3-Star Beachfront Resort with Tropical Cabanas and Adventure Tours
Awarded the title of Hotel of the Year in 2010 by the Belize Tourism Board, Jaguar Reef Lodge and Spa is not only one of the largest hotels on the country's midcoast, but one of the best positioned. It sits just 1 mile south of the fishing hamlet of Hopkins Village and faces a piece of 7-mile-long beachfront stretching between the Maya Mountains and the Caribbean Sea. The resort makes it easy for guests to explore the surrounding area, offering complimentary use of bikes and sea kayaks as well as arranging a host of full- and half-day adventure tours, including jungle hikes and dives along the barrier reef.
Cabanas and suites are adorned with thatched roofs, traditional decor, and local artwork. The large, well-lit rooms feature high vaulted ceilings with exposed wooden beams. Ocean-view cabanas look out onto the water and surrounding palms. But stay in one of the beachfront two-bedroom suites if you want easy access to the beach and extra space; each suite comes with a separate living area, kitchenette, and large balcony.
If you'd like to just lounge around, the resort has an infinity pool and an array of hammocks strung along its palm-studded beach. Head to the full-service Butterflies Spa to indulge in a range of massages and wraps that make use of tropical ingredients such as pineapple and coconut. Or check out the resort's glassed-in beachfront restaurant, which serves a variety of local and American dishes made with locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Hopkins Village, Belize: Friendly Fishing Town Surrounded by Lush Jungles
Built in 1942 after a hurricane swept away the village of Newtown farther up the coast, Hopkins Village has always had a laid-back attitude. It was recently dubbed "the friendliest village in Belize" by Belize First magazine, thanks to the hospitality of its 1,000 residents. Fishing has traditionally been the villagers' main source of income; snapper, grouper, and king mackerel can all be caught here. Hopkins also has a selection of bars, shops, and restaurants that have helped make it an up-and-coming tourist destination.
After sampling village life, head 21 miles north to Dangriga, the capital of the district and southern Belize's largest town. Most of the action is in town centers on the main thoroughfare and the city's many oceanfront parks. The Gulisi Garifuna Museum is worth a visit if you're interested in learning about the history and customs of the Garifuna people, who make up the bulk of the population in Dangriga and Hopkins.