It is so hard to choose cities to visit in a country you have never been to, and you just can’t get a real sense of a city until you visit yourself. I had driven through Hopkins a few times before and we decided to stay for a long weekend to get a better sense of what it is like, as we get many questions about the differences between Placencia and Hopkins.
In general, you will read that Hopkins is a “sleepier” village, more rustic, and perhaps tourist wise, a bit behind Placencia. Some travelers choose Belize because they want to have an authentic experience, and do not want to feel like they just went to another all inclusive resort. I believe the average tourist will not feel that either place is TOO touristy–I mean really, it is very hard to find a place that has NO traveler comforts unless you are going wayyyy off the beaten path. Both if you are looking for a lot of warm interactions with locals, where the experience IS the village, there are no chains, plenty of local excursions and restaurants, but it is still safe, manageable, and you can get by with English, then you are headed to the right places. I added in a few pretty pictures of Hopkins to enjoy 🙂 So, the comparison….
Beach view from resort end of Hopkins
Hopkins has an interesting divide. After you drive the road in, if you go left, you head into a very authentic Central American village. You will see a few tourists riding bikes, but for the most part, you have all local owned businesses, a lot of very simple and rustic shack restaurants, parts of it look a bit rough, but you can safely navigate it. The roads are dirt and moderately hard to bike in places. The ride in is quite bumpy.
If you go right, you will see a bunch of signs that look pretty touristy–and you will quickly enter into a town where it is all tourists. However, this is a seriously cute little town, we were told it is called Hollywood Boulevard :). There are a bunch of really cute resorts on the beach–Jaguar Reef, Belizean Dreams, Hamanasi, Almond Beach. Any of these will make a traveler happy. Very first world. We stayed at Jaguar Reef – they had a nice clean beach, free bikes and kayaks, good restaurant on site, and a fun pool bar. I also realllllllly appreciated that the resorts banded together to keep the beach clean….in Placencia, we rake our beach, but many parts of the beach aren’t touched too often. This is annoying and aesthetically unpleasing when the seaweed comes in.
Cute beach signs
Closer to Excursions
One huge plus of Hopkins is that you are closer to the excursions. You are saving about 45 minutes of a drive to most of the inland excursions. If you are looking for a first world resort where you can easily hit the inland excursions, it might be the right choice for you.
View from Chef Rob’s
I would say that for MOST people–if they stayed IN town (taking a left) they might feel it was a bit rough looking with not a huge amount of village activities to do. So you get a more authentic experience on that side but you need to be ready for a town that is not geared for the average tourist. The “Hollywood” side of town – great restaurants including Barracuda’s, Chef Rob’s, and a cute shopping center that I’d kill for sometimes in Placencia. There was a very fun bar called Loggerheads that I recommend. BUT overall on that end of town, you might feel like you had a more tourist-contrived experience. The prices were all in American dollars which tells you a lot right there 🙂
Not a bad view for breakfast
Cons of Hopkins
The water was a bit muddier than Placencia and the bugs got me bad in Hopkins–but this is entirely unfair to say this is the norm, as it really just depends on luck sometimes. A consideration is that while Placencia has an airport a couple minutes from town, you have to fly into Dangriga and get a ride from there, which can be 20+ minutes, and there may be a charge for that, with a bumpy drive in. I am trying very hard not to be biased here….but Placencia is just a perfect mix of authentic and what you see on a Caribbean postcard. Everything is is one place (not separate sides of town for tourists). The village experience IS the experience here. There are too many good places to eat to name, and while we don’t have a super polished resort area in town, we have adorable guest houses and a unique Caribbean looking village that just works. While you are farther from the excursions, it makes up for it by the village experience you can have (just head out for an afternoon turned evening here and you will see what that means!!) And, you can drink the water in Placencia.
Overall, Hopkins has a more polished (tiny) resort village on one end/more authentic Central American village on the other end–where Placencia is a perfect mix of the two. Hopkins is closer to excursions; however, with that, there is more to do and experience in the village of Placencia. I’d say you may want to stop in Hopkins and do the excursions, then check out Placencia for a few days to have the village experience! 🙂
View from Barracuda’s