With pristine rain forests, expansive orange groves, banana plantations and cacao farms, the terrain of Southern Belize makes it truly unique. Throw in spectacular beaches, world-class fishing, a rich Mayan heritage and a more Afro-Caribbean vibe, it becomes clear why the area has appeal to such a wide variety of travelers.
The area comprises two districts: Toledo, known as the ‘deep south’ and Stann Creek. Toledo boasts a rich cultural mix of Maya, Garifuna and Creole people, whilst Stann Creek is the ancestral home of the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna people.
Tourism has largely passed Dangriga by, the largest town in southern Belize and spiritual home to the Garifuna people. The vibe is slightly ramshackle, but it has a great cultural significance, which comes to the fore on November 19th, where the town cuts loose for Garifuna Settlement Day. The carnival style celebrations include drumming, dancing and punta music.
Hopkins Village is a small Garifuna / hippie village with good beaches perched half way between Dangriga and Placencia. A number of new resorts have begun to emerge as the village is beginning to be discovered.
Founded by pirates and set on a pristine half-moon bay, the fishing village of Placencia is the perfect spot for diving, snorkeling, swimming, or just relaxing in a hammock. The village is dotted with colorful rustic wooden cottages on stilts down tiny pathways, quaint guesthouses and a few local eateries under thatched roofs. Up the peninsula, more upmarket resorts are beginning to develop as the area slowly becomes more cosmopolitan.
Since the recent extension of the paved road, travelers have been much more able to access the Toledo District to explore the myriad jungle trails, lagoons, rivers and caves and to meet the extremely friendly, principally Mayan people. The only major town is Punta Gorda and whilst it lacks the quality of the beaches in Placencia or the Cayes, travelers are drawn to the charm of the town and its unpretentious feel. Along with the tropical fruits grown in the surrounding areas, cacao is grown extensively in the area and has become famous by being the sole supplier for Green and Black’s luxury, organic chocolate, with it’s award winning Maya Gold brand of chocolate. The area comes to life in May to celebrate with the Toledo Cacao festival.