(photo essay & tips)

Nice video and photos of the Garifuna village of Hopkins in the Stann Creek District.

Some travel destinations are made for hanging out-for relaxing and finding your own rhythm/groove. And of course, for being in the moment.

Hopkins Village, Belize, is one of those places.

I could tell you why it's great, but I'd rather just show you.

Here's a photo essay I created, which takes you on a groovy 1.5-minute tour of the town, its locals and the natural tropical beauty. You'll hear the music of the Lebeha Drummers, meet the Garifuna locals and feel the warmth of the community. (Don't miss Part 1 of this series, my story re: how the drumbeat took me into the heartbeat of the culture.)

After the video, check out my tips on how to "hang out in Hopkins" if you happen to visit this special little town.

How to Hang Out in Hopkins

1. Take Drumming Lessons/Enjoy the Performance

You might want to head over to the Lebeha Drumming Center and sign up for some classes with Jabbar, the master drummer. Or just find out when he and the other guys are performing.

Whether you play drums (as I do) or just like to listen, you'll want to check out this unique music that sounds mostly African and a little bit Latin. It's easy to go into a trance when listening to it or to start tapping or better yet, dancing.

Either experience will deepen your cultural connection.

2. Rent a Bike�Ride Around Town

Hopkins is a small town, but it's just big enough (long, actually) where walking from one end to the other takes some time. I vaguely recall it being about 2 miles long. If you ride a bike, you'll be able to explore more of the town and in a very enjoyable way.

3. Meet the Locals/Immerse Yourself in the Culture

The Garifuna are friendly and welcoming-the children included; they love to talk about their culture. So don't be shy. Ask them questions and learn about their way of life and how it came to be. You'll see that they're doing their best to preserve their culture (the language and the music).

4. Enjoy the 'Catch of the Day'

Everyday, fresh fish and seafood is caught. When you go to the local restaurants, you can order whatever is freshest. You won't be disappointed. I had some truly amazing snapper there.

5. Go for a Swim, But Wait on the Water Sports

The water is lovely and usually turquoise, warm and very swimmable. When I was there, it had just rained, so unfortunately it was a bit murky and not as warm. According to the locals, that's rare. Change are, you'llprobably be in luck.

There are water sports you can try out (snorkelling, diving, etc), but you'll have to book a tour. From what I recall, they were very pricey ($50 minimum), so you might be better off doing that elsewhere (sometimes it's cheapest to spend several days on an island and to bring your own food, etc.; equipment is often included in the price.)

6. Relax on a Hammock�and/or Do Nothing

Most accommodations have lovely hammocks just waiting for you to relax on. Grab a book, read and relax. Even if you're a hardcore 'traveler,' you'll find it tempting to simply relax and be a 'vacationer.' I sometimes wish I'd had a few more days of that when I was there (since I'd had a slightly hectic trip to Guatemala right

7. Make Low-Budget Meals

Some meals were affordable, but many were pricey (for someone like myself on a low budget). So I made/ate an inexpensive lunch (like PB&J) and then splurged on dinner and sometimes the other way around. That seemed to work well.

8. Be On the Lookout for No See-ums

It doesn't happen often and when it happened to me and the friend I was traveling with, we didn't even see it-or perhaps I should say 'them'. I'm talking about sand flies. A few hours after dinner our final night, we began to itch�like crazy. Sure enough, we'd been bitten by sand flies, aka "no see'ums." It was super annoying and lasted for a few weeks.

Please don't let this stop you from visiting this wonderful little town, though. These flies are only around from time to time, depending on how the wind blows (I think).