Uncover the best of Southern Belize

Ellas Cool Spot Restaurant in Hopkins, Belize
Reading Time: 8 mins

Vibrant and culturally rich, Southern Belize encompasses the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts. Considered the home base of many Garifuna, Maya, and East Indian peoples, this area offers insight into the interesting dynamics of Belizean culture and has a vibe unlike any other region of Belize.

From eating Cohune Cabbage in Punta Gorda to Garifuna drumming in Hopkins or Dangriga, to experiencing a traditional Maya homestay in rural Toledo, Southern Belize has coral beaches, lush jungles, calm seas, and roaring waterfalls that await your adventurous soul!

On this page
What to Do
Where to Eat
Where to Stay
When to Go

What to Do in Southern Belize

With Southern Belize having both coastal and rainforest landscapes, the geography lends itself to a variety of amazing activities. But what, exactly, to do when vacationing in the region? Here are my recommendations.

1. Garifuna Culture

Belize's the Garifuna Collective

Southern Belize is the perfect place to delve deep into the Garifuna culture of Belize. I suggest you take drumming and dance lessons since it’s a major part of the Garifuna lifestyle, used to evoke joy or longing. And after you’ve worked up an appetite dancing, don’t hesitate to go for a fortifying plate of Hudut to replenish your strength. Lessons can be done in Hopkins Village (located in Stann Creek) with the Lebeha Group or in Punta Gorda (located in Toledo) at the Warasa Drum School. 

2. Walking Tour

For a relaxing day, consider a soft adventure in Stann Creek. Visit Placencia’s downtown, where you can walk the world’s narrowest main street and step into the various little shops along the way. Pay a visit to one of Belize’s master crafters, Kaj Expressions’ shop, and snap up beautiful handmade trinkets and local souvenirs. Visit Dangriga to see the Gulisi Garifuna Museum or check out the home/gallery of one of Belize’s icons: Pen Cayetano. When you step into the master musician and artist’s home, you’ll be immersed in his colorful works.

3. Cacao Farm Tour

cocao fruit belize

If you’re interested in venturing deeper south to Toledo, Cacao Farm Tours are perhaps one of the best things to do. Several local farmers near Punta Gorda welcome visitors to their farms with wide open arms. A tour involves a hike through cacao trees to see how the pods develop and if possible, plucking fresh cacao pods off a tree to taste the fruit. You may even learn how to grind your very own chocolate paste. If visiting the cacao farm isn’t possible, check out the Maya House of Cacao – a chocolate museum – to have a Maya history and chocolate experience.

4. Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

Belize jaguar sign at Cockscomb Basin

The region’s abundant rainforest can’t go unexplored so I recommend a visit to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the world’s only Jaguar Preserve. Hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty crosscut the wildlife sanctuary, where exotic flora and fauna, as well as around 300 bird species, await. The actual possibility of seeing a jaguar are is since they are stealthy and primarily nocturnal, but the experience of walking their trails is a thrill.

5. Southern Cayes and Marine Reserves

Aerial view of Glover's Reef Basecamp

Of course, coastal expeditions to snorkel and swim in the beautiful Caribbean Sea are always a delight. Tours can take you to the southern cayes and marine reserves such as Glover’s Reef, South Water Caye and Laughing Bird Caye, where a wild underwater world awaits. Enjoy sun, sand and sea to your heart’s content, before heading back to your resort to rest and recharge for the next day’s activities.

Where to Eat in Southern Belize

Hudut Garifuna Food
Hudut with Fu-fu and Casava bread

Belizean cuisine is fresh, flavorful, unique and above all, delicious. From street treats to fine dining, seafood, fruits, vegetables and meats, combined with traditional cooking methods ensure your taste buds are constantly delighted.

1. Miss Bertha’s Tamales

Miss Bertha's Tamales on Hummingbird Highway in Southern Belize

If you are driving on the Hummingbird Highway heading south from the Cayo District, you would be remiss not to stop at one of the most iconic eateries along the way. Miss Bertha’s Tamales is an absolute draw to local Belizeans and visitors, and with good reason. With their corn dough base and seasoned chicken filling that is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed to perfection, hundreds of Belizean tamales are consumed at this unassuming red and white building. You can’t miss the many cars parked outside, with drivers either waiting for their plate or already digging into the deliciously wrapped bundles.

2. Enjoy Hopkins’s Food Scene

Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort in Hopkins Belize

In Hopkins, there are a wide variety of eateries, where you can get amazing jerk chicken, fresh lobster and the classic rice and beans from places like Ella’s Cool Spot, or snap up some pizza for a taste of home at Driftwood Pizza. Chef Rob’s Gourmet Café offers a Chef’s Table Experience if you’re looking for a date night activity full of gourmet cuisine. 

3. Fine dine in Placencia

Turtle Inn beach hotel by Francis Ford Coppola

Although Placencia is mostly known for its nice beaches and luxury resorts, it’s one of those places that pairs fine dining and hearty meals surprisingly well. The famous Rumfish y Vino takes advantage of fresh Belizean ingredients to make extraordinary international dishes. And at Maya Beach Bistro, which is located near Placencia at Maya Beach Village, you can indulge in some of the most delicious food in Belize, such as Lobster Pot Pies. 

4. Home-cooked Meals in Toledo

Punta Gorda is where Toledo’s food scene is at, however, if you don’t venture that far, check out the iconic Coleman’s Café. Located at the entrance to Rice Mill in Big Falls, home-cooked meals are the name of the game at this eatery, with a self-service buffet that offers Belizean classics such as rice and beans, coconut white rice, stewed beans, fried plantains, and game meats. Make sure you also try Toledo’s specialty dish: cohune cabbage. Made from the heart of palm, cohune ‘cabbage’ is an East Indian delicacy. 

5. Street Food in Dangriga

BBQ Chicken with Belizean Rice and Beans

Dangriga isn’t really known as a top destination for food but if you’re there, check out the downtown area for Belizean street food favourites such as rice and beans, BBQ chicken, garnaches, panades, and tamales. And seek out Pelican Beach Resort so that your morning can be brightened with freshly baked bread, quiche, and sweet fry jacks (do it…DO IT!).

Where to Stay in Southern Belize

Treehouse in Hopkins, Belize

From secluded jungle lodges to luxurious beachfront suites, and even private island getaways, Southern Belize has so many lodging options. You can have the basic or you can live it up, and if you are truly adventurous, you can even book a Maya Homestay to live like a local in one of the many beautiful Maya villages in Toledo.

1. Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort

Pool and Beach at Hamanasi

In Hopkins, private treehouses on the beach await you at the Hamanasi Resort. I mention the treehouse rooms because they are the most popular accommodations there. Surrounded by the coastal littoral forest of Southern Belize, guests love that they can be serenaded by birds while enjoying the gentle breeze of the Caribbean Sea.

2. Pelican Beach Resort

In Dangriga, Pelican Beach Resort offers a colonial-style stay on the beach, with easy access to music, art, and other Garifuna traditions. Its sister property is just off the coast of Dangriga on Southwater Caye, a beautiful private island that locals call paradise. You can snorkel off the beach at this location! Unwinding and letting go is easy at this unpretentious island getaway.

3. Naia Resort & Spa

Naia Resort and Spa in Placencia

If you’re looking to splurge and find yourself near Placencia, Naia Resort & Spa offers a range of luxurious accommodations to choose from. Their newest addition is a stunning 5-bedroom beach house complete with an elevator and wheelchair accessibility. There are smaller beach bungalows and villas if that’s more your speed, but the service and amenities remain the same.

4. BlueBelize Guest House

Further south in the Toledo District, BlueBelize is a boutique Bed & Breakfast establishment offering an oasis in the seaside town of Punta Gorda. Make one of the six available suites your home base from which to adventure around one of the most unspoiled parts of Belize.

5. Cotton Tree Lodge

Cotton Tree Lodge is a rustic hotel in Southern Belize

Also near Punta Gorda, along the Moho river lies Cotton Tree Lodge. Its thatched roofs and local hardwood bones provide a true jungle lodge experience. Enjoy endless adventures both on the river and deep in the jungle, then unwind to the sounds of howler monkeys and birds. This is one place to truly disconnect and live the true untouched Belize experience. 

When to Visit Southern Belize

Tiger Fern Falls hiking trail

You can’t go wrong visiting Southern Belize any time of year. However, while the weather in Belize is sunny and glorious year-round, some activities are timely. The Bioluminescence tour is only available from February to May, and the Hopkins’ Mango Festival occurs in late May or early June. Also in May, the Belize Chocolate Festival happens on Commonwealth Day, during which, Punta Gorda lights up with the celebration of the Maya Culture and Belize’s love of Cacao.

From June through to September, hiking adventures are ideal, since it’s sunny and trails are dry and easy to navigate. As an added bonus, swimming in the cool river is a welcome respite after a good hike in places such as the Cockscomb Basin. November is a particularly special month for the Garinagu people, as Garifuna Settlement Day is on the 19th. Later on, in December, events showcasing the Garifuna dance and drumming competitions draw crowds from near and far–talk to your hotel or tour provider for a heads up on these events to see what you can be a part of.



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