9 Non-Touristy Things To Do in Hopkins & Stann Creek

· 4 min read
young man pointing to butterfly on flower
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Hopkins is more than just the cultural capital of Belize. Cockscomb Basin is a jaguar reserve that's only 30 minutes from the village and offers an incredible hiking experience.

Here are some free and paid activities I enjoyed as a local.

Cockscomb Basin Nature Reserve

When new friends ask me to recommend a place visit in Belize, my first answer is normally Cockscomb.

It's the world’s first jaguar sanctuary.

girl walking on bridge surrounded by lush rainforest
Photo of Cockscomb Basin Nature Reserve
waterfall with red mud on the left
Photo of waterfall found at the trails

The reserve is filled with over a dozen hiking trails including the highest point in Belize, Victoria Peak. There are also small waterfalls at the end of two trails.

The trails absolutely incredible with rich flora and fauna including many bird species, howler monkeys, agoutis, and of course jaguars. But it's very unlikely you'll spot one. They are nocturnal after all.

list of trails at nature reserve
Photo of trails available at the reserve
More info
  • Entry Fee: $5.00 USD per person ($10.00 BZD)
  • Camping Fee: $10.00 USD per person ($10.00 BZD)
  • Opening Hours: 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM Daily
  • Location: Cockscomb Parking & Campground

If you want to increase your chances of seeing a jaguar, you can camp at the reserve. Camping can be found at the site's entrance and on the trails.

Go Birdwatching at Sittee River

Sittee River is both a river that runs inland from the East coast and a tiny village. I recommend grabbing a pair of binoculars and do some birdwatching in the village.

woman watching birds through binoculars
Photo of birdwatcher at Sittee River
More info

Early mornings and late evenings are the best for spotting some beautiful birds like King Fishers.

We went driving, but you can go on bike or motorcycle. I would just avoid going too late because mosquitos are wild around the river with mangroves in the area.

Ya'axkin Butterfly Farm

If you know nothing about butterflies, you'll walk out as a guru after your trip around this butterfly farm.

guy showing butterfly on flower
Photo of Ya'axkin Butterfly Farm
More info
  • Cost: $6.00 USD per person ($12.00 BZD)
  • Opening Hours: 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM Daily
  • Location: Maya Center

Their farms have upwards of 3000 butterflies which can be a fun experience for a family with kids. We were three grown adults and had a lot of fun having Javier and his worker explain the caterpillar's complete lifecycle.

It's a delicate process that requires precision and lots of care. You might develop a new respect and fascination for butterflies.

Che’il Mayan Chocolate Tour

While on the road to Cockscomb Basin, we stumbled on this little chocolate factory called Che’il Mayan Chocolate. It wasn't very busy during the pandemic, but it seems to get a lot of tour vans. The farm tours weren't operation when we went, but I would have loved to see the entire chocolate making process from the start.

Try the 100% cacao products like their chocolate bar and cacao butter. Their prices are extremely affordable.

thatch house with mayan painting
Photo of Che'il Mayan Chocolate
More info
  • Cost: $15.00 USD per person ($30.00 BZD)
  • Opening Hours: 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM Daily
  • Location: Maya Center

Maya King Waterfall

I would have never found this place if it wasn't for a new hostel friend I met in Hopkins. The triple waterfalls found at this ranch is magical. I can't believe I have lived all my life in Belize and never been here.

waterfall with black rocks
Photo of Maya King Waterfall
More info
  • Entry Fee: $15.00 USD per person ($30.00 BZD)
  • Opening Hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Daily
  • Location: Mayan King Ranch

To get here you'll definitely want to be in a car. After reaching the Mayan King Monument, you'll have to take a 4km ride into the ranch where you'll pay the entrance half-way to the destination.

The pool of water at the waterfall is possibly the cleanest and clearest water I've seen in Belize. It's pristine and refreshing for the heat. You don't want to miss out on this place. I'm glad I found it and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Serpon Sugar Mill

If you decided to visit Sittee River, you're already half-way there. This site is the country's first historical reserve and now a museum with remnants of the first steam-powered sugar mill. The mill was established in 1865 which marked the start of Belize's Industrial Era.

aged sugar mill with workers
Photo of Sermon Sugar Mill Recreation by Stacy Holbert
More info
  • Entry Fee: $5.00 USD per person ($10.00 BZD)
  • Opening Hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Daily
  • Location: Sittee River Road

Walk the Dirt Roads

The village has one paved road only, the main road. The rest are dirt roads where the locals live. And that's where you'll find the essence of the people. Garifuna people are genuinely friendly folks — easy to chat with.

garifuna boys playing basketball
Photo of locals playing basketball on dirt roads
More info
  • Cost: Free (Maybe an icecream)
  • Location: All the back roads

On our recent trip to Hopkins, we walked all the little dirt roads and found tiny shops that had everything made with casssava. We found cassava chips, cassava flour, and even cassava ice cream! Shout out to Nice Cream.

Listen to Live Garifuna Drumming

I make fun of the local tourism sector exploiting the Garifuna's drumming in their marketing content, but the truth is, the sounds are extremely catchy. A couple of years ago, I helped my Dutch friend find a local drum maker to teach her to make a drum from scratch. That became her favorite memory of Belize.

garifuna drummers playing at restaurant
Photo of Garifuna Drummers by Ken Mayer
More info
  • Cost: Free
  • Opening Hours: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (Closed on Sundays)
  • Location: Seafront Road

The drumming is famously heard at Driftwood Beach Bar & Pizza Shack. We were lucky enough to hear it even during the pandemic. If you have more time and love drumming, find someone to help you make a drum like my friend did.

Enjoy Sunset/Sunrise

The first time I ever visited Hopkins was for Garifuna Settlement day, and it was a beautiful sunrise with the reenactment of their arrival by canoe. It was senses overload watching a scene like this with local drums playing and singing in their language.

red sunrise with man canoeing in water
Photo of Hopkins Sunrise by Chris Chafer
More info
  • Cost: Free
  • Location: Beachsides

On any other day, you can still wake up early and enjoy sunrise by the beach or dock. Maybe you can even grab a cassava/coconut flavored ice cream from Nice Cream while you're at it.

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