FYI here are our takes on Hopkins area hotels. Your mileage may vary.

--Lan Sluder

Take Placencia, turn the clock back 20 years, scale things down a bit, and you’ve got Hopkins. A seaside Garifuna village of about 1,200 people living in unpretentious frame houses, Hopkins was first settled in 1942 after a hurricane devastated New Town, a Garifuna community just north of present-day Hopkins. The village gets its name from Frederick Charles Hopkins, a Catholic bishop of the early part of the 20th century. Hopkins was itself leveled by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. The village only got electricity and telephones in the mid-1990s. If “poor but proud” fits anywhere, it fits here. Villagers have gotten by on subsistence fishing and farming, and a few are now earning cash money from tourism. You’ll find most folks friendly. Many are eager to share their thoughts with visitors, and it’s safe to walk around the village most anytime. The beach is nice, though many coco palms have died.

Just south of Hopkins is the Sittee Point and False Sittee Point area, where hotel and real estate development are starting to take off. Many lots have been sold to expats looking for their little piece of the Caribbean, though only a few homes have so far been built.

You may have heard about the ferocious sandfleas in this area, and, yes, they can be pretty bad. At times. At other times, they’re hardly to be noticed. Sorry, but we’re not able to predict exactly when they are at their worst. The hotels here do their best to control the little devils, without resorting to hydrogen bombs, but at times the sandfleas can be a pain in the neck, or rather on the foot, leg and everywhere else. An oily lotion such as baby oil and a bug spray with DEET helps.

FOUR STARS + Hamanasi, Sittee Point, Stann Creek District ( P.O. Box 265, Dangriga; tel. 501--520-7073 or in U.S. 877-552-3483; e-mail [email protected] ; . Opened in late 2000, Hamanasi quickly became one of the top beach resorts in southern Belize. On about 17 acres with 400 feet of beach frontage, the resort is south of Hopkins village, about 500 feet north of Jaguar Reef. Driving up from the back, it looks unprepossessing, but once on the grounds, the wow factor is high. The restaurant and lobby are attractive, the grounds well kept, and the pool, with a “zero effect,” is one of the nicest we’ve seen in Belize. There are four types of accommodations -- regular rooms in the main building, luxury and family beachfront suites in a separate set of buildings and “tree houses” (actually just raised units set in the trees in the back). All the accommodations are really nice, though we like the beachfront suites best. They remind us of the units at the Inn at Robert’s Grove in Placencia, and indeed the same Mennonite builder constructed Hamanasi as built Robert’s Grove (and a number of other top resorts in Belize.) The owners, Americans Dana and David Krauskopf, who look like they just stepped out of a Travel & Leisure magazine spread, seem to know what they are doing. While they haven’t run a hotel before, they have experience in the travel agency biz and in marketing. Certainly their cats, furry grey émigrés from Russia, where the owners lived for awhile, know exactly what they’re up to. Hamanasi’s dive operation provides full diving services. Hamanasi has several dive boats, including a 43-footer with twin 350-horsepower diesels. A two-tank dive on the reef, about 30 minutes out, is US$71, and a three-tank dive trip to Turneffe or Glover’s atoll is US$125. Rates: suites, US$230 mid-December thru April, and US$165 off-season; beachfront rooms and tree houses, US$175 in-season, US$125 off. Rates include continental breakfast and taxes, and no service charge is added, so they are actually a little lower than they look. Packages are available. The hotel’s restaurant is very good, with a fixed-price dinner at US$22.

FOUR STARS Jaguar Reef Lodge, Sittee Point, Stann Creek District; tel. 501- 520-7040, or 800-289-5756 in the U.S. and Canada, fax 501-520-7091; e-mail [email protected] ; . Note: In late March 2003, a fire swept down the beach and did significant damage to the main lodge and restaurant, two duplex cabanas and the suites building. The lodge is expected to be back in regular operation by mid-2003. Well-run and well-marketed, Jaguar Reef, on about 300 acres with 1,000 feet of beachfront, has long enjoyed one of Belize’s highest occupancy rates. The Canadian-owned resort has duplex cottages in an arc behind the main lodge building which houses the beachfront restaurant, bar, gift shop and front desk. Suites units are in a newer building near the swimming pool. The beach here is beautiful to look at, although with a lot of seagrass it’s not a great swimming beach. The pool was added in 1998, and the 14 original rooms were upgraded with air conditioning and fridges. This area south of Hopkins village is growing. A real estate developer sold many lots here, a few homes have been built by expats, and several new small resorts are under construction and others are planned. Jaguar Reef runs a variety of tours, both on land and sea. Rates: US$195 double, Nov. - Apr., US$145 rest of the year. Suites for three or four, US$350-$370 in-season, US$245- $265 off. Off-season your seventh night is free with a one-week stay. Rates are plus 17% for tax and service. Packages and specials are available. Meals: continental breakfast, US$5, full breakfast US$9, lunch US$9 and dinner, US$20. Package plans are available. Jaguar Reef offers a full panoply of tours and dive and snorkel trips. Two-tank dives on the reef are US$71, and three-tank dive trips to Glovers or Turneffe are US$125. Owner Bruce Foerster has talked of building a small golf course here. The resort is usually clsoed for part of September.

FOUR STARS Kanantik Reef & Jungle Resort, between Hopkins and Placencia (P.O. Box 1482, Belize City); tel. 800-965-9689 or 501-520-8048, fax 520-8089; e-mail [email protected] ; . Want to do both the barrier reef and the jungle without having to decide anything, except whether to have the fish or the beef for dinner? Care to relax on a deserted, coco palm-lined private beach the length of four football fields? Enjoy an active seaside vacation, with all the diving, snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, horseback riding and fishing you can handle? Don’t mind paying top dollar (US$315 per day per person, double occupancy) for just about everything -- room, meals, drinks, most sports activities and transfers? Then Kanantik, a luxury all-inclusive that opened in 2002, may be your place. Kanantik -- it's a Mopan Maya word meaning "to take care"-- has 25 air-conditioned cabañas hidden away on 300 acres just north of Hopkins. The thatch cabañas, echoing African designs, are striking round structures with conical roofs. They are air-conditioned, luxuriously outfitted and large, about 525 sq ft. When we were there, we shared our beautiful cabaña with a few critters, mainly small spiders and some of the largest roaches we've seen in Belize (they tried to eat our toothbrushes). Hopefully, these critters are better controlled now. The resort tooks years to plan and build; construction included bulldozing a lengthy road and building an airstrip. When we were there, the food was excellent, and the dinner conversation, led by co-owner Robert Fabbri, an Italian by way of San Francisco, was equally so. This is not a place for you if you like a lot of active nightlife (it’s miles from the nearest village) but if you’re an all-inclusive type, this is one of Belize’s few options in that category. The all-inclusive rates includes everything except imported booze and motorized fishing. (There’s also a room-only rate at Kanantik, but it’s apparently designed to discourage this option, at US$265 plus tax and 5% service charge.)

[TOO NEW TO RATE] Caribbean Shores Bed & Breakfast, Sittee Point (P .O. Box 297, Dangriga); tel. 501-520-7040, fax 520-7091; e-mail [email protected] ; . Opened in 2003, this new five-unit B&B is affiliated with Jaguar Reef Lodge and guests here can use Jaguar Reef’s facilities. Rates: US$100 double, mid-December thru May, US$80 rest of year. Two-bedroom suites are US$150-$190 in-season, US$130-$170 off. Rates are plus tax and include a continental breakfast (full breakfast upgrade is US$4 per person). A full meal plan is US$20 per person. Packages including all meals. tours and transfers from Dangriga start at US$319 per person for three nights off-season and US$349 January thru May.

THREE STARS Beaches and Dreams Seafront Inn and Pub, Sittee Point. Tel./fax 501-523-7078; e-mail [email protected] ; (Web site has been perhaps temporarily disconnected). Many guests rave about the food and family-style atmosphere at this little hotel, run by Canadians Sharon Hegelsen and son Ryan. There are two octagonal duplex wood cottages, both beachfront. The cottages each contain two large units, with 14-foot vaulted ceiling, hardwood paneling, king-size bed and rattan furnishings, plus a small verandah just a few feet from the sea. The pub-style restaurant serves delicious lobster kabobs and other dishes, at reasonable prices. Rates US$120 double Nov. 1-May 15, US$80 the rest of the year. Rates include full breakfast, transfers to and from Dangriga and the use of bikes and kayaks. This hotel has been for sale for awhile, but operations continue as usual.

THREE STARS Lillpat Sittee River Resort, Sittee River, (P.O. Box 136, Dangriga), tel./fax 501-520-7019; e-mail [email protected] ; . This four-room lodge on 50 acres on the Sittee River specializes in river and sea fishing. Rooms are air-conditioned, and the hotel has a fresh-water pool. The lodge’s boats are equipped with radios and are set up for spin and fly fishing and trolling. Rates: US$145 double, including breakfast. Package plans, including all meals and sportsfishing start at US$2,120 double for four nights. Like quite a few other hotels in southern Belize, this one is on the market, but operations continue as per usual.

TWO STARS + Pleasure Cove Lodge, Sittee Point (P.O.Box 228, Dangriga); tel./fax 501-520-7089; e-mail [email protected] ; . Located between Jaguar Reef and Beaches and Dreams, this is a small five-room motel-like place on the beach, with a pool. Guests shopping for property with British-American Cattle Co. are often housed here. Rates around US$130 double, November-April, US$100 rest of year, including breakfast. Formerly billed as "adults only," the theme now is "all-inclusive" although you can stay here without taking the AI option. If you do, the all-inclusive option is US$2,000 double for seven nights, and there are specials from time to time with discounted rates.

TWO STARS Hopkins Inn, Hopkins (P.O. Box 121, Dangriga); tel./fax 501-523-7013, or tel./fax in the U.S. 907-683-2518; e-mail [email protected] ; . Attractive cabañas on the beach, with full bath, fridge, fan and private verandah with sea views. The hotel is run by Greg and Rita Duke, who are knowledgeable about the area. Rates US$50 to $75 double, including continental breakfast, plus tax. Discounts available off-season. German spoken.

ONE STAR + Tipple Tree Beya Inn, Hopkins (P .O. Box 206, Dangriga); tel./fax 501-520-7006; e-mail [email protected] ; . If you’re looking for an inexpensive little place on the beach, this is a great choice. Patricia Sturman is a helpful, friendly host, and the hotel is popular, so reserve in advance. The rooms in the main building are simple but clean. The two with private bath are US$32.50 and US$40, and one with shared bath is US$20. A small self-catering cabin on stilts is US$45. Rates include tax, and if you book direct you get the seventh day free. We highly recommend this spot if you want budget lodging. German spoken.

ONE STAR Toucan Sittee, Sittee River Village, Stann Creek District; tel. 501-523-7039; e-mail [email protected] ; . Set on the riverbank, this is comfortable budget lodging with a personality. You have a variety of choices here, from small apartments for US$48 to $62, a room with shared bath for US$32 double, to beds in a bunkhouse (US$9.50 per person) and camping (under US$5). Home-cooked meals are available.

Hopkins Village has an increasing number of small budget hotels, most on or near the sea. Some are run by local families, others by expats. Most have rates from US$10 to $30 double. Check them out before you commit. Among the choices: Ransom’s (501-523-2289), one of the longest-established places in Stann Creek District, with a beautiful garden; Jungle Jeanie’s (501-523-7047), Yugadah Inn (501-503-7089), Caribbean View (501-523-7050), Lauruni Cabins (no phone), La Furaru Weyu (501-614-2069) and Wabien Guest House (501-523-7010). Glover’s Guesthouse (501-520-7099) in Sittee River Village is affiliated with Glovers Reef Resort.

Lan Sluder/Belize First