My husband and I (in our 50s) absolutely loved this secluded, quiet spot on the southern Belize coast near Hopkins, a fishing village. We got a deal with Groupon.
People in-the-know bought wine and liquor at the duty-free shop at the Belize City airport before boarding a small plane to their resort destination. It's much cheaper than always buying drinks at the beach bar. ($7 margaritas.) If you buy wine, don't forget a corkscrew!
Winslett, the manager of Belizean Dreams, was waiting for us at the Dangriga airport after a 15-minute flight in a small plane. He stopped at a convenience store where we bought crackers, chips and salsa for snacks. The drive to Hopkins was quite bumpy, with many working people riding bicycles on the road. Winslett drove us down the main road and pointed out various places to eat. He said it was a very safe town and only a mile away from the resort. We could ride bikes or walk into town anytime. (Or rent the golf cart.)
Finally we arrived at Belizean Dreams and were welcomed by Noemi while our bags were delivered to our one-bedroom suite (5A) which was so beautiful! We could see the ocean from our front porch and the jungle and mountains from the back porch. The king-size bed had mosquito netting all around for a lovely romantic effect. Lots of wood -- floors, ceiling beams, tables and chair, armoire and sofa. There was a microwave, mini-frig, and coffee maker which I was not expecting! The bathroom is big, with Saltillo tile floors and two huge Talavera sinks. I recommend bringing a sleep mask as bright sunlight fills the room by 6 a.m. and maybe ear plugs. Or just get up early, drink coffee on the balcony, and watch the variety of tropical birds flitting from the trees.
We had two welcoming rum punches at the beach bar and I admired a local artist's artwork he had for sale. Didn't buy anything but should have because I didn't see him there again. There are also occasional vendors on the beach with nice items, not pushy at all.
The grounds are a little dark by 6 p.m. (no Daylight Savings Time) but solar lights illuminate the paths and steps around the pool. We decided to eat dinner ($12) at the cafe. (Did not get the all-inclusive option.) The food is good but we wanted to try the other places too. Since we were the only ones eating at that time, our waiter Huestes, told us a little history of Belize and the types of people that live in this country.
This is the perfect place to relax on the beach and take advantage of the free kayaks. We took kayaks out on the water which was pretty smooth in the morning, then got choppy in the afternoon. The white sand is coarse and the beach is small, but the clear water is so warm! Bath water warm!
For lunch, we rode the resort's free bikes into Hopkins. Innies is rated the best restaurant in town, known for it's local Garifuna dishes. The stewed chicken and coconut milk rice is delicious. In town, make sure you go all the way north of town to a beachside place called Driftwood Pizza where an Irishman/Brit has the best pizza anywhere! Really! Also Rosie at Yugadah's makes authentic Garifuna food. Make sure you talk to Alex, the Rastafarian by the side of the road who makes lovely shell jewelry, and Dave, who creates wood figures in his shop.
Our first excursion was Cave Branch River, a 2-hour drive into the jungle. Many in our party were honeymooners. We were the oldest folks! Anyway, we had such a blast hiking through the rainforest, climbing the platforms and zipping through the trees and valleys! After a buffet lunch at this place, we got inner tubes and helmets with lights, and hiked through the jungle about 30 minutes to the Cave Branch River and an entrance to the most magnificent cave! We hooked on together and our guide jumped into the river and pulled us through, swimming and talking the entire way. The river swept us into a large cavern room, dark and cool, and slowly meandered around the stalactites. There was a lovely waterfall cascading into the cave and more twists and turns. It was better than a ride at Disney World! This was the real thing! After about 30 minutes, we exited the cave and floated down the river, back to the point where we got in. It was a wonderful adventure.
So after a long, bumpy 2-hour ride back to Belizean Dreams, we showered and relaxed on the balcony with some wine and local beer (Belikin) until it was 6 p.m., already dark outside. We walked down to the beach and went to Jaguar's Reef next door for an excellent seafood dinner. The dining room was much larger and very romantic.
You can't go to Belize and not see the Mayan ruins. We went on another excursion to Xunantunich, clear across the country toward Guatemala. Bernard was our driver and guide which was great because he is Mayan.
We also wanted to go on a birding excursion to the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary the next day however it was kind of rainy and muddy so Bernard, our guide again, suggested driving a loop around the Sittee River where we saw beautiful tropical birds.
For dinner we walked (on the longer street side rather than the beach side because of those pesky sand fleas) to neighboring Hamanasi Resort which was favorably reviewed recently in the New York Times as a ecological friendly place. It was very jungly with treehouses and huts with hammocks on the porch. The restaurant food was delicious but much more expensive. I imagine the lodging was quite a bit more as well.
Final impressions -- Belize is not as cheap as Mexico or Guatemala, but is the friendliest country I have ever visited! Local folks smile, wave at you, initiate conversation, and basically get along with each other. Everyone speaks English and some Spanish. Expect that this is the rainforest, which means rain, bugs and humidity and be prepared. Also, I wish I was a diver or had gone on the snorkeling trip because the reef is supposed to be spectacular.
Get a list of excursions from the resort ahead of time. Some trips may be rained out.
No need to buy bottled water. A huge bottle of purified water is in the room. Don't drink the tap water.
WiFi is available in the office only.
Since there was no TV in the one-bedroom suites, it's a good idea to take some books, games or download some TV shows or movies on your iPad or laptop.
Leave your extra Belizean change for the housekeepers. They do a good job.
Nice robes are provided in the room.
The best souvenir t-shirts are at Art Box shop on the way to the Cave Branch zipline tour. There are also cool t-shirts at the airport.
Bring sunscreen and bug spray. And microwave popcorn!
Tip your guides for a job well done!