The cultural history of this region began with the Maya civilization building small settlements and ceremonial centers along the major rivers of the district. The Maya occupied this region of Belize from the Early Classic period to the Post-classic period (see Belize Timeline for more information, and also the Punta Gorda Southern Belize section).
Stann Creek, the political district that contains the towns of Dangriga, Placencia, Hopkins and many smaller towns is Belize’s second largest district with 986 square miles of opportunities for the adventure minded traveler. This coast is dotted with small towns and fishing villages that offer cultural flavors in exotic combinations, and from them access to the spectacular cayes and remote reaches of the Belizean Barrier Reef. Beginning just a few miles inland, the territory hosts Mayan villages, the world’s first jaguar preserve, a wealth of tropical forests, and a good portion of the Maya Mountains and National Parks.
Driving in from Belize City will bring you down the recently finished “Hummingbird Highway” that affords some spectacular views of the limestone hills blanketed by dark green broadleaf forests. Little villages and acres of citrus groves characterize the Stann Creek valley before you get to the historic home of the Garifuna people, Dangriga, where the Hummingbird Highway terminates its run.
The beaches, rivers and forests of Central Belize, essentially absent major human populations since the fall of the Maya in the late 10th century, began to receive settlers from three separate areas in the early 19th century. Evidence suggests that in the early 1600’s English buccaneers used the Placencia Peninsula as a small settlement and hiding place from the Spanish. In the late 17th century, European Traders and farmers known as Puritans settled Stann Creek Town (now Dangriga) and surrounding communities. Puritans called trading posts “stands”, which over time was corrupted to “stann”. With the growth of the banana industry in the Stann Creek Valley, Stann Creek boasted one of the first and only railroads in the country. These early Europeans started the banana and logging industries, both of which require large numbers of manual workers… and the Garifuna and Creole peoples came into the area, along with many other reasons, to fill that need.
The epic and tragic story of the Garinagu (what we know today as the Garifuna) begins in the early 1600’s on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. In 1635, two Spanish ships carrying Nigerian slaves floundered and sank off the coast of St. Vincent. The slaves that survived and swam ashore found shelter in the existing Carib Indian settlements. Over the next century and a half, the two peoples intermixed, intermarried and eventually fused into a single culture, the Black Caribs or Garinagu.
By 1773, the Black Carib was the dominant population of St. Vincent. But European politics began to exert its influence throughout the Caribbean and the English began to assert their military superiority across the region. A series of wars between the French and British on St. Vincent culminated in a final battle on June 10th, 1796, where the French and their Carib allies where forced to surrender and leave the island. Thus would start a journey by the exiled Caribs in search of a home. The British deposited nearly 5,000 the Caribs on the island of Roatan, Honduras. Shortly after, nearly the entire marooned population migrated to the mainland of Honduras and allied with the Spanish in the fortress town of Trujillo. From there, they slowly spread up and down the Caribbean coast of Central America.
According to tradition, the first Garifuna arrived in then British Honduras on November 19th, 1802. Today, there is one town in Toledo – Punta Gorda – that is considered nearly exclusively a Garifuna town, along with two Garifuna villages – Barranco (the oldest Garifuna settlement in Belize) and tiny Punta Negra. On November 19th, 1823, a large group of Garifuna from the Bay Island landed at the mouth of the North Stann Creek. The date of this mass landing is celebrated every year in Belize as a national holiday. The name of Stann Creek Town was changed to Dangriga (Sweet Water) in honor of the Garifuna people. The Garifuna culture still influences much of what happens in Dangriga, and other coastal villages such as Hopkins and Seine Bight.
At about the same time, the culture which is today known as Creole first arrived in Belize. These people are the descendants of African slaves imported to work the logging camps and European adventurers. Most of the slaves came from West African (between the present countries of Senegal and Angola) by way of Jamaica. Many of the Europeans came from Scotland and North Britain. While the majority of the Creole population claims a slave/European ancestry, East indians, Mestizos, Asians and Garinagu have all intermarried with Creoles and have adapted the Creole culture.
The word “Creole” comes from the Portuguese “criar” meaning “to raise a child born into a family”. As the Portuguese expanded their empire into Brazil, the word mutated to “crioulo” with a meaning of African slaves born into the New World. Eventually the meaning included Europeans born into the New World. Today, the word defines the language and tradition of the African-European community. Belizean Creoles have created the word “kriol” to mean the language of the Creoles.
In addition to standard English, Creoles in Belize speak the “Kriol” language, considered by some as a completely distinct language evolved from but no longer a dialect of English. Creole traditions in Belize are a collection of cultural aspects from many other ethnic groups. For example, their proficiency at dory (small wooded canoes) building was inherited from the Miskito Indians; their love of Cricket and sports comes from the English; and the Anancy stories brought with the slaves from Africa.
The Creole began their settlement of Central Costal Belize in the 18th century with villages they established at the mouth of the Sittee, North Stann Creek, and Mullins Rivers where they worked in the logging industry that was fueled by the British. Unlike the other populations in Belize, the Creole were not farmers, and as the logging operations dwindled they began moving to other areas of Belize with large concentrations of them ending up on the Cayes living as fisherman. Notably, Tobacco Caye was once occupied by a thriving Creole community who fished the surrounding waters and grew to a population of over 200 before the tourist industry became the focus of the island.
As a result of all this immigration from a variety of sources, the region from Dangriga down the coast to Placencia and on to Punta Gorda… and all the small coastal towns and villages between have something special and unique to offer. The people are friendly, there are real beaches here, and offshore the shimmering blue waters “hide” a world of marine wonder that includes the endangered manatee and the fabled Belizean coral reefs. Underwater adventurers and cultural explorers will find an abundance of delights to immerse themselves in.
Are you dreaming of an unique, undiscovered adventure in the heart of Belize?
We grew up in the traditional Mayan way, living in the jungle of what is now the Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve.
Single $16.05 – Double $25.68
Ready for a change of scenery?
Try All Seasons Guest House in Hopkins, Dangriga, Belize!!
All Seasons Guest House combines the picturesque scenery of Hopkins with modern comforts. Each room is an original, each is beautifully decorated, and each offers you the comforts of home.
Your cabana is located right on the beach….
…with a beautiful view over the Caribbean!
Relax on your private verandah or in one of our hammocks on the beach. Watch for manatees, go for a swim, chat with the villagers or just enjoy the gentle breeze.
Single $48.80 – Double $53.50
Welcome to the most relaxing “island getaway in Belize”
South Water Caye is a 15 acre island perched atop the barrier reef. Choose from Belizean styled wooden cottages with names like the Osprey’s Nest, Heron’s Hideaway, and Egret’s Escape or rooms with a view of the reef crest in the Pelican’s Pouch.
Single from $130 – Double from $195
Fish off the pier at sunset…
walk the white beach at dawn…
Tobacco Caye Lodge is a great location for those who wish to simply relax, meditate, fantasize about Caribbean Pirates or Spanish Galleons who passed this way, or just read in a hammock under a coconut tree.
Single $85.60 – Double $128.40
…share the beach and water with a few
pelicans that fly in search of fish…
Reef’s End Lodge offers 8 comfortable rooms and 2 cozy cabanas located on the southern end of the island, only a few yards from the beach. There is also electricity and fresh running water.
Single $130.00 – Double $195.00
You’ve done your job — now let us do ours and take care of you
Opened in the early 70’s, we’re proud of our genuine Belizean hospitality with all the conveniences you need to enjoy your vacation.
Single from $79.44 – Double from $100.93
You will be surrounded by millions of acres of reef and rain forest…
Sunny days, tropical breezes, and the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea frame an ideal background for the perfect vacation. We know these are special days … and the Jaguar Reef offers you a romantic sense of privacy.
Double $155.00 to $315.00
An invitation to your own private paradise
It’s no secret that truly phenomenal dive and fish locations are few and far between. The southern atolls, the barrier reef, and the cayes off the lower Belizean coastline offer an untainted Mecca for divers and fishermen to explore and preserve.
5 day vacation package from $975.00
5 day diving package from $1145.00