The main activity in Dangriga is a slow walk up and down the main north-south thoroughfare. If you tire of watching the endless procession of people and listening to the colorful mix of English, Creole, and Garífuna, head a block or two over towards the sea and cop a seat in one of the town's oceanfront parks. If you're looking for a more active adventure, you'll have to head out of Dangriga, but your options are plentiful.
The only true attraction in the area is the quaint little Gulisi Garífuna Museum (tel. 502-0639). Although small, this is worth a visit. Spread around several rooms here you'll find interpretive displays of Garífuna history, culture, and daily life. Three separate documentaries are shown continually on televisions in the different rooms. There's a gift shop here, as well as paintings by prominent Garífuna artists like Benjamin Nicholas and Pen Cayetano. The museum is located 1.6km (1 mile) west of town, on the road out to the Hummingbird Highway. It is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm and Saturday from 8am till noon. Admission is BZ$10.
If you're staying in Dangriga for any period of time, you may also want to visit any number of the relatively nearby attractions, including Guanacaste National Park, Blue Hole National Park, Caves Branch, Hopkins Village, and Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
If your hotel can't arrange it for you, contact C & G Tours and Charters (www.cgtourscharters.com; tel. 522-3641) to set up any number of tours and activities around Dangriga and environs.
Attractions on the Hummingbird Highway
Located just off the highway in the tiny settlement of Pomona Village is one of the most important and renowned factories in all of Belize, Marie Sharp’s, maker of Belize’s favorite hot sauce, appearing all over dining tables country wide (and beyond). After seeing it in almost every restaurant and hotel, it’s fun to go straight to the source. The factory is small and simple, and depending on the time of year and demand, they may be making any number of their various hot sauces, jams, and chutneys. At the end of the tour, you’ll have the chance to sample the products. It’s best to call in advance to arrange a tour (www.mariesharps.bz; tel. 532-2087). If you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet Marie herself. The tour is free, but you’ll want to bring some money to stock up on the sauces.
Tucked a few miles off the highway is Five Blues Lake National Park. The main feature of this park is a large cenote, whose various hues of blue originally gave the park its name. However, in July 2006, the cenote suddenly and rather inexplicably drained almost completely. By early 2008, the lake had recovered about 75% of its original level, and much of its former beauty. All around the park are forested lands and distinct karst hill formations, with a series of trails leading through them. The park is run by the folks from the local community of Saint Margaret's Village. The park and small village are located on Lagoon Road, just off the Hummingbird Highway around Mile Marker 32. There are about 4.8km (3 miles) of well-marked trails in the park. You can also take a refreshing dip in the lake, or rent a canoe for a leisurely paddle. Admission is BZ$8 (US$4/£2.10). Camping is allowed inside the park for BZ$6 (US$3/£1.60) per person. Some simple accommodations and restaurants are also available in Saint Margaret's Village.
Special Moment: On the Road --As you drive the Hummingbird Highway, there are two interesting phenomena to be aware of. Locals swear a local mountain formation looks like a Sleeping Giant. There are several good views of the Sleeping Giant, which is best seen just slightly left of dead ahead as you drive south from Belize City, especially around the Sibun River bridge. Even more mystical and illusive -- I've never been able to make it work -- is the "anti-gravity" spot. Stop your car on the gentle hill around Mile Marker 26 and put it in neutral. Locals claim it is ancient earth energy that makes vehicles roll seemingly uphill. I'm guessing it's an optical illusion.
GALES POINT & THE MANATEES
Gales Point is a small Creole fishing village about 40km (25 miles) north of Dangriga. It is a peaceful little village where you can get in tune with one of Belize’s traditional cultures and its slower pace of life. The village stretches along a narrow peninsula that juts into the large brackish Southern Lagoon, which is also called Manatee Lagoon because the manatees that inhabit the water of the lagoon bring most people to Gales Point in the first place. Ask at the Manatee Lodge (see below) or around the village, and for BZ$60 to BZ$100 you can hire a small boat to take you out to where the manatees usually feed. The boats generally will hold up to eight people, so the more people you can line up, the less it will cost each of you. You can also ask around in the village about renting a canoe to paddle yourself out to where the manatees feed. I prefer this option, although be sure to get a lightweight modern canoe, as the traditional carved tree-trunk dugout canoes are a bear to paddle. Canoe rentals should run you around BZ$12 to BZ$20 for a half-day. Swimming with the manatees is not allowed, and for good reason: the contact is potentially dangerous for manatees and humans alike, and it’s best to just enjoy a pleasant sighting of these gentle water mammals. Boat propellers are doing enough damage as it is. In addition to the manatees, this is one of the locations in Belize where several species of sea turtle come to lay their eggs. Look out for them on the sandy beaches on either side of the Manatee River throughout the summer, taking special care not to walk on any buried nests.
Gales Point is one of several villages in Belize to have a community-based ecotourism homestay program (tel. 209-8031 for the community phone line). Rooms in local villagers’ homes are very basic and often do not have running water or flush toilets. The rates run around BZ$10 to BZ$16 per person.
By far the best lodgings in Gales Point are found at the Manatee Lodge (www.manateelodge.com; tel. 877/462-6283 in the U.S. and Canada, or 532-2400 in Belize;), a tidy little hotel with a fabulous location at the very end of the peninsula. If you decide to eat at any place other than the Manatee Lodge, check out Gentle’s Cool Spot (tel. 603-5526)
To drive here from Dangriga, head out of town to the Hummingbird Highway toward Belize City. At the village of Melinda, you’ll see the turnoff for Manatee Road and Gales Point.
To get here by bus from Dangriga, you will have to take a Belize City–bound bus using the Manatee Road. These buses do not always enter the village of Gales Point. Ask in advance; if the bus doesn’t enter the village, you will have to hike or hitchhike the final 2.4km (1[bf]1/2 miles) out onto the peninsula. From Belize City, you can take one of the Dangriga-bound buses using the Manatee Road. Again, ask in advance whether the bus enters Gales Point village.
Garífuna Settlement Day -- Each year on November 19, Garífuna Settlement Day is celebrated in Dangriga, with Garífunas coming from around Belize and as far away as Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and New York. The celebration is a riot of street music and colorful parades. Eating, drinking, and dancing go on well into the night. The Garífuna have their own traditional music, which is based on wooden drums and choral singing. The rhythms and songs have strong African roots, and have given birth to a hybrid pop music called Punta Rock, which is probably the country's most popular music and dance form. If you plan to partake in the festivities, be sure to book far in advance, as every hotel room in Dangriga and the nearby towns and villages sells out early. For more information, contact the National Garífuna Council of Belize (www.ngcbelize.org; tel. 522-3781).
Tip: Garífuna Settlement Day isn't the only opportunity to experience the full color and vitality of traditional Garífuna culture. At the end of the Christmas and New Year season, on the weekend closest to January 6, the local Garífuna community takes to the streets to enjoy the Wanaragua or John Kunnu dancers. Wearing masks, elaborate costumes, colorful headdresses topped with macaw feathers, and vibrating arrangements of shells and vedas, Wanaragua or John Kunnu dance troupes parade through the streets of Dangriga, accompanied by the beat of traditional drummers.
Note: For active activities in and around Danginga, click here.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.