It always makes me feel good to be back in Hopkins. Folks are so friendly, and thereís always something quirky or funny or engaging in the village to make you smile. The two big (well, big by Belize standards) resorts here, Jaguar Reef and Hamanasi, are both looking great. Hamanasiís grounds are now nicely filled out with tropical plantings, and I like the way the new entrance is set up.

Iíve stayed at Jaguar Reef several times, but this trip we spent the night at Cocoplum Caye, (tel. 501-520-7040 or in the U.S. and Canada 800-289-5756, fax 501-520-7091;
www.cocoplumcaye.com) a 16-acre island which Bruce Foerster, head honcho at Jaguar Reef, leases from a prominent Belizean businessman. Cocoplum is about 35 or 40 minutes by boat from Jaguar Reef. Rates are US$346 per night, double, off-season and US$397 in-season on an all-inclusive basis (all meals, tours, boat transfers, taxes, tips and beer, liquor and soft drinks included). Dive packages are only a little more. Thereís a three-day minimum.

We enjoyed our brief stay on Cocoplum. Meals are served in a thatch cabana at waterís edge -- delicious broiled lobster was the entree the night we were there. Snorkeling around the island is better than from the mainland shore, but for the best snorkeling and diving you still need to take a boat to the reef. The pastel-colored wood cottages, built before Jaguar Reef took over management of the island, are comfortable, and they have air-conditioning and nice views of the water from the verandahs. When the wind dies down, sand flies can be a nuisance. The A/C went off in the cottage where my kids were staying and, not thinking clearly, I suggested they open the windows. Bad idea. They woke up covered in bites, as the pesky critters are small enough to get in through screens, even though the cottages are up on pilings. My wife and I slept like babies though, with the A/C blowing out some of the coldest air in southern Belize.

Next door to Jaguar Reef is Belizean Dreams Villas. These are three-bedroom, three-bath condos, which sold out at US$300,000 to $440,000, according to Ron Forrester at Belize Development Company, formerly known as British American Cattle Company, which is selling lots in Sittee Point and elsewhere. You can rent units in these condos for US$150 to $340 a night; for information, call 800-456-7150. Itís hard for me to imagine what Hopkins residents think about all this. The village didnít even get telephone service until the mid-1990s.

Speaking of lots, Ron Forrester must be a good salesman. Most of the beachfront lots marketed by his Belize Development Company have been sold. The few remaining beach lots in section 4 start at around US$85,000 for 75 feet of beachfront, with a few in section 2 for around US$55,000. That works out to a little over US$1,100 a front foot. Sittee river front lots start at around US$25,000. Lots with beach and canal frontage are around US$100,000. Some houses have been built, but itís not yet what youíd call a heavily built-up area.

--Lan Sluder

Lan Sluder/Belize First