounds and colours were incredible nonetheless. One of our trails took us to a 1960s plane crash which was very cool. When we were dusting out muddy boots off on the way out, a lizard ran straight into the car and wouldn’t come out, which made for a pretty funny ride home. On the way out, we had a great cheap lunch at Southern highway “snacks and cafe” stop outside the Mayan centre. It was an incredible $3.50 belizian for two burritos!!

Maya Centre:


If you wanted to, you could visit the Maya Centre just at the entrance to the Cockscomb reserve. It’s possible to get a very interactive museum type experience with chocolate and tortilla making etc. We chose not to do this as we had a lot of cottage industry village type activities planned in Toledo, but the Maya Centre has some great reviews, especially for kids.

Mayan King Waterfalls:


This “adventure park” offers horseback riding, zip lining, tubing and a number of other bookable activities, but we were specifically advised to visit the three-tiered series of waterfall by our guesthouse manager, who said they were perfect for young kids.


They didn’t disappoint! The first/bottom falls were shallow and wide and the kids all loved them, easy to carry the baby too in the cool, refreshing and beautifully clear water. Little fishes and tadpoles swam about us which delighted the kids even more.

The second tier was a bit deeper in places but the kids still managed to skirt around on the rocks and enter the water at one end.

The third was a bit trickier with the baby as it was much deeper and one can’t stand in it anywhere, the waterfall was the most impressive though! Our seven year old dived in from a platform specifically geared up for this and the three year old still enjoyed swimming about when lifted in.

One of the highlights out of Belizean trip occurred as we were leaving, when a huge cat sized toad jumped out of a bush (above). Our three year old ran straight up to it, put her face three inches away from its head and excitedly screamed “TOAD!!!” as loud as she could in it’s face. It just sat there and blinked at her with the same expression of “oh bugger off kid!” that I often have!!


Lebaha Drumming School:


At the most northerly point of Hopkins there is a Garginua community drumming school. It’s predominantly for local kids as an extra curricular activity. However, they also give tourists a lesson if they are interested and I booked a session before we left the UK.

The Garifuna people are native Caribbeans, predating Spanish/Mexican and British influence. It’s amazing that Belize has two completely different indigenous cultures (and tonnes of subcultures in-between!); the Mayan and the Garifuna. For Garifuna, think Rasta Caribbean and you won’t be far off the mark. We had a blast with them this morning and someone came in to film us for a documentary.

We found it really fun and relaxing. Andrew completely zoned out with more focus than I’ve seen from him in ages It didn’t hold the kids attention for the entire time but they dipped in and out, well entertained in the closed off (safe) courtyard making friends with the staff when not jamming with us. Quinn really enjoyed the gourds and maracas, and willow joined in a bit with her rattle I find it so incredible that this lot can create such good beats with only a couple of simple drums, hands and a pair of maracas. We got lunch of fried chicken, rice, beans and salad there afterwards - it was amazing and so cheap!!

Beaches:


The beaches in the Hopkins area are not as white and the sea is not as calm and clear as in the Cayes (but I have never seen anything quite so lush as that!). They still do the trick though. We had dinner on the beach every night and chilled in hammocks while the kids played cornhole, dug in the sand and threw coconuts about. I’ve heard the beaches in Placencia just up the road are fantastic but sadly we didn’t have time.


Between Hopkins and San Ignacio:


As mentioned here, we were self driving on our adventure of Belize and we performed it in a loop to and from San Ignacio. On the drive back we had planned (as usually do!) to stop every 60-90 mins or so and drive throughout our baby’s nap times at lunch and in the morning. This drive lent itself really well to our schedule with two interesting stops to break up the journey.

The (inland) Blue Hole:

The Blue Hole proper is a huge under ocean sinkhole best observed via plane a hundred miles off the coast of Belize around the barrier reef. However, this inland version is a small but incredibly beautiful, quiet and peaceful cenote. It was a great stopping point half way between Hopkins and San Ignacio. The car park is right next to the short flight of steps down. There is a hut to get changed in. The water is so blue and refreshing and badly needed as it was 100% humidity here today. There are several trails to be trekked and a cave system to explore but being so far into the jungle it is very laden with mosquitos we decided to give the trek a miss.

Spanish Lookout / Western Dairies:


When in Hopkins, a local told us (loudly in front of the kids) that the best ice cream in the sub continent existed at a dairy factory 30 mins from San Ignacio, in a town called Spanish Lookout. So we checked that out and were rewarded with cheese, pizza, yogurt and ice cream of all kinds! It was pretty random but we decided to go for it as we hadn’t done anything kid-centric for a week (and I really fancied some ice cream!). The result was two very happy kids (and a third oblivious one!).

Where to Sleep and Eat:

Whilst we were in Hopkins, we stayed at the All Seasons Belize guesthouse, which I would absolutely recommend. It was a perfect cheap guesthouse with good AC, friendly staff, colourful rooms, beautiful garden courtyard complete with hammocks, comfy beds, friendly staff and cheap laundry facilities, located at the bottom of town. Without the staff recommendation


We ate at a number of places in town:


H2V was a fairly new shack type place just opposite All Seasons Guesthouse down on the beach. Cheap and tasty burgers, burritos and tacos for when we first arrived.

On our second evening we decided to eat at the Coconut Husk because we saw on Google


that they had sautéed veg with a load of their mains. It was pricier than we would usually pay but it was totally worth it, great service, beautiful setting and the food was excellent. Their smoothies went down a treat. They split a beach coconut open for Quinn which she really loves.


We had decided to reward the kids with a trip to Nice Cream, just down the road from Coconut Husk. It wasn’t particularly cheap but was really tasty - loads of flavours and toppings, a real holiday special!


I mentioned our lunch at Lebeha Drummers and our pit stop at the "Southern Highway Snack & Cafe" outside the Mayan Centre and Jaguar Sanctuary which were both spot on - tasty, cheap, local food which I would highly recommend.

In Summary


Hopkins was so authentic, unspoilt, relaxed and interesting that it has rocketed up to the top three contenders for when we bust out of Brexit island and set up our own hostel one day. It really felt like one of those true hidden gems as it was so empty of tourists, cars and noise. I felt really at home here and I’m absolutely sure we’ll be back one day. For travels following in our footsteps, I would perhaps recommend an extra day here to visit the Maya Centre, chill on the beaches and visit Placencia for the day.

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